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The Bielsa Way: Southend v Leeds United Friendly

The Whites took on League One side Southend United in Marcelo Bielsa’s third game at the helm of Leeds United, ending in another 1-1 draw.

Aston Villa v Leeds United - Sky Bet Championship
Luke Ayling scored the equaliser for the Whites.
Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images

Luke Ayling scored his second goal in as many matches in the third pre-season match for the Leeds United. Peacock-Farrell returned to the starting eleven behind a flat back four with Cooper and Berardi in the middle, Ayling at right back and De Bock at left back.

Kalvin Phillips revealed after the game against Forest Green that he had been training as a third centre-half, though he continued to play the role of a deep-lying midfielder. In-front of him was Adam Forshaw and Samu Saiz, with Alioski on the left and Dallas on the right. Kemar Roofe was the sole striker for Leeds having opened the scoring at the New Lawn.

The team looked to continue their pressure in the midfield with Adam Forshaw leading the charge. This tactic was evident as Southend held the ball and looked to challenge the Leeds defence, while Leeds did not challenge the home side’s defence and goalkeeper at all.

Southend took the lead after twenty minutes. From a Leeds corner kick, the break-away brought a corner at the other end. The resulting Southend corner kick provided the opener as we saw some rather poor marking from the set-piece. Kightly’s corner found the head of Harry Lennon.

Towards the end of the first 45 minutes, Leeds went out to get the ball more rather than just apply pressure. The Whites grabbed the equaliser fifteen minutes later as the ball was shifted to Ayling who met the ball in the middle. He beat one defender before nipping a one-two with Adam Forshaw before a fantastic, curing finish eighteen yards from goal.

From this goal we saw quick and efficient ball movement, just how Marcelo Bielsa wants the team to play. After a short move between Ayling and Forshaw, four defenders were beaten and trapped. Moving the ball quickly between the two players created the space on the edge of the penalty area. Creating space like that is not simple, especially when up against an organised defence with many behind the ball.

Cardiff City v Leeds United - Sky Bet Championship
Kemar Roofe was the Leeds top scorer last season with fourteen goals in all competition accompanied with five assists.
Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

A few times during the game we also saw another way in which Leeds look to create space in and around the box. The ball is held between three or four players in a tight area in a wide position. The function of this tactic is to bring defenders away from the middle and lure defenders out of position before whipping the cross into the box or bring the ball into the middle to then drive at a weakened defensive line.

Creating this space was successful, though the final ball would not create the clear-cut opportunities needed, this will come with quality signings like previously linked players like Matej Vydra and Marcus Maddison. Creative players like these are crucial to the way Marcelo Bielsa looks to set-up his attacking and dangerous side.

The second half was short of creativity and danger. Tyler Roberts, at long last, entered the pitch in a Leeds United jersey as he looks to build up his minutes. The next friendly on the pre-season schedule is the visit to Oxford City on the 24th, which is a 7:45 pm kick-off.

We learned from this game that Leeds certainly need new players across the pitch, as the team is a bit too thin at the back with quality seriously needed. More creativity is also required up top, with plenty of targets identified by the Leeds hierarchy.