Leeds United v Chelsea - Marcelo Bielsa has a puzzle to solve at Elland Road

METICULOUS, enigmatic and principled, Marcelo Bielsa and Thomas Tuchel share plenty of common ground.

Both are intense about their work and ‘control freaks’ in the nicest possible sense in terms of what they expect from their players on a daily basis.

Their methods are historically successful. Both have also had run-ins with hierarchies at previous clubs and possess an independent streak.

In terms of their club’s recent form, there is divergence.

Leeds United head coach Marcelo Bielsa. Picture: PA

Chelsea head north on an 11-match unbeaten sequence since Tuchel took over from Frank Lampard.

During that time, the Blues have won eight matches and drawn three times under the German, scoring 13 times and conceding just twice and recording 11 clean sheets. There is a clear sense of order and consistency.

By contrast, United have lost five of their last seven games – their worst run of the season. In the games they have been defeated in, they boasted much higher possession levels and more shots than their opponents in four of those matches.

It is an issue and Bielsa is not shying away from it.

West Ham United's Craig Dawson scores against Leeds United. Picture: PA

Leeds have also failed to find the net in their last three defeats, to West Ham, Aston Villa and Wolves. Should a parsimonious Chelsea score the first goal and take the lead today, there will be understandable unease.

On his side’s last two losses, Bielsa said: “In the game against Aston Villa, we created one chance in the second half in which dominated the whole half, so the criticism that we had over our own game was to convert the possession into danger.

“In the second game (West Ham), we created seven goal-scoring opportunities in the second half and we did not convert any. The criticism is that we need to be efficient and capitalise on the danger we create. So the focus on our offensive game has different ways of being observed.

“In general lines, our offensive performances are positive because we create danger. The opposite happens in the defensive half. All of our players from defensive midfielders down have good performances. But despite this, we concede a lot of goals.

“In possession danger, danger efficiency and good individual performances and defensive output; they are all within the things I manage and I haven’t managed to resolve. Especially with the subject of receiving so many goals.

“I thought they were avoidable defeats (West Ham and Aston Villa), that we were beaten by teams who were not superior to us on the field. But to concur what you deserve into results is the job of a manager in general.”

When asked if he was concerned about his side’s recent results, the Argentine commented: “It is a question without any content that you ask me... It is very difficult to answer. Apart from answering something empty.

“Because any team that loses five from the last seven, the response is, of course, I am very worried, which is what I should say to you.”

Form may be temporary, but class is permanent and Bielsa’s standing in the pantheon of visionary coaches on the global stage remains assured.

Given that Leeds are in their first season back in the big time, they are still in much credit.

On a wider level, Bielsa’s methods have had an enlightening impact upon many of his compatriots including Mauricio Pochettino and Diego Simeone – at the helm at two of Europe’s top clubs in Paris Saint-Germain and Atletico Madrid – Mexico manager Gerardo Martino and Paraguay boss Eduardo Berrizo.

Another Spanish speaker has also regularly described him as ‘the best coach in the world’ in Pep Guardiola

Speak to Bielsa and the biggest legacy is being provided by the Manchester City manager, who has also had a huge impact upon his opponent today in Tuchel.

The German recently referenced Guardiola as being someone who he looks up to with his footballing ethos and intensity having a profound effect upon him. Bielsa said: “Those who leave a legacy generate the desire in the other coaches to reproduce a style and to incorporate a method. I guarantee you that I observe it and the method or the style that I propose is the motive for someone to initiate.

“I always put the case of Guardiola. There will be others. You see the build-up phase from the goalkeeper to the defenders. It is habitual now. From my knowledge, which perhaps is insufficient, this is born from Guardiola.

“This for me is transmitting a legacy. There’s another thing that transmits the importance of what Guardiola has done to express the managers that have influenced. Guardiola has generated a system to neutralise his style of play.

“He admits such superiority to the teams that he manages that the opponents think that the best way to avoid being defeated or to lose by a small number of goals is to start the recovery of the ball 10 metres from their own box.

As for talk of being a visionary to others, Bielsa is modest.

He said: “I think you have to look at this in the right way to say that you transcend and influence these coaches. To look closely at Pochettino, he says he does not think he represents my ideas, something which is true. He has his own, which from my point of view are better than mine.

“People like Martino, who is a great coach worldwide, have also manifested themselves in a similar way to Pochettino.

“Mauricio, who as a player was someone who I admired a lot and worked closely with, has always left it clear, even to myself, that he does not practice my ideas.”

Bielsa may not have been mimicked, but he has provided inspiration for sure. And he has certainly inspired followers at his current place of work.

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