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What will Leeds look like under the man Pep Guardiola calls ‘the best manager in the world’?

The Argentine tactician has been confirmed as Head Coach of the Championship side

Just when you thought you’d seen it all from Leeds United…

The Championship club have confirmed the appointment of Marcelo Bielsa as Head Coach.

Make no mistake, this is huge.

Squatting by a touchline near you soon

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Squatting by a touchline near you soon

In 2012, Pep Guardiola described the Argentine as ‘the best manager in the world’, a sentiment he repeated just last year when Bielsa was confirmed as Lille boss.

Mauricio Pochettino called Bielsa a ‘father figure’ and told SFR Sport: “We are a generation of coaches who were his disciples.”

And Atletico Madrid’s Diego Simeone has admitted to learning more from Bielsa than anyone else during his entire career.

So then, what can we expect from Leeds under a man so revered by some of the world’s most respected managers?

Your favourite manager’s favourite manager

AFP or licensors
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Your favourite manager’s favourite manager

Firstly, the club can expect an attention to detail like nothing they’ve experienced previously.

Phil Hay of the Yorkshire Evening Post revealed that Bielsa has already watched every Leeds game from the season just past, as well as significant matches between the Whites’ Championship rivals.

He collects football videos to the point of obsession and spends hours at a time studying them.

Bielsa has been known to pace out a pitch’s dimensions so as to determine what formation best suits each individual ground.

No stone is left unturned, turned, and unturned again.

He’s going to look great in an all-white Leeds tracksuit

AP:Associated Press
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He’s going to look great in an all-white Leeds tracksuit

Bielsa is synonymous with the 3-3-1-3 and 3-3-3-1 formations.

He used variations of these trademark systems with Argentina, Chile, Athletic Bilbao, Marseille and Lille.

Both require marathon-runner levels of stamina from the players.

He demands his troops to press with great intensity, which has previously led to fatigue in his teams at the back end of a campaign, most notably Marseille.

DO NOT DISTURB: Genius at work

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DO NOT DISTURB: Genius at work

The 3-3-3-1 requires two stoppers and a sweeper at the back, a defensive midfielder with two wing-backs, a playmaker flanked by two inside forwards, and a target man leading the line.

This could perhaps see Ezgjan Alioski reinvented as a wing-back, Samu Saiz deployed as a No10 free from defensive duties, and a straight shootout between Ronaldo Vieira and Adam Forshaw to pin down the anchor role.

For now though, the specifics are irrelevant.

The appointment of Bielsa is evidence of an ambitious reaction to a ultimately lacklustre season from owner Andrea Radrizzani.

Bielsa will be the highest paid manager in Leeds’ history.

Although, he’ll be earning approximately a quarter of the salary he was on at Lille last season.

Expect the unexpected

PA:Press Association
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Expect the unexpected

His disastrous spell in Northern France should act as a warning to Leeds fans.

Lille survived relegation from Ligue 1 by a single point following Bielsa’s departure.

And that’s the thing with Bielsa — his tactics and philosophy are so unconventional and complex that they are incompatible with certain groups of players.

Gabriel Batistuta and Juan Sebastian Veron paying attention in class

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Gabriel Batistuta and Juan Sebastian Veron paying attention in class

Like most geniuses, Bielsa embraces his eccentric side.

El Loco (the crazy one) quit as Head Coach of Lazio just two days after he was appointed.

That’s a shambolic short stay, even by Leeds’ standards.

And he resigned as Marseille boss after losing the first game of the 2015/16 season, having led them to a fourth-placed finish the season before.

For all Bielsa’s ingenuity, his approach and personality bring risk.

Not lacking in passion

Reuters
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Not lacking in passion

For Leeds though, the gamble is one worth taking.

Despite the merry-go-round of managers and a succession of controversies, the proud Yorkshire club have finished between 13th and 15th in all but one of their last seven Championship campaigns.

If this throw of the dice comes off then Leeds could well return to the Premier League in style.

And if it goes wrong, well, it’ll just be more of what the fans have come to expect in recent times.

Is Bielsa the man to bring glory to Elland Road once again?

PA:Empics Sport
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Is Bielsa the man to bring glory to Elland Road once again?

Many will be asking the question, why Leeds?

It seems the club’s glory days still hold sway with Bielsa saying: “When a club with Leeds United’s history made me an offer, it was impossible to turn down.”

Fans should be encouraged by his willingness to take a monumental pay cut.

After a comically brief spell at Lazio and a calamitous reign over Lille, he has some doubters to prove wrong.

All the evidence suggests he is undertaking this task for the thrill of the challenge, and a love of the game.

Rather than putting an end to the madness, Leeds have embraced it in the most exciting way possible.

And maybe, just maybe, we’ll see the beak of a phoenix poking up from the ashes.


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