Talk of Marcelo Bielsa exit follows more Leeds United defensive woes against Tottenham

If it was to be Marcelo Bielsa's last game in charge of Leeds United as several reports are suggesting it was no way for the great man to go out.

By Tony Harber
Sunday, 27th February 2022, 10:09 am
Illan Meslier makes a catch in Leeds United's game against Tottenham but was to concede four goals again.
Illan Meslier makes a catch in Leeds United's game against Tottenham but was to concede four goals again.

Leeds United's woeful defending from their previous four games continued as they were three down inside 27 minutes and went on to lose 4-0 to Tottenham at Elland Road.

With the relegation clouds hovering ever darker round the ground it seems the mood in the boardroom has changed and Bielsa's days as head coach look limited.

Bielsa himself has admitted in recent weeks that he has been struggling to turn round his side's fortunes and that was evident against Spurs.

It seems Stuart Dallas must score as he gets clear of goalkeeper Hugo Lloris but somehow he failed to find the net against Tottenham.

However, an examination of the game would show that there was no that much wrong with the Whites' approach play at times as they somehow contrived to fail to score, but hit the woodwork twice, should have had a penalty and missed at least four golden chances.

It was at the other end that they were poor with a clear after effect of the six-goal hammering at Liverpool in midweek as confidence appeared low at the back.

And when you are missing them at one end and leaking at the other there is only one result you are likely to have.

How much of this has been Bielsa' fault we are probably never going to find out. True, he has stubbornly stuck to his attacking principles when more pragmatism has been needed, but he has he really been backed enough? Clearly reinforcements have been needed with the squad proving too thin with key players injured.

Raphinha lines up a free-kick from which he hit the post.

Bielsa has not complained about what he has been given and tried to explain what went wrong after the Spurs game.

He said: “I think the result is fair, we could have reduced the differences, however.

“But, we were never able to govern or dominate the game. Even if we created goal scoring chances we never had a feeling of clear dominance over the opponent.

“What’s concrete is that in the two ways we faced the game, with a more conservative profile in the first half and with a more daring profile in the second, neither of the two ways gave a result.

Rodrigo gets a shot in for Leeds United who failed to score despite having a number of chances against Tottenham.

“Obviously it’s not just this game, but a succession of results. Against these type of results there is no way of not feeling badly.

“The amount of goals conceded, of course it has a decisive influence on the results we obtain.

“Today, when we played with seven players with a more defensive profile, a back four and three midfielders with a more defensive profile, we did not defend better."

Leeds' defensive record has seen them conceded 14 goals in what was admittedly a tough six-day period and they were soon in trouble at the back in their latest match, although they were a whisker away from taking a second minute led when Pascal Struijk's glancing header from Stuart Dallas's free-kick was only inches wide.

Spurs served notice with star payers Son Heung-Min and Harry Kane having early efforts saved by Illan Meslier and United did not take heed as wing-back to wing-back saw Ryan Sessegnon set up Matt Doherty to open the scoring.

Five minutes later it was 2-0 with Dejan Kulusevski allowed too much room in the area to fire past Meslier.

Luck played its part with the next action less than a minute later with Robin Koch's shot coming back off the post. If that had gone in who knows what the game would have turned out like as it had been a frantic start so typical of the Bielsa era.

But it was effectively all over in the 27th minute when England skipper Kane was all to easily allowed to get round the back and volley home from close range.

Shellshocked United did not offer too much of a response for a spell, but did come close twice before half-time when Jack Harrison's goalbound shot was cleared by a defender and when Luke Ayling had a clear opportunity after being left unmarked in the box, but sent his looping header wide.

The second half initially lacked goalmouth action with Spurs content to sit on what they got. They still looked sporadically dangerous on the break, though, and only a fine save by Meslier prevented Doherty from scoring his second with Koch also doing well to block Son's follow-up shot.

Sessegnon sent a shot into the side netting before second half substitute Mateusz Klich forced visiting keeper Hugo Loris into his first save. His shot was weak, but replays showed he had been pushed onto the ball when inside the area and despite his protests referee Craig Pawson and VAR ref Jarred Gillett ignored the penalty claim. Clearly Klich had been too honest in not falling to the ground.

Kulusevski almost made it four for Spurs when cutting in from his wing to force Meslier into another fine save, but Leeds did produce a spirited finish in the last 15 minutes.

They should have pulled a goal back when Dallas took the ball off Lloris 40 yards from goal, but unbelievably with the net open he chose not to shoot instantly and took too long on the ball, allowing defender Ben Davies to get back and block his eventual effort.

Dan James was the next to miss a huge chance after being set up by Raphinha, with the Welsh international free inside the area only to shoot wide.

Tottenham showed the hosts how to finish when Son ran onto Kane's superb ball over the top of the defence and after taking just one touch to control he scored with great confidence.

Still United created more chances without joy, Raphinha sending an acrobatic volley over then hitting the post with a fantastic free-kick from 20 yards out.

Rodrigo could only shoot straight at Lloris from about eight yards and the very last action saw Jamie Shackleton shoot wide when getting on the ball in the box.

It was one of those days - and the problem is Leeds have had too many of them recently.

Leeds United 0

Tottenham Hotspur 4

(Doherty 10, Kulusevski 15, Kane 27, Son 85)

Saturday, February 26, 2022

Premier League

Attendance: 36,599

Leeds: Meslier; Ayling, Llorente, Struijk (Klich 45), Firpo (Shackleton 79); Koch; Raphinha, Forshaw, Dallas, Harrison (Rodrigo 45); James.

Tottenham: Lloris; Romero, Dier, Davies; Doherty, Hojbjerg, Winks, Sessegnon (Emeron 78); Kulusevski (Bergwijn 78), Son (Scarlett 87’); Kane.

Referee: Craig Pawson