Everton v Leeds United - Marcelo Bielsa looking for Whites to create and convert more of their chances
His Leeds United side may have won many friends for the magnificence and intensity of their stylish football back at the top table once again, ever since first stepping out across Stanley Park at Anfield 77 days ago.
But, as ever, Bielsa wants more. Leeds float like a butterfly, but have yet to consistently sting like a bee on their return to the big stage.
A microcosm of the situation can be applied when looking at today’s combatants, whose defensive records are similar. Everton have conceded 16 goals, with Leeds letting in one more after nine games apiece.
The attacking statistics are more revealing.
Ahead of last night’s Premier League action, eight places and five points separated Everton, hovering just outside the top five and Leeds, in lower mid-table.
Why? Maybe it has something to do with the fact that while Leeds have spurned 13 ‘big chances’ this season, according to Premier League data, Everton have missed just seven.
Leeds are joint second in ‘the big chances missed’ table, whereas the Blues are 16th.
United have mustered 130 shots – the second highest figure in the division – as opposed to Everton’s modest 101, but it is all a question of accuracy.
Whereas Leeds have scored 14 goals so far, the Merseysiders have managed 19, despite considerably fewer shots.
Leeds head west along the M62 on the back of an exercise in frustration in a goalless draw against 10-man Arsenal.
A dominant performance ended in two points slipping through their fingers. Leeds registered 25 shots, but just four were on target – although there was an element of bad luck with the hosts hitting the woodwork on three occasions late on.
Bielsa, whose side have won just once in their past six league outings, ruefully commented: “Football is decided in both boxes. You have to be effective to finish off your attacks and neutralise the attacks of the opponents, so they do not become dangerous.
“If you elaborate, you have more opportunity to create chances of danger and more important chances.
“In the case of the game versus Arsenal, 11 v 11 in the first half, we played well. In the second half, it was more difficult to attack them than in the first half because the opponent sat back with the same amount of players, even though they had one player less.
“We created 12 opportunities to score and received three attacks from them and the best team in the world with 12 opportunities to score will score three or four goals and, usually for us, from chances, we score two or three. It is not that we do not train on precision, accuracy or shooting, what we have to do is create (more) opportunities of danger.
“What we do try and achieve is that we don’t need as many chances to score a goal. We have to be precise and all players and teams train rigorously on this.
“There is no direct relationship between the more I train these aspects, the better they get. What the training sessions do influence is the amount of opportunities you recreate.”
On Leeds’ first visit to Goodison Park in over 17 years since September, 2003, there will be sadness and reminiscence.
Sadness at the fact that one of the most pulsating football cathedrals in England will be empty and fall eerily quiet, with one of the only semblances of normality likely to arrive when Everton run out to their traditional ‘Z Cars’ theme tune.
There will also be remembrance as both clubs think about the late, great Gary Speed, with the ninth anniversary of his passing arriving yesterday.
For Bielsa, there is also genuine sadness at not being able to sample the full Premier League experience.
In one of the most iconic footballing cities in the world, Bielsa watched events unfold in front of a silent Kop at Anfield in mid-September.
The sight of Everton’s famous Gwladys Street End also being empty is also likely to conjure a wistful feeling among the Argentine, a man who is generous of spirit and has constantly opined that football is a sport purely for the fans.
There is regret at not breaking bread with another coaching great in Carlo Ancelotti without a full house of supporters in close proximity as well.
Bielsa commented: “Yes, it makes me very sad I have not been able to experience it.
“For me, something that makes the Premier League the best in the world is the combination between the spectator and spectacle.
“I have respect and admiration for Ancelotti. First of all, he has been wanted by all the best teams in the world. He has been chosen by some of the most powerful institutions in football which shows how good he is.
“He’s triumphed everywhere he has been and is a manager well respected by his players as well as his other colleagues.”
Should this fixture have been scheduled for next Saturday, 2,000 supporters would have been present at Goodison, with Liverpool having been placed in Tier Two in the Government’s tiered system with the second lockdown ending on December 2.
Half of all Premier League clubs – six in London, two on Merseyside and two on the South Coast – will be able to welcome back a very small percentage of fans under the new rules, but 10 clubs in Tier Three will not.
For a scrupulously fair man like Bielsa, it does not sit right.
He said: “Perhaps there could be a rule that states if fans are not allowed in all stadiums, then they should not be allowed in at all until everybody is allowed.
“It shouldn’t be about the category, or the consequences of being in a category, it should be about trying to maintain the competition as equal as possible with things that are controllable.
“I am just looking at common sense, which perhaps doesn’t go. The presence of the fans has an effect on the results.”
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