Opposition view: Bielsa Effect has taken hold quickly for early leaders Leeds
- Credit: PA
Ahead of today's Carrow Road clash, Leeds fan and blogger Rob Atkinson discusses the rapid work of new manager Marcelo Bielsa at Elland Road.
Have you been surprised by how well the season has started?
A little surprised, yes, because it seemed such a tough start. Most were predicting disaster against Stoke first up, especially as we fielded only one new signing from the start. But then, the Bielsa Effect was suddenly a thing, and we smashed Stoke and followed it up by blitzing Derby at their place. It's still a surprise though, because even the most optimistic of us expected the new coach to need more time for his ethos to sink in.
How drastically has the style of play changed under Bielsa already?
Very drastically. And it is the style because, for the most part, it's the same players who looked so inept last season. The buzz phrase around the club is 'same players, different team', which aptly sums it up. The energy, the press, the fluency at times going forward, the evident belief among the players that they can make this work. All of this is strange and new in a really good way.
Although it was the first dropped points, was the 2-2 draw at Swansea in midweek seen as another good result?
In context, it was a fabulous result. We lost our only recognised centre-half in the warm-up and fielded a back four of Barry Douglas on the left, two right-backs at centre-back and a young midfield prospect at right-back. The defence was thrown and didn't perform well, and a functional defence is the bedrock of Bielsa's game plan, so we did well to come back twice after being outplayed for much of the game.
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Which players have impressed during the opening stages of the campaign?
You'd have to say Kemar Roofe and Mat Klich, neither of whom played at this level and intensity last time around, though Roofe was top scorer without ever really shining. Samuel Saiz has impressed too, he's been back to his best lately, and it's a very good best.
Bielsa's teams have sometimes faded later in the season due to his physical demands, does this and his limited English concern you at all?
It's a worry, because his history bears this out. But the Championship is a different environment and he has different players here to those he's worked with before. Pre-season was intense, and the players have looked fit and able to put Bielsa's theories into practice. As for his lack of English, that never stopped Alex Ferguson...
Norwich try to control possession under Daniel Farke, does that make you wary of Norwich as an opponent?
I think it makes for a good contest, and it should be a cracking game if both teams are at it. Carrow Road is always a hard place to go, and we may have to live more on scraps after largely dominating possession ourselves (unusually for us) so far this season.
Do you think City could be play-off contenders?
I haven't seen that much of the Canaries so far this year, so it's hard to say, though I wouldn't dismiss that possibility based on patchy early results. Might be able to answer this more fully after our game on Saturday!
And finally, what is your prediction?
I'd love to get another away win, but I'd be happy with a draw because I have a sneaky feeling that our defensive troubles and the angst of having to use a pink dressing room (arf) might mean we'll get turned over. That sort of tries to cover all the bases, but if pushed for something definite, I'll go for a 1-1 draw, with Patrick Bamford coming on to snatch a late-ish equaliser.
• Rob Atkinson writes for LLUUE – Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything. You can read his latest articles at roblufc.org
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