‘Offensively we did enough to establish the lead’ reflects Marcelo Bielsa after Leeds United stalemate

Marcelo Bielsa watched his Leeds United side dominate Arsenal at Elland Road without beating them, and was left to reflect that it was perhaps a sign of how far his team has come that he was frustrated to settle for a 0-0 draw against them.
Leeds United's Patrick Bamford causes panic in the Arsenal box. Picture: Tony JohnsonLeeds United's Patrick Bamford causes panic in the Arsenal box. Picture: Tony Johnson
Leeds United's Patrick Bamford causes panic in the Arsenal box. Picture: Tony Johnson

The Whites had 25 shots against a Gunners side reduced to 10 men when Nicolas Pepe headbutted Ezgjan Alioski in the 52nd minute, but saw three hit the woodwork.

They were much the better side before Pepe’s red card, and thanks to Bielsa’s substitutions were pushing very hard for victory when the final whistle blew.

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“The game had two periods, the first hour where we played 11 against 11 in which we dominated and didn’t allow the opponent to react, and the final half an hour where the dominance was even more clear,” he said afterwards. “Offensively we did enough to establish the lead.”

Substitute Rodrigo hit the crossbar and Patrick Bamford and impressive full debutant Raphinha both struck the post.

When it was put to Bielsa that it was perhaps a sign of progress he was frustrated to draw – as Leeds also did at home to Manchester City – he replied: “Perhaps.”

Rodrigo lifted Leeds after they initially struggled to break down the 10 men – although Bielsa felt withdrawing Luke Ayling had its downsides too – and Ian Poveda was also excellent despite Bielsa’s uncertainty about introducing him.

“It was very important when Poveda came on,” he reflected.

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“I doubted myself making this change because Raphinha was having an influence on his side (the Brazilian switched to the left) but Poveda made a significant contribution.

“Sometimes when you make changes you have doubts – sometimes you are correct and sometimes you make mistakes.

“For example the substitution of Ayling caused us to be a bit more fragile down the right-hand side. We had some defensive difficulties and (Stuart) Dallas (who moved to right-back) was making important contributions as a midfielder.

“But the introduction of Rodrigo gave us a bigger weight in attack.”

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The Spaniard did not start the game having missed two matches before the international break with coronavirus.

“When he came out of the team he was growing in it,” said Bielsa. “Every game he was playing better and you don’t obtain the rhythm of competition quickly. It took him a few games to get to the level he was at agaisnt Aston Villa and I think he needs a progression of minutes to get back to that level.”

Of winger Raphinha’s first start, he said: “He had a big influence on the right-hand side, where we were dangerous.”

Report: Page 3

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