Opinions on Leeds United are not hard to find but some, according to Marcelo Bielsa, are worth more than others.
It feels like Bielsa is growing ever more irritated by the questioning of his methods, particularly as the same issues keep cropping up.
Eddie Nketiah returning from his loan has not ended the clamour for Patrick Bamford to be replaced up front, just changed the cause celebre to Jean-Kevin Augustin. Kiko Casilla’s place in the side has been increasingly questioned – not by the coach, who has already confirmed his goalkeeper will start today – during Leeds’s downturn, and the signing of Ian Poveda has added another name to the list of players whose stock rises because they are not playing.
As someone who has taken charge of more than 350 matches at Oldham Athletic, Barnsley and now Bristol City, Lee Johnson’s views probably fall into the category of those the Argentinian takes note of, and he feels bad luck is behind the Whites’ recent run.
Leeds welcome Bristol City on a run of two wins in 12 matches which has endangered the automatic promotion which until then was looking about as close to secure as it can do in a division as unpredictable as the Championship.
Like the Robins at the other end, only goal difference is keeping the Whites out of the play-off places. With Johnson’s side having won five of their last six league games, there will be plenty of betting coupons with today’s Elland Road game marked down as an away win.
Johnson is not ruling it out but is certainly not going to follow the provocative example of Brentford’s Thomas Frank in midweek.
“Everyone is saying about how poorly Leeds are at the moment, and their form is,” says Johnson. “But their games we’ve watched they’ve been excellent, they’ve just been unfortunate not to get the three points.
“They were very good on Tuesday night. To go to Brentford and really dominate the ball in the first half, and the second half they created some chances (but drew 1-1).”
The Leeds fans say that in Bielsa they trust, but the belief of some at least is wavering. His worldwide reputation is fantastic, his 18-month transformation of Leeds scarcely believable, so he is perhaps entitled to a bit more respect, if not blind faith.
Johnson is typical of how his fellow managers see him.
“One of the best in the world,” he says. “His style of play, his movements and rotations, and how they play with such energy, they’ve got real quality in the side as well, so it’s a big challenge for us.”
In his quest for self-improvement, Bielsa has always listened to alternative views, even if he has the stubbornness characteristic of so many top managers.
“The opinions of the press, we know who is writing and that it is a professional giving this opinion,” he says.
“Any person can give an opinion and that’s good. We can listen but we analyse the quality of the people who write. It’s not the same the opinion of a professional to someone without that background, it’s another dimension.
“But in these times that we are living in now, a lot of people have similar thoughts, that makes this opinion have an impact.
“Every opinion has value if it’s supported by information.
“The opinion of a (media) professional who does his research is more important than the opinion of one who doesn’t do any research. Anyone can give an opinion but we have to give the right value to an opinion.”
Those opinions do not end with what happens on the field.
A hip operation which will rule Adam Forshaw out for the next six months has only added grist to the mills of those who feel that Bielsa working with such a small squad is flawed too.
“I would like to be able to count on Forshaw but we’ll resolve the situation with (Kalvin) Phillips and (Mateusz) Klich,” says Bielsa, who has also been without Robbie Gotts with a five-week muscular injury.
“When you plan a season with 18 players, it’s not the same when you have to play with fewer players.
“If we’re thinking about bringing another player in, we have to bring a better player in – better in every sense, not just in skills, but a player able to compete right now. It would cost a lot of money.”
At least Bielsa is consistent, refusing to speak on matters he is unqualified to.
“It’s a medical detail so I prefer the club to talk about because it’s not my speciality,” he says. “The only thing I can say is our medical staff did everything they could to try to help the player and are giving everything to try to solve the situation.
“The support that the club gave to him, it’s difficult to do better. It was a big effort from all of us, from the club and the medical staff because they took care of him 100 per cent every day.”
Unlike at the start of the season, the more glowing opinions about Leeds’s beautiful football do not match the facts.
It is telling that for all his praise, Johnson travels to Elland Road looking for maximum points.
“We have got a gameplan, we think it’s going to affect them,” he says.
“It will be a great game with both teams trying to win. In the first 15-20 minutes if we start that well, hopefully we turn their crowd a little bit.”
When it comes to avoiding criticism, Bielsa knows what he has to do.
“There is only way to avoid this,” he says, in his philosophical way. “Win every match.”
If faltering Leeds could just get back to doing that again, opinions would be rendered irrelevant, no matter who or where they came from.