By Kevin Markey, Leeds United Mad
Leeds United has become a burial ground for managers. Including two caretakers; there have been 15 of them since the club got relegated from the Premier League in 2004. Only Brian McDermott has lasted more than a year since 2014.
63-year-old Marcelo Bielsa is the latest incumbent at Elland Road. He appears to be different to the others. He’s been described as a visionary. A pioneer of pressing football. Admired by the likes of Pep Guardiola, Mauricio Pochettino and Diego Simeone no less. He is also the highest paid manager in the club’s history which will mark its centenary in 2019.
He took Argentina and Chile to World Cups, beat Sir Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford with Athletic Bilbao, once threatened supporters with a hand grenade and has a recent history of career uncertainty. His previous job at Lille lasted 13 matches; before that he left Lazio after two days. Known as ‘El Loco’ he also likes a burger so should fit in nicely at LS11!
The Leeds squad already know what he is about. Starting pre-season with three hard training sessions a day, from the gym at nine in the morning until seven at night, staying in a nearby hotel for two hours' rest before their final workout.
His passion and obsession for concepts, tactics, methods and information, combined with his unchanging ethics and his blinkered approach to the players gained him his reputation. It’s uncertain whether the physical demands Bielsa makes will be too much over a 46-game season in the Championship.
Bielsa uses an interpreter and tends to give players clear instructions like a teacher, rather than by ranting and raving.
It would appear Bielsa has been active alongside sporting director Victor Orta in assessing what the club needs next in terms of ins and outs.
INS: After some initial disappointment in the transfer window, Bielsa signed Wolves wing-back Barry Douglas on a 3-year-deal and have also captured Middlesbrough striker Patrick Bamford on a 4-year-deal for £7m after talks with Derby over a move for Matej Vydra collapsed. Also, exciting young winger Jack Harrison joined on loan from Man City. Bielsa's reputation also helped persuade Chelsea to let two former FA Youth Cup winners go to Elland Road on loan, goalkeeper Jamal Blackman and midfielder Lewis Baker.
OUTS; Marcus Antonsson, Pawel Cibicki, Tyler Denton, Madger Gomes, Jay-Roy Grot, Andy Lonergan, Paudie O’Connor, Felix Wiedwald, Mallik Wilks, Hadi Sacko, Ronaldo Vieira & Luke Murphyhave either been loaned out, sold or released and Vurnon Anita, Ouasim Bouy, Eunan O'Kane, Yosuke Ideguchiand Caleb Ekuban have not been given a squad number and all look likely to leave.
Another defender and striker may complete a fruitful transfer window that shuts early this season on August 9th.
Here we look at the team Bielsa could probably start his Leeds career with at home to Stoke City on Sunday in the Championship opener at Elland Road (4:30pm kick-off);
Bailey Peacock-Farrell; Despite Blackman being on a season long loan from Chelsea, Bielsa could go go with young Bailey as his No 1 after some brilliant performances at the end of last season in front of a shaky back four.
Luke Ayling; Fantastic work-rate and looks ideal for Bielsa’s style. Chipped in with a couple of goals in pre-season which already shows the influence of the new head coach.
Gaetano Berardi; Commonly liked and battling squad player who can play most positions in defence.
Liam Cooper; Seems to have kept the captain’s armband under Bielsa which is good news for Leeds’ longest serving player despite being a victim of some negative comments when things went pear-shaped last season.
Kalvin Phillips; Used in a new deeper role within the defence and looking the part pre-season. Another victim of negativity but hopefully will make them positive if he continues his pre-season form.
Barry Douglas; Excellent first proper signing of the pre-season from Wolves where he provided 14 assists and 5 goals in their promotion season. Leeds will be looking for the same again from the Scotland international to achieve similar success in 2019.
Lewis Baker: Like Blackman, on a season long loan from Chelsea, and will be looking to provide the energy and box-to-box displays required in Bielsa’s style of play.
Samu Saiz; Probably the most gifted player in the squad and can be a major performer when on top of his game. Tends to look bored however so hopefully will eradicate this from his game to help make the side a force next season.
Patrick Bamford; Still only 24 but seems to have been around a long time. It’s hoping Bielsa will get the best out of the striker who should flourish under his guidance. Time for him to settle down at a club and replicate the form when he won Championship Player of the Year in 2015.
Kemar Roofe; His 3rd season at the club and after being played in various positions up front and out wide he needs to stamp his mark and although top-scorer last season more will be expected from him.
Pablo Hernandez; Very popular player at the club and can turn games in an instance. Key performer with great dead ball skills and always forward thinking at every opportunity.
Also expected to feature will be Pontus Jansson; A powerful and iconic character in the Leeds defence and hopefully will start on Sunday after not featuring pre-season due to his involvement in the World Cup with Sweden. Massive season ahead for him personally. Adam Forshaw, currently out of action with a toe injury but expected tol be an important player in the season ahead.Stuart Dallas; Needs a big season, can also play in various positions and will feature a lot. Ezgian Alioski; Macedonian winger with a few tricks in his locker and good engine. Tyler Roberts; Just back from a bad injury and will be looking to battle for a position up front. Mateusz Klich; Poland international who was mostly ignored last season but has a new lease of life under Bielsa and has looked impressive pre-season.
The club plans to celebrate the late Paul Madeley on Sunday with a minute’s applause and limited edition matchday programme.
Members of his family and some of his former team mates will also be present at the game.
Madeley made 727 appearances for the Whites, helping the club to win two First Division titles, two Fairs Cups, an FA Cup, League Cup, and more.
He also made 24 appearances for England between 1971 and 1977.