Reggie and Westbrook – from teammates to rivals

“Do I feel like a starter in this league? Why not? I grew up watching Michael Jordan play and adore his greatness, and that’s how you’re remembered. I mean, Playing off the bench was fun too, but I got up at 5 a.m. every morning in high school to shoot, and I would never say I just wanted to be a bench player. I woke up every day with the goal of being the greatest player I could be. .”

In 2013, 23-year-old Reggie Jackson said the above in an interview after a team practice. However, at that time, the starting point guard of the Oklahoma City Thunder was Russell Westbrook, who had become the top star in the league. In contrast, Reggie, who had just secured the sixth man position that season, averaged 13.1 per game. Pointed 3.9 rebounds and 4.1 assists.

From any point of view, Reggie’s statement that he wants to be the Thunder’s starting No. 1 is undoubtedly a nonsense.

Although Reggie never bluntly wanted to replace Westbrook, it was clear that the seeds of conflict between him and Westbrook had been planted since then. Although there was no head-on conflict, the relationship between the two had dropped to a freezing point, and Darnell Mayberry, then a reporter for the Thunder and the team, had the honor to record a conflict that was not a conflict.

After a late game, Mayberry, who works for The Oklahomaman, brought his laptop to the Thunder locker room, hoping to finish his postgame interview before the deadline. So he found an unused locker and sat in a chair ready to start his interview work. However, at this time, Westbrook in the locker room came over and said: “Only the players can sit on the chair.”. Interestingly, when Reggie Jackson saw this, he pushed his chair in front of Mayberry and signaled that he could sit on it.

“For me, at that point in time, Reggie gave me his chair in the locker room, and it was clear there was a conflict between him and Westbrook,” recalls Mayberry, who witnessed the entire event afterward. .

Then came the 2014 playoffs. After three games in the first round, the Thunder, the second seed in the West, temporarily trailed the seventh seed Grizzlies 1-2. However, in the crucial G4, Durant and Westbrook scored only 30 points on 11 of 45 shots. Instead, Reggie, who came off the bench, scored a game-high 32 points and led the Thunder to a three-point victory to tie the total score. However, when it came to the post-match interview, it was still Dewey Second Young Master who showed up at the press conference, and there was no sign of Reggie, the hero of the victory.

“It looks like KD and Russell don’t want him (Reggie) in the limelight,” Darnell Mayberry said.

What went wrong with Bielsa’s Leeds United? How can Marsh help the team avoid relegation?

The Argentine left the team as a modern-day Leeds legend, so how did things unravel so quickly that brought his side so close to relegation?

Bielsa’s sacking once again proved that the huge wealth gap between the Premier League and the Championship leaves no room for affection.

The club will lose at least £50m if Leeds are relegated this season, whatever anyone has to say about the team’s recent performance, this is the “hardest decision ever made by chairman Andrea Radrizzani to sack Bielsa” “The only reason.

Bielsa has rightfully become a Leeds legend, and he’s not the first to revive a sleeping giant or take a Championship club to the middle of the Premier League, but few have built such a strong presence in the process. Emotional bond.

Ultimately, the fear of relegation has outweighed the feelings; outweighed the bonds that make this project so special. Relationships like these are no longer considered the most important part of football, a harsh indictment of modern football.

It has been suggested that Bielsa is likely to leave at the end of the season anyway, so it would be pragmatic rather than callous to bring his departure forward by a few months.

But, even if it were true, Bielsa deserved a chance to battle relegation and go away in his own way, to a standing ovation and goodbye from the fans at Elland Road.

We have reason to believe that Leeds United may be able to stay out of the relegation, despite the fact that the team’s bottom line has completely fallen over the past few weeks.

Yes, this has all the hallmarks of a typical Bielsa debacle, but it should be noted that before those six winless games – including three against traditional Liu Qiang, by the way – they were already on a winning streak in the Premier League. .

Leeds are still not in the relegation zone and a recovery is possible with Calvin Phillips and Liam Cooper returning after a fortnight.

Bielsa deserves this chance to turn the tide, not least because he shouldn’t be a victim of his own success. The majority of Leeds’ players are still of Championship standard and he should not be punished for failing to repeat the miracle.

However, given the apparent slump in form, Ladrizzani would find his decision justified, even though the underlying numbers point to a simple story of injuries disrupting Bielsa’s season.

Their expected goals (xG) and expected goals conceded (xGA) figures are significantly worse than last year. As things stand, by the end of the season, they will have 12 fewer expected goals and 13 more expected goals conceded, which is a 25-goal difference, and these figures neatly capture Leeds United’s The question is how it arises in both restricted areas.

If that sounds obvious, the point here is that Leeds continue to play with the same tactical dexterity, desire and skill in the overall structure of their attacking and defensive organisation. What’s missing are those final blows — those final blows made by Bamford on offense or Cooper on defense.

Compared to last season, Leeds have the same number of shots on goal (13.7 per game) and similar chances created (9.88 per game, down from 10.4 last season), but their goal conversion rate has improved from last season’s 11.9% dropped to 8.2%. Bielsa really needs Bamford.

Defensively, Leeds’ passes per defensive action (PPDA, a measure of a team’s pressing ability) have actually improved this season, falling from 10.3 to 9.7, while their interceptions have also increased. Up slightly, at 10.8 per game compared to 10.4 in 2020-21.

But Leeds kept conceding the ball because they lacked Cooper, who last season was in interceptions (2.4 per game), tackles (2.7 per game), blocked (1.3 per game) and won in the air Confrontation (3.8 per game) ranks first in Leeds United.

Clearly, something has really changed over the past six games, with exhaustion and lack of confidence allowing Bielsa’s high-stakes tactics to fall like a house of cards.

That’s always been the case for a team so fine-tuned and so focused on offense, but with Cooper and Phillips back, a sense of control and order is likely to reappear in the next easier schedule roundup.

That state of optimism now awaits Jesse Marsh, the former New York and Salzburg head coach, who will be named as Bielsa’s successor.

Marsh was sacked earlier this season during his six-month tenure at RB Leipzig, which finished 11th in the Bundesliga in the Champions League, but Leeds fans shouldn’t be let down by the small Intimidated by the episode.

Until then, Marsh’s career had been on a sharp upward trajectory, and even the end at Leipzig could be read positively.

Marsh wasn’t a good fit, as Nagelsmann changed the club’s tactical positioning, turning Leipzig into a more patient and possession-oriented team, not interested in high-intensity pressing. For Marsh, who came from the German academic school, it was too difficult to put things back in the other direction.

It was by no means his task at Leeds – a club with a tactical vision that was largely the same as the incoming manager.

The fundamentals that gave Marsh back-to-back doubles at Salzburg are similar to those of Rangnick, who appointed Marsh as his assistant manager at Leipzig.

As Rangnick’s protégé, it’s no surprise that Marsh believes in high pressing and attacking with a sharp vertical ball. He wants his team to press up front and take advantage of the ensuing chaos to break down the opposition’s defence, moving quickly into the back in typical Germanic style.

This makes his transition to Bielsa seamless, although some of the riskier practices of Bielsa’s time will be limited. Marsh is less dogmatic and will take a more dispassionate and pragmatic approach to his task.

Above all, he doesn’t believe in the man-to-man press that Bielsa used, which meant an end to those frantic fights and a void in midfield.

Instead, under Marsh, Leeds will try to stay in a compact system, keep the distance between players small, and press in a formation-preserving manner – blocking space, not players.

Marsh’s Leeds will be more like Hasenhuttl’s Southampton; defined by pressing and attacking transitions, but also understand the need to fall into a safer midfield for extended periods of time against stronger opponents necessity.

The relaxation of the most demanding and revealing aspects of Bielsa’s tactics, combined with the return of Cooper, Phillips and Bamford, may be enough to restore some balance to the squad.

It won’t be exciting or emotional, but it’s a smart appointment as the next step in Leeds’ mission to become a full-fledged Premier League team.