Marcelo Bielsa believes Leeds United’s small squad will not be able to repeat the form they have shown in the Championship this season.
Two defeats to Wigan and Brentford over Easter have left the Whites staring at the play-offs, despite occupying the top two places for the majority of the season.
Those losses, the first of which has been described as season-defining by Bielsa, has left Sheffield United in the box seat to win promotion to the top tier behind Norwich. And Leeds could kick-off on Sunday at home to Aston Villa all-but resigned to a play-off spot – if the Blades have defeated Ipswich on Saturday.
Asked if his side can recover, Bielsa made a comprehensive response: “We don’t need to recover this football because we haven’t lost our football. When you lose you lose, it’s obvious. But we can’t ignore the way these losses happen.
“When you lose you don’t always have the same message and when you lose at a specific moment it’s not always the same message that comes out.”
Just as he did earlier in the season, when Bielsa produced a tactical masterclass after the whole spygate affair, the Argentinian pointed to some crucial statistics.
“I am going to give you some figures that for me have a lot of value. Our team this season has had 300 chances to score in total and we had 100 chances more than the teams in first and second in the table. And we have 14 players who have played this whole season, Douglas, Alioski, Davis our three left-backs of them they all have of them have had three knee injuries.
“As an average we have missed four players for each game this season.
“So when you take into account this reality you just have to value hat the players have done at the right level, If only 14 players can play a whole Championship, if we need six chances to actually score one goal and our rivals need only three, the only feeling I have towards our players is respect and consideration.”
The 67-year-old, who refused to commit his future to the club at at today’s news conference, pointed to the Wigan defeat at Elland Road on Good Friday as the hammer blow.
“The game that decided our fate was the game we lost at home to Wigan, in that game we had 15 chances to score and we had more than 70 per cent of possession so between brackets, the final result was a decision of God. I know that what I am saying will be taken with irony – no-one wants to miss a chance to score and you don’t evaluate a team by the goals they score but by the chances they create but of course the teams who are efficient make a difference,” said Bielsa.
“We are not efficient but then when you play a competition with a small number of players and also the injuries that we had a lot of which are muscular it is to do with luck so we are not helped by destiny in that sense.
Bielsa then explained that a repeat of the consistency shown from his squad this season will not be possible, but he dropped short of criticising the club.
“You won’t have one single player in our team who will produce the same performance and being that constant in another season because we have been very demanding with them and they gave everything and I have the figures that I am checking all the time that shows what I am telling is true,” added the Leeds boss.
“The players won’t be able to repeat the level of performance they have shown this season. We can say that you can’t support the pressure and handle the pressure only if you know what handling the pressure is. If you say like in the last few games you lost five or 10 because you couldn’t handle the pressure, it’s not only about the team who wins who can’t stand the pressure, it’s about how you win and how you lose a game.
“I am very happy with all I have received from the club and the sports director but there are things obviously that we couldn’t get (Swansea winger Dan James) and I always describe myself as responsible of the situation because I know the things we couldn’t get and I know what I did to try and find a solution and I didn’t find one.
“So this is the story but what we can’t say about our team, we can’t say they couldn’t take the pressure because you don’t assimilate the pressure only when you can’t use the skills you have and remember what I am going to say right now because you will be able to verify it.”