Mikel Arteta says he expects Leeds United to be in the Premier League football next season and thinks coach Marcelo Bielsa is one of the best in the business.
The Elland Road outfit haven’t played in England’s top flight since they were relegated in 2003/04, the year we went unbeaten, and even tumbled down to the third tier for three seasons between 2007 and 2010.
Bielsa’s surprise arrival in the summer of 2018 has sparked an upturn in fortunes. They finished third in the Championship last season before losing to Derby in the play-offs and this campaign are level on points with West Brom at the top of the table, eight points clear of those below them.
Given their form, the Yorkshire club will be a threat when they visit the Emirates for the FA Cup third round on Monday.
Asked why he believes Leeds will earn promotion this year, Arteta said: “The way they play, the manner they behave, I follow their coach for a long time and I know how tough it will be to play against them.”
In our coach’s eyes, Bielsa stands out because his players never give up. Praising his opposite number he said: “What he gets out of his team, how he makes them fight and challenge and run and compete, and never give up in any game or any circumstances.
“He generates that belief in the players, those demands and that is why, in my opinion, he is one of the most successful managers.
He added: “To do that consistently every three days, at that level, is very different.
“And for me the best thing is that when you talk to players that had him as a coach, the words that they have for him are always positive. They were better players after [playing for him], better people, they understood the profession better.”
While Arteta has taken over at the Emirates as something of an unknown quantity, Bielsa thinks his close relationship with Pep Guardiola will stand him in good stead now that he’s the main man in the dugout at Arsenal.
“Always, (someone) who is a colleague of Guardiola has an additional value,” the Argentine told his own pre-game press conference.
“I think that Guardiola is the best manager in the world and as a great manager, of course he distributes responsibility in his staff.
“Arteta’s position in his staff was important work and after, if a club like Arsenal chose him, Arsenal does not choose him just because he was staff of Guardiola. This is just one fact of one person that has more qualities than that.”