After their heart-breaking failure to win a place in the playoff final, it looked as though Head Coach, Marcelo Bielsa, might well be considering bowing out. But the latest news from Elland Road will delight the home faithful, with ‘El Loco’ agreeing to extend his deal until the end of next season.
Bielsa joined the Whites on the 15th June 2018. His arrival was something of a coup for a Championship side. In his career to date, the Argentine has managed the national teams of his home country and Chile, as well as club sides Lazio, Lille and Marseille. He resigned as manager of Marseille amid reports of conflict with the club’s owners.
When Bielsa joined Leeds, it was the precursor for a change to the club’s standing. He got off to a great start and was the first ever manager of Leeds to notch up four straight wins at the beginning of a season.
Under his steerage, United remained unbeaten that season until the 22nd September. In August 2018 after an explosive opening, and with his team sitting on top of the Championship table, he was voted Championship manager of the month, an award he was nominated for again in December but was pipped at the post by Nigel Adkins of Hull City.
Although the Whites have improved dramatically since Bielsa’s arrival, narrowly missing out on the chance for promotion has been a bitter blow. But the club’s owners were anxious to keep the Argentinian at the club in the hopes that they will secure promotion next season. To do that, however, they are going to need a top striker.
If you take a look at the top scorer table in the Championship for the 2018/2019 season, the top scorer was Norwich City’s Teemu Pukki with 29 goals, with the second and third placed players, Tammy Abraham of Aston Villa and Neal Maupay of Brentford both netting 25 each.
You have to go all the way down to 15th place before you come across a Leeds player, and that is Kemar Roofe with just 14 goals to his name. The lack of goals shows in United’s final Championship placement with a “goals for” tally of 73. That’s 20 goals behind Norwich City and is the lowest total number of goals scored in the whole of the top five.
It’s no coincidence that the Championship’s top scorer came from the league winners. It just goes to show the value of in-form strikers.
But a new striker could well come from the club’s youngsters. Bielsa got around some of United’s injury problems by playing several players from the Academy, and this has highlighted an array of talent. In addition, Malik Wilkes, who has been on loan to Doncaster Rovers, has shown great promise, scoring 14 goals and registering eight assists.
But goal scoring is a very specific skill and one which arrives and is honed by experience. In other words, Leeds will have to buy a recognised goal scorer if they are to achieve their aspirations next season.
One of the prerequisites for keeping Bielsa on will be that the club doesn’t cut costs. They are already making provisions for new talent with Reece Brown, the Forest Green Rovers’ winger, said to be within their sights.
However, they are likely to need an older head as well. The nouse that “old-timers” bring with them is not only useful for the goals they can get. The experience they have is also a great influence on younger players too.
Keeping Bielsa is key to Leeds’ hopes for next season, and a return to the Premier League will be the expected goal for owner Andrea Radrizzani.