Leeds’ display at Man City proves they aren’t suffering from Bielsa-burnout

Sometimes in life you’ve just got to put both hands in the air and admit you were wrong.

A few months ago, we predicted that Leeds could be on the verge of a calamitous collapse having been lauded for their high-octane, aggressive, energetic style of play throughout the first half of their maiden campaign back in the Premier League.

Marcelo Bielsa's side were superb at Manchester City
Marcelo Bielsa’s side were superb at Manchester City | Pool/Getty Images

To give a bit of perspective; Marcelo Bielsa’s side had recently been thrashed by League Two side Crawley Town in the FA Cup, a result sandwiched between two Premier League defeats in which the Whites failed to score a goal.

Of course, losing three games on the bounce should hardly be reason to suggest a team is in dire need of a result or they could dramatically slip down the table – even if one of said results was at a side three divisions below them in the footballing pyramid – but there was more substance to the prediction than just the black and white of their recent results.

Bielsa is renowned for being a tough taskmaster and demanding constant energy and drive from his sides – even in training sessions.

This ethos has seen he come unstuck at times, with some of his previous sides racing out of the blocks before falling apart at the latter end of the campaign as fatigue begins to become a factor.

Leeds had fallen foul of this exact problem during the Argentine tactician’s first season at Elland Road. Having looked destined for promotion from the Championship in 2018/19, the Whites went on to win none of their final four games of regular season and subsequently missed out on a place in the top two, before bottling a first-leg semi-final lead against Derby in the play-offs.

So, it’s not like the claims were just plucked out of thin air then. However, this is the part where we hold our hands up.

Having predicted ‘Bielsa-burnout’ could be set to undo all the hard work they’d done in the first half of the season, their display at Premier League champions elect Manchester City on Saturday afternoon was more akin to a team who’d just guzzled a tin of Popeye’s spinach than one that was crawling towards the season’s conclusion.

Having taken an early lead through Stuart Dallas, Bielsa’s side were reduced to ten men shortly after following Liam Cooper’s dangerous challenge on Raheem Sterling.

Naturally, the red card may as well have been a matador’s cape as far as the City team were concerned, because as soon as Cooper left the field it just became a constant onslaught of City pressure.

Pep Guardiola’s men pulled the two banks of Leeds players round the field like a ragdoll, switching play and keeping the ball moving for the remainder of the contest – something which would undoubtedly have proved to be tiring both physically and mentally for the visitors.

Try as they might, Leeds’ stubborn resistance was eventually broken as an individual piece of quality from Bernardo Silva afforded Ferran Torres the chance to confidentially dispatch the equaliser.

With 15 minutes remaining, it just became a case of will Man City take one point or three from the clash, there wasn’t a chance Leeds would even have the energy – never mind the quality – to muster one final attack of their own.

Well, that’s what we thought anyway.

Stuart Dallas produced an unlikely brace to secure the three points for Leeds
Stuart Dallas produced an unlikely brace to secure the three points for Leeds | MICHAEL REGAN/Getty Images

With just two minutes of stoppage time left to play, Dallas somehow mustered the energy to burst into the City half, leaving John Stones in his wake running like a World’s Strongest Man competitor trying to pull a lorry behind him, before coolly slotting past Ederson to hand his side an unlikely win.

They may well have been completely drained, but the full Leeds team even had it in them to sprint the length of the field and celebrate as a group, as they moved to within two points of Champions League chasing Everton.

With three consecutive 2-1 wins under their belt, the Whites are genuinely in the a shout of a place in Europe next season and on current form you wouldn’t back against them doing it.

Bielsa-burnout, eh? Maybe not.

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