Tuesday 23 July 2019

Marcelo Bielsa admits Leeds United have spied on every Championship opponent this season

Leeds United manager Marcelo Bielsa gives a PowerPoint presentation to the media during a press conference at Thorp Arch, Leeds. Mark Walker/PA Wire
Leeds United manager Marcelo Bielsa gives a PowerPoint presentation to the media during a press conference at Thorp Arch, Leeds. Mark Walker/PA Wire
Leeds United manager Marcelo Bielsa. Joe Giddens/PA Wire.
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Leeds United manager Marcelo Bielsa admitted he has sent staff to spy on all of their Championship opponents this season in an eccentric press breifing which included a projector presentation of his tactical analysis.

In a statement, delivered in the impromptu press conference on Wednesday, Bielsa said that he wanted to make the Football League’s investigation into the so-called ‘spygate’ affair easier by giving them all the information they require.

Leeds and Bielsa are currently under investigation after a man was caught spying on Derby County’s training session from some bushes. Police intervened and Bielsa later admitted the man was under his orders.

On Wednesday the manager spoke at length about the incident, taking full responsibility and insisting the wider club had no knowledge or involvment. But while he accepted that it might have been unethical, Bielsa insisted he had not broken any rules.

“I’m going to make it easier for the investigation of the league,” Bielsa said. “I’m going to give the information it needs and I assume the fact that my behaviour is heard from the most extreme position. In a few words I can tell you we observed all the rivals we played against and we watched all the training sessions of the opponents before we played against them.

“Regarding what I’ve done, it’s not illegal. It’s not specified, it’s not described, it's not restrained. We can discuss it, it’s not seen as a good thing, but it’s not a violation of the law.”

He went on to explain, in great detail, exactly what he sought to gain by watching his opponents train.

“I don’t like being in the media too much, but this explanation is important. When you watch an opponent you’re looking for specific information.

“You want to know the starting XI, the tactical system they will use and the strategic decisions on set pieces. These are the three main axes that the head coach usually analyses. When you watch the activity of the opponent, you get this kind of information the day before the game or you confirm the information you already have. Obviously it’s not information that allows you to build a project which allows you to analyse the game. This is not the norm.

“I repeat again: I’m not trying to justify my behaviour. As [Derby manager Frank] Lampard said, that behaviour cannot be justified.”

Bielsa then used a projector to show the assembled media the analysis he compilies on each opponent. He explained how Leeds staff watched all 51 games Derby played last season, with each game taking four hours to analyse, claiming the preparation for the Rams alone took his staff 360 hours.

“I would like to explain how the brain of a head coach works, or at least those who work like me. Apart from the players in a club you have around 20 staff members. These 20 people create a volume of information. Absolutely not necessary. And it doesn’t define the path of the competition.

“So why do we do that? Because we feel guilty if we don’t work enough. Because it allows us not to have too much anxiety. And we think that by gathering information we feel we get closer to a win.

“In my case, it’s because I’m stupid enough to allow myself this kind of behaviour.”

As an example of his methods, Bielsa invited members of the press to select any game in a list of Derby fixtures, before unveiling a highly detailed tactical breakdown of the match including team selection, formation, chances and half chances, and much more.

Bielsa elaborated: “I feel ashamed to have to tell you all this. Let’s talk about the analysis that Derby played this season. They played 31 games. In 49 per cent they used a 4-3-3 system with a No 8 on the right. In 22 per cent a 4-3-3 but with the No 8 on the left.

“Same for the 4-2-1-3, with the No 8 on the right and left. They also used structures, 3 per cent, 2 per cent, but they’re not significant. Before the game we knew perfectly that they would use these kind of systems.”

Frank Lampard refused to be drawn on Bielsa's latest comments when he was interviewed ahead of Derby's FA Cup third round replay against Southampton.

He told the BBC: "I made quite a few comments earlier in the week about it. I haven't seen the latest press conference but have been told about it in general terms.

"It is one to comment on, or not, when I know more about it. We have a big game so the last thing I want to do is harp back to details that are not relevant to tonight."

However former England captain Alan Shearer was more critical, saying that while similar incidents were not uncommon, it was wrong.

He said: "It's very open and honest from him (Bielsa). Watching teams on the sly is nothing new to football. When you go away into European games and you train at the stadium the night before, you are almost certain that there is someone from the opposition watching.

He added: "I don't think it is anything new but it is definitely wrong. You can't go into someone's private training ground when you are not invited, and then take information from that. It is different in an open session."

Jermaine Jenas, who had called for Leeds to be docked points in the immediate aftermath of Bielsa's initial comments on Friday, echoed Shearer's views.

"It is wrong, as simple as that," Jenas said. "In terms of punishment, those players are there (top of the league) by merit and have played brilliantly all year. Should they be punished on the basis of what the manager has done?"

He added: "We are not all naive but it doesn't feel right."

Online Editors

The Throw-In: D-Day looms in Castlebar, Jim Gavin’s plan for Diarmuid Connolly and the future of the Super 8s

In association with Bord Gáis Energy

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport