If there’s one thing we associate with Marcelo Bielsa, it’s fatigue.
The man they call El Loco places incredible physical demands on his players that usually results in a rip-roaring first half of the season before a significant drop-off when it comes to the crunch.
It happened to his much-loved Athletic Bilabo side.
It happened to his swashbuckling Marseille team.
And it’s (probably) happening to Leeds United… again.
At one stage, the Whites had an 11-point cushion as it seemed they, along with West Brom, had locked down an automatic promotion spot.
But a terrible run of form since the turn of the year has allowed the likes of Fulham, Nottingham Forest, Preston and Bristol City to close the gap, setting up a nail-biting run-in.
Leeds are showing little sign of physical fatigue but it may be that Bielsa’s intensity has eroded their psychological supremacy — if you haven’t yet seen Kiko Casilla’s lapse of concentration against Brentford, it’s worth looking up.
After last season’s tragic third act, the Elland Road faithful are fearing the Argentine, for all his tactical brilliance, will once again be undone by his familiar flaw.
Much is being made of Leeds’ Bielsa Burnout™, but what about its impact on their rivals?
Nottingham Forest’s unexpected 1-0 defeat at home to Charlton on Tuesday night continued a curious pattern.
Every team to beat Leeds this season have failed to win their next game.
More than that, only one of the eight Championship teams have avoided defeat — Fulham drew 3-3 with 24th-placed Luton.
These are the other results that followed a league victory over Leeds:
- Nottingham Forest 1-0 Swansea
- Charlton 1-2 Swansea
- Brentford 3-2 Millwall
- Sheffield Wednesday 0-5 Blackburn
- QPR 1-2 Sheffield Wednesday
- Wigan 1-2 Preston
- Nottingham Forest 0-1 Charlton
The record extends to Leeds’ conquerors in the cups too.
Stoke lost 2-1 to Birmingham after knocking Bielsa’s side out of the EFL Cup on penalties.
While Arsenal were restricted to a 1-1 draw at Crystal Palace immediately after beating Leeds at the Emirates in the FA Cup Third Round.
The theory centres around idea that the physical demands of matching a Bielsa side – coupled with psychological complacency in the wake of a big win – creates a hangover of sorts.
It’s plausible, especially as Leeds’ games tend to follow one of two energy-sapping narratives: end-to-end chaos or backs-against-the-wall.
Alternatively, it’s entirely possibly this a coincidence, given the general unpredictability of the Championship.
The curse does not extend to results for every post-Leeds fixture, though there is evidence of a partially negative effect.
Teams have won only 29% of games after playing Leeds, with league leaders West Brom accounting for over a fifth of the post-Leeds victories.
It seems not even Leeds’ opponents are safe from Bielsa Burnout™.