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SPYGATE

Marcelo Bielsa’s impromptu tactical masterclass proved we have a true genius in the English game

The Leeds manager's surgical analysis of Derby showed exactly why the Whites are top of the table

When the news of Marcelo Bielsa’s impromptu press conference broke so did the hearts of many Leeds fans.

The man dubbed ‘El Loco’ has previous when it comes to rash resignations – he quit Lazio after two days – and so many thought the fallout from ‘spygate’ would allow English football to finally witness ‘peak Bielsa’.

And they were right in some ways.

The maverick Argentine did not resign but he did give the journalists presents first-hand experience of El Loco in action.


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There’s magic in that little blue bucket

PA:Empics Sport
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There’s magic in that little blue bucket

In what will surely be remembered as one of the most unique press conferences in English football history, Bielsa opened the door to his tactical wormhole.

He spent 70 minutes summarising the extent of the the work he’s completed to produce Leeds’ current position as Championship leaders.

Those present may now understand why Pep Guardiola and Mauricio Pochettino consider Bielsa among the best managers in the world.

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First, there was the barnstorming admission. 

“We’ve watched all the opponents before we played them,” Bielsa told the room of wide-eyed journalists.

Instead of apologising for spying, as some might have expected, Bielsa stuck two fingers up to the band of outraged pundits who have used the situation as an opportunity to establish themselves as an engagement-driving talking head for various media outlets with daunting KPIs.

Class is in session

PA:Press Association
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Class is in session

Bielsa then revealed that before each game, he and his staff sift through literally days of analysis.

He explained how his team watched every single one of Derby’s 51 games last season, devoting four hours of analysis on each.

The aim was to decipher the frequency with which the Rams deploy certain formations, when they change tact during games, which personnel is used for each system, and every other fibre of Derby’s tactics.

As if to illustrate the level of detail, he informed the journalists that midfielder Mason Mount has filled in as a defender for a total of four minutes this season.

The point of the lecture was to downplay the benefit of spying, as Bielsa had a surplus of infortmation on every team in the league obtained through methods not even the most sensational radio call-in show would deem morally questionable.

More than that, it was demonstration of his obsessive devotion.

Frank Lampard tried to make out as if such analysis was ‘par for the course’ but Guardiola – himself a dedicated perfectionist – has since acknowledged Bielsa’s unmatched commitment in this regard.

Pay attention at the back

@dpcoverdale
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Pay attention at the back

Bielsa then dropped some quotable gold.

After Barcelona beat his Athletic Bilbao side 3-0 in the 2012 Copa Del Rey final, Bielsa sent Guardiola all of his analysis as an offering.

Guardiola thanked his counterpart before declaring that that Bielsa knew more about Barcelona than he did himself.

Mutual respect

AFP - Getty
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Mutual respect

So what’s the conclusion? Is Bielsa a madman or a genius?

Suitably for a club like Leeds, it’s a bit of both.

Other clubs may have similar pools of research available to them but few dive as deep.

Conversely, he acknowledges the excessive nature of a man who forensically watches a season’s worth of football to confirm an opponent’s most likely formation on a weekly basis.

How anyone could come to the conclusion Bielsa is somehow bad for the English game is beyond us.

We should all pay close attention and learn all we can from him — that’s what he would do.


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