‘I can’t say enough good things’: What Leeds are getting in Jesse Marsch



If Leeds fans thought Marcelo Bielsa was crazy at times, then the arrival of Jesse Marsch should provide something akin to a deep-breath and a spot of meditation.

Marsch was confirmed as the successor to the Argentine on Monday night and becomes just the third American to be handed the reins of a Premier League club.

He will need to hit the ground running with Leeds in freefall following a run of four successive defeats. With the drop-zone looming uncomfortably into view, they have 12 matches to save their Premier League skin.

Alexi Lalas, the former USA international, knows Marsch as well as anyone having played with and against him since their college days. And while Bielsa could sometimes be accused of being dogmatic and stubborn, Lalas believes the new man will take a more measured approach.

Although he admits that the 48-year-old will have barriers to overcome at Elland Road, not least the stereotypical view of US coaches in the world’s richest league.

“I’ve known Jesse for a long, long time and he’s one of the most interesting, articulate and knowledgeable and inquisitive people I’ve come across in the game,” says Lalas, who famously scored against England in a 2-0 win for the USA back in the summer of 1993.

“That doesn’t mean he’ll win soccer games but you’re getting someone who recognizes the challenges on and off the field and has taken a road less-travelled – which I think has made a world of difference in his approach, his world view and his evolution as a coach.

“He’s a product of the Red Bull system to a certain extent. The way Bielsa’s teams play is very unique and it will be interesting to see how much of that he wants to keep, how much he wants to throw away and how much he feels he just needs to tweak and get a little bit more out of.

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“I won’t be dogmatic about stuff. He recognizes that you can have this idealistic view of how you want to play but if you don’t have the players to do it, then that will do you no good. He’ll be flexible. It won’t be a ‘hill to die on’ approach. He’ll see what he has to work with and come up with a way of getting the very best out of those players.

“I can’t say enough good things about Jesse Marsch. We’re incredibly proud of him from an American perspective but his biggest task is going to be to prove to people that a coach from the USA can cut it in English football. In my eyes, he’s just a coach who happens to be American but there are still a lot of people in England who will see things differently.”

In Marsch’s favor is the fact that he won’t have to do too much to exceed the levels hit by previous USA incumbents in the Premier League. Bob Bradley won just two of his 11 matches in charge of Swansea in 2016. David Wagner fared better at Huddersfield but left the club in December 2018, with the club marooned at the foot of the top flight. They would be relegated the following May.

Marsch takes charge of Leeds for the first time on Saturday

(Getty Images)

That same season, saw Marsch act as assistant to current Manchester United boss, Ralf Rangnick, at RB Leipzig, before leaving the Bundesliga club to manage RB Salzburg that summer. He won back-to-back doubles at the Austrian giants before an unsuccessful stint back at Leipzig was cut short before Christmas. Now, just over two months later, he simultaneously faces the biggest challenge and opportunity of his career.

“He is going armed with some understanding of some of the pitfalls and some of the realities – whether they are fair or not – of what he is going to face,” says Lalas. “It’s a very, very difficult situation that he’s coming into. He has three months to come in and basically prove himself.

“There’s only so much that he can possibly do but he’ll be looking at it as a half-full proposition rather than a half empty one. If he is able to come in and get them going in a direction that keeps them up then he’ll be viewed as that saviour. That will buy him some time going forward.

“It’s an offer that he couldn’t afford to pass up but it’s a, what do you guys call it over there? A poisoned chalice situation? It’s well-documented, even for us thousands and thousands of miles away, the history, the pride and the expectation around Leeds United.

“He will be well aware of all of that. He’ll be respectful of that and he will, in his own way, live up to what has gone before. He’ll also do the things he believes are necessary to move the club forward. He’ll be looking to put a distinct mark on the club as well, although ultimately everything comes down to winning or losing football matches.”

Having inherited the stop-watch from a man who is still viewed as something approaching a deity in West Yorkshire, the clock is already ticking on Leeds’ Premier League survival.

The Wisconsin-born coach is a graduate of Princetown University, the Alma-mater of John F. Kennedy, Michelle Obama and Jeff Bezos. If Marsch delivers as quickly as Amazon then, despite the sadness at Bielsa’s departure, Leeds could have pulled off a masterstroke.


www.independent.co.uk

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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