Marcelo Bielsa was on press conference duties on Wednesday lunchtime as he previewed the Friday night trip to Aston Villa.
We’ve had bad news about Kalvin Phillips, that he’s out for six weeks – what are your options to replace him in that position now?
How do you know he’s going to be out for six weeks?
That was the information that the club gave us.
I didn’t have the definitive amount of time that Phillips was going to be out for. I understand that the information is incorrect. It’s not defined how long he will be out for. It could be more or it could be less. The one who will play in his place will be Pascal [Struijk].
If Pascal plays, are you confident Liam Cooper is going to be fit enough to play at Aston Villa as well this weekend?
I can’t confirm whether Cooper is going to be available or not as we’re two days away from the game and we’re still not sure if he will be.
And Diego Llorente – do you feel he still may be out for another week or so or has anything changed there?
No, he won’t be available for this Friday’s game.
On Aston Villa, Jack Grealish, a player much talked about, what are your feelings on him and how much have his England appearances helped him this season?
He’s a very good player. It’s normal for a player once he’s been called up to the English national team that he’s going to be confident and he’s going to grow.
Villa have made such a good start to the season. What have you made of their start and their qualities? They put seven past Liverpool in their last home game. As someone who analyses games deeply, can you make sense of a result like that?
The results that Aston Villa have had at the beginning of the season don’t need me to comment on them, they speak for themselves. Their victory over the reigning champions shows what good a moment they are currently in.
We’ve learned this week that discussions have taken place over a European Premier League. Can I ask you what you make of that and is it inevitable in the future that there will be a European league?
I am not aware of the project that you are talking about so as a result I won’t be able to comment on it.
Can I ask about the performances of Robin Koch? He seems to have adapted to Premier League football very easily. How pleased are you with his displays so far this season?
He has had performances of a good level in all of his games. In the first half against Wolves he had a performance above what he had been showing, which was already good.
Do you feel that it’s particularly cruel that Kalvin Phillips is injured now, just as he’s getting his break in international football and getting his first taste of Premier League football?
An injury is always uncomfortable, it always comes at an inopportune time. What you say is true, it comes at a moment that is very special for Kalvin. (Image: Getty Images)
Could you tell us if you will continue to use the under-23s to the same extent that you have in the past, to give first-team players minutes? And can you give us some insight into the work of Mark Jackson as a coach?
Whilst there are players that need minutes from the first team we will continue to work with the under-23s. From the short time we have been working together I have seen he’s a very capable man and he’s a man who’s very highly valued by Adam [Underwood] who is the person in charge of the academy.
Has it come as any relief that your team is able to create so many problems for Premier League teams in the same way they did in the Championship?
For an institution like us it’s important that we show every week that we show we deserve to be in the Premier League.
On reflection, how happy were you with performance against Wolves on Monday night and what was it about the game that allowed Wolves to win it in the end?
The game had three moments. The first half and a moment in the second half between the 5th minute and around the 25th minute and then the final part of the game, the last 20 minutes or so, we lost our dominance. Although they were not better than us we weren’t able to dominate as we had been able to in the previous period. This was clear because we didn’t generate any danger in that 20-minute period. In a team like us who has a product that attacks, it’s not good that when our attacks don’t create danger during that 20-minute period. Although we were still an offensive team we didn’t manage to create any danger. When this happens the opponent feels that we are not able to cause them as much danger and it makes the game more even. While they didn’t create a lot of danger, they scored a goal. And in the final 20 minutes we were able to dominate them, as we did in the first half. We had a large percentage of dominance in the game which was around 70 minutes of the 90. The individual performances were in general all good. We attacked well and we defended well, we created around 8-10 opportunities to score a goal. But in those 20 minutes our opponent scored and when you face a rival like we did on Monday who is very physical you enter a lot of duels, it’s very important that the chances you create, you make them into goals. So the conclusion is we understand why we lost the game even though we shouldn’t have as we dominated the large majority of it.
Gaetano Berardi has signed a new deal with the club – how pleased are you to see him return and what can he offer the club while he’s recovering from injury?
He is a reference to all of his team mates. His opinion is one that he changing room listens to and also the staff and when he is able to recover he will bring something to the team as he always does.
We saw Raphinha come on for his debut on Monday night. What did you make of his brief appearance and how has been settling in during training?
He showed presence in those minutes.
You have a small squad of senior players with high versatility – why is that the best approach for Leeds United?
The squad is not small because we have two players per position and there are not big differences between the two players who occupy each position. Just to make a reference, for example we have Bamford and Tyler Roberts up front, Rodrigo and Pablo in attacking midfield. On the right we have Poveda and Costa, and on the left we have Raphinha and Harrison. At the moment we currently have injuries in all of the same positions, so that doesn’t mean that we have a small squad, it’s just that if we have six players for three positions and four of them are out, it doesn’t mean that we have a small squad. When you have Klich Llorente, Cooper, Berardi, Pascal, Phillips, they are all of a similar level. When you are missing other players that you mentioned, then obviously there are going to be some issues. We also count on players from the academy who deserve their spot in the squad. As a result we feel we can manage the necessities of the team.
Players like Rodrigo, Roberts, Struijk have shown their flexibility this season – how important a quality is that when you assess players?
We have many players who can play in a number of positions. I would say almost all of them, barring Bamford and Cooper. Almost of all them play in more than one position. Being able to play in more than one position always helps the manager. It’s not that I force them to play in other positions, it’s that when you play in a certain position it forces you to do the things you would do in the other positions. For example, you can see the wingers play on both sides, the full-backs do so a lot of the time as well, they also do this. The defensive midfielders go back to centre-back and all these types of movements mean that the players can play in different positions.
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