Forest Green Rovers 1 Leeds United 2
Grubb 45+1 Roofe 16, Ayling 25
As a former student of psychology (I was honestly, before I realised there was more money in being an accountant!) I was always fascinated by the concept of perception. I once wrote an A grade essay entitled “We see what we want to see” in which I explored how strong is the power of suggestion on the human mind. It is immensely powerful (ask TV mentalist and illusionist Derren Brown!) and I think I saw its effect on social media and in the press this morning.
Last night Marcelo Bielsa had the first public airing of his tactics and formations and of his coaching prowess, as over a thousand Whites fans watched Leeds United beat League Two Forest Green Rovers at their quaint New Lawn home in Gloucestershire. Marcelo Bielsa has a reputation for getting his teams fit and expects them to press the opposition as high up the pitch as possible and to hunt the ball down in packs of two or three. We saw examples of all that last night, particularly in the first half when Leeds looked a capable unit, albeit against a League Two side we have to remember. But I do wonder how different the performance really was from what it would have been under any other coach, after all, the one glaring fact from the game last night is that all eleven players played a significant part in last season, a season that ultimately ended in failure. I remember being well pleased with our performance at Guiseley last summer when we opened our public pre-season games with a 5 – 1 win and we looked enthusiastic and full of running, just as we did last night. So, for me, some of the claims being made about our performance at the New Lawn are a tad overdone. Bielsa has a fearsome reputation for stamping his mark on the way a team plays but I am sure many of us saw what we wanted to see last night; we are all desperate to see Bielsa transform our current squad into a side that can sweep to the top of the Championship… and this time keep us there all season!
For balance, as well as the good stuff I saw, there was a lot of the old familiar issues we know have plagued this group of players; our passing is still not as accurate as we’d like it to be, our finishing left room for more improvement, and the goal we conceded was a concern both in its manner and it’s timing; we have to learn to manage our way better in the final minutes of each half and not continue to ship late goals like we did all last season!. I still feel that the quantum shift we all want in our results this season will only come if we can bolt a few better quality players into the framework Bielsa has started with. We all have our fingers and toes crossed that Lewis Baker is a step up from what the current midfield can ever achieve and likewise we all hope maybe that Tyler Roberts proves to be the sort of clinical finisher we are crying out for. Bielsa himself confirmed what Heckingbottom told us, we need to strengthen 4 or 5 positions before the balance of this side is good enough to compete at the top of the Championship.
So, it’s only one game, only the first, and as far as it went it was OK, we do look fit and we lasted the game well considering we played all XI from start to finish. We now move onto York City on Thursday where, we are told, we will see the rest of Bielsa’s squad, including, we hope, the two new faces we have brought in so far – Blackman in goal and Baker in midfield. It would be great to see Tyler Roberts too, to see what he can bring to the party. It looks like the York game is going to be an opportunity for the players who turn out there to stake a claim to be considered, to force their way past the group we saw last night, but I’m fully expecting, hoping I guess, that our starting XI v Stoke City includes names not in either of the two squads we’ll see this week. Only then will I really start to believe Bielsa can take us where other coaches have failed to propel us!