28 February 2022

Get fans on side and secure top-flight safety – Jesse Marsch’s Leeds to-do list

28 February 2022

Leeds rolled the dice on Sunday by sacking the popular Marcelo Bielsa as their head coach and have replaced him with American Jesse Marsch on a deal running until June 2025.

The decision to part with Bielsa has not been well received in West Yorkshire, but the 48-year-old Marsch – formerly of New York Red Bulls, Red Bull Salzburg and RB Leipzig – has a job to do.

Here, the PA news agency looks at some of the things he will need to do.

Get the fans on side

Often a new manager comes in with the fanbase having been calling for their predecessor to go. That is not the case at Leeds. Despite concerns about form, few Leeds fans wanted Bielsa to leave and the unrest at the club’s decision is palpable. Many fans waited outside the club’s training ground late into the night on Sunday to applaud Bielsa out for one last time, the Argentinian posing for photos as he went. It is not Marsch’s fault, but it is fair to say he may not have the regular amount of goodwill a new manager would expect to have from the off.

Recover some players

Liam Cooper has been a big miss (Tim Goode/PA) (PA Wire)

Bielsa insisted on running a small squad supplemented by under-23 players, but this season more than most his plan has been undermined by a catastrophic injury list. At the time of writing the spine of the team, namely defender Liam Cooper, England star Kalvin Phillips and striker Patrick Bamford, remain in the stands. A return for all three could be close, giving Leeds fans even more reason to believe Bielsa deserved a little more time to see how results would go with a stronger squad to pick from.

Shore up the defence

Leeds have shipped goals at an alarming rate (Peter Byrne/PA) (PA Wire)

Bielsa would never change his principles and, for three-and-a-half years, they saw him right. However, Leeds conceded 14 goals in the last week alone, their defence – so watertight as a Championship club – an open door for opposition. The return of Cooper, the club’s captain and clear leader, should help, but Marsch may need to consider ditching Bielsa’s often-derided man-marking system. However, given the players have worked to that plan for close to four years, how quickly can change be implemented?

Keep Leeds up

As simple as it sounds. Owner Andrea Radrizzani said he was removing Bielsa in order to protect the club’s Premier League status – they currently sit two places and two points above the drop zone. There is talk of Radrizzani’s partners, the San Francisco 49ers, upping their stake in the club, while plans to redevelop Elland Road are afoot. However, a lot of those plans could depend on the division Leeds play their football in, so Marsch needs results.

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