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MARCHING ON TOGETHER

Marcelo Bielsa has transformed three Leeds players into Barcelona impersonators

Kemar Roofe, Kalvin Phillips and Mateusz Klich have started the season in superb form

You’ve probably heard about Bielsa-ball by now.

You may have even seen it, either via highlights or brief viral clips.

If Leeds United’s impressive start to the season under Marcelo Bielsa has passed you by, then you really should get involved, it’s great fun.

The Argentine tactician has been praised for implementing his trademark philosophy at Elland Road.

Watching Barcelona impress in a 3-0 win at the weekend, onlookers would be forgiven for commenting: “Blimey, it’s like watching Leeds at times.”

Tongue very much in cheek

PA:Press Association
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Tongue very much in cheek

A combination of intense high pressing, quick circulation and the occasional whiff of his famous 3-3-1-3 formation has helped Leeds to four wins from their first four games.

No other manager in the club’s history has enjoyed such a start and Leeds are the only team left in the Championship with a 100% record.

Tactical innovation is all well and good but even the best managers in the world need layers capable of following orders on the pitch.

Yorkshire’s new Messiah

Reuters
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Yorkshire’s new Messiah

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of Leeds’ start to the season is that the starting line-up features ten players who were at the club last year.

Barry Douglas, formerly of Wolves, has been a superb addition at left-back but other than the Scotsman, it’s the same personnel who underwhelmed in the second half of last season.

And make no mistake, Leeds were dreadful from Christmas onwards last campaign.

If it weren’t for their flying start, Paul Heckingbottom’s side would have been dragged into the relegation dogfight.

Such was the pessimism among fans a few months ago, there were calls for a wholesale clear out of the squad in the summer.

Off to a flyer

Reuters
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Off to a flyer

Kalvin Phillips and Kemar Roofe were deemed not good enough by many, despite the latter finishing as the club’s top scorer for last season.

However, since Bielsa’s appointment, the pair have been two of Leeds’ best performers.

Roofe has scored three goals from as many games having responded superbly to the task of leading the line.

Bielsa’s teams defend from the very front and the 25-year-old forwards work rate and relentless hounding of the opposition’s defenders have been just as impressive as his finishing.

Such is Roofe’s form that he’s keeping new-signing Patrick Bamford out of the starting XI.

The former Middlebrough forward scored against Bolton in the League Cup on his first start for Leeds but has had to settle for spot on the bench in Championship fixtures so far.

As for Phillips, the 22-year-old midfielder has become the linchpin of the side.

Affectionately known as ‘Pineapple Head’

Getty - Contributor
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Affectionately known as ‘Pineapple Head’

His role requires the most tactical awareness.

When Leeds are defending, he shields the back four in a 4-1-4-1 set-up.

But when Leeds are in possession, he is required to slip in at the heart of defence to facilitate Bielsa’s preferred 3-3-1-3 formation.

Phillips has proved key to implementing the pack mentality when pressing, and the viral-worthy build-up.

Thirdly, there’s the curious case of Mateusz Klich.


ALAW: Remembering Leeds United’s return to the Champions League under Marcelo Bielsa in 2020


The Polish midfielder hardly featured at all for Leeds last season and spent the much of the campaign on loan with FC Utrecht in the Netherlands.

Seemingly surplus to requirements during the reigns of Thomas Christiansen and Paul Heckingbottom, Klich is the first name on Bielsa’s team sheet.

Leeds’ No43 has made things happen alongside creative playmaker Samuel Saiz and the experienced Pablo Hernandez, who has reverted to the wing.

Klich is also quick to test the keeper from distance and has scored twice already this season.

“Like a new signing”

Reuters
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“Like a new signing”

Bielsa has transformed three players from possible transfer list candidates to the league’s most in-form performers.

If that isn’t evidence of Bielsa’s supreme man management then what is?

We were told that the Championship had never hosted a manager quite like ‘El Loco’ before.

So far, he has surpassed all expectations.


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