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The Bielsa Way: York City vs Leeds United

The neighbouring sides played out a 1-1 draw at Bootham Crescent as Marcelo Bielsa fielded a very experimental line-up.

Leeds United v Norwich City - EFL Cup Fourth Round
Ronaldo Viera captained the youthful Leeds team, slotting into the defence.
Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

Marcelo Bielsa fielded a Leeds United team largely from the under-23s, including Jack Clarke, Jamie Sackleton, Jordan Stevens and former York player Ryan Edmondson. In goal was young Polish keeper Kamil Miazek, with Will Huffer coming on as the substitute goalkeeper in the second half. Also in the team were debuts for Chelsea loanee Lewis Baker and Yosuke Ideguchi while Mateusz Klich, Laurens De Bock and Tom Pearce filled in the rest of the defence.

The Whites did not line-up with one natural centre-back at the start of the match. It was clear that this was an experiment in finding out who could fit the role of a ball-playing centre-back, much like Kalvin Phillips against Forest Green Rovers. I was left wondering after the game why we let Romario Viera go at the end of last season. The young midfielder played centre-half for the majority of last season with the under-23s, so surely he would’ve been given a chance to shine under Bielsa.

Tom Pearce and Jamie Shackleton provided the width from wing-back with three central midfielders; Jordan Stevens, Yosuke Idechuchi and Lewis Baker. They would patrol the middle of the park with Lewis Baker a little more advanced and Yosuke Ideguchi sitting slightly deeper. Jack Clarke and Ryan Edmondson were up top, with Clarke drifting wide and Edmondson generally in the middle.

In the first half, Leeds struggled to get on the ball, all they could do for large parts of the first half was to defend. Lewis Baker ended up dropping deep to try and bring the ball out, it was clear to see just how much he wanted to drive the Whites forward and create. York ended up finding the net in the 23rd minute from a set-piece.

After the goal, we saw Ronaldo Viera looking to bring the ball out himself first rather than make the pass instantly when receiving the ball from the keeper, and while this ended up being a bit more successful, it couldn’t change the team’s first half fortunes. When Leeds did get the ball into the final third, things slowed down.

Leeds were trying to work passes around the penalty area to create pockets of space in-behind the defence, just as we saw a couple days prior in the pre-season match at the New Lawn. However, this passing was much slower and a couple times was somewhat successful, but opening up those spaces is one thing, but using those spaces is another. This was done rather inefficiently as a couple times the ball got into a striker, but the play was too slow to cause the York City defence any serious problems.

Japan v China - EAFF E-1 Men’s Football Championship
Ideguchi on international duty with Japan, he made his first appearance in a Leeds jersey at York City.
Photo by Masashi Hara/Getty Images

Changes were due in the second half, they came in the form of Will Huffer replacing Kamil Miazek between the sticks, centre-back Hugo Diaz coming on in place of Jordan Stevens, and Sam Dalby replacing Ryan Edmondson. Klich took up the role left by Stevens in the middle of the park as Diaz sat between De Bock and Viera.

After the changes Leeds received more of the ball, and this time they looked more to the wing-backs to provide chances and attacking threat. Pearce and Shackleton were provided with multiple passes through defenders as they looked to gain more time and space so that those in the middle could sort themselves out. This tactic, however, was fairly unsuccessful as we still couldn’t find the most threatening way to attack the opposition as they did against Forest Green.

A stand-out second half performer was Mateusz Klich who showed his great ball-playing capabilities, and he was much more comfortable in the middle where he belongs. The defence was also very fluid in that when the ball went out to the right side for example, and when more midfielders pushed, a temporary back-four would be moulded. Viera shifted to right back and Pearce dropped deep, leaving De Bock and Diaz in the middle. Viera continued to try to barge the ball up the park himself with mixed success, though he did not put the Leeds defence under direct threat.

Will Huffer looked very confident in goal and had to make a few saves, including a close range scramble, preventing York’s second before the rebound goal was flagged for offside. Sam Dalby scored the Leeds equaliser from a corner kick. As the ball came in, it popped out of the crowd to Klich, whose high, curing strike hit the underside of the crossbar. Sam Dalby had no trouble scoring as the keeper was already out the way as he scored his first senior goal.

At the end of the day, we learned that there is plenty of life in the under-23 squad, though it also showed that Leeds do need to make a bigger push for signings as we certainly need more strength in depth in the current squad. Next up is a trip to Southend United on the 22nd as Leeds look to continue to build a promotion winning team.