Marcelo Bielsa – Manager Profile
Author: Conor O’Hara Illustration: Oliver Carter
A Brief Look At: Marcelo Bielsa
As part of our ‘Manager Profile’ series, we first have a look at Marcelo Bielsa and his time (so far) at Leeds United. We will look through his managerial career to date, his achievements, and how he has adopted his style of play in the Championship and Premier League. Check out the videos at the bottom of this article for some fantastic insights into his full history, his visionary status and tactical insight! (If you have a spare hour!)
Name – Marcelo Bielsa
Nationality – Argentina
Age – 65
1980 – 1990 Newell’s Old Boys (Youth coach)
1990 – 1992 Newell’s Old Boys
1993 – 1995 Atlas
1995 – 1996 Club de Futbol America
1997 – 1998 Velez Sarsfield
1998 – 2004 Argentina
2007 – 2011 Chile
2011 – 2013 Athletic Bilbao
2014 – 2015 Marseille
2018 – Leeds United
Summer Olympics Gold Medal – 2004
Newell’s Old Boys
Primera Division Argentina (Apertura) – 1991
Primera Division Argentina (Clausura) – 1992
Primera Division Argentina (Clausura) – 1998
EFL Championship – 2019-2020
IFFHS World’s Best National Coach – 2001
South American Coach of the Year – 2009
LMA Championship Manager of the Year – 2020
EFL Championship Manager of the Year – August 2018, November 2019, July 2020
FIFA Fair Play Award – 2019 (Shared with Leeds United)
The Best FIFA Football Coach – 2020 (3rd Place)
Marcelo Bielsa was relatively unheard of by the masses (but heralded by coaches and elite managers worldwide!) when he swapped the north of France for West-Yorkshire back in 2018, but since then his philosophy and playing style has made for interesting debate amongst pundits and us football fans alike.
Despite leading the Whites back to the summit of English football at the end of last season, they looked poised to do it even earlier when they were top of the Championship on Christmas Day during the 2018-19 season. However, they missed out on automatic promotion and then subsequently failed in the play-off’s too, losing to Frank Lampard’s Derby County. Many people have put this down to Bielsa overworking his players – this has since been dubbed as the ‘Bielsa burnout’.
It is no secret that the Argentine put major physical demands on his players more than most managers; when they are out of possession, they constantly press the opposition relentlessly in order to win the ball back as quickly as possible, and once they have won possession back, it’s all about transition, short quick passes in order to stretch the defence and find those passing lanes which will carve opportunities to score. To put it simply, if you cannot run non-stop for 90 minutes, then you will struggle to force you way into a Marco Bielsa team.
With his current Leeds United side, the 65-year-old, more often than not, opts to go with the 4-1-4-1 formation. Bielsa likes to drop Kalvin Phillips back so he sits just in front of the back-four, whilst Patrick Bamford is deployed up front by himself, however this is always prone to change depending on the set-up of the opposition, and whether they are in possession or not. When they have the ball, the Argentine likes to adopt his famous 3-3-1-3 formation. This is where Phillips will drop in to centre-half and push the other centre-backs wider, allowing the full-backs to push up to midfield so the likes of Jack Harrison and Raphina can also move up alongside Bamford in order to create a more direct and attacking presence.
This style of play has certainly bore fruit for his side having scored 40 times in just 24 matches this season, yet their defence is still leaking a lot of goals with 43 goals shipped thus far; only West Brom have conceded more this campaign. Whether you like Leeds or not, there is no denying that they play some of the most entertaining football in the division, and that is all thanks to Bielsa’s desire to play an attractive, high-pressing game, and most importantly, playing without fear of the opposition.
Bielsea Talking Tactics
A Brief History of Marcelo Bielsa