I tend not to write on here to merely repeat what others are saying – and perhaps that’s sufficient justification for the prolonged absence. After our season descended from confident authority into chaotic rollercoaster, piling more words into the vacuum of sorrow didn’t seem worthwhile. Of course there’s much to say about the Derby playoff games and probably twice as much to say about the ridiculous results that preceded it. But we are where we are and being purposeful running into our 100th year is key.
And that’s why today’s news is worth commenting on. Marcelo Bielsa has agreed to extend his contract at Leeds and have another run at promotion. This is significant for a number of reasons.
- He thinks he can do it. He spent an entire season learning about us, our squad and the league. Beyond his intensive analysis and academic interrogation – he now knows the full challenge. Warts and all. And he thinks he can do it.
- He has agreed with the club what they need to do. Unlike other coaches, securing Bielsa isn’t as simple as promising a transfer kitty and a degree of autonomy in the market – he needs other things. Bigger things. He seeks changes to infrastructure and facilities. He has previously requested accommodation at the training facility to ensure players spend more time there – and his second season will be no different. He’ll have made demands the club will have agreed to meet and many of these won’t be about the playing squad. And yet…
- He’s agreed with the club on how to solve the playing squad. He’ll be acutely aware of the limitations of the squad and what figures are needed. He’s seen the U18 and U23 sides win their leagues and he’s watched the senior team come tantalisingly close to winning theirs. He’ll know what holes need plugging and (presumably) the kind of player he intends to plug them with. The club are obviously on-board with this.
The notion of Leeds being coached by a man of Bielsa’s pedigree was an unusual one for me to come to terms with last year. I often wondered if it was a mistake (on his part) or a dream (on mine). And were it an honest error at his end – that he believed he was taking control of an entirely different side – then he wouldn’t wish to remain. The fact he has signed up for a second tilt at promotion pleases me no-end.
It’s also worth establishing that 2018/19 was never intended to be a full-on promotion push. I believe the objectives and success criteria were more oriented around improvement and ideally the playoffs. The 2019/20 season was (I believe) ear-marked as the one we’d aim for promotion.
And (in reality) it wouldn’t be a surprise if 2019/20 is the last year of Andrea Radrizzani if Leeds don’t get promoted (and it’d certainly be the last for Marcelo Bielsa). I just have this feeling that this coming season is the culmination of what Andrea has been trying to achieve and if it doesn’t come off, then he’ll sell and move on. The rumours of QSI floating about being interested in ownership might be some foreshadowing as to how this might all play out.
But at the end of the day, Leeds have secured a world class coach for a second season. This will really help with recruitment because it’s a declaration of ambition. Leeds United are aiming for promotion. Are you in? You bet.