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Bielsa backed to see Leeds job through – Interview
Tuesday, 26th Feb 2019 08:26 by Clive Whittingham

Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds have been inconsistent in early 2019 but with their immediate rivals suffering the same issues Ben Phelps is backing the mercurial Argentinean to get the Whites over the line this season.

Four wins from the last ten, five defeats, a bit of a wobble – what’s causing it? Are you worried? How do Leeds return to form?

A bit of a wobble, yeah. The main thing to take from this period of inconsistency is that nobody around us seems to be taking maximum points and running away with it. Leeds are still in a good position to go up automatically as long as the focus is there. In terms of league position, Leeds have the second "easiest" remaining schedule in the league - behind Norwich. With all respect to QPR, Leeds should be taking maximum points here and the schedule looks somewhat kind throughout March and April.

Bit and pieces of January business done – how was the transfer window for Leeds? Who’s come in and have you now got what you need to see this through?

Bielsa wanted to strengthen the squad in two positions: goalkeeper and winger. In the end, he was only able to strengthen at goalkeeper with the addition of Kiko Casilla, the veteran Spaniard signing on a free transfer from Real Madrid. They rather placed all of their eggs in one basket with Swansea winger Dan James, the transfer was all done until the Welsh club's board stopped answering their phones on transfer deadline day. This left James sitting at Thorp Arch in a Leeds kit waiting around for five hours, only to leave the training ground disappointed that he was still a Swan. Before the window began, Marcelo was adamant that he had the tools to see the Championship out without any additions so we will see if his confidence was misplaced.

What did you make of the whole spying row and the punishment announced this week? Any worries it could have been worse?

As many folks have commented, £200k is a hefty fine for a "violation" of an ambiguous "rule" but it is well worth the price to put the ordeal in the rear view mirror. The EFL would have faced a long and expensive legal battle if they tried to deduct points, so I don't think there was ever a chance of that happening. Most Leeds fans see it as a final desperate attempt for the EFL to keep Leeds in the Championship as we threaten to take away its most profitable asset, but hopefully it will not matter in the end and come May the EFL will also be in the rear view mirror.

Quite a few injuries to key players at the moment, how do you expect Leeds to line up and play on Tuesday?

Injuries have been a huge issue. One telling statistic I saw earlier this week is that we have had more injuries this year than Aston Villa have points. As of this interview (Friday afternoon), first-team regulars out with injury are Jack Clarke, Adam Forshaw, Barry Douglas, Gaetano Berardi, and Kemar Roofe. Marcelo will undoubtedly reveal his XI in his presser on Monday, but expect (barring injury on Saturday) it to look similar to Bolton.

Leeds' likely lineup is a 4-1-4-1: Kiko Casilla; Ezgjan Alioski, Liam Cooper (c), Pontus Jansson, Luke Ayling; Kalvin Phillips; Pablo Hernandez, Mateusz Klich, Tyler Roberts, Jack Harrison; Patrick Bamford. The only thing that may change is if Izzy Brown comes on for his debut this weekend and proves his mettle, forcing one of Klich or Roberts to the bench.

Player of the season candidates?

For me there are plenty of worthy candidates. Pablo Hernandez is the obvious choice who is about as consistent as it gets, having provided seven goals and 11 assists. Kemar Roofe with 14 goals has chipped in with two consecutive injury-time winners against Villa and Blackburn in December. Kalvin Phillips has been the most improved under Marcelo Bielsa playing defensive midfield and centre back at times and we are certainly a better team with him on the pitch.

Are you going to do it? What are the consequences if you don’t, given the chairman’s recent business issues? Would Bielsa stay?

The opportunity is there, which we have been unable to say for quite some time at this stage of the season. It all comes down to composure and putting away chances that inevitably come our way. With any Bielsa-coached team, chances will come, and have been coming. The conversion rate has been worrisome but I expect the boys to get the job done. Phil Hay, the chief Leeds United writer at Yorkshire Evening Post stated in a recent Q&A podcast that if Leeds fail to go up this season, it will most certainly be one and done for Marcelo, especially after the media fiasco he has endured. I'm inclined to agree, but I hope he never leaves.

The Twitter @BenPhelps17, @loftforwords

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TacticalR added 16:29 - Feb 26
Thanks to Ben.

I expect Leeds to be a handful tonight, even if Bielsa teams have a reputation for burning out towards the end of a season.

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