Jesse Marsch arrives at Thorp Arch with 12 games to keep Leeds United above the relegation zone, and it begins at The King Power Stadium.
After his first press conference, Marsch gave small indications of what to expect from his side:
“Marcelo created a winning mentality here, it’s understanding those things but it’s also about me being me to help this team to continue and to grow. I have respected and learned things that he has done but clearly, I am my own man. I love this team’s ability to run and fight for each other and this will have to remain a part of our DNA.”
The American is expected to implement a high-pressing, high-energy defensive approach, not too distant from that of Marcelo Bielsa, but Marsch looks to tighten up the defensive gaps left by his predecessor’s approach:
Very interesting. Jesse Marsch has been working on one formation this week with the team but wouldn’t say what that is. Confirmed the team will get away from the man-marking system. With the ball, the aim is to use tactics which don't expose the team in transition.— LUFCDATA (@LUFCDATA) March 3, 2022
So, how might Marsch’s Leeds set-up on Saturday? And what is Marsch’s vision for the squad as a whole? Well, he’s got to keep them in The Premier League first, and this will likely require a pragmatic approach that goes back to basics, and the Leeds coach has acknowledged this.
But for the amount of flexibility within the team, he has a lot of options to choose from when it comes to formations, tactics, and individual roles within the team.
Last year, @JesseMarsch explained his coaching philosophy and showed us one of his RB Salzburg attacking practices that helps teach his ‘ball-oriented’ counter-pressing principles... ⬆️— CV Academy (@CVAcademy) February 28, 2022
Marsch has been known to approach the game with a narrow midfield, using 4-2-2-2 with wingers tucking in and out, while he has also made use of a midfield diamond previously. Could a player like Rodrigo, who has struggled to produce consistently, fit better in a front-two, or as a midfielder who can provide danger with the freedom to drift in and out of the wide areas?
Could Kalvin Phillips find himself playing in a role more akin to the position he plays for England? A roaming destroyer with a spark playmaker from deep in midfield could be quite fitting for a team that looks set for a Gegenpress style.
Where would Stuart Dallas fit here? With the likes of Firpo developing some confidence and improved performances since his arrival, what is the best available role for Dallas? This is a much broader question where only time will tell.
The young players are another important factor here, and we will likely see a bit of a change in how this side of the club operates. Bielsa preferred to have his best young players available to him should he require, with some like Drameh and Summerville growing tired of the lack of minutes.
But now, Drameh could return from his fruitful spell at Cardiff City and find himself with a new role at the club with increased minutes. Hopefully, the likes of Joe Gelhardt will get more minutes, particularly given the team’s lack of an out-and-out striker as Bamford’s spell on the sidelines continues.
“Joffy has been good. Crysencio has been good. Charlie Cresswell comes every day and works really hard. I need to get to know these young players more and more to understand what their qualities are.”
In terms of the dressing room, it is not difficult to pick out the standout leaders in this Leeds squad. Marsch named Cooper, Ayling, and Dallas among the crucial senior players, while Bamford, Rodrigo, and Forshaw were also regarded for their presence on and off the pitch.
But Kalvin Phillips has been issued a challenge from his new boss, as he publicly stated that he’d like to see the hometown hero take on a larger role within the team.
Fans have been impressed by what Marsch has had to say since his appointment, but on Saturday, the talking stops and the walking must begin.