Fans of Liverpool and Leeds might not have enjoyed it quite as much, but for the neutrals, their opening game at Anfield was a brilliant watch.
Nobody who saw the Whites in the Championship would have been at all surprised by the way they played but it caught a lot of people who only really pay attention to the Premier League by surprise. It shows what I have been saying to people for years – they are missing out by not watching second-tier football.
The big question was always going to be whether Bielsa’s methods would work in the top division and although Leeds lost 4-3, to play so well against the champions must have given them huge belief for the matches to come, starting with today’s visit of Fulham.
There was plenty of post-match criticism of Liverpool’s defence, but Leeds’ high-energy pressing made it difficult.
At the start of last season, Norwich City were praised for the way they played against Liverpool, but this was totally different. Norwich only started to pose a threat when the game was beyond them in the second half and even then, they played with such naivety. There was never a point where you did not believe Leeds were still in it.
Leeds played with a real bravery and their man-marking has been highlighted. There are positives and negatives to it, but when Bielsa trusts you to go one-on-one with players of Liverpool’s attacking quality, that must give you a lot of confidence.
Mateusz Klich’s goal showed how well it can work for a team. I just love Klich as a player and his workrate always stands out when I watch Leeds.
Patrick Bamford scoring was important not just in the context of the match, but for him personally. We know Bielsa is a big fan of his and, hopefully, after some difficult spells in the Premier League, that will get his confidence up.
Teams will have watched Leeds at Anfield, seen the number of players they get into the box and realised how tough they are going to be to play against. Not that Fulham will have needed convincing, having only played them in June.
To play so well without either of last season’s centre-backs – Ben White, who returned to Brighton and Hove Albion at the end of his loan, and injured captain Liam Cooper – was another example of the confidence Bielsa has instilled and the trust he has in his players.
Wednesday’s League Cup defeat to Hull City raised questions about the squad depth at Elland Road, where fitness will be key this season. I will be a bit more comfortable if they get the couple of extra players they are looking for between now and the October 5 transfer deadline.
Leeds blew up after Christmas in Bielsa’s first season, and that probably had a lot to do with their bodies not being used to that way of playing. Everyone was worried if it was going to happen again last season but they looked much stronger, so hopefully it will be the same this time.
Wolverhampton Wanderers showed that working with a small squad, as Bielsa likes to, is possible in the Premier League – and in their case, the Europa League, too.
A lot of credit has rightly gone to the sports science team behind the scenes at Molineux and the same must be true at Leeds, who did not suffer badly at all with injuries in winning last season’s Championship.
Some managers do not seem too bothered about going out of the League Cup and seeing Bamford, Jack Harrison and Kalvin Phillips on the bench even as League One Hull got the better of a totally-changed Leeds side in midweek suggests Bielsa will not have lost too much sleep after going out on penalties.
I do not think Leeds are going to be struggling at the lower end of the table but as a newly-promoted side their first aim should still be to get clear of the threat of relegation, then look up.
They will have taken a lot from their first game, and it highlighted a lot of things they have to work on, especially defensively, but this can be another good season for them.
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