February hasn’t been kind to Leeds United. They’ve conceded 20 goals during a month that saw them draw one game and lose four more as they tumbled closer to the relegation zone. What has happened to last season’s Premier League darlings? How did they go from a newly promoted team that finished ninth to a team at risk of dropping back to the Championship? Questions were asked about Marcelo Bielsa’s extremely open style of play, but before analyzing that, it’s important to note that he was without Kalvin Phillips, Patrick Bamford, Diego Llorente, Robin Koch and several other members of the team for large portions of the season. Leeds had a thin squad to begin the season, so the numerous injuries have cut extra deep.
But even so, enough losing and a contract that runs out at the end of the season caused even the most loyal of front offices to move one from their manager in order to save them from freefall, especially after losing their last two matches to Liverpool and Tottenham while being outscored 10-0 over that span. The hallmark of this Bielsa side had been that they’ll score plenty of goals to make up for an open but that hasn’t been the case as of late. As the defense has gotten worse, the attack has as well.
The losing skid was enough to see Biela officially get the pink slip, with American Jesse Marsch set to take his job, according to CBS Sports insider Fabrizio Romano.
“This has been the toughest decision I have had to make during my tenure at Leeds United, taking into account all the success Marcelo has had at the club.
“With Marcelo as our head coach, we had three incredible campaigns and the good times returned to Elland Road. He changed the culture of the club and brought a winning mentality to us all. The moments created, particularly in the 2019/20 season and winning promotion to the Premier League, will of course live long in all our memories, myself and the fans included.
“However, I have to act in the best interest of the club and I believe a change is required now in order to secure our Premier League status. Recent results and performances have not met our expectations.
“We find ourselves in a precarious league position and I feel now is the right time to bring in a new head coach, in order to have an impact in the decisive stage of the season.
“Naturally, myself, along with everyone else at the club would like to thank Marcelo for his efforts and achievements and we wish him the very best for the future.”
The former RB Leipzig boss, who just recently left the Red Bull football group, has been linked to a move to Leeds since the summer, according to The Athletic, which is why CBS Sports’ Jamie Carragher tried to get an exclusive on his next destination in the lead-up to Champions League matches.
Marsch was dismissed from Red Bull Leipzig on Dec. 5 after their loss to Union Berlin was the final straw. At the time, Leipzig sat 11th in the league with a +7 goal difference. By most metrics, the team was underperforming their expectations and performances have picked up since Marsch left seeing the team rise to sixth in the league and be in striking distance of a Champions League spot. But Marsch’s style of pressing would translate to Leeds who are an extremely up-tempo team already under Bielsa.
It would be a tough job as a new coach doesn’t magically heal Leeds’s injuries nor changes the fact that they’ve played two to three games more than the teams that trail them in the league, but there could be extra incentive for Marsch to avoid relegation as he could be rewarded with the team signing Brenden Aaronson.
Leeds pushed hard for Aaronson in January but RB Salzburg wanted to keep him for their knockout stage games in the Champions League. Considering his performance in the draw versus Bayern Munich where Aaronson created five of Salzburg’s seven total chances, had 10 passes in the final third, five take ons, and an assist, that decision was justified.
But with Raphina’s future also in doubt, Aaronson is someone who could play with or replace the Brazilian playmaker making him a ready made transfer target for Leeds United. They’ll probably have to stay in the Premier League to make that happen though. Whether that’s up to Marsch or someone else to make that happen remains uncertain.
The board will want to react swiftly as time is the one thing not on Leeds’ side.