As Chris Wilder locks horns with “El Loco” once again, we take a look at two of the most underrated managers in the Premier League before their clubs do battle on BT Sport…
By Virgin TV Edit
In Chris Wilder and Marcelo Bielsa, Sheffield United and Leeds boast two of the most tactically astute managers in English football. As such, this weekend’s upcoming clash is set to be a belter – and not just because the long-standing cross-county rivals don’t like each other.
While both may lack the “GQ” good looks of Mikel Arteta and the luscious locks of Jürgen Klopp, Wilder and Bielsa’s intense, attack-minded approach to Saturday’s game ensures it’ll be well worth tuning in for.
But what sets the two of them apart? Why is every pundit in the country in awe of Bielsa’s bucket? What makes them both so fascinating and criminally underrated? Simply read on below to find out…
Marcelo “El Loco” Bielsa: the man, the myth, the bucket…
Though Bielsa made his name at Argentine club Newell’s Old Boys in Rosario, it was his six-year spell as Argentina boss that saw him influence a generation of coaches and stamp his style on world football.
His tenure in charge yielded only an Olympic gold medal, but saw Bielsa shape the coaching styles of Mauricio Pochettino, Diego Simeone, Tata Martino, Jorge Sampaoli, Marcelo Gallardo and more, all of whom have since successfully replicated his fast, high-pressing, possession-based style.
His notorious tempestuousness and unpredictability have taken Bielsa from Rosario to Leeds via Mexico, Barcelona (for six games with Espanyol), Chile, Bilbao, Marseille, Lazio (for two days), and Lille.
As his impromptu, hours-long press conference in the wake of the 2019 “Spygate” scandal proved, his level of analysis on each and every club he faces is extraordinary. Such analysis is now commonplace, but in Bielsa, Leeds have one of the approach’s pioneers.
And yet, in Sheffield United’s Chris Wilder, Bielsa faces a likeminded coach who, if their past encounters are anything to go by, is more than a match for “El Loco” and his legendary bucket…
Why Chris Wilder is currently the best English manager…
Like Bielsa, a passable playing career preceded a very successful one in the dugout for Chris Wilder, the Yorkshireman slowly working his way up the ladder from the lower leagues all the way to the top.
A mixture of old-school and modern-day principles, Wilder demands total commitment and tactical flexibility from his players. As such, he’s been a success at every club he has managed; Wilder’s rise with United following an incredible stint at Northampton Town in which they shrugged off a winding-up petition to storm their way to 99 points and the League Two title.
And while it may have come as a surprise to many last season, anyone with an eye on the EFL in recent years will have recognised Wilder and United’s intense yet highly flexible system as the same one that allowed them to smash their way to the Premier League in the first place.
Prior to his first season in the Premier League, only Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola had amassed more wins than Wilder in the three seasons prior to United’s return to the top flight.
As such, his breathaking win rate and ability to man-manage shrewdly accrued players and fit them into an at times unbeatable system makes Wilder (by some margin) the best English manager currently in the game, and more than a match for Bielsa’s fabled Leeds.
What to expect…
If the past is anything to by, one hell of a game. Their encounters in the 2018/19 Championship season saw low-scoring but neck-achingly end-to-end matches that had all the characteristics of a nail-biting game of FIFA.
Both sides’ tendency to utilise wing-backs – combined with the tactical nous of Wilder and Bielsa, in which every player knows exactly how and where they fit into their respective systems – allows each to defend and attack in numbers at the drop of a hat.
So, expect defences to be rapidly overwhelmed and attacks to be stifled at any second, and constantly. It’s the kind of game where even the armchair-dwellers will need an energy drink and a half-time orange, and we’re thoroughly looking forward to it.
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