Directionless Leeds United Must Find A New Identity Under Jesse Marsch

Leeds currently sit in the Premier League's bottom three and are on the brink of relegation
11:52, 11 May 2022

Leeds United look devoid of ideas when it comes to trying to keep the ball out of the back of the net. With just three games left to go in the Premier League, they are in serious danger of dropping back down to the Championship.

This season has been a mysterious one for the Yorkshire club after making an impact in the top-flight last year following a 17-year absence. They were playing some exciting football under ex-manager Marcelo Bielsa but they were always suspect at the back. 

These frailties have risen to the surface this term and the attacking threat has not been as free-flowing as it was a year ago. Back then, Leeds would suffer defeats with some extremely poor defending but because the fans were excited by the attacking style on show, they were always confident that they could pick up points elsewhere.

This campaign has seen their weakness exposed regularly and it has been a torrid one for the club. There is panic as the defensive issues are worse than ever and current boss Jesse Marsch cannot seem to prevent his side from leaking goals. They have now dropped into the bottom three following their recent defeat against Arsenal.

At this moment in time, it seems that the club has no clear plan of what they want to be on the pitch since Bielsa’s departure and Marsch has tried his best to see the squad over the line but he has inherited a set of players that were wired to the Argentine’s methods.

It feels like Marsch was chasing a lost cause to try and sure-up his back line because the way that these players have performed over the last four years or so, structure in defence has never been their forte. To put into perspective just how chaotic their defence is, they have conceded 74 goals in 2021-22 and only already relegated Norwich City have conceded more (75).

A few weeks ago, Leeds were looking safe because the teams beneath them were in the same boat, leaking goals and struggling to pick up points, but now the scenario has changed radically. They sit 18th on 34 points, level with fellow strugglers Burnley with the same amount of games played and a worse goal difference. They are also one point behind Everton, who not only have a game in hand but also a better goal difference. 

Both these clubs have perked up in recent weeks and look in a much stronger position to maintain their place in the league. Leeds will need to better their rivals’ results over the last few games but because they are so vulnerable at the back, they have a difficult job ahead of them.

Marsch had the toughest of tasks when stepping through the door at Elland Road and it has been a result of the chaotic management that Bielsa set out. There is no denying that his style started out successfully but it quickly became stale. His way of playing had an identity but only when his side were in possession. Off the ball there was no signs of a plan which is why Leeds’ efforts at defending in the top-flight have been like a circus act at times.

They have only kept five clean sheets in the league this season and because they have been unable to learn from their mistakes, it is hard to see them digging themselves out of this hole.

The squad currently looks directionless and that is not ideal for the dog-fight ahead. The current situation is in no way the fault of Marsch who has tried his best with the resources he has available. 

If he is unable to keep Leeds in the Premier League, it wouldn’t be surprising, however unfair, if he was relieved of his duties. But if he is kept at the helm, he will be itching to work with the defenders for the whole of pre-season as well as adding some more experienced faces to the squad to help add some much-needed organisation and stability at the back. 

Only then can the club establish a clear plan of action and chart a course for stability on the pitch, regardless of if they stay up or not.

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