‘COM­PLETE’ HER­NAN­DEZ HELPS SEND LEEDS TOP

Yorkshire Post - Sports Monday - - FRONT PAGE - Phil Hay FOOT­BALL RE­PORTER Email: phil.hay@ypn.co.uk Twitter: @PhilHayYEP

THIRTY years in man­age­ment, so much of it at elite level, and still Marcelo Bielsa sees a rar­ity in Pablo Her­nan­dez.

“A com­plete player from ev­ery point of view” was how Bielsa put it af­ter the winger’s cre­ative edge in­spired Leeds United’s 3-0 win at Nor­wich City on Satur­day that took them to the top of the Cham­pi­onship.

Bielsa found him­self talk­ing about Her­nan Cre­spo last week, a re­minder of the stan­dard of foot­baller he has coached in the past, but two months spent work­ing with Her­nan­dez has ex­posed him to a cul­tured tal­ent.

United’s head coach al­most laughed at the sug­ges­tion that he could find ways to im­prove the 33-year-old.

“I think he can make me a bet­ter head coach,” said Bielsa, “be­cause I see so­lu­tions in the de­ci­sions he is tak­ing.”

Her­nan­dez’s fi­nesse shines through reg­u­larly, as it did at Nor­wich with the won­der­ful pass which cre­ated the first goal and the curl­ing fin­ish which claimed the third, but it is the Spa­niard’s in­flu­ence from a wide po­si­tion that most im­presses Bielsa.

The former Ar­gentina boss can think of only a hand­ful of wingers who ex­erted the same level of con­trol.

“I only saw this a very few times dur­ing my ca­reer,” said Bielsa.

“Maybe I saw this in play­ers who played in dif­fer­ent po­si­tions, in the mid­dle of the pitch, but to have such an in­flu­ence when you play on the side is not usual.

“His style is some­thing that wak­ens in the ri­val the de­sire to neu­tralise him be­cause he al­ways in­ter­venes, mak­ing ac­tions more fluid.

“He has an in­flu­ence, he in­ter­venes in very small spa­ces and he makes the play of his team-mates a lot eas­ier. He re­ally is a player that im­proves his team-mates.

“He gives so­lu­tions to ac­tions that are very com­pli­cated and he puts his team-mates in bet­ter sit­u­a­tions. He is a real silent leader.

“He al­ways takes re­spon­si­bil­ity for dif­fi­cult things and he makes it eas­ier for his team-mates to play. He does all of this with­out speak­ing, with­out say­ing a word.”

Her­nan­dez is Leeds’ old­est player, one of only two mem­bers of Bielsa’s 18 on Satur­day who were over the age of 30, but the sus­pi­cion that his age might limit his in­volve­ment un­der Bielsa has been un­founded so far.

Nor­wich was his fifth start of the sea­son, though it ended 11 min­utes from time when Her­nan­dez walked off show­ing ap­par­ent pain in one leg.

Bielsa said he was not sure if the prob­lem was sig­nif­i­cant. “I couldn’t tell you,” he said.

“It’s ob­vi­ous that Her­nan­dez has been very im­por­tant for our team. He’s the player who has the best reg­u­lar­ity and he’s the player with the big­gest in­flu­ence in the con­trol of the games. He’s very in­tel­li­gent.

“He’s a com­plete player from ev­ery point of view and there’s a dif­fer­ence be­tween ex­pe­ri­ence and de­ci­sions.

“You have play­ers with a lot of ex­pe­ri­ence but a lack of lu­cid­ity when it comes to mak­ing de­ci­sions. Pablo reads the needs of the team and he gives so­lu­tions to all the prob­lems of the team, in each sector of the field.”

Leeds’ win at Car­row Road edged them into the fi­nal week of the trans­fer win­dow, with the EFL’s dead­line for loan deals set to pass this Fri­day.

United are hope­ful of mak­ing one more sign­ing be­fore the win­dow closes and are con­tin­u­ing to lis­ten to of­fers for Caleb Ekuban, Eu­nan O’Kane and Vurnon Anita. League One Charl­ton Ath­letic re­main in­ter­ested in O’Kane.

Asked about po­ten­tial in­com­ings, Bielsa said: “I’m not sure of any­thing in this mo­ment.”

He can make me a bet­ter coach. He im­proves his team-mates. Leeds United head coach

Marcelo Bielsa on Pablo Her­nan­dez

WINGER Ezj­gan Alioski said head coach Marcelo Bielsa’s power-packed Leeds United were a dif­fer­ent breed to the early ta­ble-top­pers of last year af­ter lit­er­ally clean­ing up at Nor­wich City.

Alioski’s Alioski’s pow­er­ful pow­er­ful drive, drive, sand­wiched by a calm fin­ish from Ma­teusz Klich and stun­ning strike from Pablo Her­nan­dez, helped give United vic­tory at Car­row Road to send the un­beaten Whites top of the Cham­pi­onship with four wins and a draw.

Leeds were at the sum­mit af­ter seven games un­der Thomas Chris­tiansen last term, but crum­bled to fin­ish 13th with Chris­tiansen los­ing his job to Paul Heck­ing­bot­tom – who was then re­placed by former Ar­gentina and Chile boss Bielsa in June.

Bielsa’s high press, en­er­getic and free-flow­ing foot­ball has Leeds top and af­ter clean­ing up on the pitch at Nor­wich, the Whites then per­formed a clean­ing op­er­a­tion off it. The Ar­gen­tinian ti­died the away dugout, re­mov­ing empty wa­ter bot­tles be­fore send­ing his staff out with a bin to en­sure the bench area was left spot­less. Alioski said Bielsa is big on show­ing re­spect, with the Whites quickly gain­ing max­i­mum re­spect for their on-field dis­plays too. Nor­wich Nor­wich man­ager man­ager Daniel Daniel Farke said Leeds were “at this mo­ment 100 per cent the best team in the league”. A year on from be­ing in a sim­i­lar po­si­tion, Alioski said mat­ters were very dif­fer­ent un­der Bielsa and the winger is hope­ful Leeds can stay top given their new­found con­fi­dence and power. “Last year we had good re­sults at the be­gin­ning, but we were not win­ning with the con­fi­dence like this,” said Alioski. “We won 1-0, 2-1, but now you see we’re win­ning away at Derby 4-1, against Stoke 3-1, and here 3-0. We have more con­fi­dence with the coach and all his staff. It’s re­ally dif­fer­ent and it’s nice.

“I hope it will be like this for the whole sea­son. When we play like this, with the power we have and the press­ing, the other team don’t have too many chances to score goals.”

Leeds to­tally out­classed Nor­wich, who have taken the un­usual step of paint­ing their away dress­ing room pink in an at­tempt to re­duce testos­terone lev­els of vis­it­ing sides.

The Ca­naries made a de­cent start, but cen­tre-back Pon­tus Jans­son helped keep the hosts at bay with cru­cial in­ter­ven­tions on his first league start of the sea­son fol­low­ing first World Cup duty with Swe­den and then a back in­jury. But once Klich had calmly fired United into a 21st-minute lead it was one way-traf­fic with the Pole coolly stroking the ball home af­ter Alioski’s header was par­ried out by goal­keeper Tim Krul fol­low­ing a su­perb pass from Her­nan­dez.

Krul was beaten at his near post five min­utes later with Alioski’s drive too hot to han­dle af­ter good link-up play be­tween Barry Dou­glas and Ke­mar Roofe.

Nor­wich briefly threat­ened at the end of the first half, but United bagged their third when Her­nan­dez cut in­side from the left be­fore curl­ing home a gem in the 67th minute.

Leeds could and should have scored more with Samu Saiz ear­lier hit­ting the side-net­ting and see­ing an­other ef­fort blocked by Grant Han­ley af­ter Alioski’s ef­fort was well saved by Krul.

Nor­wich were then de­nied a late con­so­la­tion af­ter a fine save from Bai­ley Pea­cock-Far­rell to keep out a header from Han­ley with Kalvin Phillips block­ing the fol­low-up at­tempt from Tom Try­bull.

The on-field clean-up op­er­a­tion com­plete, Bielsa then turned his at­ten­tion to tidy­ing up off it.

“He wants this with the play­ers also,” said Alioski. “All foot­ball play­ers, they are the same, they leave things here or there, but he wants to change this men­tal­ity so we are clean. Maybe it’s about how clean it is in­side the dress­ing room.

“The coach, he helps also, he cleans and takes things out. It’s a re­spect that he wants. He wants us to learn that it’s not only im­por­tant about the foot­ball, but also out­side and away from the pitch.”

Asked if Bielsa could be the man to take United back to the Premier League, Alioski said: “When the re­sults are like this at the be­gin­ning it’s easy to speak and to say he’s the man. It’s bet­ter to speak af­ter 20 games. But he can be the man.”

MARCELO BIELSA: Has over­seen four wins and a draw in his first five Cham­pi­onship games.

PIC­TURE: SI­MON HULME

MID­DLE MAN: Ezg­jan Alioski, No 10, is con­gratu­tated af­ter scor­ing the sec­ond of Leeds United’s three goals at Nor­wich City.

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