Leeds manager Jesse Marsch, an American manager struggling in the Premier League

Jesse Marsch

Jesse Marsch
image: beautiful pictures

If there were American coaches hoping that Jesse Marsch could be the first to get over the wall as a Yank manager at the big five European leagues, they might be discussing an immediate exit. now.

Marsch’s Leeds United lost again on Sunday, 3-2 to Fulham, their eighth straight game winless and fourth defeat in a row.

All in all, when fans start singing about you wanting to get out and yearning for the guy who came before you, there’s no going back. The atmosphere becomes toxic and spills over to the players, if it isn’t already. And those fans won’t be appeased by what the stats sheets say.

Because those stats say that Marsch’s Leeds isn’t as bad as the results and standings say. Except it’s the ultimate ammo for “Watch the game, nerd!” crowd. But it is true. Leeds’ projected goal difference for the season is 9th best in the league, in direct contrast to their 18th place now. Only once in their last four defeats have they been able to get past xG in the match. On Sunday they had more possession (58% to 42 for Fulham), more shots, more passes. Same story last week and same story last week. Leeds are doing things before the important things pretty well.

Except… the important stuff. Leeds couldn’t finish, and Leeds couldn’t defend. Watch Fulham’s goals on Sunday and it looks like they’re playing with crash test dummies. Let’s see how easy all of this is before Willian takes a shot:

And Leeds didn’t do much to tackle this half of the field over the summer. They brought in Tyler Adams and Marc Roca to protect the back line in midfield, and those two were fine to a good extent, but the defense really wasn’t settled. The moat you build in front of the wall is nice and all, but much less of a problem if the wall has huge holes in it. Robin Koch and Liam Cooper were the most commonly used central defense pairing, and Leeds’ shots in each game and shots on target in each game were among the league’s averages. However, no central defenders have been added in the transfer market.

Where the real problem might lie, defensively, is that Marsch’s keeper sucks mondo’s ass. Illan Meslier has dropped seven more goals after his shot than he should have had last season, and he has been at -2.9 less than a quarter of the season. this. He failed to make any of the saves Leeds needed to turn a game around. The difference is -2.9 which is the third worst in the league.

The “end” problem is just as serious as on the other end of the field. Again, Leeds’ rankings for shots and shots on target per game are in the top half of the league. But they can’t get anything to touch the twine. The attack is basically dependent on Patrick Bamford’s stunted legs. Bamford played just nine games last season through injury, and while his 17 goals last season showed he can become an important striker, it’s still just a season of proof.

Luis Sinisterra was brought in over the summer, but his biggest total was 12 in the Dutch Eredivisie, where you get 10 for spelling his name (Jozy Altidore would agree). Brendan Aaronson was another attacking assist, but Aaronson didn’t score as many, and his contributions came mostly down to energy and running chaos rather than real inspiration.

Well, Bamford has yet to determine which path he is facing so far this season in nine appearances, and no one else stands up. He’s had a few one-on-ones in the last two games that could create this for Leeds and blow them both away. He’s just decent, and his lack of speed is always a concern. Leeds needed a Bamford insurance plan in their transfers, and they didn’t get it.

But that was too easy to forgive Marsch. Here’s the problem: They conceded two goals in the 74th minute against Fulham. They conceded in the last 10 minutes of the first half to both Leiceister and Arsenal. They conceded a goal in the 76th minute to Palace earlier. Marsch’s team just ran out of gas thanks to their intense performance.

And groups have solved that problem. They slow things down for a while, play around with the Leeds press for half an hour or so, let them work it out on their own, and then profit. And Leeds don’t have many punches to come back. They hit their target in the final 15 minutes on Sunday. One shot on target in 20 games against Leicester. Two shots in 15 games against Arsenal, and all of them followed. Marsch didn’t really show a Plan B when his main tactic of “getting the damn thing into the damn field fast” didn’t work.

Leeds fans’ hunger for Marcelo Bielsa is unfair. Leeds will certainly be relegated if Bielsa stays, as they have been completely lost week in, week out. But that was the contract at Elland Road, as Bielsa was the one who revived them and kept them there for a season. And the humble act of Marsch’s humble-as-a-time-on-camera isn’t going to attract too many people. The gathering on the field after his first game, his touchdown antics, his inspirational quote routine, it all means a lot, “WATCH OUT WHAT AM I DOING!” feel. It will lessen his runway.

The schedule will be the same. They meet Liverpool and Spurs before the end of the World Cup, and host a rising Bournemouth. Fans can accept a loss at Anfield, but they shouldn’t beat a newly promoted team at home despite their current form, and that could be the curtain. Otherwise, Leeds will face Man City and Newcastle right after the World Cup break. It may get worse before it gets better.

Marsch’s approach didn’t work in Leipzig because he wanted to run the Red Bull system for a team that wasn’t really built. Now he wants to run a Red Bull system in a league that is almost certainly too punitive to survive in doing so. At the end of the day, Marsch’s victory was two league titles with Austria’s richest club going on to win that tournament without him. If a leading company for American managers is to be founded in Europe, perhaps Marsch is not the one to do it. No matter what the analysis says.


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