LEEDS UNITED’S head coach Marcelo Bielsa yesterday provided a simple and honest assessment of the ‘Spygate’ saga.
“What’s happening is the consequence of my behaviour and I have to assume the repercussions of that,” says Bielsa when asked if investigations by the Football Association and English Football League into his decision to send scouts to watch opposing teams’ training sessions were proving a distraction.
Bielsa also insists it makes no difference how long the EFL and FA take to decide what happens next.
“It doesn’t matter,” said the 63-year-old Argentinian. “We are already focusing on football.”
Tomorrow’s clash at fourth-bottom Rotherham United is next with the Millers facing a team akin to “a little Manchester City” in the eyes of Rotherham manager Paul Warne.
But also, says Bielsa, a team approaching tomorrow’s encounter following their worst performance of the season with the head coach scratching his head and seeking quick solutions in training this week.
As is becoming commonplace, Bielsa has already named his starting XI for tomorrow’s trip to the New York Stadium that Leeds approach sat top of the Championship following just six defeats in the Argentinian’s 28 league games in charge.
Yet three of those losses have been experienced in United’s last four games and the latest of those setbacks, and in particular the manner of that defeat, has evidently not sat well with Leeds’s South American head coach.
Despite the furore surrounding ‘Spygate’, Leeds had approached last weekend’s trip to Stoke City on the back of what Bielsa felt was United’s best performance of the season in swatting aside Derby County at Elland Road.
With the same starting XI, Bielsa was miffed by Leeds following that performance with their worst display of the season in a 2-1 loss at the Potters. The defeat came following a week’s worth of continued talk and speculation about ‘Spygate’, which erupted barely an hour before the clash against Derby after Bielsa admitted to sending a scout to watch a County training session.
Five days later, at an impromptu press conference, Bielsa chose to explain his actions and admitted he had sent scouts to watch every Championship club train.
Those revelations have led to 11 of United’s Championship rivals writing to the EFL demanding more information and a full investigation.
Bielsa, though, refused to blame the whole episode as a distraction ahead of tomorrow’s clash at Rotherham.
Instead, talking football, he accepted his men have to bounce back from the disappointment at Stoke.
“We played the worst game so far at Stoke,” said Bielsa.
“Just after playing the best game of the Championship it’s very difficult for us to understand our last performance.
“We played against an opponent that made it easier for us to win the game.
“If we had to take a game where it is easy to do what we do the best – that is to say attack – it was the game against Stoke City.
“During all the game we had two players who were always free, (Gjanni) Alioski and (Luke) Ayling. We only had to watch the game to reach this conclusion.
“The freedom with which these two players received the ball allowed us to take the ball into their box.
“Usually when we have freedom in this zone we are usually in good conditions to do what we do the best, which is to see the switch of tempo, the association play, make combined movements and as a consequence play deep, but we couldn’t do anything of these.
“When I say it was a game that we could win we just have to have a look at what were the situations, the chances of the opponent to score and how they got these chances to score.
“Even when they played with 11 versus ten, the opponent was not an obstacle for us. We were our main obstacle.”
Despite his dissatisfaction with the display at Stoke, Bielsa will make just two changes to his side tomorrow and one of them is enforced with Pontus Jansson serving a one-game ban. Kalvin Phillips, himself returning from a three-match suspension, will take his place at centre-back.
Bielsa will also hand a debut to January recruit Kiko Casilla with the 32-year-old former Real Madrid goalkeeper set to replace Bailey Peacock-Farrell.
“It’s not often a player of this level chooses to play in the Championship,” said Bielsa of Casilla.
Leeds have 18 games standing between themselves and a return to the country’s top flight.
Asked if last weekend’s defeat at Stoke made tomorrow’s trip to Rotherham a must-win game, Bielsa said: “We have to win all games. The last result doesn’t give more importance to the obligation to win.”