WINGER Ezjgan Alioski said head coach Marcelo Bielsa’s power-packed Leeds United were a different breed to the early table-toppers of last year after literally cleaning up at Norwich City.
Alioski’s powerful drive, sandwiched by a calm finish from Mateusz Klich and stunning strike from Pablo Hernandez, helped give United victory at Carrow Road to send the unbeaten Whites top of the Championship with four wins and a draw.
Leeds were at the summit after seven games under Thomas Christiansen last term, but crumbled to finish 13th with Christiansen losing his job to Paul Heckingbottom – who was then replaced by former Argentina and Chile boss Bielsa in June.
Bielsa’s high press, energetic and free-flowing football has Leeds top and after cleaning up on the pitch at Norwich, the Whites then performed a cleaning operation off it. The Argentinian tidied the away dugout, removing empty water bottles before sending his staff out with a bin to ensure the bench area was left spotless.
Alioski said Bielsa is big on showing respect, with the Whites quickly gaining maximum respect for their on-field displays too.
Norwich manager Daniel Farke said Leeds were “at this moment 100 per cent the best team in the league”.
A year on from being in a similar position, Alioski said matters were very different under Bielsa and the winger is hopeful Leeds can stay top given their newfound confidence and power.
“Last year we had good results at the beginning, but we were not winning with the confidence like this,” said Alioski. “We won 1-0, 2-1, but now you see we’re winning away at Derby 4-1, against Stoke 3-1, and here 3-0. We have more confidence with the coach and all his staff. It’s really different and it’s nice.
“I hope it will be like this for the whole season. When we play like this, with the power we have and the pressing, the other team don’t have too many chances to score goals.”
Leeds totally outclassed Norwich, who have taken the unusual step of painting their away dressing room pink in an attempt to reduce testosterone levels of visiting sides.
When the results are like this at the beginning it’s easy to speak and to say he’s the man. It’s better to speak after 20 games. But he can be the man.Ezjgan Alioski
The Canaries made a decent start, but centre-back Pontus Jansson helped keep the hosts at bay with crucial interventions on his first league start of the season following first World Cup duty with Sweden and then a back injury. But once Klich had calmly fired United into a 21st-minute lead it was one way-traffic with the Pole coolly stroking the ball home after Alioski’s header was parried out by goalkeeper Tim Krul following a superb pass from Hernandez.
Krul was beaten at his near post five minutes later with Alioski’s drive too hot to handle after good link-up play between Barry Douglas and Kemar Roofe.
Norwich briefly threatened at the end of the first half, but United bagged their third when Hernandez cut inside from the left before curling home a gem in the 67th minute.
Leeds could and should have scored more with Samu Saiz earlier hitting the side-netting and seeing another effort blocked by Grant Hanley after Alioski’s effort was well saved by Krul.
Norwich were then denied a late consolation after a fine save from Bailey Peacock-Farrell to keep out a header from Hanley with Kalvin Phillips blocking the follow-up attempt from Tom Trybull.
The on-field clean-up operation complete, Bielsa then turned his attention to tidying up off it.
“He wants this with the players also,” said Alioski. “All football players, they are the same, they leave things here or there, but he wants to change this mentality so we are clean. Maybe it’s about how clean it is inside the dressing room.
“The coach, he helps also, he cleans and takes things out. It’s a respect that he wants. He wants us to learn that it’s not only important about the football, but also outside and away from the pitch.”
Asked if Bielsa could be the man to take United back to the Premier League, Alioski said: “When the results are like this at the beginning it’s easy to speak and to say he’s the man. It’s better to speak after 20 games. But he can be the man.”
Leeds United: Peacock-Farrell, Ayling (c), Douglas, Jansson, Berardi, Klich, Phillips, Alioski, Hernandez (Harrison 79), Saiz (Baker 89), Roofe (Bamford 76). Unused substitutes: Blackman, Shaughnessy, Pearce, Shackleton.
Norwich City: Krul, Pinto, Leitner (Buendia), Lewis, Klose, Trybull, Pukki, Hernandez, Hanley (c), Thompson (Stiepermann 82), Rhodes (Srbeny 82). Unused substitutes: McGovern, Godfrey, Zimmermann, Marshall.
Referee: Simon Hooper.