Profé Bielsa gets a do-over at Leeds United Football Club

Today Marcelo Alberto Bielsa managed his first match in England with Championship (2nd tier) side Leeds United Football Club. Leeds outclassed Stoke 3-1 to open the Championship with a victory and three points.

In my opinion this new project is somewhat of a do over for Profé Bielsa whose short lived time with Lille did not live up to his previous stint in Ligue 1 with Olympique Marseille. I won’t spend time in the weeds retelling the story leading up to his dismissal from Lille but it was a partnership destined for failure.

Fast forward six months Leeds United chairman and owner, Andrea Radrizzani, convinced the eccentric manager to once leave his native Argentina for a new challenge this time in England. This is not the first time a club in the UK approached Bielsa; after Gary Monk was sacked Welsh club Swansea City sent a contingency to Argentina.

Bielsa’s presence at Leeds gives me the feeling the club is looking to head in a new direction–specifically, to try and get the club in contention for winning promotion to the Premier League. Leeds’ opening day performance, though it’s still early days, showed promise, if anything, of strategic, entertaining and energetic football.

Like most of you I am curious to see how things turn at Elland Road. As I watch Leeds from afar (Brooklyn, NY) it’s gonna be an exciting season in England’s second tier. I guess more will be revealed.


The Synthesis: Valeriy Lobanovskyi

Welcome to the latest installment of “A View From The Stands”, my personal journey in to the world of virtual football management. I thought long and hard about which direction to take this blog, so I came up with an idea for a series called “The Synthesis: Influences and Inspiration”.  Part one of “The Synthesis” is devoted to Ukrainian task master Valeriy Lobanovskyi. A figure of colossal footballing importance who once bestrode the European game, Lobanovskyi’s impact on the game both in Ukraine and Europe as a whole should not be underestimated.  

Lobanovskyi is most famous for his spells managing FC Dynamo Kyiv, the Ukraine national football team, and earlier the USSR national football team. In 1975 his Dynamo Kyiv team became the first side from the Soviet Union to win a major European trophy when they beat Hungarian side Ferencváros in the final of the Cup Winners’ Cup. Lobanovskyi is highly esteemed for his achievements as a coach but also notorious for his both highly scientific and excessively disciplinarian approach to management.

Famed for being as pragmatic a coach as Lobanovskyi was exuberant a player, Jonathan Wilson eruditely describes Lobanovskyi in Inverting the Pyramid as the embodiment of “the great struggle between individuality and system: the player in him wanted to dribble, to invent tricks and to embarrass his opponents, and yet, as he later admitted, his training at the Polytechnic Institute (his University) drove him to a systematic approach, to break football down into its component tasks”.

An immensely gifted  mathematician, Lobanovskyi’s view of football as a deeply compartmentalized game was perhaps to be expected. Taking a highly scientific approach to tactical instruction, Lobanovskyi developed a theory of football as a system comprising of twenty-two elements moving with the confines of the given area of the pitch and subjected to the restrictions of the rules.  Lobanovskyi came to the conclusion that football was not about individuals, but the coalitions and connections between them.

Lobanovskyi’s success that made him such an instrumental figure in the history of European football was his scientific approach. The Ukrainian gaffer introduced meticulous dietary and training regimes for his players, collated masses of data prior to every game, gave each member of his team specific tactical tasks and individual technical coaching in order for them to better fulfil their tasks. “What happened off the field in terms of physical preparation and, particularly, rehabilitation, was just as important as what happened on it”(Wilson, 2012).

Similarly, my ambition is to achieve uniformity amongst my players; I want my forwards to be capable defenders and my defenders to be capable forwards. However, I am not so rigid that I have pre-planned moves, moves which Lobanovskiy embedded in Dynamo’s play and were able to be adapted to suit a variety of circumstances.

The Synthesis is a flexible system composed of technical players capable of thinking on their feet especially in high stress situations. All players should be comfortable with the ball at their feet and proficient passer as well as the other (creative) players. Players will spend their time on the training ground building their fitness, techniques, and mentality (tactics) to challenge for domestic and continental tournaments. To achieve this is there are some things (game principles) that I can do to ensure we are moving toward that outcomes (see past blogs).

This concludes the first installment of the series and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sporting Club de Portugal bring in The 6th Disciple to Rebuild the Club!!!


Sporting Club de Portugal  Chairman Bruno de Carvalho, and @Rovazzz aka Bielsa’s 6th Disciple hold a joint press conference to announce his appointment as new manager of Sporting. Portuguese football is buzzing to get a glimpse of the Rovazzz who spent a solitary season at FK Sarajevo and led them to a domestic double. 

Jornal de Noticias:  Welcome to Portugal. You arrive at a club with a rich history and known for it’s emphasis on youth development.  What are your thoughts relying on young players?

6th: Thank you for the kind welcome. I am excited to be part of a club with a great reputation. The Chairman and I share a similar philosophy when it comes to young players. When I was at Tottenham and Sarajevo I never hesitated to give a youngster an opportunity to train or get a run of  games with the first team.  Like Mauricio, Profe Bielsa, and Mister van Gaal young players keep older players on their toes. 

PUBLICO: Welcome to Portugal. Can you tell us what are your plans for year one? Are you planning to make wholesale changes or small gradual ones?

6th: Thank you. As policy I do not make wholesale changes during my first year because it tends to upset the synergy that’s been in place. And, I need to assess the strengths and weakness of club before I make changes. There will be changes but they will be slow and gradual–specifically, club DNA and playing system. 

Chairman: Let me make it clear I personally reach out Rovazzz after I saw what he was doing at FK Sarajevo. They were playing beautiful football, they won their domestic league by 11 points. And all of it on a shoestring budget, young players, and two natural centre-backs.  I was impressed with what I saw and thought he is the manger capable of restoring this club to glory.

SAPO Noticias: Rovazzz can you tell us a bit about the synthesis. My colleagues in Sarajevo said you describe your philosophy as a synthesis of the greatest football minds. Can we expect to see it in Portugal?

6th:  Sure. The synthesis is an amalgamation of the greatest footall minds: Bielsa, Pochettino, van Gaal, Junama Lillo, Cruyff, Guardiola, Lobanovskyi and Zelentsov. A quote from Zelentsov captures the essence my work:

“We evaluate the functional readiness of players and how their potential can be realized. And we influence players in a natural way – we form them following the scientific recommendations. With the help of the modelling, we assemble the ‘bricks’ and create the ‘skeleton’ of the team.”

We will play closer to  the “Total Football” invented by the Dutch in the late 60’s and early 70’s.  Sporting players are well-schooled, fit and skillful, and the fruits of their labor will be seen and respected in the domestic and continental competitions.

Chairman:  Ladies and gentlemen for now that is all the questions we will be taking. Rovazzz will be holding weekly press conference very shortly you’ll receive press kits.  Thank you and good day to you all.




Interview with FK Sarajevo Gaffer 6th Disciple

Local journalist were invited to Saadiq Bey’s first interview as FK Sarajevo manager held at the Asim Ferhatovic  to discuss life in Sarajevo, tactics and his vision moving forward.

Rick:  Saadiq how’s life in Sarajevo?

6th Disciple: Sarajevo is a great city fill of history, culture, and diversity. Bosnians are a lovely people they’ve been warm and welcoming to me and my family.

Rick:  To get down to business, what made you take this job?

6th Disciple:  Well after I left Spurs I wanted to take time to think what my my next step would be. I did not want to repeat what happened in England at FK Sarajevo so my next club had to be the right fit.

Davor: I see. So what you’re saying is FK Sarajevo is a good fit. Do you think this club and league is below standard?

6th Disciple: No. I think the Premijer Lega is very competitive and fill with quality players. I’ve always admired the football and footballers from former Yugoslav republics and I am happy I get the chance to work here.

Dejan:  So what if a club from one of the more prestigious leagues offered you a job and a hefty transfer budget would you stay?

6th Disciple: Rick, I think its incredibly disrespectful of you to imply this is not a worthy league or project. The club’s owner, Vincent Tan, offered me an opportunity when other clubs didn’t.  So I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to prove my worth to take this club back to it’s rightful place in European football.  

Dario: Ok. So what I am hearing is you’re appreciative of Vincent Tan’s trust in your ability to manage FK Sarajevo and vision it to greater heights.

6th Disciple: Correct.

442 Reporter: Tactically what can we expect to see.

6th Disciple: The philosophy is always the same but formations are interchangeable. What I mean is we will always be looking to gain positional superiority, dominate possession, defend with the ball, and look to stretch the opponent horizontally to open and overload central areas. And, players will display qualitative superiority in 1 vs 1 and combination play. 

Sarajevo Times@totalfootball71, @FM_Grasshopper and @fmcatenaccio are rumored to be joining your backroom staff. Can you confirm this for our readers?

6th Disciple: As much as I would love each them to be part of my staff. They’re deep intheir own projects at SS Lazio, Estudiantes, and Internazionale.  However, I will say they will be consulting me on a variety of topics. 

John Cross: I want to know if this a charity project and if youre intending to win your way back into the Premiere League?

6th Disciple:  John this isn’t England and this is an entirely different project and your question is disrespectful to Mr. Tan and the FK Sarajevo supporters. Next question.

JC:  You speak highly of this philosophy you named “The Synthesis” how are intending to implementing this system?

6th Disciple: My predecessor, Husref Musemić, laid the foundation for me to work with a group of intelligent, skilled, and  technical players with a desire to win. Fitness is a core component  of our training, as well as,  defending, ball control, and learning to read the game situations.  

JC:  No disrespect you sound like an American version of Bielsa and van Gaal. And we know how things ended for them.

6th Disciple: Profe Bielsa and Mr. van Gaal are mentors and teachers so what you’re hearing is discipleship.  Next question?

Gary Neville: Hi Saadiq thanks for the lovely invitation and time in Sarajevo. I’ve had the honor of playing against sides managed by your mentors what will you do different from them?

6th Disciple: First, (laughing) neither of them managed in Bosnia-Herzogovina. Second, early I plan on tweaking a thing or two, such as playing a highly structured system until the players internalize the training methodology. In the early days of training I think it is important to arrest  individual talents for the overall collective.  My training methods are frustrating to creative players because I’m asking them to do things that are unnatural. If the player perseveres he will have a deeper understanding of the game.

GN: What formations are you using? recently you’ve moved to a 4-3-3.

6th Disciple: 4-1-4-1, 4-3-1-2, 4-2-1-3, and 4-1-3-2  Each of these formation is a variation of 4-3-3 or 4-5-1. I said earlier formations are interchangeable but the philosophy remains. I’ll take a one more question.  

GN: Why those formations?

6th Disciple: In the long-term each formation will offer us tactical flexibility to dominate  central areas, stretch the opponent horizontally, and use our qualitative superiority to create 1 vs 1s. Ok thank you for coming and for great questions.  Have a great afternoon. 

The press conference has evoked conversation between the various journalist who attended. They seem optimistic and hopeful the 6th Disciple is successful at FK Sarajevo, most believed he was dismissed prematurely at Tottenham. The press officer sent them away with packet showing results so far and they’re astonished by what is taking place at the club.

FK Sarajevo Press Kit

Squad and Formations

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Training: Team and Individual 

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Europa League Qualifiying, BH Preijer League, and Kup B & H

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