First Championship defeat for Bielsa. Now for the response

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    LEEDS, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 22: Leeds United manager Marcelo Bielsa during the Sky Bet Championship match between Leeds United and Birmingham City at Elland Road on September 22, 2018 in Leeds, England. (Photo by Alex Dodd - CameraSport via Getty Images)

    The Championship is highly unpredictable to state the obvious. Few Leeds United fans would have believed their team’s unbeaten run would come to an end at the hands of Birmingham City at Elland Road. Saturday’s visitors were yet to win a league game before their visit to West Yorkshire, but it proved how the division is essentially a tussle. No fixture is a given.

    You would be hard pressed to find a Leeds fan who would not have taken the current position of the team before a ball was kicked at this stage of the campaign however.

    New managers can often take a while to settle in. One only has to look at Leeds’ next opponents and their manager Jos Luhukay, who won just three of his first 15 games for the Owls.

    Similarly Daniel Farke has had a tricky spell at Norwich City after being appointed by Stuart Webber, the man who sealed the deal to take David Wagner to Huddersfield. Both have recently picked up.

    In that sense, Marcelo Bielsa’s start as Leeds United manager has been a satisfying beginning given how quickly it seemed to click. Five wins, three draws and one loss from nine matches, including the division’s best goal difference, is a welcome return so far. Sustain such a ratio throughout the season, and Leeds will certainly be in contention.

    LEEDS, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 22: Leeds United manager Marcelo Bielsa prepares to bring on Stuart Dallas in the first half during the Sky Bet Championship match between Leeds United and Birmingham City at Elland Road on September 22, 2018 in Leeds, England. (Photo by Alex Dodd – CameraSport via Getty Images)

    After testing encounters against the likes of Swansea and Middlesbrough, Leeds fans had survived just about enough scares to acknowledge the first defeat had to eventually arrive.

    The fact that it was Garry Monk in front of a cauldron atmosphere of nearly 35,000 at Elland Road, means there was some frustration. The manner of the goals conceded were certainly avoidable. Moreover, the fact Brum were 21st in the table prior to kick-off suggests some cause for disappointment.

    Bailey Peacock-Farrell was put under the microscope after some less than assured goalkeeping, but he has shown enough maturity in his blossoming career so far to suggest he will be able to respond positively to the setback.

    It has been four league games without the influential Pablo Hernandez, which has culminated in just one victory in his absence. This has underlined how influential the Spanish magician is to this Leeds United side. Not only his creativity and shrewd decisions on the pitch, but also his experience and calming influence on the team.

    Aside from the Preston game, the goals have dried up a bit with two goals scored during three winless matches. Nonetheless, Leeds have not been on the receiving end of any drubbings like they were at this stage last season, courtesy of Cardiff City. Alex Neil’s team were well beaten in midweek. 

    21st August 2018, Liberty Stadium, Swansea, Wales; EFL Championship football, Swansea City versus Leeds United; Pablo Hernandez of Leeds United plays the ball forward (photo by Nathan Munkley/Action Plus via Getty Images)

    With the likes of Hernandez, Kemar Roofe, Gaetano Berardi and Izzy Brown to come into the side when their injuries subside, it is clear Leeds can improve. Not that they have been woeful without them. The defeat to Birmingham was not desirable, but it looked like being one of those off days which are unavoidable for every team during the course of a long Championship season.

    Bielsa will not be distrustful when selecting the current players at his disposal for Friday night’s tricky encounter against Sheffield Wednesday. The Owls have won three of their last five games, and will be full of confidence after their 2-1 victory at Villa Park on Saturday.

    Luhukay’s side will be more than up for the fixture, and after they completed the double over Leeds last season, they will be looking for more of the same again.

    Experienced heads such as Barry Bannan and Steven Flecther have returned from last season’s injury woes and have undoubtedly bolstered Wednesday’s team. Fernando Forestieri will also be available for selection after a three match ban for a pre-season altercation.

    Bielsa’s side will have to stick to their pressing game, and continue to pass the ball around with authority. Quietening the Hillsborough crowd will be important. Allow Wednesday to get on top, and it could be a struggle.

    LEEDS, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 22: Leeds United’s Mateusz Klich and Pontus Jansson react after going 1-0 down during the Sky Bet Championship match between Leeds United and Birmingham City at Elland Road on September 22, 2018 in Leeds, England. (Photo by Alex Dodd – CameraSport via Getty Images)

    The Championship is bunching up as usual with plenty of teams in the promotion mix during these primitive stages of the season. Leeds only need to worry about themselves however, and ensure they put Saturday’s defeat firmly behind them.

    It will be a test of character, something lacking under Thomas Christiansen where the team appeared to capitulate after setbacks.

    With Bielsa at the helm, you get the feeling the players will not be allowed to do the same thing again.