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Marcelo Bielsa: Can “El Loco” Secure Leeds United Promotion To The Premier League?

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Marcelo Bielsa is regarded in certain circles within the game as an unheralded genius, coupled alongside status as a cult favorite, as well an innovative tactician whose scientifically methodical and highly obsessive management preparation and coaching has drawn inspiration for Pep Guardiola, Eduardo Berizzo, Jorge Sampaoli, Marcelo Gallardo, Matías Jesús Almeyda, Diego Simeone and Mauricio Pochettino; Pochettino incidentally made his debut as a player at Newell’s old Boys under Bielsa.

Charismatic, ambitious and meticulous in pre-game and post-game tactical nous, Bielsa’s well-documented appointment at Leeds United unequivocally remains as the club’s most high-profile appointment since Leeds United’s golden era of Brian Clough and Jock Stein in the 1970s.

Bielsa’s rich experience, savvy managerial heritage and ever-stubborn philosophy has otherwise created a warmly refreshing and much-needed forward thinking culture for Leeds United’s progression into the future. Bielsa’s articulate management and tactical approach is universally regarded for its sterling influence as opposed to trophies won.

Bielsa’s well-documented appointment as manager of Leeds United this summer has been met with positive optimism amongst Leeds United supporters who view Bielsa as the manager to steer the west Yorkshire club back into the Premier League; Leeds United were relegated from the Premier League in 2004.

Bielsa is Leeds United’s 18th manager since the club’s relegation from the Premier League in 2004, whilst being the fifth managerial appointment for The Whites since 2015.

The alarming attrition rate for managers at Elland Road has been pessimistically analysed and dissected from the point of mainstream media and Leeds United fans alike after years of underachievement, mismanagement and missed opportunity.

Prior to arriving at Leeds United, the seasoned Argentinean extensively compiled an informative dossier on every single formation used throughout all games during the SKY BET Championship in the 2017-2018 season in order to receive a work permit from the United Kingdom’s government. In addition to the Argentine’s uber-comprehensive dossier, Bielsa provided additional notes of frequency and variations.

The 63-year-old Rosario-born manager’s famous 3-3-1-3 formation is an attacking driven system richly comprised of high-pressing and high octane action underpinned by deft ball possession and movement; Bielsa was awarded as the IFFHS World’s Best National Coach (2001) during his six year tenure as manager of Argentina.

Since his arrival at Leeds United, Bielsa has operated all-day training sessions, as well as having a sleeping quarters installed in his office in order to dedicate even further time to match analysis. Bielsa has also made Leeds United’s players collect litter from around the training ground on the premise of the number of hours an average Leeds United fans work to afford a match day ticket.

In addition, Bielsa’s press conferences can often require three to four hours when the intracacies of tactics and analysis are discussed. At Leeds United, Bielsa is currently engaging with the media via an interpreter.

However, Bielsa’s much appreciated fast track efforts to learn English has somewhat differed to others before him on the basis of answering media questions in English thereafter delegating with an interpreter between translations of Spanish and English.

During Bielsa’s six year stint as manager of Argentina, “El Loco” recorded a 61.7% winning record of 42 wins, 16 draws and 10 losses throughout 68 international games.

Roberto Ayala, Diego Simeone, Javier Zanetti, Martin Palermo, Ariel Ortega, Pablo Aimar, Walter Samuel, Claudio Lopez, Gabriel Batistuta, Juan Sebastian Veron, Hernán Jorge Crespo, Claudio Paul Caniggia, Javier Saviola, Javier Mascherano, Gabriel Heinze, Carlos Tévez, Nicolás Burdisso, Fabricio Coloccini and Andrés D’Alessandro are some of the very well-known names which Bielsa coached during his six year tenure as manager of Argentina.

Before his high-profile arrival in west Yorkshire, Bielsa’s previous domestic managerial job at Ligue 1 side Lille witnessed the eccentric and colorful Argentinean’s contract terminated. Throughout 19 games with Lille, Biela recorded five wins, five draws and registered nine losses (26.3% win percentage).

Prior to Bielsa’s seven month experience with Lille, the Argentine controversially resigned after just two days as manager of Serie A club Lazio in July 2016. Predictability has never been a strong associated trait for the Argentinean.

The very combustible nature of the Leeds United board and passionate Bielsa alike had been sceptically viewed as a relative recipe for disaster upon the Argentinean’s arrival in west Yorkshire. However, Bielsa, a former national team manager of Chile, has a career 44.4% win percentage record.

Bielsa’s career achievements as a manger includes winning a gold medal at the Athens 2004 Olympic games with Argentina, as well as finishing as runners-up in the Copa América with Argentina (Argentina’s last Copa América triumph was in 1993). Carlos Tévez’s solitary goal settled the differences for Bielsa’s Argentina to defeat Paraguay 1-0 in the Athens 2004 Gold Medal match.

At domestic club level in Argentina, Bielsa has won the Argentine Primera División three times (twice with Newell’s Old Boys and once with Vélez Sarsfield), coupled alongside being a runner-up in the prestigious Copa Libertadores; the well-documented South American version of the UEFA Champions League.

During Bielsa’s successful spell at La Liga side Athletic Bilbao, the Argentinean was also a runner-up in the UEFA Europa League, as well as a runner-up in the Copa Del Rey.

At present, Bielsa’s Leeds United have won their first two league games of the 2018-2019 SKY BET Championship season. Leeds United defeated Gary Rowett’s Stoke City 3-1 on the opening day of the season. Goals from Mateusz Klich, Pablo Hernandez and Liam Cooper secured the three points for the west Yorkshire club.

After comfortably defeating Stoke City 3-1 on the opening day of the 2018-2019 SKY BET Championship season, Bielsa’s side maintained their undefeated start with a triumphant 4-1 win against Frank Lampard’s Derby County. Goals from Mateusz Klich, a brace from Kemar Roofe and a strike from Ezgjan Alioski inspired The Whites to secure maximum points for Leeds United after two games.

Leeds United face Rotherham United this Saturday afternoon at Elland Road in the much-awaited Yorkshire derby. Paul Warne’s Rotherham United are currently 13th in the SKY BET Championship; Rotherham United won promotion to the SKY BET Championship via winning the SKY BET League One Play-Offs.  The Millers lost 5-1 to Dean Smith’s Brentford in their opening game of the 2018-2019 SKY BET Championship season. However, Rotherham United rectified their opening day of the season loss with an assuring 1-0 win against Ipswich Town.

Leeds United under Bielsa, however, currently stand second in the SKY BET Championship behind current league leaders Middlesbrough. The Whites have scored seven goals and conceded two goals this season. The Whites finished 13th last season with 60 points. In turn, Paul Heckingbottom was sacked by Leeds United after just four months in charge at Elland Road and replaced by Marcelo Bielsa.

Middlesbrough, Aston Villa, Swansea City, Nottingham Forest, Brentford, Bolton Wanderers, West Bromich Albion and Wigan Athletic have also started positively in the stakes for early contendership for promotion to the Premier League. According to betmaker William Hill, Leeds United are currently 9/2 favorites to win the SKY BET Championship this season.

Thereafter this Saturday afternoon’s Yorkshire derby against Rotherham United, Bielsa’s Leeds United will then play Swansea City (away), Norwich City (away), Middlesbrough (home), Millwall (away) and Preston North End (home) in their next five games. At present, Swansea City are currently fourth, Norwich City are languishing in 17th place, whereas Tony Pulis’ Middlesbrough lead the SKY BET Championship. Millwall and Preston North End meanwhile currently stand 16th and 10th respectively.

The SKY BET Championship is officially the world’s most financially lucrative second tier division, as well as the most closely fought with no assurances. This season is very much make or break for both Marcelo Biela and Leeds United. Early indications are seemingly favorable for Bielsa after just two games into the 2018-2019 SKY BET Championship season.

However, the question remains: Can Marcelo Bielsa secure Leeds United promotion to the Premier League this season?

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