Marcelo Bielsa’s standing as one of soccer’s greatest and most innovative coaches is well recognized , but the Argentine manager could be set for his greatest accomplishment yet if he could secure promotion to the Premier League with Leeds United this year.
To say that Bielsa has worked miracles with the Whites does not do his impact at Elland Road justice.
About #10million was spent on the likes of Patrick Bamford and Barry Douglas but a lot of the outlay was recouped via the selling of Ronaldo Vieira to Sampdoria that summer.
Leeds finally missed out on promotion by the tiniest of margins last season, as a poor run of form in April saw them pipped into the automatic promotion article by Sheffield United before dropping from the play-offs into Derby County.
However there was little doubt that Bielsa had squeezed every drop from a distinctly average squad, along with his choice to sign on for another year at the helm was met with widespread delight in West Yorkshire.
If the former Athletic Bilbao and Argentina manager worked wonders last season, the club beginning to the 2019/20 campaign indicates that his Leeds side might be even better this time around.
However, the departures of Kemar Roofe and Pontus Jansson abandoned Leeds’ squad appearing notably poorer than in 2018/19.
Bielsa’s tactical magic should not be underestimated, however, and early indications point to the Whites really looking stronger this year than they did in the last campaign.
The three-time English champions sit in the table with four wins from six games, but it is the underlying statistics that actually highlight Leeds’ remarkable start.
United have created 2.33 large chances per 90 this year, compared to only 1.56 per 90 in 2018/19. They’re taking those chances also, scoring 1.17 large chances per 90 versus a mean of 0.67 the preceding year.
Bielsa’s men are shooting more (17.67 per 90 vs 16.94 final season) and finishing more dribbles (10.17 per 90 compared with 7.04 per 90).
Having a more remarkable pass completion rate (471.17 vs 402.77 per 90) and a larger amount of forward rolls and moves in the opposition box, it is tough to argue against Leeds looking better positioned for advertising than they were throughout Bielsa’s first year in charge.
Like every team, Leeds United isn’t perfect and a range of defensive figures like tackles finished and defensive duels won are slightly down on last year, though that may simply be because they’re enjoying more of the ball.
But on balance United seem to be a far more energetic unit that are creating a larger number of opportunities and attacking with much more vigour than in the past campaign.
Needless to say, there’s always the chance that such intensity will see Leeds’ form falter at the closing stages of this season, as it did last year — an accusation that’s frequently levelled at Bielsa’s teams.
However, if the Whites can maintain their strong early season form then few would bet against this eventually being the year that they get to the top flight and eventually bring Premier League soccer back to Elland Road.