Regional Review: Bielsa-ball working at Leeds, plus Sheffield United's struggles assessed

Exactly what is Bielsa-ball, and why is it working so well at Leeds? Plus, have Sheffield United been unfortunate this season? The Regional Review section of the Pitch to Post podcast has the answers…

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Sky Sports News’ reporter Tim Thornton brought an in-depth analysis into all things Yorkshire, with their two Premier League sides at opposite ends of the table.

Having beaten Aston Villa 3-0 on Friday thanks to a Patrick Bamford hat-trick, Leeds sit fifth in the top flight following promotion last term, with many in awe at their relentless playing style under Marcelo Bielsa.

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For Sheffield United, who impressed on their first season back in the Premier League last campaign, the situation couldn’t be more different. They sit 19th, with just one point from their six games so far. Will the pressure build on Chris Wilder?

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Bielsa-ball coming up trumps

“It’s an example of what Leeds were all about last season – they outrun teams, and grind them down. A lot of managers have already commented on how hard it is to play Leeds, because they come at you from all angles.

“Since Bielsa came in, he put the emphasis on getting the players as fitter than they have ever been. He got Leeds fit, monitored their weight, and they are relentless, they never stop.

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“The emphasis for Leeds this season is still to stay in the Premier League, this season and next season, and the challenge beyond that is to challenge top six.

“There’s a real versatility in that Leeds defence too, Stuart Dallas can play either side, Luke Ayling too, they’ve got players who can move around and know their positions, and it’s a good unit.”

Bamford no longer splitting opinion

“He’s been fantastic so far this season. What’s changed for him is that he’s putting chances away; in the previous two seasons, he did a fantastic job for the team and in the Championship maybe he had to do more work outside of the box – his work rate is phenomenal – but he wouldn’t always take his chances.

“He kind of split opinion from Leeds fans – they appreciated what he did outside of the box, but were perhaps frustrated he didn’t stick enough chances away. That’s changed this season with his six goals.

“He’s such an important player for Leeds because Bielsa doesn’t carry four or five strikers, he focuses on one or two players in each position. There’s a school of thought that the Premier League maybe suits him better, and he did get criticism from fans last season, so I wonder if no fans being in the ground helps too.”

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Blades’ performances not matching results

“Sheffield United are not getting the points that perhaps their performances deserve. It’s been fine margins. They’ve had a tough run of fixtures, though they’d have hoped to have beaten Fulham at home.

“Performances have been much better than results so far, but then the question for Chris Wilder is: do results then start to impact performance? You can get into a bit of a rut and then performances can dip.

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“But Sheffield United have to keep doing what they’re doing, though you’d look at their lack of goals as one area for improvement.”

Credit in the bank for Wilder

“Could pressure build on Chris Wilder if Sheffield United lose to Man City and Chelsea in their next two games? No would be the simple answer to that. Certainly not from the fans. Wilder will feel the defeats harder than anyone, being a Sheffield United boy, he loves the club and is the heartbeat of the football club.

“Fans are not silly and know the performances have been decent.

“With Wilder’s mentality, he’ll think his side can get points in this game. I’ve been with managers around that end of the table and they often use the term ‘free hit’ when you play a top hit. Chris Wilder doesn’t see it like that; every game is a game they can win. They got four points from two games against Chelsea last season, and the games with Man City were tight.

“They’ve not started great. But as far as Wilder himself is concerned, what he’s done for that club is incredible. So I think it’s a bit early to judge him yet and say he’s not the man to turn it around. I have 100 per cent faith he’ll get them going and Sheffield United will be fine this season.”

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