Marcelo Bielsa did not fire any punches.
The Leeds United manager lamented his side’s worst performance since taking charge of the club in 2018, as Manchester City scored seven unanswered goals at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday night.
The Yorkshire club suffered the heaviest defeat in their history in all competitions, alongside seven losses to Stoke (1-8 in August 1934), West Ham (0-7 in November 1966) and Arsenal (0-7 in September 1979).
Despite all the optimism that swirled around Elland Road at the start of the campaign, with supporters returning to the stands for the first time ahead of a top-level season in 17 years, Bielsa is in a battle to fight a winter of dissatisfaction.
“It was the worst performance in four years,” he repeats to Air sports. “At no point were we able to balance the game. The feeling we got was that whatever they tried we couldn’t stop. We have to go back to the mistakes we made and look for to eradicate them.
“We need to be self-critical and not look beyond ourselves for answers. It’s about not repeating the same mistakes…. The solutions are within us and we need to bring them to life.”
It was also the first time the Argentine had conceded seven goals in a single game in his 568-game club management career. The challenge now for Bielsa is to get a response from his players before the Saturday night football clash with Arsenal back at home.
Despite all of Leeds’ problems this quarter keeping key players off the treatment table, Bielsa has managed to prevent any sense of crisis from setting in at the club by responding to setbacks. Losing to City, the Whites have lost back-to-back Premier League games for the first time this season, having last done so between February and March last season.
Bielsa said there was nothing positive to be learned from his trip to Manchester, but days after the humiliating loss he looks forward to his side rediscovering the same level shown in the controversial 3-2 loss to Chelsea last weekend.
“It wasn’t just another loss,” admits the Leeds boss, reflecting on Tuesday’s events. “We have won two of the last 10, but it can always be turned out in a more favorable way. When you cut the results, you can take a closer look at how the progress is going and it is natural to do that to get there. reasons for defeat.
“But ahead of City’s loss, this is the most productive segment of the season so far. It is only natural that a 7-0 result generates negative repercussions and there is every reason for it to be so. We haven’t really learned anything new from the loss because since I’ve been in charge we’ve suffered heavy losses of this nature.
“Looking back on the Chelsea game, we gave the best impression of ourselves with our most valuable characteristics on display – we brought the game to them, our possession was controlled in the opposing half of the field and we recovered well. balloon These are the aspects I want us to pick up on this weekend.
“In any adversity, you have to face difficulties and face them head-on. I do not delegate responsibility elsewhere or blame others. That is what we have to do.”
Leeds have collected 16 points in their 17 Premier League games this season; in the three-point adjustment for an all-time win, it wasn’t until 1930/31 that they had fewer points at this point in any Championship campaign (14).
“Last season, we were more stable and more consistent in what we were trying to achieve,” concedes Bielsa. “We were able to have more pace with a more consistent selection of teams. From that starting position, greater consistency is easier to generate.
“We were able to gain confidence last season, but this time around we couldn’t find the same consistency that improves overall performance.”
How can Leeds bridge the gap with the elite?
Having spent £ 130million on the current squad, Bielsa is aware of the wealth disparity that permeates even the highest rungs of the English football pyramid – as evidenced by Manchester City’s starting lineup costing a total combined of £ 528.5million.
The financial divide between the elite and the rest of football seems to be widening, but that’s not something the Leeds manager is too concerned about – referring to the fact that his side have taken four points from City in the last season.
“It’s not something that worries me because last year we had the opportunity to compete in better conditions than we are experiencing this season,” he said. “The league shows what can happen when you have strong teams with greater resources.
“In turn, I understand that in every league in the world there are teams that have the capacity to generate more resources, and this difference is impossible to avoid.
Every league in the world has teams that have the capacity to generate more resources, and this difference is impossible to avoid.
“Building a good team can take years, and it requires building players up as part of a project. For example, concerns about the lack of resources we have had this season have led some people to claim that it is. related to the need to seek to recruit new players – that did not give rise to the idea of strengthening the young players that we already have at the club.
“Buying players will also block the path of the academy players to the first team or at least limit their minutes. So it’s very difficult to reconcile those two things. [Patrick] Bamford or Rodrigo are missing, people will ask me why Joe Gelhardt is not playing. Yes [Kalvin] Phillips is out, does that mean we should run the risk of speeding up Adam Forshaw’s path to recovery?
“You can see, there are a lot of things that need to be taken into account when it comes to the project outlined in consolidating the team structure. It is certainly not easy to achieve and it doesn’t also is not easy to require patience in the process. “
Bielsa is trying to get Leeds back on track, but Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta will feel his side are doing just that after entering the top four for the first time this season. Arteta knows all about the need for patience and confidence in the process.
Back-to-back home wins without conceding have given his young side back confidence, and while Manchester United and Tottenham have games in hand in the race to qualify for next season’s Champions League, there is nothing to be sure about. such as applying a dashboard. pressure on these rivals.
Despite all the lingering uncertainty surrounding the continuation of the season and suggestions that a firewall is needed to stop the spread of Omicron, Bielsa continues to make preparations for Arsenal’s visit to Elland Road, live Sky sports.
“Every game is a chance to return to the image we showed before the previous game,” adds Bielsa. “Arsenal are one of the most prestigious teams in the league and we need to focus on our best version rather than focusing too much on them.
“The character and strength of the players is tied to what they produce on the pitch and most importantly recently against Chelsea we played our best game of the season and then showed our worst face against City.
“We showed our best and our worst in just three days. It is my responsibility to make us repeat what we saw at Stamford Bridge and not what we saw at the Etihad.
“Arsenal are an established team that are getting stronger. They always play the same way but they are able to change things if necessary. They play overall in a defined style and there is individuality in them.
“In the past they went through a period of turbulence and they are becoming more cohesive. What is happening now is that they are evolving into a more established, more stable, more traditional way of playing and closer to their image. natural. “
How to follow Leeds vs Arsenal on Sky Sports
Leeds vs Arsenal is live Sky Sports Premier League from 5 p.m. on Saturday; kick off at 5.30 p.m. Air sports customers can watch in-game clips in the live match blog on the Air sports website and app. Highlights will also be posted on the Air sports digital platforms and Sky Sports Football YouTube channel shortly after the final whistle.
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