Thursday, December 2

Daniel James can make Marcelo Bielsa’s dreams of outshining Liverpool come true | Leeds United

IImagine a procession of supermodels marching down a runway. One has been described as “capturing the essence of Leeds United” and is instantly identifiable. The artfully messy hair and scant makeup scream “natural beauty” but, having taken years to perfect, they seem strangely emblematic of Marcelo Bielsa’s seemingly spontaneous but highly rehearsed team.

When Leeds start against Liverpool at Elland Road on Sunday afternoon and Bielsa’s players start swapping positions with bewitching, sometimes disconcerting kaleidoscopic swiftness, it will be easy to assume that they are passing and moving out of place. Junior Firpo knows different. The £ 13m left-back, signed from Barcelona this summer, has recently revealed that his game underwent more detailed video analysis during his first fortnight in West Yorkshire than during a full two-year stay at Camp Nou.

Like Bielsa, Rafael Benitez believes the devil is really in the details, but the famous and meticulous Everton manager claims that, alongside his Leeds counterpart, he looks almost sloppy. “Marcelo makes me look normal,” jokes Benítez.

The ensuing hours of boot camp training, classroom analysis and relentless fitness at Leeds training headquarters near Wetherby have not only transformed Kalvin Phillips and Patrick Bamford into England internationals, they have imbued Jürgen Klopp nervous, as his goal is to prevent Bielsa from choreographing a first victory of the season in the Premier League.

“Leeds is pushing hard and hard,” says the Liverpool manager. “They try. They are good in possession. Marcelo Bielsa’s style and philosophy is different. There are men’s brands all over the field, so you have to know. Is special. And, sure, they will think they have a good chance against us.

“The games against them are always difficult, always very exciting. They are very, very flexible, very brave and dynamic in possession. The floor will be full and everyone tells me that the atmosphere will be absolutely spectacular. We have to do our best to achieve something. “

As an architect of back pressure, Klopp is an expert on high paces and high defensive lines. He hopes that the possession surrendered will not only recover quickly and aggressively, but serve as a springboard for ruthlessly fast counterattacks.

Bielsa’s soccer plan shares several characteristics, including an emphasis on managing the emotionally intelligent man. However, there are some key divergences in their mutual addiction to attacking fluency. If Liverpool football is heavy metal, Leeds football is more glam rock.

Stuart Dallas celebrates a goal during Leeds' win at Manchester City last season
Stuart Dallas celebrates a goal during Leeds’ victory at Manchester City last season. Marcelo Bielsa’s team has yet to beat one of the leaders on Elland Road. Photograph: Michael Regan / PA

While Klopp’s teams place more and more emphasis on passing than pressure these days and tend to restrict the latter art largely to the opposing court, Bielsa’s press almost anywhere on the pitch and the Argentine’s commitment. with total football it seems to be deeper. His deployment of individual players is often more experimental, with Stuart Dallas, for example, regularly lined up in various starting positions.

It’s unclear whether Wales winger Daniel James will find himself on the bench, the right, his preferred left, or possibly even an inside role on Sunday, following a £ 25 million transfer from Manchester United. James may be seen as the man who made way for Cristiano Ronaldo at Old Trafford, but he has been high on Bielsa’s wanted list for almost three years and is regarded as the type of player capable of ensuring Leeds pass ninth. post from last season.

“James can play both sides and combines his ability to unbalance the opponent,” says Bielsa, the idiosyncrasy of his language amplified by the filter of speaking through an interpreter. “It goes into empty spaces, considering its speed.”

Although after just one season in the Premier League, Leeds fans are still hoping for a home win against one of England’s elite teams and hopes are high that James can help achieve that milestone. Although Bielsa’s side held their ground against last season’s eventual top six, winning at Manchester City and Leicester and keeping City, Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool in draws at Elland Road, his fans are eager to see a big hit. in West Yorkshire.

If Phillips’ anchoring in midfield and Bamford’s goals are likely to prove critical, this historic victory could well be conjured on the flanks. It is not a coincidence that Bielsa has invested more in open players, with James, Raphinha, Jack Harrison and Firpo costing 66 million pounds in total.

James recently said that he had started “playing safe” at Old Trafford, but there appears to be little danger of that continuing on the other side of the Pennines. “Hopefully I can adapt quickly to the system, but I think it will take a little time,” says the 23-year-old. “He is very tactical, but the coach has a way of playing that I think suits me.”

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In January 2019, James came so close to joining Leeds from Swansea that he sat in the Elland Road boardroom eating Chinese takeout only to watch the deal collapse at 11am. Now, however, Bielsa finally It can teach you precisely how to light the soccer catwalk.

“What excites me a lot is making it possible for Leeds players to become players who have the quality to compete with the best,” says the 66-year-old. “When Sunday’s game comes around with Salah, Jota and Mané playing for Liverpool, I dream that Raphinha, Bamford and Harrison are going to be better than those three. That is always my dream. “

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