Marcelo Bielsa will not panic as Leeds United look for new faces

MARCELO BIELSA is someone who is never loose in his language and always chooses his words carefully.

Leeds United's summer signing Junior Firpo. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe

He has never been prone to panic either.

His declaration on Thursday that – in the wake of Leeds United’s heavy and sobering opening-day loss at Manchester United – he is ‘happy or comfortable’ with his squad was a sincere one.

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During an active transfer window, more especially in the final few weeks of one, plenty of column inches, countless web pieces and too many social media posts to mention are devoted to the subject of who a club is linked with signing from those ‘in the know’.

Marcelo Bielsa. Picture: Tony Johnson

It intensifies following a rough result – and Leeds certainly had one of those at Old Trafford.

Bielsa has never been one to occupy himself with outside noise. Perish the thought. In a football sense, he has been around the block several times over too.

One swallow does not make a summer. Leeds were well beaten by a United side who could have inflicted that sort of result on the overwhelming majority of Premier League counterpart six days ago, such was the mood and form of the rampant hosts.

In the same breath, it most definitely does not make Leeds a bad side either.

Like every other top-flight club, Leeds are looking for players to improve their options, but so is everyone. Equally, Bielsa likes to focus on what he has got as opposed to what he does not – with his existing squad serving himself infinitely well last season.

His cupboard is still pretty well stocked.

One of the pick of the bunch in Patrick Bamford is sticking around for a good while, having signed a new five-year deal to keep him at the club until 2026.

Heading into the club’s first top-flight home fixture in front of a full house, it is an exquisitely timed development, most especially given reported links with Tottenham Hotspur. Not that Bielsa would have been worrying.

Speaking with inherent logic when questioned about potential new signings, he commented: “This question over whether we need more players has two answers – yes we need more players that are better than the ones we already have and that we can buy because this club has invested; it’s not like this club hasn’t invested.

“The second focus is that this same group ended the last season with a contribution that allowed them to be justifiably in the top half of the table.

“But what happens is that when you lose a big game 5-1, it generates an uncertainness around the team that produces all these questions that you ask.

“We absorbed last season with 18 (senior) players. And we had some important injuries. Like (Gaetano) Berardi’s, (Robin) Koch’s, (Diego) Llorente’s, (Adam) Forshaw’s.

“With respect to that nucleus, the same players are there. And we have the possible recovery of Forshaw and some youngsters who are growing that can make important contributions.

“I am happy or comfortable with the players I can count on at the moment, it’s the same group as last year with the substitution of (Junior) Firpo for (Gjanni) Alioski and young players who accompany the team have another year of experience.”

The logic of Bielsa’s argument that bringing in ready-made players who have a greater quality level than the ones already at his disposal – or are as good as them – is not straightforward, but also cannot be disputed.

When it comes to bringing in senior players, Bielsa is not interested in projects or taking punts.

Any ‘project’ signings must have their time in the Under-23s before being assimilated into the first-team squad, that is if they progress well enough. Time will at least be afforded them in that regard.

Given the high technical prowess of Leeds’s senior squad – and the prohibitive cost of the signings who would improve it – the Yorkshire club are probably operating in quite a small market.

Bielsa, who could welcome back Kalvin Phillips for the visit of Everton tomorrow, continued: “Of course if we have the option to bring another player in, we will do it. As long as that player is able to challenge the player that we already have in that position.

“A signing to strengthen the team is a player that has to be able to compete with the players that we have in this position and that means that there is a very high cost to this.

“So with regards to the situation with the signings, if players don’t arrive, then there is disappointment because they don’t arrive. But if there are signings and they are below the level of the players than we already have, then there is also disappointment because they are not up to the standard.

“The intermediate situation is to find players that can overcome the players we already have and that are low priced.

“But to say a low price also means a high price as the low prices at the moment are prices that are very high and the good players are priced excessively.”