Burnley v Leeds United - Marcelo Bielsa cares what rivals think about his Whites team

For Sean Dyche, managing a team on as small a budget as Burnley, staying in the Premier League come hell or high water is what it is all about, and he has done it magnificently.

Leeds United’s Marcelo Bielsa, on the other hand, could never be a “No one likes us we don’t care” coach.

In fairness, Dyche, the manager Bielsa faces in today’s lunchtime kick-off at Turf Moor, is also extremely well thought of, not for the loveliness of Burnley’s football but the way he continuously upsets the odds by keeping them in the division.

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Seven matches into this season his team had just two points but today they are closer in those terms to fifth-placed Liverpool than bottom-of-the-table Sheffield United.

Leeds United head coach Marcelo Bielsa. Photo: Andy Rain/PA Wire.

“Imagine the merit in that,” says Bielsa of Dyche’s achievement in his second full season in Lancashire of taking the relegated club straight back into the Premier League. They have not budged from it for five years.

Newly-promoted Leeds, though, have not just won plenty of points this season – 50 so far – but plaudits too. A club which traditionally revels in rubbing rival supporters up the wrong way have become a second-favourite for many. It matters to their Argentinian coach.

“It’s very common for human beings to say they don’t care what other people think but for me it is very important because the prestige depends on this,” he explains.

“Then you have to see who’s having these opinions and the arguments they use.

Burnley boss Sean Dyche

“Praise that’s badly founded doesn’t generate satisfaction and criticism without arguments doesn’t make sense so the opinions of others does matter to me. I care about what the people who are close to us think because the sentiment they have acts as a light. They are able to look at the same thing but more profoundly.

“On top of that the happiness it generates for them makes what our public think the most important.”

Dyche is all about being committed to a style too, just a different one, based on more direct football and usually a bread-and-butter 4-4-2 formation which regularly proves as effective as all the new-fangled approaches found in modern coaching manuals.

“It’s not about not caring what happens, but improving the style you play because Burnley are not a team that always play the same way,” stresses Bielsa. “They have a style but the style has certain points and they use all the options they have in the games.

“It’s not the same with (Ashley) Barnes and (former Leeds striker Chris) Wood (up front) as playing with (Matej) Vydra and (Jay) Rodriguez. If you simplify it you say they play with two forwards but if you see how each of these four forwards play and how the manager uses them, he has the option to combine one player with any of the other three and this generates consequences in the style of the team.

“They have a central point, a pillar, but within that there’s different themes.”

Having been so popular and – for a newly-promoted side – successful this season will count for little next if Leeds are not careful, as Bielsa is well aware.

The 2019-20 darlings were Sheffield United whose thrilling if less pure football took them up to ninth in their first season back in the Premier League since 2006-07. A fat lot of good it did them this time.

“Second-season syndrome” is something Bielsa will have to be wary of.

“The way of growing is to be in conditions to repeat what you did previously,” he argues. “The development of the team is based on this.

“For example what I have learnt to resolve is I need to conserve this within the team. If you manage this, this normally works as a base to be able to climb.

“If a team is able to keep all of these things (that make it so good) and incorporate them (in future performances), to improve is a lot easier.

“But in human beings it’s very difficult to conserve those things we’ve already learnt because normally when we get something our vanity increases and then we think that because of what we’ve achieved we don’t need to carry on making the same effort.

“We always think what we achieve is linked to our talent and not the effort we make together and we stop making as much effort. We lose what we have obtained and we can’t grow.

“It’s a lot more difficult to conserve these things and grow than the initial growth Leeds had this season.”

The “vanity” to care what others think is an important driving force at Elland Road but without the humility and hard work Dyche’s Burnley display on an annual basis, it will count for nothing. In Bielsa, they have a coach who understands the need to balance style and steel in his own unique way.

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