How Marcelo Bielsa is changing Championship leaders Leeds
Leeds face Middlesbrough live on Sky Sports Football from 7pm on Friday night.
Last Updated: 31/08/18 9:57pm
Marcelo Bielsa's Elland Road revolution is well underway, with Leeds sitting top of the Sky Bet Championship ahead of their meeting with second-placed Middlesbrough live on Sky Sports on Friday.
The eccentric Argentine has garnered plenty of attention since taking the reins from Paul Heckingbottom in the summer, but what has he actually changed on the pitch?
We take a look at the Leeds transformation as they aim to make it five wins from six Championship games under the lights on Friday night…
The headline statistics are that Leeds - 13th-placed finishers last season - are top of the Championship on 13 points having scored more goals (14) than any other side, but those numbers only scratch at the surface of their transformation under Bielsa.
Many wondered whether his methods would work amid the rough-and-tumble of the Championship, but it has taken just a few weeks for him to get Leeds playing in his image. Their expansive, passing style has earned rave reviews and most of their goals have been outstanding.
Leeds are building from the back and carving opponents open with slick movement and sharp distribution. Their average possession rate has jumped from 49.8 per cent last season to 55.8 per cent - the highest in the Championship - and their accuracy and short passing rates have followed the same trend.
There is far less emphasis on long balls under Bielsa, with Leeds now playing fewer per game than any other side in the Championship. The 5ft 8ins Kemar Roofe is thriving up front as a result, scoring four goals and providing two assists in five appearances, and he is not the only attacking player enjoying the new approach.
Pablo Hernandez, Ezgjan Alioski and Mateusz Klich have also chipped in with important goals and assists, and the whole squad has shown a willingness to embrace Bielsa's off-the-ball demands. Leeds are pressing opponents high up the pitch, and despite having more possession than any other Championship side, they rank among the top seven for both tackles and interceptions.
The pundit verdict
David Prutton has been impressed with Bielsa and Leeds so far, but admits he is slightly wary after seeing how rapidly they dropped off following an excellent start last season.
"It's been superb to see how Leeds have grown under Bielsa so far and he was genuinely gutted to lose his unbeaten record on Tuesday against Preston in the Carabao Cup, which shows just how strong his winning mentality is and he's instilled that in the club," said the former Leeds midfielder.
"Friday night against Middlesbrough will give us more of an idea of how far they've come because it won't get much more difficult for them this season. These have been the two best teams in the league so far.
"It's a question of consistency from here because the squad isn't that different, other than the additions of Barry Douglas and Patrick Bamford.
"Last season they started very well under Thomas Christiansen but they fell away badly from mid-September. After 10 games we'll know more about this side and whether or not they can cope with the course and distance."
What the players say
A host of Leeds players have spoken about dramatic changes to training and preparation under Bielsa - including regular 12-hour days during pre-season - and it seems the hard work is paying off.
Kemar Roofe: "I think what he's done is he's studied our previous seasons in detail and he's identified our strengths and weaknesses. Then every day on the training field he designs every session to improve on our weaknesses. If we've done something not so good in a game then the following week he'll find a way to address it and better us."
Ezgjan Alioski: "It's another philosophy from him and it's really the training that we do, it's hard training and he tells us that if we want to do something, to go up or to win something, then we must work hard and we really need to do this.
"We had triple sessions in the summer - going in at eight in the morning and going home at seven or eight in the evening, or maybe we slept in the hotel so we were never at home to see the family. It was really hard work and we only said we hoped we'd have a good start and we will play well."
If we've done something not so good in a game then the following week he'll find a way to address it and better us.
Pontus Jansson: "When I came back from the World Cup it felt like I'd signed for a new club. Everything was new, a lot of staff, new people around here and everyone was so more professional in a good way, of course.
"He wants us to train exactly how we want to play. I'm actually quite used to that from my time in Italy and the coach I had there. But it's long days and you have to concentrate on every moment of the day."
Liam Cooper: "From day one when the manager came in, he said we're going to take risks and we're going to be offensive. He doesn't want his teams to defend too much and he's adamant we're going to take risks, and that's the way we're going to play."
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