Is Bielsa actually successful?

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Cjay
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Is Bielsa actually successful?

Post by Cjay » Sun Feb 10, 2019 5:17 pm

This is much longer then expected :oops:

Its a question that gets asked.

He is a respected coach, an influential coach, but that doesnt necessarily mean he is a successful one.

Of course in this day and age Football fans judge success quite black and white in most cases, trophies is successful, no trophies not successful.

Its a bit simplistic, but that is how Bielsa gets judged and the main criticism, his lack of trophies, something the man himself has been very open about.

“I can’t say I’m a successful head coach, I’d rather say the opposite. “One of the things you hear the most when people talk about me is the lack of trophies. You can verify this.” Said Bielsa earlier this month.

But can you really define a successful manager by what trophies he has won? There should be some context surely, some clubs just arent likely to win trophies, most clubs in fact.

And actually when you look at Bielsa's 2 longest spells in European club football i think he was successful on both counts, 3 seasons at Bilbao and Marseille combined, not 1 trophy to show for it, but imo still successful.

To show why, we need a bit of a history lesson, will start with Athletic Bilbao.

Bilbao are one of the founding members of La Liga and one of only 3 La Liga clubs to never be relegated  (the other 2 are exactly who you would expect). They are 8 time La Liga Champions (4th most) and 24 time Copa Del Rey winners (2nd best), they also have a very successful Ladies Football team to.

All the more impressive when you remember there strict policy of only using Basque players, either from there academy or other Basque clubs, there are no raiding Argentina and Brazil and places for Bilbao.

So Bilbao are a very important club in Spain and a very successful one. However, this is where context is important regarding Bielsa's time there.

While Bilbao have had success historically, since 1956 they have only won 2 La Liga titles, in 82/83 and 83/84, the latter was also the season they won there last Copa Del Rey, Javier Clemente in the 1980s was the last Bilbao manager to deliver trophies to Bilbao.

Since 1984 Bilbao havent really achieved anything of note, nothing in fact if you define success purely by trophies.

And this is where Bielsa defence comes in.

10th and 12th placed finishes sound poor, but context is important.

Ok the 2nd season wasnt great, but the 1st season had Bilbao finishing 10th with a squad of 23 playing a 60 plus game season and losing the Copa Del Rey to the best clubs side in the World,Barcelona. Since they last won the Copa Del Rey 35 years ago Bilbao have only made the final 4 times, once was Bielsa.

But more impressive, Bilbao have never won a European title, they have only got close twice, The UEFA Cup in 1977 where they were runners up, and The Europa League in 2012 under Bielsa where they ended up losing in the final to Atletico Madrid who finished 5th in La Liga and only a few months later would destroy Champions League winners Chelsea 4-1 in the UEFA Super Cup final, Madrid were on the upturn winning La Liga in 2014.

So but for the bad fortune of having to face one of the best club sides of all time in one domestic final and a face a club who were on the upturn in Madrid who have gone on to finish top 3 every La Liga season since, win the league and be runners up in the Champions league twice, Bilbao could have won the double in Bielsa's first season.

Thats successful isnt it?

And then Marseille.

They again are one of Frances most successful clubs, 9 time Ligue 1 Champions and the only French club to win the Champions League.

They last won Ligue 1 in 2010 under Didier Deschamps, however the season before Bielsa they finished 6th, under Bielsa they finished 4th, so improvement, that's successful isnt it? The season after Bielsa they finished 13th.

Furthermore Bielsa's points total of 69 has quite often in the past been enough to win the Title, indeed its considerably more then Marseille got for 3 of there 4 titles late 80s early 90s. Its also more then Marseille got when they finished 2nd in the mid 2000s.

Since the 1932/33 season they have played in 43 league seasons of 38 games including Bielsa's season, they have finished with a lower points total then Bielsa did in 37 of those seasons and in some cases finished higher up the league including during 5 title winning seasons.

Furthermore in the recorded history i can find on Marseille since 1933 Marseille have only had a better goal difference then the +34 they had under Bielsa 11 times.

This is why context is important, on the face of it Bielsa may consider himself unsuccessful, and his critics may to.

But history shows us that he is being unnecessarily harsh on himself, with a bit of luck at Bilbao and Marseille Bielsa could have won league titles and European cups and Domestic Cups in the past.

Critics can say what they want but Bielsa almost lead Bilbao to there only European success ever, only 1 other coach has got as close as Bielsa did in there history and that was decades before.

He almost lead Bilbao to there first domestic trophy in 35 years and only there 4th final during that time.

He got a better points total then Marseille managed in 5 of there 9 Ligue 1 titles.

In 84 years only 11 managers have bettered his goal difference at Marseille.

His Argentina record wasnt without highlight, the 2004 Copa America runners up medal was the closest Argentina had gotten to winning it since they did win it in 1993, 4 tournaments had past since then. They also won it in 1991 but prior to that you have to go back another 5 tournaments till 1967 when they were runners up again for the next best before Bielsa.

He also lead them to there first ever Olympic Gold, they had failed 9 times previously.

And then his last 16 with Chile, that was successful, apart from revolutionising Chilean and playing a large part in them repeating the last 16 feat 4 years later in 2014 with his mentoring of that group of players (he wasnt manager then).

In 15 World Cups including the 2010 one that Chile tried to play in.

They only bettered last 16 once in 1962 where they finished 3rd, prior to Bielsa they hadnt qualified since the 1998 World Cup where they did reach the last 16 to.

So what Bielsa did was the joint 2nd best they had done in there history at the time.

Bielsa is widely respected because he is a successful coach, when context is used he definitely is.

He was successful enough for Argentina to offer him the national team job again in 2016. He was successful enough for Real Madrid to make contact with him over whether he would be interested in the Madrid job back in 2004.

He was successful enough for Inter Milan and Barcelona  to pursue him while he was at Bilbao (reportedly he made it clear he wouldn't leave Bilbao because he had a project to finish when Barcelona asked if he would be interested if and when Pep went).

He is successful enough for a side currently top 10 in the premier league to be looking at him (and approaching him in 2016 to).

He was successful enough for 2 Premier League teams to make contact in 2015 (West Ham and Swansea).

He was successful enough to be offered the Sampdoria job in the summer of 2015 (and reject it) they had finished 7th in Serie A the previous season.

He was successful enough to be given the job at Lazio who had finished 5th the previous season then walk away from it when they lied to him.

When context is given the cries of "he hasnt won anything, never had a big job waaaaaa" look daft.

He has had big jobs, Marseille and Bilbao are historically two of the biggest jobs in there countries.

He could have had even more big jobs, Lazio, Sampdoria, Inter Milan, Barcelona, Real Madrid.

People find it hard to believe this, that he'd reject teams like that, especially the last 3. But he did, Inter more then once.

Barcelona and Inter because he wanted to show loyalty to Bilbao, and Madrid because he wanted a rest after the Argentina job.

Thats not to say he would definitely have got the Real Madrid and Barcelona job, but as hard as it is for his critics to accept, he was the original prime candidate on both occasions and in the case of Barcelona he had the backing of the star man, he was Lionel Messi's choice.

Bielsa may lack trophies, but circumstances and bad luck played a huge part in that.

Doesn't make him "unsuccessful", he has a fine body of work to be proud of in European club football and International football.

He could have gone to the top clubs like Inter and Barcelona and probably won league titles and whatever.

But he showed loyalty to Bilbao at the time, and very nearly he won a double there to.

He is a very successful coach, trophies dont define a manager, just ask Pep Guardiola.

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Re: Is Bielsa actually successful?

Post by weasel » Sun Feb 10, 2019 5:39 pm

I think the crux in defining success is what is success relative to the clubs he was at - and in your summation you clearly show he was successful. I don't think a Real Madrid or a Barcelona would suit him, he seems like he much prefers working with younger players and moulding them than managing superstars. He seems like he prefers hard working, even if limited ability wise, footballers who he can improve beyond recognition, in judging success at Leeds you just need to look at how poor this group of players have looked in the past. He hasn't come in and insisted on replacing the nucleus of the squad he has simply analysed it and made every player considerably better. It is also the hope I cling to when he is linked to other jobs as I see him as a man of honour who would rather see his project through than simply take a higher profile job. As long as he is allowed to do things his way I see him as staying at the club - he walked out on previous clubs due to interference rather than to go to another job.

Would he have had success at a Barcelona or Real Madrid? I am not sure on that. His way of playing football demands that everyone works their b*lls off. Maybe the Barcelona of recent years but not the Barcelona of the past.

Perhaps though his preference for the worker rather than the lazy superstar is however the big difference in achieving success. Roofe works his b*lls off but would the team win more with a lazy striker who scored more but didn't help the team in other ways? Alioski similar, would we be better off with someone lazier but better end product, Ayling etc.
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Re: Is Bielsa actually successful?

Post by Ratscoot » Sun Feb 10, 2019 7:11 pm

He will be if he gets us promoted
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Re: Is Bielsa actually successful?

Post by SaraM » Sun Feb 10, 2019 8:43 pm

I think you have to take into account the effect he has on players, but also on clubs and communities. Everywhere he has been for any length of time, he is still loved and highly regarded. People in Chile speak of him bringing identity and pride back to a nation. Newell’s named their stadium after him, and he still contributes financially to the club.

I think he is already a success at Leeds. Even if he doesn't achieve promotion, he is the most positive thing to happen for years; he has certainly restored a sense of belief.

We are very lucky to have him, and I hope he is here long enough to compete with us in the premier league, and more importantly to leave a legacy of his style and methods. His team isn't perfect, but it has already achieved more than could have been expected.

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Re: Is Bielsa actually successful?

Post by Mick Jones shoulder » Sun Feb 10, 2019 9:06 pm

The simple fact he has improved all of the current squad equals success in my book. Success is measured in so many different ways by everyone,

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Re: Is Bielsa actually successful?

Post by Cjay » Mon Feb 11, 2019 3:27 pm

weasel wrote:
Sun Feb 10, 2019 5:39 pm
I think the crux in defining success is what is success relative to the clubs he was at - and in your summation you clearly show he was successful. I don't think a Real Madrid or a Barcelona would suit him, he seems like he much prefers working with younger players and moulding them than managing superstars. He seems like he prefers hard working, even if limited ability wise, footballers who he can improve beyond recognition, in judging success at Leeds you just need to look at how poor this group of players have looked in the past. He hasn't come in and insisted on replacing the nucleus of the squad he has simply analysed it and made every player considerably better. It is also the hope I cling to when he is linked to other jobs as I see him as a man of honour who would rather see his project through than simply take a higher profile job. As long as he is allowed to do things his way I see him as staying at the club - he walked out on previous clubs due to interference rather than to go to another job.

Would he have had success at a Barcelona or Real Madrid? I am not sure on that. His way of playing football demands that everyone works their b*lls off. Maybe the Barcelona of recent years but not the Barcelona of the past.

Perhaps though his preference for the worker rather than the lazy superstar is however the big difference in achieving success. Roofe works his b*lls off but would the team win more with a lazy striker who scored more but didn't help the team in other ways? Alioski similar, would we be better off with someone lazier but better end product, Ayling etc.
Your first line sums it up for me "success relative to the club".

For us i think if we dont get promoted but say lose in the playoffs it will be incredibly frustrating and questions will be asked, more about our recruitment then anything else imo, but it will still be a successful season relatively speaking. However to not get promoted after being top at Xmas would be a major failing and MB would need to explain that for me.

Only thing that does worry me is he seems to fall out with the board in the summer 2nd season, he did it at Marseille and Bilbao because they sold key players against his wishes. We have already done that with Vieira and Saiz, and undoubtedly would again should we not get promoted, im not sure MB would be so understanding 2nd time round.

That is the only reason i can see him walking away, i dont see him leaving for a bigger pay cheque.

I think he would have thrived at Barcelona, that side was perfectly set up for Bielsa ball, would have been interesting to see.

I think the difficulty for MB is the type of player he needs ideally have been out of reach for the clubs he has been at, Bilbao and Marseille financially couldn't get in the top class talent BielsaBall needed, the players had limitations.

Probably the same as us, had we been able to attract the type of players Wolves had last season for example we would walk the league, more so then Wolves did.

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