Under Marcelo Bielsa, Lille have struggled in Ligue 1 this season. After resigning as head coach at Serie A side Lazio after just two days in charge and walking out of fellow Ligue 1 team Marseille last season, the Argentine manager is starting to attract criticism from the French media.
An extremely admired figure in world football, Bielsa has influenced many coaches with his philosophy. Both Pep Guardiola and Mauricio Pochettino have been inspired by him:
With just Bielsa three league titles in Argentina and an Olympic gold medal in 2014 on his CV, however, he is starting to attract criticism for his lack of success. Whilst at Athletic Bilbao, he reached the Europa League Final in 2012, losing 3-0 to Atlético Madrid, but his lack of silverware in Europe over the years has been worrying.
Hallmarks of Bielsa’s tactics include his 3-3-1-3 formation, attacking philosophy and high pressing. Though he sometimes plays a back four, his philosophy doesn’t change. He likes his teams to press high, to keep the match in the opposition’s half and to dominate possession. Whilst at Marseille, the team’s average possession went from 52% to 58% with under his reign.
The Argentine likes to use videos to prepare for matches and when he arrived at Marseille there were reports that he had watched all of their games from the previous season up to 13 times. Bielsa studies hours of film to breakdown skillsets and prepares for every eventuality such as soaking the practice fields to prepare for rain during a game.
Lille have won the Ligue 1 title three times—in 1946, 1954 and 2011—and have won the Coupe de France six times. Their latest success came in the 2011 season when French manager Rudi Garcia won the double. Lille haven’t had huge success in Europe, winning the Intertoto Cup in 2004 and reaching the last 16 of the Champions League in 2007 when they lost 2-0 on aggregate to Manchester United. The club is focusing on youth to build on their previous successes in Ligue 1. They will be hoping for improvements after their poor start to the season.
Lille have a very young side and in their first game, the average age was just 23. Like Pochettino, Bielsa prefers to give opportunities to younger players who can be moulded into his philosophy more easily. After several short-term stints at previous clubs, it is time for Lille to give him time to do what he does best and implement his style of play into the side. Once that happens successfully, it will only be a matter of time before the team reaps the rewards.
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