The Athletic’s Phil Hay has sparked a frenzy on social media among Leeds United’s supporters, after claiming Marcelo Bielsa has built a side ready for the Premier League.
Success in Saturday’s West Yorkshire Derby moved United back atop the Championship standings for the first time since January 11, and opened a seven-point lead over the Play-Off places after Fulham could only draw with Bristol City.
Luke Ayling sent Elland Road wild in the third minute when he struck the opening goal against Huddersfield Town, but not Bielsa. Bielsa was sat fixed on his bucket staring at the ground.
It is not Bielsa’s emotions that have resulted in our promotion challenge, though, but rather his tactics. And Hay has noted that Premier League sides are now tending to favour a five-man attacking front, which is something the boss already asks of his players in West Yorkshire.
“The use of the flanks is fundamental to Bielsa’s coaching,” he wrote. “Ayling’s third-minute strike against Huddersfield was a traditional Bielsa ploy: drag defenders to one side of the field and expose the opposition’s back post, with the aim of finding an unmarked player arriving there.
Would Bielsa's current style sink or swim in the Premier League?
“Bielsa’s attempts to create imbalances and utilise the resulting gaps were apparent in his earliest games at Leeds, as last season’s 2-1 defeat at Blackburn Rovers show. The idea was the same: suck Blackburn over to the right side of the field and then switch play quickly to catch them short of numbers on the opposite side of the box. Samuel Saiz’s pass was perfectly waited and Gaetano Berardi’s cut-back gave Mateusz Klich a sitter in front of an exposed goal.
“At the moment when Ayling scored on Saturday, Leeds were not so much playing with a front five as a front six, perhaps because of a feeling of confidence but also because Bielsa’s midfield pair of Klich and Pablo Hernandez are attack-minded and have the insurance of a holding midfielder behind them — normally Kalvin Phillips but in this case, Ben White.
“As Ayling meets the ball inside the box, Leeds have bodies dotted in front of Town goalkeeper Jonas Lossl, with Ayling and left-back Stuart Dallas committed far beyond the halfway line. Bielsa’s formation goes down on paper as a nominal 4-1-4-1 but Leeds rarely hold that shape in possession and are as bold as Premier League sides in committing men forward.”
While some fans replied to Hay’s post sharing his article on Twitter by celebrating the club’s league position and The Athletic writer’s words, a plethora of supporters voiced their desire for the journalist not to have ‘cursed’ the club.
Here are some of the messages shared…
This is fantastic. And no I’m not biased. https://t.co/d9yLHcZvuL
— Alex Chaffer (@AlexChaffer) March 10, 2020
Getting flashbacks to last season, nothing is decided yet many twists and turns to go still, heads down and keep grinding that’s all we should be doing now #lufc
— corbywhite (@gandalflufc) March 10, 2020
Pipe down Phil
— Josh Holden (@JoshuaHolden93) March 10, 2020
If Fulham and Brentford draw Friday and we beat Cardiff and Fulham I’ll start really believing 🤞🙏😊. MOT.
— vincent o brien (@fabvinny) March 10, 2020
You better not curse it again
— Tom (@Tdp0709) March 10, 2020
Phil. We’ve been over this. Can you not?
— CynicalTurtle (@CynicalTurtle) March 10, 2020
Actually shooting from outside the box, instead of trying to tap it in from 1 foot away is helping.
— JOHN MARK (@Jhn_mrk86) March 10, 2020
— Tony D. (@tonypdickinson) March 10, 2020