Why Leeds fans can take confidence from Leicester defeat

Jesse Marsch embraces Luke Ayling. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Jesse Marsch embraces Luke Ayling. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images) /

In beginning his reign as Leeds United boss at the weekend, Jesse Marsch became only the second American manager to take charge of a Premier League game.

Such is the competitive nature of the English top-flight, Marsch wasn’t afforded the luxury of easing himself into the job. His first outing a trip to Leicester City who sat in the top-half of the table in regard to home form.

The Foxes’ boss Brendan Rodgers proved sly in his approach, offering his opposite number a lesson in churning out points – a valuable attribute to succeed in the Premier League.

While the Lilywhites’ form book makes for bleak reading – losing six of their previous seven matches – Saturday’s narrow defeat can provide solace below the surface.

Change already evident under Marsch.

Taking over from predecessor Marcelo Bielsa, solidifying the Yorkshiremen defensively demanded to be of upmost priority.

In the month preceding Marsch’s appointment, Leeds conceded three or more goals in all five of their fixtures, setting an unwanted record.

Hampered by injuries, Bielsa refused to adapt his notorious high-pressing, man-marking system which relied upon the combative nature of the absent Kalvin Phillips to protect his defenders.

Marsch employed a more conservative approach, favouring a defensive-minded double pivot in midfield to provide solid ground for his side to build upon.

His plan worked, limiting the space for Leicester’s creative midfielders to operate in and forcing their opponents to pursue attacks in behind.

This made for a tightly contested and ultimately goalless first half. The visiting side growing into the game, before taking a grip on proceedings in the second.

Likely encouraged by the lack of a threat posed by the home side, Marsch’s men were under clear instruction to hunt down their opponents after the break.

Utilising the pace of Daniel James and Jack Harrison to expose tentative defending, Leeds looked the team most likely to open the scoring, but for inspired goalkeeping by former servant Kasper Schmeichel.

Time of the essence for the Leeds’ leadership.

Eventually Leeds’ efforts were to no avail, with Harvey Barnes finding the finishing touch as the returning Patrick Bamford sat unused, presumably not ready to return.

Marsch, however, remained rightfully optimistic in his post-match assessment, drawing reference to the more prominent sports across the pond.

"“This is maybe the American in me, but I’ve learned that sometimes our sport isn’t the fairest, but it doesn’t matter, you’ve got to do what you can in this sport to manage."

"“In a sport like basketball you score a lot more points and usually the better team manages to emerge. I am very pleased that, after four days where we’ve changed a lot, there was such clarity."

"“There’s so many little things that are happening on the pitch that can just be a little bit cleaner and this will take a little bit of time to implement fully, but what a great first step."

"“Overall it was a very, very strong first performance. I told them, if we keep playing like this, we’re going to get all the points we need."

"“The only negative is the result, really. There’s so many positive things to come out of that and I have to be very clear with them that we have to see it for exactly what it was.”"

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Unable to rest on his laurels, Marsch will need to turn his attention to Thursday’s visit of Aston Villa to Elland Road, in the knowledge a tangible return of three points is needed to solidify his positive start.