IAN LADYMAN: If Bielsa is so brilliant… then why are Leeds so leaky?

IAN LADYMAN: If Marcelo Bielsa is so brilliant, then why are Leeds so leaky? While Lionel Messi’s beer gag leaves a bitter taste in my mouth

  • Leeds conceded their 33rd goal on Saturday – only West Brom have let in more 
  • Marcelo Bielsa’s side are a joy to watch and must be judged with generosity
  • Despite a leaky defence, Leeds supporters should not complain about their side 

Only West Bromwich Albion have conceded more Premier League goals than Leeds United’s 33. Marcelo Bielsa’s team are running at almost two per game.

At the other end of the field, they are prolific. Only Liverpool, Leicester, Manchester United and Chelsea have scored more than their 30 and it could be argued that — at their very best — Leeds are better to watch than the last two on that list.

So how do we judge them? With some generosity, I think.

Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds have been a joy to watch this season – partly due to their leaky defence

Leeds conceded their 33rd goal of the season in the 3-0 defeat to Spurs on Saturday afternoon

Bielsa has brought Leeds back to the top division after 16 years away and has decided not to take a step back to anybody.

It is an approach bolstered by belief in his players, his methods and a way of playing that has had younger men such as Pep Guardiola and Mauricio Pochettino in thrall to him for years.

Leeds supporters will not complain, and why would they? It has been a wild ride and it is better, surely, to be ballsy and brassy in the Premier League rather than meek and mild like West Brom this season or Norwich the last.

Equally, it will be fascinating to see if the 65-year-old changes anything as he moves through the season.

Despite this poor defensive record, Leeds still stand six points off the Champions League spots

This is a Premier League campaign that actually offers him and his team more than they ever could have hoped for.

Even with a negative goal difference, Leeds are only six points off the Champions League places. But shipping two goals per game is unsustainable for a team that wants to make real progress.

There is a cult-like aura around Bielsa that means critical analysis of him is quickly shot down.

When Leeds lost 6-2 at Old Trafford recently, it was suggested Bielsa’s approach had left his team open to counter-attacks. That was borne out by the result and, indeed, a game that often felt more like basketball than football in terms of its rhythm.

Only West Brom have conceded more than Leeds – who shipped six at Man United last month 

But Bielsa’s disciples quickly got the hump and so did the man himself. He spoke at length about what he claimed was a media attempt to undermine his philosophies, even though his withdrawal of two midfielders at half-time appeared to indicate he knew deep down he had got things wrong.

Bielsa’s unshakable self-belief is a valuable part of him. Creative free-thinkers rarely accept they are wrong.

I thought his admission that he regularly sent spies to watch opponents train in the Championship was wonderful.

Derby — the club that uncovered his impertinence — should have spent less time moaning and more time building a fence.

Nevertheless, football is played at both ends of the field and it seems perfectly fair to ask why, under such a feted coach, Leeds have conceded six at United, four against Leicester, Crystal Palace and Liverpool and three against Tottenham, Chelsea and Fulham.

Bielsa’s tactics both on and off-the-pitch have been praised and criticised equally

When they fire — as they did when I saw Bielsa dismantle Aston Villa 3-0 in October — they are utterly compelling. 

But when they don’t, there is a vague chaos about them that will always catapult them to the front end of the Match of the Day schedule but perhaps hold them back in terms of their Premier League position.

Bielsa is beautifully stubborn and nobody wants Leeds to fundamentally alter their approach to a football match.

But it is possible to play front-foot football while remembering how to defend and I suppose the question is this: do Leeds want to make a sustained impact on this average Premier League, or merely remain a fascinating and novel item of decoration?

Messi’s beer gag leaves bitter taste 

Lionel Messi has scored a world record 644 goals for Barcelona and, to mark the achievement, has endorsed a Budweiser stunt to send every goalkeeper he has ever beaten an appropriate number of beers.

If you have conceded six goals to Messi — as Manchester United’s David de Gea has — then you got six bottles of bad American beer. Diego Alves, once of Valencia, received a staggering 21.

Lionel Messi scored his 644th Barcelona goal last month – a world record for a single club tally

Messi is sending out a bottle of Budweiser bottle to every goalkeeper he has scored against

It is an utterly crass act that stinks of narcissism and makes you wonder who is advising Messi these days. 

Hopefully not the same folk who once told him he didn’t need to pay his tax bill.

Costa worth the gamble for City 

In leaving Atletico Madrid by mutual agreement, Diego Costa has become world football’s most enticing free agent.

Several destinations in the Premier League have been floated, including Wolves and Arsenal. 

Diego Costa is the most famous free agent of the transfer window after leaving Atletico Madrid

But if the 32-year-old really is to rediscover his best form he is going to need an environment that excites him and a manager who can handle him.

With that in mind — and with Sergio Aguero’s injury problems seemingly here to stay — I can’t think of anywhere better than Manchester City.

Costa on a six-month deal? What is there to lose for Pep Guardiola?

The Doc never lost his passion 

Tommy Docherty had been poorly for a while before his sad passing on New Year’s Eve but he remained very much himself to the end.

His two great loves in life were his family and his football — in that order — and it will surprise nobody who met him to know that one of his better days just before Christmas found him sitting up in bed watching a game on TV with a Bloody Mary in hand.

Tommy Docherty was ill for a while before his passing but he remained  himself to the end

The Doc played for four clubs and managed a dozen. It was a decent haul but you get the feeling if he could have squeezed a few more in, he would have.

Gerrard flourishing at Rangers 

Rangers’ defeat of Celtic has taken manager Steven Gerrard another step closer to his first Scottish title.

Two hundred miles away at Anfield, the Jurgen Klopp succession plan must be hardening.

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