Jesse Marsch thinking how to harness Leeds United spirit without digging themselves another 'massive hole' first

Jesse Marsch says he will head home from Arsenal trying to work out how to use the spirit his team showed in the second half of Sunday's 2-1 defeat too late to get themselves out of the "massive hole" they had dug themselves.

Marsch was badly let down by his captain-for-the-day Luke Ayling, whose red card was the lowlight of a dreadful first half, but he refused to single any of his players out for criticism, arguing "if we start playing the blame game we're screwed."

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Leeds were spectacularly dreadful at the start of the game, conceding the first goal when Eddie Nketiah tackled Illan Meslier dallying in possession yards from his net, and the second when Eddie Nketiah was unmarked after Gabriel Martinelli went too easily down the left.

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POSITIVITY: Jesse Marsch directs operations during Leeds United's 2-1 defeat at ArsenalPOSITIVITY: Jesse Marsch directs operations during Leeds United's 2-1 defeat at Arsenal
POSITIVITY: Jesse Marsch directs operations during Leeds United's 2-1 defeat at Arsenal

Ayling compounded it with a dreadful two-footed tackle that left Leeds playing for an hour with 10 men and is likely to see his season ended by suspension.

But Marsch was definitely on the hunt for positives, and he got them in the way his team knuckled down and fought in the second half, even finding the net when Diego Llorente converted their first shot of the match.

It was not enough to stop Leeds dropping into the bottom three with Everton winning at Leicester City, but did give him food for thought ahead of Wednesday's game at home to Chelsea.

"As I'm watching the game I'm thinking about how to bring an idea of the way we want to play football in this moment with the spirit and the character of the group," said the American.

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"Right now I've got figure out what that means for formation, players choices, match plans, everything, to give ourselves the best chance to fight for every single point left."

Leeds's best player was probably midfielder Lewis Bate, who replaced Mateusz Klich at half-time for only his second Premier League appearance.

"He's been training really well, he's played really well for the (under-)23s and I have no doubts if we need Lewis at some point in the next three matches he'll be ready to play and he'll perform like he did today," said Marsch. "As soon as I saw Klichy had a yellow and we didn't need another lost player in the process I was 100 per cent ready to put Lewis on the pitch and not surprised at all in his performance."

But there was no getting away from how badly Leeds started the game.

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"I would just say we dug ourselves a massive hole and made a difficult task much, much more difficult," he said.

"A young goalkeeper can make mistakes but it's how he responds and I thought for the rest of the match he was quite good. We're going to need him in the next three matches.

"With injuries and suspensions we're down to not a lot of players. We need every guy to be ready to give whatever it takes us to help us get through this situation. Our backs are against the wall but we've got to be ready to fight.

"Obviously (it was) far from the start we wanted but our resolve and our fight when the game was incredibly hard was amazing. I know there's no rewards that don't come with points for us especially now we're actually in the relegation zone but we have to stay positive, we have to stay strong and we have to forge on. That's the only way we can operate right now.

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"Even the message after the game was our focus is fully on Chelsea right now to do whatever we can to recover for another big match on Wednesday."

On the red card, he said: "It's a little bit ironic given it's 500 (career) matches for Luke and he's such an experienced player. It was just a moment of poor judgement from him but he's been an incredible part of what we've accomplished here so far since I've been here.

"I'm disappointed for him and the team but that's the situation, we have to accept it and we have to move forward.

"He apologised but it's not the time to point fingers. If we start playing the blame game with our team we're screwed.

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"The only potential we have to fight our way out of this is sticking together, being disciplined and believing in what we're doing.

"We have to continue to push ourselves to defend better and attack better and in all phases of the game to be better but we've got to do what it takes right now to stick together and fight for points."

Liam Cooper missed the game with a knee problem.