Style or victory? An Argument For Marcelo Bielsa


It’s an everlasting argument. What is more important for a legacy? Winning trophies, or the entertainment and style which goes into a team’s performance?

As Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea relish their first league claim in five years, most, if not all Premier League fans will agree the club deserve to lift the trophy — but it was earned on a chariot of dreary play making.

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A common term to describe Chelsea’s tactics is stating that they ‘park the bus’, but yet that vehicle of thought is what has thrown the club to exceeding heights, above their Premier League contenders. Thus, how important is style to the making of a legacy?

For Marseille — the most decorated French side in Europe — the 1993 Champions League victors, and one of the only clubs (outside of the Renaissance of Lyon) to challenge Paris Saint-Germain for the Ligue 1 title may argue differently.

In the 2013/2014 season, the Olympic side finished fifth in the league table, a finish that heavily disappoints for the magic that is Stade Velodrome. In response, the club brought in Marcelo Bielsa, the former Atletic Bilbao manager whose Argentinian flare added a pinch of style and result to the side in the beginning of the 2014/2015 season.

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Instantly, supporters were behind Bielsa as he worked within his means and lifted the club to become level with bitter rivals, PSG.

The likes of Andre Pierre Gignac resurrected from the dust and overtook both Edinson Cavani and Zlatan Ibrahimovic for top league scorer by October.

The Velodrome not only held its historical magic, but it also offered something most French football fans couldn’t get from complacent PSG — thrilling style. Marseille can easily be considered one of the most entertaining sides this season with matches that offered true bite.

Yet now as the final matches of Ligue 1 begin to wind — Marseille still employ that compelling style, yet lack result. As 2014 came to a close Bielsa’s tactics began to wear, and Marseille’s title cotention heavily slipped.

From Champions League hopes to hardly holding onto Europa League, Marseille currently sit fourth on the Ligue 1 table with 60 points versus PSG’s 74 with only a few matches to go. The most embarrassing case of this fall came in a 3-5 home loss to Lorient; a match where not only Bielsa’s tactics were exposed, but the defense was dismantled.

Yet despite this, one thing is certain — the Argentine’s support base at the Velodrome stands strong. And this is without the need for trophies. It could be perhaps, that Ligue 1 has taken into account that no club can compete with the mighty finances of PSG (although Lyon has fought that claim with lesser means brilliantly), but it does prove that the fans crave excitement.

Thus, if Bielsa leaves the Velodrome this summer for a new endeavour, despite the slip from title contention, the Argentine’s added flare to French football will be eternally memorable. So how can a legacy be measured with one or the other? In theory, trophies will always define success at a greater rate than style – especially for later generations of fans.

But that is not to say that style should be left unnoticed. This is why Marcelo Biesla should stay at least one more season at Marseille.