FIFA Best Awards

Bielsa FIFA nomination: how does Leeds boss stand up against Klopp, Flick, Lopetegui and Zidane?

We compare Leeds' start to the Premier League season to promoted teams in previous seasons after Marcelo Bielsa earned FIFA recognition.

Bielsa nominated for The Best FIFA Coach: But does Leeds' Premier League start warrant it?

Marcelo Bielsa has been nominated for The Best FIFA Men's Coach award after an impressive year saw him become further adored by Leeds United supporters.

The former Argentina coach guided Leeds back to the Premier League last season after 16 years outside the top flight, racking up 93 points in a superb Championship season.

Bielsa, 65, has since overseen a solid start to the new campaign in the Premier League, securing draws against Manchester City and Arsenal as Leeds sit 14th in the table.

But while results in 2020 have been impressive, does Bielsa really warrant inclusion on a five-man FIFA shortlist that also includes Champions League winner Hansi Flick, Premier League champion Jurgen Klopp, LaLiga winner Zinedine Zidane and Europa League victor Julen Lopetegui?

We have looked at some of the best Opta statistics behind Leeds' start to the 2020-21 campaign, comparing that to past Premier League years and what is happening elsewhere in Europe this year.

Leeds have had a good opening to the new season and their 11 points from nine games already puts them a healthy seven points clear of the relegation zone.

Wins over Fulham, Sheffield United and Aston Villa mean they are well on track to achieve their survival objective, though heavy defeats to Crystal Palace and Leicester City provided a reminder of the difficulty of top-flight life.

Leeds' style of play has also led to a host of entertaining matches, their dramatic 4-3 defeat to champions Liverpool on the opening weekend setting the tone.

Their 14 goals make Leeds the top scorers in the bottom half while only two teams have conceded more than the 17 they have leaked.

With 130 total shots, Leeds are second only to Liverpool in that regard, while they are fourth when it comes to attempts on target (48), both incredibly impressive figures for a promoted side.

They have completed 4,756 passes in their nine matches, which again sees them rank favourably.

That number is good for sixth in the Premier League, behind the likes of Chelsea (5,814), Liverpool (5,683) and Manchester City (5,042) but above Tottenham (4,602) and Manchester United (4,463).

Leeds' average possession figure is a tremendous 60.46 per cent, highlighting the control they have had in most of their matches. Only Pep Guardiola's City (62.57) sit above them in that metric.

Those displays have come even while negotiating a particularly tough start to the season - Leeds have already faced five of the teams who finished in the top eight of the Premier League last season.

Leeds points return nothihng special

However, the case against Bielsa's nomination would be that when it comes to Leeds' overall record, while 11 points is a decent return, it is certainly nothing special.

Prior to this season, 34 promoted teams had earned 11 or more points inside their first nine top-flight matches.

Some of those have far exceeded that total. Nottingham Forest had 21 points from their first nine games in 1994-95 and went on to finish in third place.

Hull City stunned the league with 20 points in nine matches in 2008, while Wigan Athletic had recorded 19 by this stage in 2005.

There are more recent examples too, as Sheffield United (12) - who went on to finish ninth - and Aston Villa (11) both had similar returns after nine games last season.

Looking specifically at 2020, Bielsa is not the only coach of a promoted team in Europe's major leagues to have captured the headlines this season.

Cádiz are fifth in LaLiga with 14 points from 10 matches after a magnificent start that has seen them earn famous away wins over Real Madrid and Athletic Bilbao.

One of the other promoted teams in Spain, Elche - who recently beat Valencia - are poised to overtake Cádiz having racked up 12 points from eight games to start the campaign.

In France, Lens have 17 points from nine games and are seven points off the top of Ligue 1 with two games in hand. They have already defeated leaders and champions Paris Saint-Germain.

Stuttgart, meanwhile, are eighth in the Bundesliga and reached the 11-point mark one game quicker than Leeds did in England's top flight.

While a Bielsa nomination has its merits, the data suggests there were also other potential candidates this year and in seasons past who, having lacked his global profile, can feel hard done by to miss out.