Commentary: The risks associated with the appointment of Marcelo Bielsa

EARLY reports that Marcelo Bielsa was linked with the Leeds United job in 2018 have drawn mixed reactions from White fans.

Leeds were self-proclaimed giants of the game, intermediate in the Championship with little to shout about. Those with eyes only for the English game ridiculed his credentials, while those familiar with football outside those islands dismissed the reports as wishful thinking.

A legendary figure in football, nicknamed ‘El Loco’ in part for his original thinking, a name revered by top managers such as Pep Guardiola, Diego Simeone and Mauricio Pochettino.

Surely he would not settle for a second-rate position after stints in major European clubs such as Lazio, Athletic Bilbao and Marseille?

Approaching the 15th year of post-Premier League life, Leeds finished the previous campaign in 13th under manager Paul Heckingbottom, some distance from their pre-season play-off targets.

The transformation that followed Bielsa’s appointment was almost unimaginable when the news broke.

That same sense of disbelief followed Athletic’s report that Cherries had shortlisted the Argentine for the role of head coach at Vitality Stadium, and although he now boasts of being a manager of English football , some Cherries fans were quick to doubt her abilities on social media.

Of course, there were his final months in sacked Yorkshire before Leeds slipped into the relegation zone, with Los Blancos apparently left with nothing left at the end of his spell at Elland Road, the legendary ‘burnout of Bielsa” planned a year after his reign.

But, overall, there was excitement and slight confusion that ‘little old Bournemouth‘ might land the legendary Bielsa.

When Scott Parker became the first Premier League manager to lose his job just four games into the new season, Bielsa’s name was given notable odds by bookmakers. Not a favorite, of course, but he was there.

He then received ratings for other vacancies that followed, his name seemingly added to the carousel of managers who are inevitably linked when a high profile vacancy arises.

Early ties with Kjetil Knutsen died down, before Cherries distanced herself from Sean Dyche and Chris Wilder.

Gary O’Neil continued as interim head coach in September, then October and now November. Concrete links to the role of head coach have seemingly come on hold as Bill Foley’s £120million takeover has hit the headlines.

And then before the last game before the World Cup break, like an unexpected flash, Bielsa became the only candidate for the job – apart from the incumbent O’Neil.

Some see Bielsa’s potential appointment as a calculated move by a new owner willing to make a statement of intent.

But the 67-year-old is no one’s pawn, with capturing his signature likely involving multiple promises and conditions to be met.

The former Lille boss arrives with a well-deserved reputation – not just for tactical genius, but for being stubborn, a man of honour.

Few might really be surprised when he left Lazio just two days after his appointment, citing the club’s failure to sign players on time, as he had left Marseille the previous year following changes to his contract. In both cases, Bielsa felt that the promises had not been kept.

That’s the risk inherent in Bielsa, a man who will give his all, only if assured of the same level of commitment from the club – and board – he serves.

Leeds became his longest spell, a three-and-a-half-year stint constantly mired in a “will he, won’t he” when it comes to extending his contract.

The complexity of contract negotiations with Argentina is well known, with Bielsa’s wage bill also encompassing the salaries of its staff.

There will be demands for Cherries’ training ground, which is still under construction and promises to be set in stone ahead of the transfer market.

So obsessed with the details, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the temporary training facility next to the Vitality also benefit from upgrades in an effort to bridge the gap between the opening of the new facility.

It’s also not ruled out that the training ground could be a sticking point – if deadlines aren’t met, standards aren’t met, Bielsa could walk away.

Much has been said about the World Cup break, with the phrase ‘mini pre-season’ making an appearance.

Bielsa will need a period to instill his ideas and methods in the team, an opportunity to analyze his team up close and personal, even if he would have done a lot of video research, as he always does for a role. potential.

Aside from Kieffer Moore and Chris Mepham, who are preparing for the start of their World Cup campaign, the rest of the Cherries squad are absent, recharging.

Assuming any management decisions are made before the bulk of the squad returns ahead of their training trip to the United Arab Emirates, there would be four weeks to work with the squad.

However, unlike the traditional pre-season, there is no active transfer window, with Cherries having to negotiate three games before the market reopens in January.

Bielsa likes to quickly cut the fat when it comes to his squad, streamlining those he deems useful to him.

Former Cherry Eunan O’Kane found this out the hard way, never having had the chance to train ahead of Bielsa at Leeds after the head coach decided from his video analysis that the ‘Irish didn’t fit his style of play.

The Cherries are no slouch with their press, but the demands of Bielsa’s system are above the average for Premier League teams.

That’s what sets his Leeds side apart, but while there are seemingly multiple options to use, fringe players can find themselves completely out of the picture. Another worry is that after the restart, the hectic fixture schedule will offer little respite to a team getting used to a new system and style.

Can the Cherries negotiate this transition while collecting enough points in a busy January? Will a harsh winter prevent Bielsa’s vision from generating enough steam to start?

O’Neil deserves credit for fostering genuine camaraderie, a sense of unity among those who had seemingly been stared for the exit door before Parker left.

As expected for a young manager who had played a close but less senior coaching role before stepping in as an interim, there is a clear connection between O’Neil and the players.

That wouldn’t exist with Bielsa at the helm, as he’s convinced that as he gets closer to the players, his view of their ability becomes clouded. The coach and the team will be kept at a distance and will meet if necessary.

There will be no soft touch, no arms around the shoulder that O’Neil and his predecessor Parker approached Cherries with. It will be a bit of a culture shock, another hurdle to overcome.

On top of all that, it’s possible that Cherries will miss the break under Bielsa, negotiate those three games before the window, and then fail to secure the goals Bielsa would have listed, resulting in his quick departure.

There’s a tiny, but not negligible chance that the ‘mini pre-season’ is worth saving for a manager of good ilk, a month of preparation taken away.

This may be an overstated concern, but one that cannot be overlooked if Cherries goes ahead with Bielsa.

Rumors suggest Foley won’t mind the transfer fee, with Cherries board members flying to Las Vegas to meet their counterparts from Foley’s other team, the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights, to discuss plans for the transfer window.

The delegation met again in Bournemouth ahead of Everton’s victory, with the collaboration a proposed cornerstone of Foley’s incoming ownership.

There will be a sea of ​​change when Foley’s takeover finally crosses the line and is approved by the Premier League. In a volatile time in the club’s history, is it wise to fully commit to a manager who can leave in a flash if the conditions aren’t met?

Bielsa is not a short-term fix, not a guarantee of securing that precious second season of Premier League football.

Nor can it be guaranteed that it will stay there for a long time. This is a finished project with no definite end date.

At its best, Bielsa’s machine is incomparable, a fluid monster fueled by ideals and a quest for perfection.

All machines are a good balance of components, and the moving parts that make up Bielsa’s football vision can easily fall apart before they can take off.

Ambition is one thing, but is it about racing before the Foley era passes?

There are risks with every date, but Bielsa arguably wears more than most.

However, as Leeds discovered, the reward can be worth all that risk, and then some.

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