January 19, 2022, 2:04

Marcelo Bielsa exclusive: Leeds boss on the 7-0 Man City defeat, why his side are struggling and the financial disparity in football

Marcelo Bielsa exclusive: Leeds boss on the 7-0 Man City defeat, why his side are struggling and the financial disparity in football

Marcelo Bielsa pulled no punches.

The Leeds United manager bemoaned his side’s worst display since he took charge of the club in 2018 as Manchester City ran in seven unanswered goals at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday night.

The Yorkshire club suffered the joint-heaviest defeat in their history in all competitions, alongside seven-goal losses to Stoke (1-8 in August 1934), West Ham (0-7 in November 1966) and Arsenal (0-7 in September 1979).

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For all the optimism swirling around Elland Road at the start of the campaign, with supporters back in the stands for the first time ahead of a top-flight season in 17 years, Bielsa is in a battle to fight off a winter of discontent.

“It was the worst performance in the four years,” he reiterates to Sky Sports. “At no moment were we able to balance the game. The sensation we gave off was that anything they attempted we couldn’t prevent. We have to look back at the errors we made and look to eradicate them.

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“We have to be self-critical and not look beyond ourselves for answers. It’s about not repeating the same mistakes… it’s not good to keep in mind such a negative image of ourselves but at the same time we can’t ignore it. The solutions are within us and we have to bring them to life.”

It was also the first time the Argentine had conceded seven goals in a single match in his 568-game club management career. The challenge now for Bielsa is to summon a response from his players ahead of the Saturday Night Football clash with Arsenal back on home soil.

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Leeds head coach Marcelo Bielsa says his side’s performance in their 7-0 defeat against Manchester City was the worst in his four years in charge.

For all of Leeds’ problems this term in keeping key players off the treatment table, Bielsa has managed to prevent any sense of crisis from setting in at the club through responding to setbacks. In losing to City, the Whites lost back-to-back Premier League games for the first time this season, having last done so between February and March of last term.

Bielsa expressed that there was nothing positive to take from his trip to Manchester, but a few days on from the humiliating defeat, he is looking forward to his side rediscovering the same level shown in the contentious 3-2 loss to Chelsea last weekend.

“It was not just another defeat,” the Leeds boss admits, reflecting on the events of Tuesday. “We’ve won two of the last 10, but this can always be spun in a more favourable way. When you cut out the results, you can look closer at how the progress is going and it’s only natural to do this to get to the reasons for the defeat.

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Manchester City’s win over Leeds

“But prior to the City loss, this is the most productive segment of the season so far. It’s natural that a 7-0 result generates negative repercussions and it’s totally justified that it’s this way. We didn’t really learn anything new from the defeat as since I’ve been in charge we have suffered heavy losses of this nature.

“Looking back at the Chelsea game, we gave the best impression of ourselves with our most valuable characteristics on display – we took the game to them, our possession was controlled in the opposition half and we regained the ball well. These are the aspects I want us to get back doing this weekend.

“In any adversity, you have to face the difficulties and you face it full on. I’m not delegating responsibilities elsewhere or blaming others. This is what we must do.”

Leeds have picked up 16 points in their 17 Premier League games this season; when adjusting to three points for a win all-time, only in 1930/31 have they had fewer at this stage of any league campaign (14).

“Last season, we were more stable and more consistent in what we were looking to achieve,” Bielsa concedes. “We were able to have greater rhythm with a more regular team selection. From this starting position, greater consistency is easier to generate.

“We were able to gain more confidence last term, but this time around we haven’t managed to find the same consistency that elevates the overall performance.”

How can Leeds bridge the gulf to the elite?

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Bielsa had never conceded seven goals in a match

Having spent £130m on the current playing staff, Bielsa is aware of the disparity of wealth that permeates even the top echelons of English football’s pyramid – witnessed in Manchester City’s starting line-up costing a combined total of £528.5m.

The financial gulf between the elite and the rest in football appears to only be widening, but it is not something the Leeds manager is overly concerned with – making reference to the fact his side took four points off City last season.

“It’s not something that worries me because last year we had the possibility of competing in better conditions to the ones we’re experiencing this season,” he says. “The league is showing what is capable of happening when you have powerful sides with greater resources.

“In turn, I understand that in every league in the world there are teams who have the capacity to generate more resources, and this difference is impossible to avoid.

“Constructing a good team can take years, and it requires the strengthening of players as part of a project. For example, the concerns over a lack of resources that we’ve had this season have led to some people claiming it is linked to the need to look to bring in new players – it hasn’t given rise to the idea of making stronger the young players we already have at the club.

“Buying players will also block the pathway of academy players to the first team or at least limit their minutes. So it’s very difficult to reconcile these two things. If [Patrick] Bamford or Rodrigo are missing, people will ask me why Joe Gelhardt isn’t playing. If [Kalvin] Phillips is missing, does this mean we should run the risk of accelerating Adam Forshaw’s road to recovery?

“You can see, there are many things that have to be considered when it comes to the project outlined in consolidating the structure of the squad. It’s certainly not easy to achieve and nor is it easy to demand patience in the process.”

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The quality of Leeds' chances were better last term

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There's a more scattergun approach this season

Bielsa is trying to get Leeds back on the right path, but Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta will feel his side are doing exactly that having moved into the top four for the first time this season. Arteta knows all about needing patience and trust in the process.

Back-to-back home wins without conceding have brought confidence oozing back to his young squad, and while the likes of Manchester United and Tottenham have games in hand in the race to qualify for next season’s Champions League, there is nothing like applying some scoreboard pressure on those rivals.

For all the lingering uncertainty surrounding the continuation of the season and suggestions that a firebreak is needed to halt the spread of Omicron, Bielsa is ploughing ahead with his preparations for Arsenal’s visit to Elland Road, live on Sky Sports.

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Leeds suffered the joint-heaviest defeat in their history

“Every game is a chance to revert back to the image we showed prior to the previous match,” Bielsa adds. “Arsenal are one of the more prestigious teams in the league and we must focus on giving our best version rather than focusing too much on them.

“The character and strength of the players is linked to what they produce on the pitch and the most important thing is that recently against Chelsea, we played our best game of the season and then we showed our worst face against City.

“We showed our best and our worst in the space of just three days. It’s my responsibility to get us to repeat what we saw at Stamford Bridge and not what we saw at the Etihad.

“Arsenal are an established team that is growing stronger. They always play the same way but they are capable of changing things up if necessary. They do play in a defined style on the whole and there’s an individuality about them.

“In the past, they have experienced a period of turbulence and they are becoming more consistent. What’s happening now is that are moving towards a more established way of playing, one that is more stable, more traditional and closer to their natural image.”

How to follow Leeds vs Arsenal on Sky Sports

Leeds vs Arsenal is live on Sky Sports Premier League from 5pm on Saturday; kick-off 5.30pm. Sky Sports customers can watch in-game clips in the live match blog on the Sky Sports website and app. Highlights will also be published on the Sky Sports digital platforms and the Sky Sports Football YouTube channel shortly after the final whistle.

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