Criticism Of Bielsa Ignores Bigger Picture
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 20: Marcelo Bielsa, Manager of Leeds United reacts during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Leeds United at Old Trafford on December 20, 2020 in Manchester, England. The match will be played without fans, behind closed doors as a Covid-19 precaution. (Photo by Nick Potts - Pool/Getty Images)

Marcelo Bielsa’s now infamous post-Spygate press conference gave everyone an insight into the level of analysis he and his backroom team go into when preparing for games, the microscopic detail into which they assess things, making sure they leave no stone unturned.

Now, it is Bielsa who is finding himself scrutinised as pundits, columnists and angry people on Twitter look to assess both his managerial style and his record.

It is perhaps no surprise, especially now Leeds are under the spotlight of the Premier League. Leeds are always a talking point. There’s a reason they are on TV so much and so many column inches and air time have been dedicated to the club. They are box office.

A large number of opposing fans, and maybe even some who work in football media professionally, seem to think that Bielsa is over-rated with the word “fraud” being thrown around. But what exactly is Bielsa doing that is fraudulent?

His Influence

A big part of Bielsa’s reputation is based on the fact that he has inspired some of the top coaches in the world. Both Pep Guardiola and Mauricio Pochettino wax lyrical about Bielsa and what he has taught them about the game. This paints Bielsa as a footballing genius and it is that which some people struggle to accept, often quoting his lack of success throughout his career. However, it would be narrow minded to pretend that someone has to marry innovative ideas about football with success to be seen as a role model and the former is clearly enough.

Award Nominee

One of the biggest sticks used to beat Bielsa with currently is the fact that he was nominated for FIFA Coach of the Year. Now, this was decided by an independent panel and Bielsa himself had no say over the matter. In fact, if his time at Leeds has taught us anything, it’s probably that Bielsa would have felt uncomfortable even being nominated.

However, that’s not stopped people from quoting his nomination every time Leeds suffer a defeat. Ultimately, Bielsa cannot control what happens away from LS11 and if people have a problem with his nomination, they should have an issue with the people who decided it. Of course, they don’t, most of the angry folks over on Twitter that I referred to earlier are driven by an irrational hatred of Leeds United themselves and they struggle to understand why other people don't feel the same way. 

His Record

Some people have gone to great lengths to find statistics that call Bielsa’s record at Leeds into question. The reason for this is that Leeds’ defensive record hasn’t been great this season, not helped by their 6-2 defeat against Manchester United. Leeds rank 20th in the division for goals conceded, set piece goals conceded and goal from crosses conceded but Bielsa will know all that already and he will be working on fixing it as much as he can.

But how much does all that really matter? If Leeds were rock bottom of the league with two points instead of Sheffield United, you could easily work out where it was going wrong. But they’re not, Leeds are 15th with 20 points, 9 clear of 18th placed Fulham. If Leeds finish the season in 12th, it will have been an incredible season.

Leeds will suffer more bumps in the road this season and people will jump on them like a pack of vultures but if they replicate this level of form until the end of the campaign, they will easily stay up which is all that matters.

Let’s not forget either that it was Bielsa who got Leeds to the Premier League in the first place. It was him who ended their 16 year exile. He took an average Championship squad and took them to the league title within two years, via a 3rd place finish.

Maybe people should stop trying to find ways in which to criticise Bielsa. Remove all the noise and look at the cold hard facts. El Loco is doing a fantastic job and Leeds fans won’t hear any different.