My 3 Thoughts on Jesse Marsch's Leeds Debut
LUFC Is Unfortunate to Lose 1-0 in Its Best xG Goal Difference of the Season
Leeds United lost 1-0 at Leicester City on Saturday in the Leeds debut of American coach Jesse Marsch. Here are my three thoughts on the game:
• Improved performance, frustrating result. All you have to do is look at Leeds United’s expected goals advantage (1.95 to 0.33, Leeds’s best xG goal difference of the season) to know that the final result didn’t reflect the respective performances in this game. Leeds had 19 shots to Leicester’s seven, but the only one that made the difference in the end was Harvey Barnes’s 67th-minute goal against the run of play. Marsch’s Leeds created plenty of opportunities, none better than Raphinia’s point-blank shot in the 60th minute, but Leicester keeper Kasper Schmeichel (the man of the match) came up huge to make that save and several others in the game. Leeds had less of the advantage after Leicester’s goal, and it certainly hurt that LUFC was essentially playing with 10 men for the final part of the game after substitute Tyler Roberts came on and promptly got injured with no chance of making further substitutions. The result is a fifth straight defeat for Leeds, which is perilously close to the relegation zone and has two massive home games in the next week against Aston Villa and Norwich.
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• Leeds’s defending was massively improved. In its previous four defeats under Marcelo Bielsa, Leeds had conceded 17 goals (4.25 per game). That wasn’t the case in this game, where LUFC had a defensive solidity that prevented Leicester from breaking through easily on the break. Marsch’s fullbacks didn’t push forward too much, preferring to be judicious in their advance, but that didn’t keep Leeds from creating chances through high pressure. It’s clear that Marsch will be able to implement his preferred transition-and-go style with Leeds much more easily than he was able to at Leipzig, where his players wanted to win the ball and possess it instead of being more direct. The question is how soon he’ll be able to bring back injured players like Patrick Bamford (who was back but not brought off the bench) and Kalvin Phillips. Their quality has been missed mightily.
• Marsch’s fingerprints are already visible. Whenever I have watched Marsch’s teams in training, they have spent a lot of time practicing a wide variety of set-pieces and creative approaches to them. You could see in this game how much variation Leeds brought to its free kicks and corners, and that will only continue in the coming weeks as Marsch has more time with the team. What’s more, you could see very clearly the main difference between the pressing systems of Marsch and Bielsa; Marsch presses zonally instead of the man-marking system Bielsa uses, which would often create yawning gaps in the Leeds defense that opponents had exploited. Leeds was dreadfully unlucky not to get at least a point today, or even three, and everyone knows that they needs the points to stay up. But it would be hard for a Leeds fan not to be encouraged by the improvement in Marsch’s first game.
What were your thoughts on the game? You can share them in the comments below.
Well it was a cruel blow for our fellow PU alum, but that’s futbol sometimes. And life. You don’t always get what you deserve. The stats don’t always confirm the result. It’s all a little too Ted Lasso-like, frankly, and I hope Jesse and Leeds don’t suffer the same fate as the much-too-mentioned fictional character. For the areas where LUFC certainly showed improvement relative to recent play, I just wonder if that will be enough? It’s a monumental task at hand and if you were to go by “the odds” it appears more likely that they will go down. But again, that’s futbol and life. Sometimes, things can happen against all odds. I hope it does for Leeds and JM.
I thought it started WAAAAAY too bloody early for me today, so thanks for watching and for the game report. Hoping your buddy Jesse can snatch a couple wins coming up.