Leeds United v Fulham - Amazon documentary is a big turn off for Marcelo Bielsa

Certain players and particular performances etch themselves onto the mind of Leeds United coach Marcelo Bielsa, but it is too cluttered for everything to stick. Reminiscing tends to pass him by.

Leeds United manager Marcelo Bielsa reacts on the touchline (Picture: PA)

When asked if he has seen the latest series of Take Us Home, the documentary charting his time in charge of the club, the Argentinian – who was interviewed for it, albeit fleetingly – seems surprised.

Take Us Home? What is it? Amazon? A documentary about Leeds? I didn’t know,” he tells his interpreter during the Zoom press conference for the first Premier League game at Elland Road since Charlton Athletic’s visit in 2004.

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Whilst you could understand him giving the first series the swerve as it documented Leeds falling painfully short of promotion, his joy at the end of the season this new two-parter recounts was obvious even talking to the media, where his caginess is in stark contrast to his team’s joyful football.

Leeds United captain Liam Cooper (Picture: Tony Johnson)

Wallowing in past glories is clearly not his thing, so towards the end of a week which has seen so many people wax lyrical about a defeat at Anfield, Bielsa is in no mood to add to it.

The Anfield experience felt like a good one for his team, scoring three goals that ought to have boosted their belief they can thrive at their new level, but conceding four to highlight how much work there is still to do. If there was a danger of letting the praise go to their heads, a midweek League Cup exit at the hands of League One Hull City – albeit for a completely changed side – should have seen to that.

“Every game is a new story,” replies Bielsa when asked if his team can take confidence from Anfield into today’s game against Fulham. “We will try to correct all the things we did badly against Liverpool and try to maintain all the good things.”

Fulham will be a very different proposition. If Liverpool was a free hit where even a point would be a bonus, expectations are very different this afternoon. Even to avoid relegation, never mind perform as many expect in 2020-21, Fulham at home is a match they ought to win.

Scott Parker’s men know what it is like to feel the force of the White whirlwind having lost 3-0 in West Yorkshire only 12 weeks ago and have learnt the lessons of their last, one-year stay in the Premier League, where they ripped things up and started again. This time their recruitment has been more measured, so does the man who spends so much time analysing opponents he cannot waste any on Amazon think they are stronger now?

“The adaptation of the new players is surely going to take a while, which is the same for everyone,” reasons Bielsa. “As a result I don’t know if it is going to be the same Fulham as last season or if any of the new players are going to play.”

Leeds, though, should be stronger than against Liverpool, with their captain Liam Cooper expected to return from injury. Beyond being a crucial part of their defensive set-up, he provides other qualities too.

“He is a natural leader,” says Bielsa, admiringly. “He is very well respected by all his team-mates, without exception.

“The captain has the obligation to bring everyone in the team together. The captain should care about and try to integrate everybody and he is a leader of this nature, like (Luke) Ayling, like (Stuart) Dallas.”

The absence of Cooper, Ayling and Dallas was noticeable in midweek when Hull were unfortunate to be taken to a penalty shoot-out they won after outplaying Leeds over 90 minutes. Ezgjan Alioski, one of Leeds’s more experienced players that night, called them “lazy”.

If Cooper returns, it could mean demotion to the bench for Pascal Struijk but his time will come again. Cooper missed 10 matches in last season’s Championship and the physical demands of the Premier League are new to German international Robin Koch too.

Struijk showed his worth deputising in midfield for Kalvin Phillips at the end of last season, a role he returned to from the bench in midweek.

“At one point during last season he had an incredible physical performance,” says Bielsa of the 21-year-old. “He technically is a very complete player. When you put together his very good technical skills with his tactical acumen and he added the physical preparation he needed, he became a very valuable player.”

Those who impress Bielsa stay at the front of his thinking, making it difficult for others to barge past. His loyalty to them is why he had no hesitation telling the world £27m club record signing Rodrigo is fully fit, sharpened by 90 minutes in midweek and ready to start today – but will not.

“I think he has the required level to play in the Premier League,” is Bielsa’s review of Patrick Bamford, who will play instead after scoring only his second top-flight goal last week. “But you have to show these things rather than declare them.”

Bielsa did not get to be the coach he is by being happy with what he has.

“A positive performance always gives a certain amount of optimism and a defeat generates sadness,” he says of Anfield. “This week the two of those things combined.”

And did his players exceed expectations?

“No. I think the team could have elevated their level further on certain occasions.”

Bielsa is relentless. Settling down in front of the television will probably have to wait until retirement.

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James Mitchinson