“It’s just 100%, very chaotic. We do four or five-minute segments, maybe four or five times, with staff outside throwing the ball back in as soon as it goes out. It’s all man-for-man, there’s no escape. But the numbers the lads are putting up in these sessions are ridiculous,” tells Leeds’ captain Liam Cooper, with the feeling of exhaustion yet satisfaction.
In an interview withSPORTbible, he opened up on the training sessions put up by Bielsa and his training staff, how the players coped with it, and finally on Leeds’ promotion back to the Premier League.
“The games almost seem easier than the training is! And it’s not just the murderball, the tactical sessions are so in-depth. We always go on the pitch knowing exactly what rival teams are going to do – and if they were to change, we’d have that covered as well.”
Marcelo Bielsa’s playing style is very different in the modern world. He excessively focuses on player’s fitness and the tactical playing style of his opponents. His focus on the fitness of the players goes so far, that sources have often reported his sessions similar to that of “military boot camps.”
Not every player can cope up with the Argentine’s philosophy. Many great players have left his team without any significant impact. The recent example of highly regarded center-forward, Jean-Kevin Augustin, comes to mind.
Liam Cooper gives us more insight into the former Athletic Bilbao’s coach training sessions,”You try and prepare yourself mentally for how difficult it’s going to be, but I don’t think you can,” says the 29-year-old. “You can’t be ready for how hard it actually is. It took the lads four, five, six months to get up to top speed; to really think: ‘Yeah, this is us now, we can do this.”
The intensity of the training does not go down the drain. It builds the physique of the players and allows them to cope with any hurdles on the pitch. Leeds’ upward trajectory from a mid-table Championship side to Championship winners within two seasons is a testament to it. Now they will hope, that with Bielsa in the dugout, they reach an even higher level.