Marcelo Bielsa has a reputation for his tactical approach to football, having moulded a series of teams in his own image over the course of his long managerial career, including Leeds United.
He will surely have to call upon such strategic expertise this weekend as the Whites take on Manchester United in their opening fixture of the new campaign, in what promises to be a difficult first contest of the season.
Bielsa’s men suffered a heavy 6-2 defeat when they made the trip to Old Trafford last year, in a contest which featured a combined total of 43 shots from the two teams.
It was very much end to end for 90 minutes but when the pair of rivals met four months later in April, Bielsa appeared to learn from the past, with his side securing a 0-0 draw in a decidedly less entertaining affair.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s outfit went from taking 26 shots at home to 16 in the away bout, despite having more possession of the ball; Bielsa proved to be more reluctant than usual to attack and commit players forward, consequently avoiding a repeat of the last meeting.
Bielsa’s players amassed just six shots in the 0-0 draw – which was their second-lowest total for the season – but their defensive activity seemed to double.
The Whites are known for their aggressive approach without the ball, with a total of 144 pressures made in the 6-2 loss at Old Trafford. That notably changed in the game at Elland Road, with 276 pressures logged – a season high for Bielsa’s group.
Leeds attacked less in the second clash, retained a greater presence behind the ball, allowed Man United to have more possession and pressured them a lot more than before, and Solskjaer’s players failed to find a way through.
Bielsa’s next task – which he’ll hope to execute this weekend – has to involve striking the right balance between attack and defence against their Manchester rivals.
Keeping the likes of Bruno Fernandes and Jadon Sancho will be integral to any positive result, but he’ll want to threaten in offensive areas more often than before.
If the visitors manage to establish a happy medium, they could deliver an upset on Saturday afternoon.