Friday 19 July 2019

Bielsa: I spied on everybody

Leeds boss reveals his extraordinary pre-match scouting detail, writes Chris Bascombe

Power Play: In a Powerpoint presentation, Leeds manager Marcelo Bielsa details his preparation which he used ahead of the team’s previous game against Derby. Photo: Mark Walker/PA
Power Play: In a Powerpoint presentation, Leeds manager Marcelo Bielsa details his preparation which he used ahead of the team’s previous game against Derby. Photo: Mark Walker/PA

Chris Bascombe

Leeds United's manager Marcelo Bielsa, has admitted to orchestrating a spying campaign against every Championship club.

The Argentine coach revealed the scale of the espionage after the 'spygate' row came to light when a member of his scouting team was spotted at Derby County's training facility last week.

During an extraordinary press conference lasting 70 minutes - during which Bielsa offered a PowerPoint presentation detailing the level of opposition analysis to journalists - the coach said he sent staff on covert reconnaissance missions to every rivals' training base in the build-up to their meetings. He claimed he did so because of his "anxiety" as a coach obliging him to collect as much data as possible on opponents.

"I observed all the rivals and we watched all the training sessions of the opponents before we played against them," Bielsa said.

"What I have done is not illegal. It's not specified and it's not restrained. We can discuss about it. It's not seen as a good thing but it is not a violation of the law.

Advantage

"I didn't have bad intentions or get a sporting advantage. I did it because it was not illegal or violating a specific law.

"It is not against the rules and I didn't know it would cause such an issue. It is partly down to my anxiety. We feel guilty if we don't work enough. It (watching the opponents train) allows us to have less anxiety and in my case I am stupid enough to allow this kind of behaviour."

Bielsa attempted to pre-empt English Football League (EFL) and Football Association investigations into the affair by disclosing details in a hastily-called briefing at Leeds' training ground.

The EFL made no immediate comment in response to Bielsa's revelations. Despite calls from rival supporters for Leeds to face severe sanction, a possible points deduction appears unlikely. The initial response from some Championship rivals was more relaxed than hostile.

Aside from the claim no rules have been broken, Bielsa's defence was based on the idea he is unaccustomed to the "habits" of English football, suggesting the policy is commonplace in other countries where he has worked.

"I have to adapt to the rules that are linked to the habits of English football," he said.

"Nobody ignores that all professional members of football want to work in British football. We have some conclusions. We have some analysis that the Championship is the sixth-biggest competition in the world.

"We have to respect the procedures. I'm not trying to justify my behaviour whatsoever. We cannot justify it as (Frank) Lampard said. He does not accept the explanation I gave.

"I would like to explain how the brain of a head coach works. When you look at the opponent you are looking for specific information. You want to know the starting XI and the strategic set-up and their set-pieces. Those are three key things head coaches analyse.

"When you watch a training session from an opponent you get this information a day before a game. Obviously it's not information that can allow you to build a project to neutralise the opponent during a game.

"All the information I need to clarify the game against an opponent I gather it without having the necessity to watch the training session of the opponent. So why did I do it? It's just because I thought I wasn't violating a normal thing. As I reach my conclusion. I gather information that I can obtain in another manner."

Bielsa demonstrated the level of detail he and his analysts compile by producing spreadsheets on Derby County's performances.

The meticulousness was apparent as he said his staff watched all 51 games Derby played last season, with each game taking four hours to analyse.

Ignorant

"Why did we do that? Because we think this is professional behaviour. It's to try and avoid being ignorant about the competition we're playing in," he explained.

Leeds' manager said a dossier has been created on every Championship player, including data on how many minutes each has played in various positions.

Having discovered Nathan Jones had left Luton to become Stoke manager, Bielsa ordered analysis of 26 Luton Town fixtures so as to better understand the style of the Championship's latest coaching recruit.

Earlier this week, the EFL wrote to Leeds requesting their observations on the Derby incident.

"The EFL has now determined that it is appropriate to consider this matter in the context of a number of EFL Regulations whilst also noting that the alleged actions appear to contravene the club's Charter that all EFL clubs agreed to in summer 2018," read the statement.

"The Football Association has also confirmed they are considering the same matter in line with its own rules."

The authorities continued to reference that statement last night. Bielsa reiterated his certainty that while the ethics of his actions could be discussed, no rules have been broken.

"My behaviour has been debated and many people have made an opinion," he said.

"Many have condemned the act of behaviour. They've said it was immoral and violated the fair play and cheating.

"The club thought it was obliged public excuses to Derby County. I was publicly told that my behaviour was not respecting the principles and integrity that are the basis of the club.

"My goal is to make this easier for the investigation. By doing this I assume the possible sanctions by the authorities." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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