Leeds United

Leeds United

Premier League • England

Merson reveals why Bielsa has worrying Wenger trait but offers Leeds silver lining

Rob McCarthy
Leeds United manager Marcelo Bielsa during their 1-1 draw with Leicester 2021

Arsenal legend Paul Merson has revealed why Leeds boss Marcelo Bielsa reminds him of Arsene Wenger during his final years in charge in north London.

Wenger spent 22 years in charge of the Gunners, although his final seasons at the club were met with plenty of criticism from pundits and fans alike. He eventually left in 2018, saying at the time that the exit was ‘not his decision’.

And now Merson has stated the similarities he sees between the Frenchman and Leeds chief Bielsa.

The injury-hit Elland Road side are currently struggling down in 16th in the Premier League table. They have also conceded 11 goals in their last two games, including a 4-1 loss to Arsenal on Saturday.

And speaking to Sky Sports, Merson appeared to hit the nail on the head with the Argentine.

He said: “Marcelo Bielsa’s insistence at playing the same way is reminding me a lot of Arsene Wenger’s latter years at Arsenal.

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“I remember covering Manchester United versus Arsenal in 2011. Arsenal turned up at Old Trafford with a weakened team, we all said in the Super Sunday studio that Wenger needed to change things and that he couldn’t go out and play as if all his big players were on the pitch.

“What did Wenger do? He went out, played the same, and Arsenal got beaten 8-2, I’ll never forget it. This is exactly what I am seeing of Bielsa at Leeds United now.

“They went to Manchester City with no players, they played exactly the same way as they usually do, and it was embarrassing, I felt for the players. The manager has got to have another game plan to fall back on when needs must.


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Bielsa needs to adapt

“Leeds have been absolutely shredded in the absence of some key players, but the manager has to change things around. He has got to accept that, without those players around, the team has to stay solid, get men behind the ball, and make it hard for the opposition to score.

“I mean, Arsenal were missing sitters at Elland Road and there was barely five minutes on the clock. That tells you all you need to know.”

Merson added: “I don’t see Leeds going down, no chance, they have key personnel returning from injury fairly soon. It’ll be down to them to turn this around.

“My biggest concern with Leeds is that I love watching them play but that’s no good. I’m a neutral, I love watching them, you just know you’re going to get an action-packed football match. But that is not good, especially when you are not winning football matches.”

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