Nothing frustrates Leeds fans more than pundits suggesting that any time the Whites have lost, it is because Marcelo Bielsa’s demands have caused burnout. But Rio Ferdinand hit the nail on the head when asked if Leeds have proved this season that burnout at Elland Road is a myth, and Nigel Martyn has exclusively told LeedsUnited.News that his ex-Leeds teammate is right in his comments – and that it “annoys” the Leeds players.
Many pundits suggested Bielsa’s rigorous training requirements were the reason for defeat to Derby County in the play-offs. Then, Karen Carney suggested promotion to the Premier League would not have been achieved if Leeds did not have the suspension of football – and even then, Tim Sherwood suggested Leeds had “blown a gasket” after the 2-1 defeat to West Ham. But after 35 games, Leeds sit in tenth place in the Premier League.
Now, of course, the Leeds players are well within their rights to feel tired – like any other Premier League player. It has been a long season, with very little break in between last term and this one. But if there were any lingering suggestions that Leeds could suffer from burnout, then they were proved wrong – not only by ex-Leeds defender Ferdinand but also by their stellar performance during Saturday’s 3-1 win over Tottenham Hotspur.
Ferdinand said on BT Sport: “They’ve not burned out this season, and they didn’t last season. The players take it as an insult. I spoke to their captain Liam Cooper. The training is intense. People think it’s crazy but they’re not fighting a relegation battle. They’re on the up,” and Martyn agrees. The Leeds United legend believes that any suggestion of burnout if a myth and that while it annoys the Leeds players, they need to use it as fuel.
“I think there will always be an element of people suggesting that Leeds suffer from burnout, because of the way we play. It’s always going to be there. It takes one performance that isn’t up to scratch and they’ll blame it on that. I know it annoys the players, but the best thing to do is use it as fuel to prove them wrong. You’re never going to get a perfect performance every week – disappointing performances happen,” Martyn told LUN.
“One or two players have found the PL hard at times, but it is not necessary a burnout of the team. They’ve raised the levels of what is expected of hard work. The way Bielsa wants to play means you have to run a bit more but they’ve bought into that. Yes, it might annoy you, but laugh at them. Have the giggle to yourself, ‘oh yeah, we burnt out’.”
With just three games to play before the summer, some of the club’s players are hardly going to earn a break either. That is because Liam Cooper (Scotland), Gjanni Alioski (North Macedonia), Tyler Roberts (Wales), Mateusz Klich (Poland), Kalvin Phillips (England), Diego Llorente and possibly Rodrigo (Spain), Robin Koch (Germany) and even perhaps Illan Meslier (France) and Patrick Bamford (England) might get the call-up to feature at Euro 2021.
But Leeds have shown this season that it is their superior fitness that gets them over the line in some matches. They can throw so many players forward because they have the energy to get back. They can attack and defend in the same numbers – and do this without suffering from burnout.