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Opinion

Marcelo Bielsa v Sam Allardyce, Fans v Media…Good v Evil

4 months ago
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Tuesday night was the ultimate Premier League contest, Marcelo Bielsa up against Sam Allardyce.

Total football clashing with total anti-football.

Truly good versus evil.

The reaction on Twitter was overwhelming.

Leeds away from home taking the lead after only nine minutes, neutrals celebrating as they made clear their stance on the game.

Two goals in five minutes made it West Brom 0 Leeds 3 after only 36 minutes, the Twitter reaction was now a frenzy, glorying in football triumphing and Sam Allardyce shown up for what he is.

Then 4-0 on 40 minutes, the socially distanced Twitter party now getting really going.

There was ‘only’ one more goal added in the second-half, Marcelo Bielsa taking away the three points and a five goal boost to GD.

What a hoot as fans of pretty much every club ripped into Sam Allardyce and the myth that surrounds him AND this type of terrible football.

What makes this reaction of neutrals far and wide all the more remarkable, is that in general overwhelming terms, everybody thinks West Brom are a canny non-threatening club (Frank Skinner, boing boing Baggies etc etc), whilst Leeds are (especially to anybody with a few years on the clock) the exact opposite, a club that irritates…especially their fans.

However, Marcelo Bielsa has transcended all of that pretty much, with the aid of a willing hard working group of players totally buying into what he is trying to do.

Fans everywhere loved what they saw as the opening two Leeds fixtures produced a 4-3 unlucky defeat at Anfield, followed by a 4-3 win over Fulham – clinging on for the victory in the end despite having gone 4-1 up within an hour.

This isn’t what we have become so used to in the Premier League year after year, clubs expected to know their place, play a certain way.

The media rolled with it, pointing out positives as well as the supposed naivety, although when after six games Leeds had a very decent 10 points ( scoring 12 conceding 9), journalists couldn’t exactly have a real go at Marcelo Bielsa and these strange ways of trying to play football all over the pitch and take risks, rather than safety / boredom first.

The next six games a different story, only the four points from a possible 18 and with only five goals scored and 13 conceded, the media were loving it. Now it was full on patronising, Marcelo Bielsa and Leeds swiftly found out supposedly, meeting Premier League reality after that adrenaline fuelled start to the season had quickly ran its course.

Yes, if you wanted to thrive, or even survive, in the Premier League, this Argentine chap had better understand what was needed chop chop.

Newcastle fans pointing out how rotten it was watching this Steve Bruce mega depressing all out defence (Sam Allardyce style) anti-football, that was built basically on hope and luck, actually found themselves lectured by journalists using Leeds United as the prime example of why they (Newcastle fans) didn’t have a clue.

With a game in hand, Bruce and Newcastle were three points clear of Leeds when the two teams met two weeks ago.

Leeds dominated and should have been a few goals up, Newcastle get into the Leeds half for the first time on 26 minutes and Hendrick scores. Journalists happily bashing away on their keyboards as they prepare their match reports, yes it is all well and good this brave / reckless stuff from Marcelo Bielsa and they are totally dominating Newcastle United BUT look at the scoreline, canny English manager Steve Bruce teaching these foreigners what you really need to do in the Premier League.

Final score Leeds 5 Newcastle 2. Three goals in the final 13 minutes allowing many of the journalists to put this down as a very late collapse by Newcastle, rather than the fact that the scoreline completely reflected the 90 minutes, with it actually being a bit generous to NUFC, as Leeds could and should have won by more.

The last four Premier League results for the two clubs have been:

Leeds 5 Newcastle 2, Man U 6 Leeds 2, Leeds 1 Burnley 0, West Brom 0 Leeds 5.

Newcastle 2 West Brom 1, Leeds 5 Newcastle 2, Newcastle 1 Fulham 1, Man City 0 Man City 2.

Leeds fans continuing to enjoy the Marcelo Bielsa rollercoaster that can’t always guarantee results, but is now looking likely to guarantee more than enough, watching some great football but at times going to fall short when the quality of player is not quite up to it, especially with key injuries.

Newcastle fans continuing to ‘enjoy’ the Steve Bruce ghost train, a miserable nervous scary ride where you are expecting the worst to confront you at any (all of the) time.

Funnily enough, I haven’t heard many journalists pointing out very recently how Marcelo Bielsa needs to learn from his more clued up experienced (in the English leagues) Premier League English managerial rivals, least of all Steve Bruce.

Leeds in 11th on a very healthy 23 points from 16 games, five points and four places ahead of Newcastle in 15th with 18 points from 14, though Liverpool and Leicester up next, before Sheff Utd and Arsenal away, Leeds at home and Everton away before the end of January.

There are nine English managers in the Premier League and seven of them occupy places 14th to 20th, who’d have thought it?

Sam Allardyce already lining up the excuses, even wanting a break now for the Premier League, even voicing fears over the threat to his health from the virus situation in his working life if West Brom end up with cases.

You couldn’t make it up, he has been in the job only a couple of weeks and his team and tactics have been completely dominated in all three matches so far, a very very lucky 1-1 draw at Man City who are struggling for end product, but the Baggies absolutely obliterated at home by Villa (0-3) and Leeds (0-5).

Honestly, would Sam Allardyce be crying out for a ‘circuit-breaker’ if it had been his team winning 5-0 last night, rather than Bielsa’s?

The media are wondering now just where this has all gone wrong, journalists with tears dripping onto their laptops as they wonder what to do with all these pre-prepared articles writing about the Marcelo Bielsa experiment that of course was very brave BUT always doomed to failure in the harsh cruel reality of the Premier League.

Journalists who always find it far easier and attractive to go after foreign managers, unlike the plucky English / British bosses who they have cosy ‘making the job far easier’ longstanding relationships with.

Quite hilarious that journalists who should be championing brave, entertaining, full of chances and goals football, should instead be so keen to see it fail, simply to make their jobs easier and reinforce their prejudices.

So many journalists when looking back at the 1995/96 season, want to say that the story was Kevin Keegan losing the Premier League title through naivety, not knowing how to defend, being a hopeless romantic who only thought about scoring goals and nothing else.

Rather than Kevin Keegan as the man who put together a superb team that played the best football anybody has ever seen in the Premier League era, which came up just short. The biggest factor that Newcastle United didn’t really have a squad to match Man Utd’s and so when Les Ferdinand found the goals drying up, had nobody to replace him for example and give him a rest, as well as other injuries at times to key players. The reality as well of course that Man Utd scored more goals that season and in fact Newcastle only conceded two more than the eventual champions.

Which brings us back to Marcelo Bielsa and Sam Allardyce.

I honestly felt so sorry for West Brom fans when they found out that Fat Sam was their new manager. Your team struggling and then on top of that you get him landing at your club.

Even if they somehow stay up under his dinosaur shocking tactics and playing style, what kind of state are they going to be in if he is in charge moving forward? Playing terrible football which in reality is more likely to ensure you fail rather than succeed. Just as we have at Newcastle with Steve Bruce.

As a West Brom fan, if Bilic was going to be sacked, then surely you would far rather that your club had went and looked to try and find the next Ralph Hasenhuttl or Marcelo Bielsa, rather than Allardyce, Bruce, Pardew, McClaren, Pulis etc etc?

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