06 February 2023

Chaotic tactics and lack of proven striker – Jesse Marsch’s time at Leeds

06 February 2023

Leeds have sacked Jesse Marsch following a poor run of results which have left them in a Premier League relegation battle.

The 49-year-old American had been in the role for just 12 months after succeeding Marcelo Bielsa in February.

Here, the PA news agency looks at five reasons why it failed to work out for the former New York Red Bulls, Salzburg and Leipzig boss.

Missed opportunity

Marcelo Bielsa’s final season in the top flight was blighted by his side’s chronic failure to convert chances and last summer Leeds passed up the chance to resolve the problem. Whites fans had hoped the board would spend big on a proven striker after Patrick Bamford’s injury woes, but they opted instead to pin their faith on Rodrigo and the club’s emerging talent. Rodrigo finally came to the party with 12 goals but is currently sidelined for two months, while despite addressing the issue in January with the club-record signing of Georginio Rutter, the France Under-21 international has not had chance to make an impression to leave the responsibility on injury-prone Bamford’s shoulders again.

No Bamford, no goals

Only Harry Kane, Mohamed Salah and Bruno Fernandes scored more than Bamford’s 17 goals in Leeds’ first season back in the Premier League in 2020/21, but he missed most of last term through injury and has since struggled to recapture his form and match fitness. Bamford has only made 15 appearances this season, scoring his three goals in two appearances last month, but he looked short of his best in Sunday’s defeat at Nottingham Forest. Leeds have not been the same side without a fully-firing Bamford leading the line.

Chaos and confusion

Leeds’ board trumpeted Marsch as a natural successor to Bielsa after sacking the hugely-popular Argentinian, citing similar footballing philosophies for a smooth transition. But while Bielsa’s high-tempo tactics transformed Leeds in a matter of weeks, Marsch’s full-throttle game-plan left fans and pundits confused. If his team was set up to thrive on chaos, it succeeded only in patches, with goal-scoring openings seeming to appear by chance rather than any methodology.

The Bielsa factor

Whoever Leeds turned to after Bielsa, who had established himself as a hero at Elland Road, faced a monumental task and Marsch deserves huge credit for keeping Leeds in the Premier League after inheriting a mentally and physically exhausted squad. He quickly won over the players and appeased enough of the fanbase to ensure the club stayed united. But comparisons with Bielsa were as inevitable as they were unfavourable and the American could never step out of the Argentinian’s shadow.

No case for defence

Defensive fragility dogged Bielsa during the latter part of his tenure and although Marsch abandoned his predecessor’s man-marking system, he could not find a solution. Leeds remain glaringly vulnerable at set-pieces and are too easily exposed after losing possession. They have started games like a house on fire before a familiar pattern emerges. Momentum is lost due to individual errors and positional lapses before Premier League opposition, having ridden the storm, pick them off on the counter-attack.

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