Is Bielsa under pressure from fans?
Some aspects of Marcelo Bielsa’s tactics at Leeds United are causing concern, but how much pressure is the eccentric coach under at Elland Road?
Marcelo Bielsa impressed with Leeds during their first season back in the Premier League since 2007. After guiding the Whites up as Championship winners in the 2019/20 season, the Argentinian coach led his side to a ninth-place finish in the top-flight last season. He was rewarded for a positive campaign with a new one-year deal at Elland Road.
Despite a positive end to the 2020/21 campaign and being rewarded with a one-year contract extension, some question marks are still being raised over Bielsa’s future at Leeds United.
His side had a poor pre-season before the 2020/21 campaign, which has carried into the new Premier League season. Additionally, some aspects of Bielsa’s tactics at Leeda are causing concern, but how much pressure is the eccentric coach under at Elland Road?
Leeds’s Recent Dip in Form
Leeds won their final four matches of the 2020/21 Premier League campaign and they were unbeaten in 10 of their last 11 fixtures in the top-flight. The positive end ensured they finished in the top half of the table, the best place for a newly promoted club for 20 years.
However, a woeful pre-season of one win in their six friendlies before the new season was alarming. The Whites defeated non-league Guiesely 3-2 in their first pre-season match. But they failed to win their next five, losing to League One Fleetwood Town and drawing with Blackburn Rovers.
The poor form has continued into the 2021/22 Premier League season. Manchester United hammered Leeds 5-1 at Old Trafford on the opening day of the season. They have also failed to win their last two, having to come back from conceding first against Everton at home and Burnley away to earn their first points of the season.
Streaky good and bad form is part of the parcel under Marcelo Bielsa, and Leeds are used to such spells under the Argentinian, which completely upsets the Football Odds as his unpredictable results make the bookmakers scratch their heads.
Early last season, Leeds had a run of just two wins in nine games between October and December. This included 4-1 losses to Crystal Palace and Leicester City. However, in the same run, Leeds drew 1-1 against Man City, and they beat Aston Villa 3-0 away.
More stability would be favourable in the 2021/22 campaign as Leeds look to consolidate their Premier League status. But, with Bielsa unflinching from his philosophy of pressing quickly and move the ball at pace, more patchy spells are likely to come this season.
Recurring Big Losses and Wins
Leeds’s 5-1 thrashing against United in early August was the second time in consecutive visits to Old Trafford where they conceded five or more goals after they lost 6-2 in the previous campaign.
But results like this are not uncommon under a Bielsa side, whether they are wins or losses. In the 2020/21 season, Leeds lost 4-3 against Liverpool, 4-2 against Arsenal, 3-0 against Tottenham and saw back-to-back 4-1 losses against Leicester and Palace.
Yet, Leeds also saw big wins in their favour. Throughout the 2020/21 season, they won 4-3 against Fulham, 5-2 against Newcastle, 5-0 against West Brom and defeated Burnley 4-0. The huge swings under Bielsa come with his philosophy. However, with fans back in stadia for the new season, being on the end of big results like this may not be received well.
Leeds’s poor defensive record last season was also miles apart from their Championship-winning campaign. During the 2019/20 season, Leeds had the best defence in the league, conceding just 35 goals in 46 matches. However, Leeds had the worst defensive record in the top half of the Premier League last season, conceding 54 in 38 matches.
How much pressure is Bielsa facing?
Despite some negatives associated with Bielsa’s style of play at Leeds, many positive elements are keeping the club and its fans on side. His new contract represents the board’s support for Bielsa to lead the club in the Premier League, at least for the foreseeable future. As his current contract expires in 2022, it remains to be seen if Bielsa will stay beyond next season.
One of the most impressive parts of Bielsa’s reign at Elland Road is his progressive success. Since becoming manager in 2018, the Argentinian has led the club back to the top-flight and overseen their most successful spell in a generation.
Despite the topsy turvy nature that comes with his high-intensity footballing philosophy, there appears to be plenty of support for Bielsa at Elland Road from the fans. While there is frustration at recurring big losses, particularly against rivals Man United, these appear to even out with equally big wins.
However, more consistency would garner support from all corners of Elland Road. Leeds’s unbeaten spell at the end of last season was built on a solid defence. They conceded just six goals in their last 11, which ultimately led to their highest-ever position in English football since 2001/02.
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