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Bielsa looks to trim the size of the squad
Monday, 25th Jun 2018 23:13 by Tim Whelan

Today Marcelo Bielsa gave his first press conference as head coach of Leeds United, and he outlined his plans to overhaul the playing staff, while promising we will play good football.

We already knew about his obsessive attention to detail, and he told the assembled press pack that he’d watched every minute of the 51 competitive games Leeds played in 2017/18, plus the two post-season friendlies in Myanmar. I’m not sure I’d wish that on anyone, but it will have given him a good idea of the improvements he needs to make to the squad.

“We think the club, generally, have got 15 players more than we need and there are probably four or five positions on the field where we need to strengthen. The squad shouldn’t be too numerous. There might be some departures so the number of players in the squad isn’t too excessive, I like to have a trimmed down, lean squad so everyone is getting game time.”

So if five players are coming in, does that mean he’s looking to get rid of 20 so that the squad size is reduced by 15 overall? After the disappointing way we fell away last season I’m sure most of us won’t find it hard to draw up a list of 20 players we’d like to see the back of, but it won’t be easy to move them all on to clubs willing to match the wages they are already on.

Despite the excessive numbers he obviously thinks we’re short of quality in certain positions. We already know the club is already after another striker and a second goalkeeper, but what else? Possibly another central defender, and maybe a left-back, even though we bought De Bock as recently as the last transfer window.

Many Leeds fans will be thankful that the much-maligned Victor Orta won’t be solely responsible for signing those 4 or 5 players, as Bielsa will have a veto on any Orta puts forward that he thinks are sub-standard. “In terms of the transfer process I get names from Victor Orta, I then give my opinion on them. If we arrive at an agreement and are on the same page moving forward, that’s when the process starts.”

In today’s English football where players arrive from all over the world it would be impossible for a coach or manager to do all the recruitment himself, so you need someone else in charge of a scouting network. But there is no point in signing players the head coach doesn’t want, so he has to have the final say. And with the financial backing of the 49ers, Orta should now be able to get hold of players of better quality.

Bielsa promised the fans that Leeds will play good football, while maintaining a high tempo game to put pressure on the opposition. “I want people to take the game by the scruff of the neck, not being afraid of the ball, and spending time in possession. They will see a kind of football where the ball is kept on the floor and as we work the ball forward, we will keep it on the ground.

And he dismissed the concern that a language barrier might prevent him getting the players to understand his complex tactical ideas. “"I'm confident the message will be conveyed and received. Getting players to play and appealing to players’ emotions and inspiring them to play - I think getting your message across as a manager is all about that.”

“The biggest factor that gets players playing is emotion and if you speak sincerely, words and how you express yourself goes hand-in-hand in activating those football emotions. The fans will see loyalty and faithfulness from the players as they try to implement what we do in training out on the field.”

And he can’t wait for his first game that really matters, against Stoke City. “For me, having my first game at home and to have the kind of belief and excitement that it’s going to be a sell-out crowd will make it almost like a Premier League game, that for me is something to be really excited about and something that really stimulates me.”

We will of course be playing a team who were in the Premier League last season, and against a manager who won on his last visit to Elland Road, when Gary Rowett was in charge of Derby County. On that occasion Rowett told his players that if they took the lead then Thomas Christiansen’s Leeds wouldn’t have the mental strength to come back. Let’s hope that Bielsa’s Leeds will be made of sterner stuff.

We will have to wait and see if Bielsa’s promises will be borne out by the reality of his time in charge, but we can be certain of one thing. Life under the Argentinian will not be dull.

Photo: Action Images

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