Leeds United sit atop the pile of 24 teams in the Sky Bet Championship, driven there by, at times, sparkling football.
It is football that sparkles ostensibly due to the ethos and regime that new manager Marcelo Bielsa has put in place. In a way, the whole manner at which football is seen at Elland Road has had a total makeover.
It’s not just cosmetic neither, for the changes run much, much deeper than that. At every level of the club, Bielsa Ball has been introduced. All the teams play the same way, allowing for continuity and advancement between age groups to be a smooth transition.
On the pitch, things have picked up as the effects of Bielsa’s regime have begun to permeate. There have been solid performances from largely the same group of players who disappointingly ended last season in 13th place.
Pontus Jansson is back to his old self and Bielsa has reinvented Kalvin Phillips to such a degree that he’s not only upped his game in midfield but he’s also not too shabby as a centre-back.
Perhaps the biggest change has been in Pablo Hernandez. His brilliance is shining through much more brilliantly this season. He already has seven goals and ten assists for the season; he is excelling under Bielsa’s stewardship of the Whites.
Yet, Marcelo Bielsa’s gushing praise is NOT directed in any of the aforementioned directions. Indeed, Bielsa’s praise singles out one man to whom Leeds United fans owe much praise and thanks – that man is Victor Orta.
Orta was a bete noir last season, with a large number of Leeds United fans wanting him out of the club altogether. The reason that they gave was simple, his signings had failed. Yet, aside from Barry Douglas and the promotion of several youngsters, Leeds United’s success this season is with that same set-up.
Bielsa’s gushing praise is directed Orta’s way. Quoted by Joe Urquhart in the Yorkshire Evening Post, Bielsa said:
“I trust him because I like the players I have at my disposal. The first time I saw Victor in my life was 5 months ago. It’s not like I’m his friend and I want to say good things about him. Victor Orta built this team. Of course I gave my opinion on it but he is the creator of this team. This team has a privileged position in the Championship, clearly, he was not mistaken.” – Marcelo Bielsa
As Bielsa points out quite clearly, rather than castigating Victor Orta, Leeds fans should be thanking him. Rather than saddling the Whites with a misfiring side, what Orta has done is given the Argentinian coaching legend a side to mould into potential promotion hopefuls.
As Bon Jovi sang: “Oh we’re halfway there, oh oh living on a prayer.” Leeds United fans just hope it is a prayer that will be answered.