Stubborn Marcelo Bielsa could cost Leeds their Premier League status after his naive and kamikaze-like tactics saw his side ship another six goals as Liverpool ran riot
- Liverpool smashed six goals past a helpless Leeds at Anfield on Wednesday
- Bielsa’s stubbornness and naviety could cost Leeds their top-flight status
- Leeds turned up once again ravaged by injuries with Phillips and Cooper out
- Yet Bielsa lacked the desire to be flexible and err on the side of pragmatism
- Leeds threw men forward but ultimately it was a kamikaze approach at Anfield
Pep Guardiola describes himself as ‘not a coach for the tackles’ but he’s the king of catenaccio compared to Marcelo Bielsa.
Bielsa knows only one way, accelerator to the floor, but right now Leeds United’s Premier League prospects are in reverse because of his stubbornness.
This latest defensive catastrophe at Anfield leaves Leeds just three points above the relegation zone, having played two more than 18th-placed Burnley
Marcelo Bielsa’s stubornness could cost Leeds United their Premier League status
It’s three months since their last clean sheet and they’ve now conceded 56 goals this season – the worst in the division.
Sixteen have been shipped in the last four matches. Bielsa admits self-reflection but isn’t going to about to undergo a conversion to pragmatism despite a lengthy injury list that includes captain Liam Cooper and England holding midfielder Kalvin Phillips.
‘Of course I question myself,’ admitted the 66-year-old Argentine whose name continued to be sung by Leeds fans.
‘You ask yourself why but I don’t think a change of style is going to change what is happening to us.
‘When a team is going through what we are going through it is only going to awaken doubts from everyone. I need to give them the conclusions.’
Mohamed Salah scored two first-half penalties in Liverpool’s 6-0 thrashing of the Whites
Joel Matip (centre) also got in on the action as the Reds took advantage of a gung-ho Leeds
Bielsa is revered by his fellow managers but a failure to adapt is probably his greatest weakness.
He reshuffled his defence again with Stuart Dallas at right-back and Luke Ayling shifting to the centre but the huge holes were evident before Liverpool took the lead after 15 minutes when Raphinha let full-back Andy Robertson bomb down the left, Dallas handled the cross and Mo Salah converted the penalty.
The game was crying out for Leeds to be more circumspect than usual. Instead they threw seven and eight men forward searching for an equaliser and were picked off whenever Liverpool wanted.
Central defender Joel Matip was allowed to advance untroubled to the Leeds box, play a one-two with Salah and slot in a second goal after half-an-hour.
Five minutes later, the contest was over with Ayling clipping Sadio Mane in a foot race and Salah scoring another penalty.
Leeds threw men forward in search of an equaliser but ultimately it was a kamikaze approach
With their midfield failing to win individual battles, the visitors were left horribly exposed.
The idealists would have loved the way Leeds tried to attack in adversity but it was a kamikaze approach from Bielsa who looked bewildered as he crouched in the technical area.
He had defenders on the bench but threw on two midfielders at half-time and a young attacker, Joe Gelhardt, after an hour.
Leeds should be thankful Liverpool had a cup final to look forward to on Sunday or the rout would have been worse.
Leeds have conceded 14 goals in their last four fixtures and are heading for the bottom three
As it happens, Jurgen Klopp’s side got to within a goal of the 7-0 thrashing Manchester City handed to Bielsa in December.
Mane added two in the final 10 minutes and then Virgil van Dijk completed the half-dozen with the last kick.
One of Bielsa’s most chivalrous traits is refusal to throw blame onto his players. He knows injuries have decimated the squad and it’s his choice not to tell them to play more defensively.
‘You can see the players are giving their maximum. Because of their effort, it is clear my responsibility increases. I can’t redirect it to anyone else,’ he said.
‘The way we let the opponents drive with the ball is a problem. But I haven’t been able to resolve it.
Bielsa knows only one gear and despite conceding 54 goals this season, the worst in the Premier League, there was no chance of him changing on Wednesday night, even at Anfield
‘We have shown ourselves very weak against the best teams like City and Liverpool. I thought we could come into this game with some hope but the consequences are totally negative.
Bielsa’s next three games are awkward ones against Tottenham, Leicester and Aston Villa. He will pray for Phillips’ swift return otherwise things look bleak.
He will always be loved at Leeds for what he’s achieved but the owners aren’t flush with money and the loss of Premier League revenue will feel like a fatal body blow.
Bielsa has given English football so much but a game like last night shows why his reputation is greater than his trophy cabinet and why Leeds is the first club he’s been at for four seasons.