The arrival of Marcelo Bielsa at Elland Road has evoked a revived interest in Leeds United throughout the British media, with his incredibly unique philosophy and long list of elite students forming a strong basis for that interest.
While Bielsa may not be the most trophy-laden football managers of all-time, he will undoubtedly go down as one of the most influential coaches of a generation. A man who notoriously inspired the most paradigm-shifting manager in the recent history of European football, Pep Guardiola, was never exactly going to slip under the radar when he set foot in Yorkshire.
Viral highlight videos compromising of liquid Leeds football provided the tangible evidence to support the legend in August, and a new media darling has been consistently hailed ever since.
Bielsa has been dissected to death by the cult following who find such distinct pleasure from analysing the intricacies of his meticulously devised philosophy but, in the context of how his philosophy is suited to individual players, there is less content to consume.
It has been widely accepted that the improvement in Leeds’ results implies with complete certainty that Bielsa’s style is well-suited to the players at his disposal, but naturally some are better equipped than others to adapt to the new dynamic at Elland Road.
Teething problems are bound to occur during this ongoing period of transition for the promotion-chasing side, but no such issues appear to be affecting a player who has adapted to Bielsa’s demands like a duck to water, Kemar Roofe.
Leeds’ talisman has led the line with a confidence which hints at his comfort in a new-look role. Roofe flirted with a centre-forward berth last season, but he was predominantly deployed as a wide player, utilising pace, dynamism and intricacy in the final-third.
But this season he has showcased the full extent of his adaptability at centre-forward, and it’s that very adaptability and fluidity which makes him the embodiment of Bielsa’s philosophy. The Argentine encourages his players to stretch the pitch by inter-changing positions, rather than viewing formations as rigid setups from which to swear by.
With the technical ability to drop deep and receive possession and a willingness to peel off the shoulder of the last defender, Roofe possesses the necessary attributes from which to thrive at the tip of Leeds’ attack, and his return of 7 goals and 2 assists from 11 appearances this season is indicative of his proficiency at centre-forward.
Technically gifted, adaptable, versatile and clinical, Roofe is a match made in heaven for Bielsa’s intriguingly eccentric style.
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