After three and a half years at the helm, Marcelo Bielsa has parted ways with Leeds United FC. The current season has been marred with injuries to key players and the results in the recent few games have sucked the Whites into a relegation scrap. But the last few months of his tenure won’t define the legacy that Bielsa would leave at Elland Road. The Argentine transformed the club from a mid-table Championship club to one that ruffled the feathers of the very best in the Premier League.
So what is this legacy that Leeds fans would remember Bielsa by? Let’s find out.
BROUGHT GLORY DAYS BACK TO ELLAND ROAD
Leeds were struggling before Marcelo set foot on English soil. He took up an average squad, playing average football in the Championship. The moment the Leeds fans saw what Bielsa is capable of doing with the squad, they were on board. The 3-1 win over Stoke City in his first match showed glimpses of what the team can do with him in charge. The best thing about Bielsa is that from the first game onwards, he had absolute clarity about what he wanted his players to execute on the pitch.
The style the team was playing with existed from the beginning and existed till the very end. In his first season itself, the team were in pole position of clinching the Championship but fell agonisingly short.
Learning from the mistakes in the previous season, Bielsa’s Leeds were a different animal in 2019-20 and there was no stopping them. Not even the pandemic. They won the Championship, the first for Marcelo and won promotion to the Premier League after 16 years.
His team ended up finishing ninth in their comeback season to the Premier League, with the highest points tally by a promoted club since the 2000-01 campaign.
IMPROVED PLAYERS TO SURREAL LEVELS
So many players from this Leeds side have become indispensable players in their national teams, such as, Kalvin Phillips with England and Liam Cooper with Scotland. Patrick Bamford made his England debut with Bielsa in charge. The levels of these players have improved massively and the coaching philosophy of Bielsa has all to do with this improvement.
He saw the real potential of these players and honed them to be one of the best for their countries. Bielsa’s team played like a boxer with a never-say-die attitude. Even when the opposition thought the team was dead and buried they had the ability to come back and land strong punches.
MADE LEEDS INTO THE MOST ENTERTAINING SIDE
The way Bielsa set up his team in the 4-1-4-1 system with man-marking defending, made them the most entertaining team in the country. Football fans just couldn’t get enough of this style of football and rapidly Leeds became the second favourite side of many fans who had nothing to do with the area.
This was football to fall in love with. Neutrals would go out of their way to watch Leeds matches. And the club’s supporters could never have believed 1353 days before that such a style of football was possible at Elland Road.
RECONNECTED THE CLUB WITH THE FANS
Bielsa took a city that had almost lost hope in its football club and took them back to the promised land. The supporters could finally put the years of mismanagement and battling relegation in the lower leagues behind them and dream of playing football in Europe again. Such was the impact of this great man at the club.
This is precisely the reason why even when things were going south for the club this season, the Leeds fans proudly sang his name and applauded him at every moment possible. Even though Bielsa never actually spoke a word of English, he connected with the supporters like no predecessor of his.
Bielsa was the best possible manager for Leeds at the best possible time and like every good story needs to come to an end, this one as well has come to one but his impact will never be forgotten in the city.
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