At this stage in the season it should not be hard for a team to have some idea how a rival might play. Most have, after all, played a couple of dozen games already. The greatest clue of all would have come in their previous meeting, most teams having already played most other teams in their division. Sometimes, however, this alone will not do. Take Nasty Leeds, for example, who thumped Frank Lampard’s Derby County 4-1 when they met way back in early August and host the return fixture on Friday evening. “We can’t rely on the fact we played against them five months ago,” sniffed Marcelo Bielsa. “[FLDC] is not the same team any more. They are a lot better now.”
That is something that Lampard certainly seemed to agree with. “I feel like we’ve improved since then,” he said. “We have had a lot of time to work. I would like to think we will give them a better challenge in this game than we did in that one.” But if Nasty Leeds could not rely on the fact they played against Derby five months ago, what could they rely on? Well, at about 11.20am on Thursday “a suspicious male was seen at the perimeter fence” of Derby’s Moor Farm training ground. A club employee called the police “regarding a man acting suspiciously on Morley Road”. Some fine officers of the Derbyshire Constabulary located him, put him in the back of a police van, tweeted a picture of him – face obscured – with the hashtag #SpyingIsCheating and escorted him from the premises.
A major diplomatic row swiftly ignited. “It has been confirmed to Derby County that the individual concerned is an employee of the footballing staff at [Nasty] Leeds United Football Club,” FLDC said in a statement. “The club is now in discussion with [Nasty] Leeds United club officials in relation to this incident.” Now let’s consider this for a moment. Training-ground espionage is not necessarily stupid, but this man was allegedly lurking on the side of a busy road, poking his nose through a particularly visible stretch of fence and carrying a pair of binoculars and some pliers. He was, essentially, wearing a generic up-to-no-good fancy dress costume. It is akin to a would-be burglar approaching a target house in broad daylight sporting a balaclava and hefting over one shoulder a large sack labelled “swag”.
Something here does not ring true. Bielsa, after all, is a man labelled “a genius” by Fernando Llorente and a man declared “the best coach in the world” by Pep Guardiola. If he wanted to surreptitiously learn the finer details of a rival side’s tactical approach, he would find a method of doing so so devious and shrewd nobody could possibly discover it. However, if he wanted to disrupt their training, confuse their coaches and distract their attention from the match they were supposed to be preparing for, perhaps things could hardly have gone any better. Well played, Señor Bielsa, you win again (TBC).
The Guardians take on events makes interesting reading:
<<snipped the shit bits...>>
However, if he wanted to disrupt their training, confuse their coaches and distract their attention from the match they were supposed to be preparing for, perhaps things could hardly have gone any better. Well played, Señor Bielsa, you win again (TBC).