Before Leeds had made a single signing this summer, a group of fans ran into Marcelo Bielsa in Wetherby, hear his home. After posing for pictures, one asked the usual question: ‘Are we going to sign anyone?’
Bielsa did not offer a platitude. Instead, he asked to borrow a pen and a piece of paper. He proceeded to write down his entire squad for the coming season.
It included people there were doubts over. Jack Clarke was on his way to Spurs but ended up rejoining on loan. Bielsa wrote him down. Ben White and Jack Harrison would sign days later. They were on the list. Pontus Jansson, told not to return to training until weeks after everyone else, was not. Helder Costa, on the radar but not close to signing at that time, was.
Marcelo Bielsa is preparing to take Leeds into the new season — his second as manager
Leeds will be hoping to go one better than last season and earn promotion to the top flight
Bielsa has been his usual meticulous self in preparing Leeds for the upcoming campaign
Last season ended in devastating fashion as Derby knocked them out of the play-offs
2005-06: 5th (lost play-off final)
2006-07: 24th (relegated to L1)
2007-08: 5th (lost play-off final)
2008-09: 4th (lost play-off semi-final)
2009-10: 2nd (promoted to Champ)
2018-19: 3rd (lost play-off semi-final)
It has all panned out. The Argentine manager does not work in half-truths. There were serious doubts over whether he’d stay if Leeds — as they did after their late season collapse and dramatic play-off defeat — missed out on promotion last season. But he signed on for another year.
Bielsa will sit on his blue bucket against Bristol City on Sunday because Leeds have spent the summer making sure he got exactly what he wanted to go a step better and win promotion in their centenary season.
That has been as simple as bringing together the squad he demanded or as complicated as some of the technical efforts put into the tour of Australia.
Bielsa flew out two days after those he had selected for the two games out there. That was so he could stay at training base Thorp Arch and run those he had left behind through rigorous fitness programmes.
Leeds quickly assembled the squad of players that Bielsa wanted for the coming season
But his flight coincided with a training session in Australia, so Leeds set it up so he could stream the workout on his laptop while he was over the Indian Ocean.
It is that meticulous approach that suggests the squad may recover from their collapse at the end of last season. They topped the table at Christmas only to finish third.
The tears of the subsequent play-off semi-final defeat to Derby still run across the fabric of the city and it will take a lot for them to be repaired.
It was an emotionally debilitating defeat. Behind the scenes though, the squad seems to have recovered. Even though some were understood to have been unhappy to be left out of the trip to Australia, there have been few serious questions or doubts over it. They just know there is a method to El Loco’s madness.
After what he achieved last season, the squad know there is a method to El Loco’s madness
Leeds’ transfer business has been minimal. The unit is essentially the same as the one that finished last season, with Jansson gone and Costa and White the