Marcelo Bielsa says Leeds United are the best attacking team in the Championship, and although results are not backing that up they are not playing any differently to when they were setting the pace.
Four defeats in their last five league games have dragged the Whites to the point where a loss at Brentford could see them drop to fifth in the table by Wednesday night.
They travel to Griffin Park for the last time without Tyler Roberts, weakening their attacking threat, and with continuing questions about the fitness of January signing Jean-Kevin Augustin. Those questions, and the perception he is being mocked by the media for overly-detailed answers, are clearly irking the Leeds coach.
The Whites have scored four times in seven 2020 matches – three in a 15-minute period at home to Millwall – but with the exception of Saturday’s 2-0 defeat at Nottingham Forest, they have created a mountain of chances. Even at the City Ground, it took a tremendous Brice Samba save to deny Liam Cooper an equaliser.
“Every team has ups and downs,” pointed out Bielsa, who has confirmed Kalvin Phillips will go straight back into midfield after suspension.
“Leeds are the best attacking team in the Championship but the results speak for themselves and the results are bad.
“I have explained before what I think about the matches where we lost points and there is no reason to continue explaining that. The players are doing the same things they did when we have been in good form.
“There are good things the players are doing on the pitch and also mistakes, before maybe we didn’t suffer the consequences for the mistakes in the good moments, now we are suffering tougher consequences.
“We used to create chances and score those chances in the good moments and now we have those chances and we are not scoring.
“It’s just about that. The positive things the team used to do, we used to transform into good things and now we are not doing that.
“The team is not playing worse than before, the team is not running less, it’s running even more, and the team keeps the same confidence.
“The players have always shown up in the matches, and the importance of the game is very clear.”
One of the reasons Leeds are getting away with fewer mistakes is the form of goalkeeper Kiko Casilla, who was beaten at his near post by Sammy Ameobi on Saturday. The former Real Madrid player was in outstanding form in the first half of the season, and Bielsa stood by him at the weekend.
Roberts has bruising to his right calf following a challenge shortly after coming on as a substitute against Forest, and Bielsa was delighted with his attitude. Augustin also came off the bench in Nottingham, for his Leeds debut.
“He took a strong kick,” said Bielsa of Roberts. “It’s incredible he continued, he proved he is really engaged with the team and he was a very brave player to continue playing.”
Bielsa continues to try to manage the fitness of centre-forward Augustin, who has arrived on loan after a first half of the season where he was lightly used by Monaco.
“At the moment results are very, very important so we need to manage the (fitness) level of players, giving minutes, trying to raise his levels but also avoiding harming the team,” he said.
“The other day I spent 20 minutes explaining this but that creates jokes, clear jokes.
“You can listen to the last 20-minute answer again but I don’t want to be rude. Each time I give you answers and explanations I listen to a lot of jokes afterwards.
“Augustin has great skills. You can know how to do something but that doesn’t mean you can do it immediately.”
Bielsa is deliberately putting himself under pressure, taking full culpability for recent results to shield his players, but defender Luke Ayling says there needs to be a collective responsibility.
“I think most of it is on us (the players),” he said.
“He works his socks off doing everything off the pitch and he sends us out to win a game and we are not winning the game.
“It’s a team effort, it’s not nobody’s fault in particular. It’s the players that are out there, the people that are in the side, it’s the whole club that is losing.
“It isn’t just one player and isn’t just the XI out there, it’s the 24-man squad, it’s the coaching staff, it’s all of us.
“We have got a certain way that we play and we will stick by that, keep trying to do things the right way, keeping playing out, keep building up and keep trying to win games the way we want to win games.”
Nottingham Forest, a point behind Leeds, host Charlton Athletic tonight, while Fulham – behind the Whites only on goal difference – are at Millwall tomorrow.
Last six games: Brentford WDLLWW; Leeds United LLLWLL.
Referee: R Jones (Merseyside).
Last time: Brentford 2 Leeds United 0, April 22, 2019, Championship.