One of the quirks of Marcelo Bielsa’s influence, or one of his biggest endorsements, was that people who grew up hating Leeds United They found themselves wanting what Leeds United had. Life in Leeds was romantic. Life in Leeds was cultural and real, money can only buy a dreamy mix if you spend your money on Bielsa. Looking inside from the outside, what’s to do but admire it?
Leeds, it so happens, is the last fan base remotely interested in anyone adopting them as their second club, but with Bielsa in vogue, the Don Revie names that usually follow the club have been replaced by envious looks from those who would have easily taken what Leeds fell for. Its effect was the opposite of a half-and-half scarf, a seductive football without artificial noise. Football as intended.
You find yourself thinking about seeing Leeds at the time, when the waters rose in mid-2021 before the cold winds blew and the club was back in writing. There were concrete aspects of Elland Road’s grand plan – continuity as a Premier League The side, the European qualification in time, the redevelopment of the stadium – but the beauty of their position was the ability to let him go wherever he went because for three years Bielsa has always been on the rise. Leeds, in modern times, have never felt untouchable or more comfortable, so happy in their own skin.
But not now. That carefree mood has faded, reality has become harsh and life in the Premier League is as the average team understands it: a game of survival and treading water in a department that does not tolerate romance forever. Leeds are so far from where they were at the end of the 2020-21 season that they no longer feel the same way. Their mojo evaporated, and Elland Road emptied after that Sunday’s defeat against Fulham, which I felt was the biggest problem. Yes, there was Questions about Jesse Marsh. But more importantly, how did a team with everything lose its way and indomitable confidence?
Some would say this is the Premier League as created by football finance, a division in which clubs devoid of outrageous wealth – outrageous by the standards of the game, if very few – are only able to thrive for so long and are doomed to go into cycles. The league floods you in and then redefines you with competitive ceilings and neither Leeds nor their fans can tell how much they like them.
There is a lot about the spirit of the Premier League that goes against the experience they had with Bielsa. This is the world where the Premier League anthem smashes your pre-match song before the high-cost players do the same to your team, a world where you don’t play for six weeks, and then find your boxing day fix carried over to midweek night. All the while, you are expected to lose sleep over the importance of staying in it.
But Leeds’ decline as a team is not just a general decline. The cycle is theirs and it boils down to the decisions made, the mistakes made, and the gradual drift from the clear vision they had to a position where the puzzle pieces are everywhere. The club estimated that the first and second seasons in the Premier League were when they were most likely to be bitten by relegation. Statistically, this was true. But the third season is here and it looks more dangerous again.
Where does Leeds see itself in three years? Where do they see themselves after 12 months? How do they restore the clarity that existed after the upgrade, when three to five seasons were planned for Europe, artistic impressions were created of a new training ground and Elland Road was destined for redevelopment?
There were many factors that made Leeds the team they were when Bielsa aligned the stars. One of them was a high individual performance. Collectively, the team was formidable but that wasn’t easy, because Bielsa could count on people who always performed at a very high level. Recruitment since promotion has not produced enough footballers of this type, and you don’t have to worry about these coaches.
Leeds were guilty of leaving holes in their squad – a midfielder last season, a left-back and a ready attacking midfielder – but the big problem was passing the baton. Who is in this team is Pablo Hernandez? Who is omnipresent like Matthews Klitsch used to be? who improved Stuart Dallas At left back? Easy to pick him in defense position like Ben White?
Leeds and Bielsa were loyal to the promotion team but standing by him risked pushing him too far, which Leeds likely did. Failure to adequately update or update meant that in the summer that had just ended, the transfer window called for a major revamp, an overhaul painted over the old design. The club wasn’t moving to Marsh as much as it was moving towards him. They made good deals but were made for him and were joining an existing player framework that was already shaky. Calvin Phillips and Ravenha moved forward. Leeds was emerging from the rear of an excruciating relegation battle. A lot was dependent on five or six new names entering the league, flying on the spot and forming a team that chose itself again.
The club has the third youngest team in the Premier League, and where they have been consistent in good times and bad is recruiting for their academy. They have spent money at this level and they are apparently well recruited. But a season like this – 18 in the table and eight games in a row without a win – is not conducive to pushing the academy’s prospects forward.
In time, Leeds sees many of its under-21 players providing the skeleton for their first team, but the Premier League offers no clemency to anyone with a strong development squad under a poorly performing senior squad. How Leeds might look in three or four years is less relevant than it does now.
It was Bielsa’s role in waning Leeds’ prowess discuss and discussAnd parts of it are still bones of contention. All that can be said is that last year he did not proceed at all and his replacement was very risky, especially if his replacement occurred in the middle of the season and in the form of dismissal. Marsh might later ask whether the timing and manner of his appointment, as Bielsa’s direct successor, left him hiding with nothing. There were moments when it seemed like this. But finally, there was more to suggest that Marsh was simply the wrong choice; That as a tactic, it falls short.
For all the analysis that Victor Orta had about him and all the confidence he had in him, Premier League football Marsh has yet to acquiesce. It puts Leeds in such a bad position that they want to stick with it and see their original decision justified but knowing what will happen if their form does not improve quickly.
As it stands, they have the atmosphere of a club stuck among the plains. They have left Bielsa behind and are trying to make it happen in life without him. They’re still in the hands of Andrea Radrizzani, but they were on the cusp of an all-out buyout by 49ers Enterprises for what appears to be an era, with no definitive indication of when that will happen or what it will look like. Parag Marath, head of the group, was recently interviewed by the BBC, but Marath has a knack for saying a lot without saying much.
It is indisputable that officials from the 49ers Enterprises are very much on the scene and their option to buy Leeds is as well as before. But what do they think of the state of play and what do they hope to inherit? When will Elland Road development plans become shoveled into the ground and what, in the end, do they intend to change or do differently? Do they all wish they could go back to the middle months of 2021?
The beauty of the season leading up to that summer was the freedom to sit back, enjoy soccer, and follow the hits under the table from a safe distance. Perhaps, in hindsight, he made the Premier League look too easy. But that was the moment, the point where the tails were lifted, the doors opened and Leeds had what the others wanted, the time to go one way or the other. Now, here they are, faced with a predicament that was never meant to be and no one would be envious of it.
(Top photo: Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA / Getty Images Getty Images)