Marcelo Bielsa was moving his hands furiously, not in anger or nervousness – he was explaining a power point presentation showing hours of analysis on Leeds United’s opponents. He had admitted sending a club employee to spy over Derby County and made a presentation of his analysis of rival teams. It was classic Bielsa as he rendered a plethora of journalists speechless with his unwavering honesty.
“Just because I thought I wasn’t violating the norm. I gathered information that I can obtain in another way,”
In Bielsa’s own words, it was not unethical. Frank Lampard was outraged forgetting the fact that his ex-boss Jose Mourinho used to resort to similar means. And Bielsa was right in his own way, the detailed research was not ethical but not illegal either.
Old habits die hard. Marcelo Bielsa’s obsession and meticulousness is no secret yet the way he showed 300 hours of analysis which included extremely minute details was staggering. Detailing, preparation along with hard work are pillars to experience the ‘Bielsa-effect’ and the Argentine hardly ever shied away from his decisions.
To explain how Marcelo Bielsa operates, one needs to dwell on his upbringing. Like his mother, Bielsa is extremely demanding and is a workhorse whereas his fondness towards consuming knowledge comes from his grandfather. But being in a successful, career-driven family of lawyers and politicians, Bielsa was different.
“Because we feel guilty if we don’t work enough. Because it allows us not to have too much anxiety.”
Marcelo Bielsa’s obsession is football. When he was just 15 years old, Bielsa went to pursue football against his father’s wishes. He joined Newell’s Old Boys but was quick to realize that his unrelenting obsession and hard work was not enough to help him succeed as a footballer. Before returning to Newell’s, Bielsa floated around the lower leagues for a while and cultivated a taste for knowledge and preparation.
On the pitch, the Bielsa effect is known for the unending will of players to chase the ball. Bielsa’s teams depict the nature of pressing in the modern game – quick, concentrated and focused on the opponent’s half. Bielsa’s belief in hard work was never compromised, his training sessions are intense and he demands a lot from his player. When the players respond to his philosophy more often than not his teams perform at maximum efficiency.
Another majestic thing about Bielsa was his desire to dwell into minute details to dive into his work. His love for video footage is an open secret as he has resorted to watching hours of video clips to study his opponents wherever he manages. Knowing the opponent was the key to success and Bielsa embraced it without any hesitation. For him, football was always more than just a game which filled him with anxiety whenever he failed.
“If football were played by robots, I would win everything.”
The major flaw of the‘ Bielsa effect’ is sustenance. More often than not, his players would run out of gas due to the intense nature of his philosophy. Improvisation and rotation are key parts of Bielsa’s philosophies yet they are not enough to cover for fatigue and player exhaustion. Once the honeymoon period gets over, his teams experience a huge fall in energy levels. Despite the failures, Bielsa’s arrogance prevents him to compromise his view towards football.
Marcelo Bielsa has won just four silverwares throughout his managerial career- he won two league titles with Newell’s, one league with Vélez Sarsfield and led Argentina to Olympic gold in 2004. He was loved for his stint with the Chilean National team, Athletic Bilbao and Marseille but he has no major titles to show for it. Yet his tactics ( mainly 4-3-3/3-4-4) laid the foundation for some of the very basics aspects of the modern game which is a testament to how football has evolved over the years.
Marcelo Bielsa is neither a romanticist nor a madly driven tactician but a weird combination of both. Despite his failures, Bielsa always prioritized the importance of process than results and he remains true to his ways and beliefs to this day. Currently, he has managed to pull Leeds United back from the abyss as they are leading the race in the Championship. Unlike most trophy-laden managers of our generation, Bielsa will rarely get the recognition he deserves but he will always be remembered as the protagonist who played a pivotal role in the evolution of modern football.
In Netflix’s Sci-Fi series, Altered Carbon, the envoys were super soldiers who were driven by their love for details. Details were their stock-in-trade and they believed in immersing one’s own self totally to absorb everything that’s happening. Ultimately, human emotions led to their downfall. Marcelo Bielsa is no super soldier but his ways and methods do give us a hint at the envoy’s way of life- a philosophy in it’s mix which will not be compromised at any cost.
Feature Image via AS English – Diario AS