Everton v Leeds: Lampard, Bielsa and their history since the ‘Spygate’ fury

Everton (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Everton (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images) /

Everton take on Leeds United in a game now marked as a relegation six-pointer at what will be a cranked up atmospheric Goodison Park. As Everton fans have called on fans to bring banners, flags and their voices, perhaps the more telling atmosphere will be between the two dugouts.

Marcelo Bielsa and Frank Lampard have history, which hardly falls into the Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger category especially as they only have met each other four times, but those meetings were inside a season and involved the infamous ‘Spygate’ fiasco.

Before the teams had their second league meeting on the 10th January, 2019, Leeds sent a scout to watch Derby County’s training session. Lampard was Derby’s manager at the time and brought about the term ‘Spygate’ into the Championship that season. It turned out Bielsa had sent a scout to all the teams they had played that season up until then, it was just this time they got caught at the bottom of a bush.

It was not actually breaking any written rule in the Football League, but the EFL decided it did break the ‘good faith’ rule in regards to how you treat other teams. It drew mixed reactions from all in the game, but Lampard called it ‘unethical’.


Bielsa kind of stoked the fires with a bewildering press conference before the next Leeds match where he showed videos of analysis and how they used it. Leeds did win the match against Derby in January so it was unusual Bielsa wanted to keep highlighting the faux pas.

Maybe this would have all frittered away had it not been for both Leeds and Derby reaching the play-offs that season and qualifying to play each other in a two-legged semi-final. It was felt Lampard thought Bielsa had gone too far afterwards with his rant when a simple apology would have quashed most of the furore around it.

Lampard used this as a motivational tool before the first leg of the semi-final and it worked a treat. It actually didn’t work too well in the first leg as Leeds won 1-0, however, when they went back to Elland Road one of the biggest upsets in the play-off era was witnessed. Derby turned it around to win 4-2 in the second leg and 4-3 on aggregate.

Tactically it was a masterstroke by Lampard to change to a diamond midfield to combat Leeds’ strengths and enable them to counter attack with fantastic accuracy. Many felt Leeds were the best team in the division, something they proved a year later, but lacked a clinical edge in big games.

Lampard won the mind games that day, but it will take more than that to beat Bielsa’s Leeds team at Goodison on Saturday. Everton are low on confidence, without key players through injuries and have not won a league game since early December against Arsenal.

Leeds have scored three times in both their previous away games at West Ham and Aston Villa, in fact they have scored three times in three out of their last four games. The other game in that run was a surprising one nil defeat to Newcastle.

However, there is no doubt that despite missing key players in Patrick Bamford and Kalvin Phillips, who will miss this clash too, they have rediscovered the Bielsa ball that is now as much a Leeds tradition as any they’ve had before.

The Toffees will need to match up with Leeds and a back four will have to be the plan for this to happen. I would expect a three man midfield and three up top to give more flexibility on and off the ball to contain Leeds and then take advantage of the space they leave you.

With no focal point up top for Leeds, Dan James has been the motion striker in previous games, Everton will have to be mobile and stay with the runners. Without Ben Godfrey, this will be a struggle as he is the most mobile of the Everton back line. Donny van de Beek should be added into the midfield to ensure passes can be pivoted around Leeds’ high press.

As ever the main danger from Leeds will come from Raphina cutting in from the right hand side, with Vitaliy Mykolenko out of the side due to covid, this could mean a temporary role for captain Seamus Coleman of shifting over to left back. Hardly the type of tactical switch you want to make with key Premier League points on the line.

Having said that Lampard will know he holds the sway over Bielsa in the mini mind games, although no scout would have been required under the Finch Farm bushes this week as Everton’s problems were bared for all to see on live television on Tuesday night.

Hopefully, the Evertonians, who will try to lift the players first and foremost, can create an atmosphere that gives a twelve man feel as at the moment it feels like they need one and a must needed three points are secured come Saturday tea time.

Next. Big gamble that Frank Lampard must take against Leeds United. dark

Will Frank Lampard get the better of Marcelo Bielsa in the tactical battle?