LEEDS UNITED head coach Marcelo Bielsa is adamant that the Whites’ peerless start to the Championship season does not constitute a surprise to him.
Second-placed United are seeking their fifth successive win of the Argentine’s reign at Swansea City tonight mindful that avoiding defeat would see them jump above Middlesbrough to the summit of the second tier for the first time in 11 months.
Bielsa has already made history by becoming the first Leeds manager to win his opening four matches in charge, a feat made all the more remarkable by the fact that he has implemented a new high-intensity attacking style of play with his charges in the space of a six-week pre-season.
The former Argentina, Chile and Athletic Bilbao manager – whose side boast the only 100 per cent record in the Championship – insists that United’s rapid progress is not a shock, with positive early-season results having provided players with belief in the system.
Bielsa said: “I do not think it was fast. In football six weeks is a long time. The challenges are above transmitting the style. The challenge is to try and be faithful to this style for a long period.
“But it is always important to have good results, especially at the beginning of the season when you need to build confidence.
“That is the period when you simulate the style. When you win it is always easier to accept the idea of a style of play.”
If events had transpired differently Bielsa could have been in the home dugout at the Liberty Stadium tonight with the 63-year-old coming close to taking charge of Swansea in late 2015 following the sacking of Garry Monk.
But the prospect of taking over a side without a full pre-season did not sit well with Bielsa with the job eventually going to Francesco Guidolin.
Bielsa added: “It was a real possibility (joining Swansea). Was it ever close? Yes. I was willing to work in Swansea, but at the end they chose somebody else.
“I do not remember it very well, I think I wanted to start the season not come in the middle. And the contact I got was in the middle of the season. It did not make it easy to reach an agreement.
“But I have good memories of the dialogues I had with Swansea.”
Like Bielsa, current Swansea manager Graham Potter is also making a positive impression in his first frontline managerial role in England with the Swans also having a considerable incentive this evening.
Victory would see them draw level on points with leaders Boro although Potter is the first to admit that his side’s test against Leeds is their stiffest examination of the season so far,
Hailing Bielsa as a “pioneering” figure, one-time York City player Potter, 43, said: “He is hugely influential for so many top coaches.
“I have admired from a distance for a long time, I have full respect for him and it will be an interesting evening for me, but it is Swansea versus Leeds.
“It is going to be a good game, but he is someone I admire.
“Of course I am well aware of his career and his methods, which are creative and pioneering.
“His Athletic Bilbao side were fantastic when they beat Manchester United, there are few as influential as him.
“They will be the strongest side we have faced so far.
“They have had convincing wins over Stoke and Derby and got some good players. They are organised and a strong test.”
Defender Pontus Jansson (back) will be missing this evening for Leeds, who have not won on their last four visits to Swansea since a 3-2 victory in April 1964.
Last six games: Swansea LLLWWD Leeds LWWWWW.
Referee: A Davies (Hampshire).
Last time: Swansea 3 Leeds 0; February 26, 2011; Championship.