Newcastle United v Leeds United: Coach Marcelo Bielsa won’t be changing – and that includes Rodrigo

“If I thought another way of playing would improve the team I wouldn’t have any doubts about doing it,” insists Marcelo Bielsa but when it boils down to it, Leeds United’s head coach is very set in his ways – wonderfully so.

Leeds’s first four matches of the Premier League season have been a test of nerve, thumped twice, picking up draws in the other matches. It is the stuff that panics radio phone-in callers and makes certain chairmen’s trigger fingers twitchy.

That the hammerings came against Champions League opponents on top of their games, one of the draws against an Everton side who have started the season brilliantly, does not come into the thinking.

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Someone somewhere will call tonight’s match at Newcastle United – winless, crisis-ridden, disunited Newcastle – must-win for Leeds.

Leeds United's Rodrigo sprints away from Liverpool's Thiago. Picture: Tony Johnson

At 66, Bielsa is far too old for that nonsense.

Call it a weakness or call it a strength, regardless of what he says, Bielsa sticks resolutely to his way. It is why he has so many footballing admirers, even if imitators are more sparse.

Bielsa will not – should not – abandon his passing approach against a team whose manager, fairly or otherwise, gets the opposite criticism of abandoning style for pragmatism.

“There is one great difference in style, what a team does when the goalkeeper has the ball,” explains Professor Bielsa in his latest pre-match lecture. “There are teams that put the ball in play and some that go long. It is legitimate that someone chooses to go long because it reduces the effect of the errors or the chances of a mistake but it also reduces the beauty of the game and the possibilities to attack.

Leeds United head coach Marcelo Bielsa.

“I try to improve what we do.”

Changing tack does not sit well with Bielsa.

“That is the position of someone who doesn’t have tolerance to adversity and demands we stop being what we are when it stops having results,” he argues.

“When something is broken or suffers, there are two options – throw it away and change it for another or look after it and try to recompose it, put it back together.

“In life a lot of people accept the highs and lows and protect the essence and others when something doesn’t give immediate results throw it away and substitute it.

“Only four games have been played, it is a bit premature but when adversity visits you the demands (for change) are there. That is also human nature.”

Rodrigo has come to unwittingly embody Bielsa’s stubbornness. Before it was Patrick Bamford, and that worked out rather well.

The club record signing, though, is struggling to impose his talents and was substituted at half-time against Liverpool after another ineffective display.

“Rodrigo from my point of view even though I substituted him played a very positive first half,” his coach insists.

“For a striker it’s very difficult to receive a ball from which to create danger.

“Rodrigo was close to creating danger. None of the actions he managed to accomplish but I give a lot of value to his constant looking for actions that would allow us to score.

“When he manages to be efficient he’s going to be a player that shines in this league.”