Reading v Leeds United – Teamwork off pitch just as crucial for ambitious Whites

TRUST: Leeds United's head coach Marcelo Bielsa, left, and director of football, Victor Orta, right.
TRUST: Leeds United's head coach Marcelo Bielsa, left, and director of football, Victor Orta, right.
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IN THE corridors of power at Elland Road as well as on the pitch, Leeds United appear to be getting their ‘ducks in a row’ when it comes to making all the contingencies necessary to help ensure that this season achieves its cherished aim of promotion.

READ MORE – Marcelo Bielsa on where Leeds United have improved during 2019-20

STICKING AROUND: Leeds United's Liam Cooper. Picture: Tim Goode/PA

STICKING AROUND: Leeds United's Liam Cooper. Picture: Tim Goode/PA

The ink has dried, for instance, on a steady stream of contracts committing several leading players’ futures to the club for an extended period, including the likes of captain Liam Cooper and talisman Pablo Hernandez.

Yet all the while, perceived wisdom suggests that the January transfer window – that critical time when one or two shrewd additions and upgrades still has the potential to prove the difference when the gongs are handed out in May – assumes clear importance.

Most would suggest that Leeds hardly need to do much. But in a hectic run to the end of the calendar year when injuries and suspensions can bite and fates can change, you just never know.

That is when directors of football such as Victor Orta have to come into their own.

Some players fit to the style of the team and so in this sense, Victor and his group are always making good recommendations for us. But if you have a need, it is not now. You will have it closer to this time.

Marcelo Bielsa

Crucially, in that aspect, he retains the full trust of the most important figure in the building and an avowed perfectionist in Marcelo Bielsa, who has faith in Orta’s ability to come up with solutions, should issues arise.

In that sense, December can be key not just in terms of results on the pitch, but spadework and networking away from prying eyes as recruitment teams attempt to woo targets in time for the new year.

Bielsa, speaking ahead of tonight’s trip to a Reading side who have won their last three home matches under the command of recently-appointed manager Mark Bowen, said: “Victor Orta is working with that, he always has information about this. If we have any needs, I am sure Victor and the club is in good condition to bring us solutions.

“It has always been like that since we started working here, in the sense that for one problem you have one recommendation, one possible solution we have analysed a lot and is possible.

“Some players fit to the style of the team and so in this sense, Victor and his group are always making good recommendations for us. But if you have a need, it is not now. You will have it closer to this time. Five weeks is a short period to try to find solutions, but to realise which need you have, it is a long period.”

Tonight, Leeds, for the second time this year, are eyeing a win in Berkshire which will move them to the Championship summit.

In March, a breeze of a 3-0 midweek triumph saw them temporarily replace Norwich City at the top – with the Canaries in action the next day.

This time around, current leaders West Brom take to the field 24 hours after Leeds.

It represents another added incentive for a self-motivated Leeds squad whose cause does not have to be spelled out after being so tantalisingly close to glory last season.

For his part, Bielsa does not feel the need to hammer home any extra messages either.

While he is there to provide guidance on the training ground, players are also pushing their own standards and working things out for themselves.

They are fully conversant with what the Argentine wants and expects and are also emotionally driven in the aim to go one better after the events of 2018-19.

Bielsa, eyeing a fourth straight league win for the first time since December, added: “I am less involved in the sense that the development of the group, you do not have to give too many messages to the players as I did last season.

“They have more independence, they need less messages from me.

“When I observe that the group is mature and experienced, I try to be less involved.”

Last six games: Reading LWDWWL; Leeds WDDWWW.

Referee: D Bond (Lancashire).

Last time: Reading 0 Leeds 3, March 12, 2019; Championship.