Sports Coach of the Year? Bielsa's beautiful football deserving of FIFA nomination

17:15  26 november  2020
17:15  26 november  2020 Source:   sportingnews.com

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Four Liverpool outfield players are in the running for the player of the year award, while Son Heung-min could win the Puskas award.

Football fans go crazy with Leeds' manager being named on the Best FIFA Men' s Coach Marcelo Bielsa has been shortlisted for the FIFA Men' s Coach of the Year award The Leeds United manager guided them back to the Premier League last season

There is so much more to football than winning matches and collecting trophies.

But, as the pandemic drags on and stadiums remain empty, it can be difficult to hold onto that obvious truth.

Being a football fan is an emotional experience lived in the moment, not a cold logging of wins and losses. Its hold on us begins in early childhood and, irrespective of our chosen club’s achievements, the passion only grows as it gets tangled up in what life means to us - in family, community, love, loss; everything.

And so, when compiling a list of the best coaches of the year, we are doing a great disservice to the sport, and to ourselves, if the criteria for selection merely include the tangible.

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Marcelo Bielsa has been nominated for The Best FIFA Men' s Coach award after an impressive year saw him become further adored by Leeds Leeds have had a good opening to the new season and their 11 points from nine games already puts them a healthy seven points clear of the relegation zone.

Marcelo Bielsa has surprisingly been named on a shortlist for Fifa men’ s coach of the year that also includes Jürgen Klopp and Hansi Flick. World football ’ s governing body has released the shortlist for its seven individual awards to be presented at The Best Fifa Football Awards on December 17.

Progressing up the league table is an important measure of success, and clearly forms part of the emotional reaction to our teams, but if we are to judge football purely through the prism of data – if we are to treat achievement as a mathematical equation of promotions and trophies over time – we would be losing football’s essence.

Marcelo Bielsa’s nomination for FIFA World Coach of the Year has caused outrage in certain quarters.

Social media was ablaze following Wednesday's announcement as bemused fans wondered how a man who has simply won promotion to the top-flight can be listed alongside the likes of Champions League-winner Hansi Flick and the brains behind Liverpool's Premier League triumph, Jurgen Klopp.

It has even been suggested that this is an example of anti-British bias, with the decision to overlook Sheffield United's Chris Wilder and Aston Villa's Dean Smith cited as a sign the panel have gone misty-eyed over the Bielsa mythology.

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Marcelo Bielsa is also up for the coach category after leading Leeds back into the Premier LeagueCredit: PA. World chiefs decided to go The Argentine' s inclusion is something of a surprise for a coach who spent the majority of the last year plying his trade in the second tier of English football .

Marcelo Bielsa has been nominated for The Best FIFA Men' s Coach award after an impressive year saw him become further adored by Leeds United supporters. We have looked at some of the best statistics behind Leeds' start to the 2020-21 campaign, comparing that to past Premier League years

The implicit accusation, on social media and in newspapers, is that FIFA have succumbed to romanticism - as if that is something to be ashamed of.

Football is romantic. It is supposed to make you feel things. The beauty of Bielsa’s Leeds, capturing the imagination of the city, has certainly done that.

There is no ‘right’ way to play football, but the aesthetics of Bielsa’s all-out attacking football make it just about the most emotionally engaging to watch. It is why Marseille, Athletic Club, and now Leeds United fans are so enamoured by the Argentine.

Bringing so much joy to the game is not something to sneer at, but to celebrate and, yes, reward.

Bielsa’s tactical blueprint is too complex to be credited fully in words without descending into tedious descriptions of exactly how each piece moves in chain reaction.

Perhaps that is why less is written about his tactics than those of his contemporaries, and perhaps why many people fail to see what makes his Leeds side so much more special than, for example, Sheffield United or Aston Villa.

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Marcelo Bielsa has been nominated for The Best FIFA Men' s Coach , but Pep Guardiola will not contest the award this year . Bielsa guided Leeds United back to the Premier League last season after 16 years outside the top flight. The former Argentina coach has since overseen a solid start to the

Fifa says the winners will be chosen via a "combined voting process involving the captains and head coaches of all Tottenham forward Son Heung-min' s goal against Burnley has been nominated for Fifa ' s Puskas Award. Full men' s coach shortlist. Marcelo Bielsa (Argentina, Leeds United).

Marcelo Bielsa et al. standing in front of a crowd: Marcelo Bielsa Leeds Premier League 2020-21 © Provided by Sporting News Marcelo Bielsa Leeds Premier League 2020-21

But we can at least talk about the broad brushstrokes. Bielsa uses a 4-1-4-1 formation at Leeds, deploying an ultra-aggressive high press in which his players mark man-to-man in open play; a highly unusual and innovative approach that forces both Leeds and their opponents into chaotic shapes.

The majority of high-pressing clubs mark out the passing lanes, rather than the players, and are instructed to stay in specified zones. By being man oriented, Leeds are anarchic - directly hounding the ball in order to win tackles and seize the initiative.

Yet it is on the ball that Leeds are really unique.

Bielsa coaches explosive vertical football in which the ball is progressed forward as quickly as possible, both on the counterattack and during the transition, attempting to catch the opponent before they can fall into shape.

The most eye-catching element of this is the commitment to attack, with multiple midfielders bombing forward at once to create direct passing options, defenders carrying the ball out from the back, and a quarter-back style playmaker - Kalvin Phillips - pinging long balls into the channels.

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It is a swarming, on-rushing, ever-forward strategy that yields extraordinary results.

The methods of getting into the final third are highly unusual, too, and herein lies the secret to the romanticising of Bielsa and why he inspires so much adoration from the fan base.

Leeds play more one-twos than any team you are likely to watch, but the lines are wildly unpredictable, with runners crossing at angles so unique they leave the viewer wide-eyed and perplexed. When it works, it leaves the opponent just as discombobulated.

a man in a baseball game: Rodrigo Leeds United 2020-21 © Provided by Sporting News Rodrigo Leeds United 2020-21

Instead of pass at an angle, run forward, and receive the ball back, forming a roughly equilateral triangle with the ball, Leeds’ one-twos are acute. The passer runs after the ball they have just played, not at an angle to it, and are given it straight back - meaning there are now two men in the same zone, one arriving completely unexpectedly and at pace.

From here (this play usually starts with a winger on one of the flanks), Leeds are now in possession centrally, having cut through the opposition line at an implausible angle, and ready to switch the play out to the opposite flank to drive at the heart of the defence.

At the risk of getting too technical, a third runner usually begins to burst ahead of play after the first pass of the one-two, moving into what would normally be the final position of the equilateral triangle, creating the potential for a fine-tuned one-two-three.

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There are plenty more moves than this, of course, the most prominent being overloading one flank with three or four bodies to outnumber the opponent.

This, as with all of Bielsa’s tactical moves, is choreographed fastidiously on the training ground to give Leeds pre-set attacking plays that are just as structured as a well-drilled defensive shape.

It is this innovative concept of structured attacks that defines Bielsa’s legacy; that inspired the likes of Pep Guardiola to move football into its modern era of fine-tuned attacking rhythms.

Pep Guardiola standing in front of a crowd: Guardiola/Bielsa 2020-21 © Provided by Sporting News Guardiola/Bielsa 2020-21

None of his disciples are quite as radical, however, in their commitment to attacking football, which explains why Bielsa has never won the sport’s major honours. The flip side is that none of his disciples have inspired the same devotion.

As humans we are drawn to new experiences and configurations, and as with art or music it is the freshness – the unexpectedness – of the bizarre shapes conjured by Bielsa that moves supporters to awe.

It is breath-taking to watch, and for a fallen giant like Leeds has provided the cleansing tonic needed to lift the city.

The value of emotionality and aesthetics should not be understated; to entertain supporters in this way is an end in itself, more important to the experience of football fandom than the trophy cabinet or the league table.

Perhaps Klopp, a man who appreciates this as much as anyone, will win the award for bringing all of these qualities to the city of Liverpool as well as winning football’s biggest honours.

But Bielsa is certainly a worthy nominee.

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