Garry Monk masterminded another victory over Leeds United at the weekend, with his Sheffield Wednesday side’s 2-0 win at Elland Road ensuring that Marcelo Bielsa hit a familiar bump in the road on his quest for promotion.
Leeds still hold a healthy six-point lead over third-place and the chasing pack, but there’s no denying that a single win in six Championship outings is a worrying outlook.
That run doesn’t tell the full story, though. Ahead of Saturday’s meeting, Bielsa’s side had picked up five points over a difficult Christmas and impressed in an FA Cup defeat to Arsenal, leaving them full of confidence and top of the Championship table.
Therefore, Elland Road was expectant as Sheffield Wednesday visited this weekend, but another Monk masterclass, and late goals from Jacob Murphy and Atdhe Nuhiu, secured a 2-0 win for the Owls.
Since Bielsa arrived at Elland Road in the summer of 2018, nobody has a better record against him than Monk, who has brought lesser teams to West Yorkshire and won, as well as taking vital points from Leeds on the road.
Monk played down his record against Bielsa post-match on Saturday, claiming it was ‘unfair’ to say this only happens to a particular team and is a trend, citing how he has a plan for all opposition: “We do that for every game, find a way to make it work.”
So, on the back of another win for Monk, we take a look at his record against Bielsa over the four times they have met…
As our graphic shows, Monk has three wins to his name against Leeds in the last two seasons; Birmingham City did the double over Bielsa’s side in 2018/19 (the only side to do so), winning 2-1 at Elland Road and securing a 1-0 win at St Andrew’s, whilst Wednesday have four points from the two meetings this year.
Interestingly, it was Che Adams who scored all three of Birmingham’s goals in those fixtures last season, which perhaps goes some way in explaining why Leeds have set their transfer radar firmly on the 23-year-old – now at Southampton – this month, as they look to replace the departed Eddie Nketiah and provide Bielsa with an alternative to Patrick Bamford in attack.
The only time Bielsa has taken points from Monk was in this season’s meeting with Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough, when the two sides played out a goalless draw on a miserable afternoon in South Yorkshire.
Yet, Monk got back to winning ways against the Argentine three days ago, with Murphy and Nuhiu firing late to secure maximum points at Elland Road.
That continued a common theme of Leeds struggling to breakdown a compact Monk side, with their only goal in the last four meetings coming through Ezgjan Alioski, who struck a consolation in the 2-1 defeat to Birmingham in September 2018.
As Leeds know from Monk’s season in-charge at Elland Road in 2016/17, he sets his teams up well defensively, with good energy in midfield and an outlet up-front.
Monk allows his sides to concede possession to Leeds, averaging only 32.75% compared to 67.25% for Bielsa’s men. Admittedly, his Sheffield Wednesday teams have been braver than Birmingham were on the ball – averaging 42.8% and 33.1% of possession – but they’ve also picked up fewer points than the Blues did.
The ability to soak up pressure with resolute defensive displays has kept both Birmingham and Sheffield Wednesday in games against Leeds, whilst clinical finishing at the other end has robbed crucial points from the Whites.
QUIZ: Can you name these 18 ex-Leeds United players?
It’s not accurate enough to say that Monk’s ability to take points off Leeds is the reason Bielsa hasn’t delivered a successful promotion push at Elland Road yet, but his inability come up with a plan to stop 40-year-old’s sides has certainly hindered the Whites.
There aren’t many coaches who have got the better of Bielsa like Monk has, and whilst the Argentine will put Saturday’s result to bed and move on, he will be glad he doesn’t have to face a counterpart that is consistently ‘finding a way’ to make it work against his sides.