Stubborn Marcelo Bielsa could cost Leeds their Premier League status

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Pep Guardiola describes himself as ‘not a coach for the tackles’ but he’s still the king of catenaccio compared to Marcelo Bielsa.

Iconic 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.

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Idealists may applaud the entertainment-first philosophy but his combination of stubbornness and naivety could end up costing Leeds their Premier League status with teams like Burnley and Newcastle showing signs of life below them.

Stubborn Marcelo Bielsa could cost Leeds their Premier League status
© Provided by Daily Mail Marcelo Bielsa’s stubornness could cost Leeds United their Premier League status

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As the Argentine famously likes to take responsibility for everything, he should have a strong word with himself before it’s too late. Leeds are now only three points above the drop zone and 18th-place Burnley have two games in hand.

Leeds turned up once again ravaged by injuries with England holding midfielder Kalvin Phillips and captain Liam Cooper the biggest misses in terms of defending.

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Yet Bielsa once again lacked the desire to be flexible and err on the side of pragmatism.

Instead, he reshuffled again with Diego Llorente out of the 18 after his personal nightmare against Manchester United at the weekend.

Stubborn Marcelo Bielsa could cost Leeds their Premier League status
© Provided by Daily Mail Mohamed Salah scored two first-half penalties in Liverpool’s 6-0 thrashing of the Whites
Stubborn Marcelo Bielsa could cost Leeds their Premier League status
© Provided by Daily Mail Joel Matip (centre) also got in on the action as the Reds took advantage of a gung-ho Leeds

The changes made Leeds look even less cohesive with the normally-reliable Stuart Dallas uncomfortable at right-back and Luke Ayling all over the place in central defence.

The holes appeared from the opening whistle and after 15 minutes Liverpool full-back Andy Robertson was given the freedom of the left flank. His cross was handled by Dallas and Mo Salah sent Illan Meslier the wrong way from the spot.

Leeds immediately threw men forward chasing the equaliser, seven or eight in some attacks.

It caused Liverpool problems – Raphinha had a goal chalked out for offside – but ultimately it was a kamikaze approach.

Joel Matip was able to stride forward from defence, easily break the Leeds lines, and slot home from inside the box after exchanging passes with Salah.

Stubborn Marcelo Bielsa could cost Leeds their Premier League status
© Provided by Daily Mail Leeds threw men forward in search of an equaliser but ultimately it was a kamikaze approach

That was 2-0 after 30 minutes but the visitors hadn’t learned their lesson. Sadio Mane got goalside of Ayling, was clipped and Salah wrapped in his second penalty of the night.

Bielsa remained crouching in the technical area but didn’t look so much like a genius any more.

For his deserved reputation as a coaching visionary, you can see why his trophy cabinet is relatively bare and why Leeds is the first club where the 66-year-old has spent four seasons.

The fans still chanted his name and he’ll never lose their love after what he’s done for the club but upstairs the Leeds owners – already financially strapped – won’t want to lose their top-flight revenue because the coach won’t adapt.

Stubborn Marcelo Bielsa could cost Leeds their Premier League status
© Provided by Daily Mail Leeds have conceded 14 goals in their last four fixtures and are heading for the bottom three

Junior Firpo showed admirable determination to hook Salah’s shot off the line on the stroke of half-time to deny the Egyptian a hat-trick but it would have been a sobering interval for the Leeds players.

Leeds have now conceded 14 goals in their last four fixtures so of course neither of Bielsa’s half-time substitutions involved defenders. It resembled an experiment on how far he can do things his way.

His only blessing was that Liverpool might have had half an eye on Sunday’s Carabao Cup Final, otherwise a repeat of the seven-goal thrashing Leeds received at Manchester City would have been on the cards.

Salah still wanted his hat-trick however and with Junior Firpo already booked the left-back had to let him run towards goal without a challenge with Meslier saving the forward’s curled effort. Salah then fired over from six yards after Curtis Jones had left Firpo for dead and squared it to him.

Stubborn Marcelo Bielsa could cost Leeds their Premier League status
© Provided by Daily Mail 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

Bielsa made his final change after 62 minutes – sending on a striker of course rather than damage limitation with skilful youngster and proud Scouser Joe Gelhardt introduced against his boyhood heroes.

Perhaps Bielsa regarded last night as a free hit but with the gap over the bottom three and awkward fixtures against Tottenham, Leicester and Aston Villa to come, Leeds fans must hope Phillips returns quickly.

Otherwise, it’s hard to know where Bielsa’s next clean sheet is going to come from. It’s been three months since the last one and three late goals from Mane (2) and Virgil van Dijk increased the agony as Leeds totally collapsed at the end. 

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