Leeds United: Why Jesse Marsch was able to take the positives despite opening reign with defeat at Leicester City

Jesse Marsch was pleased how his Leeds United players got to grips with the way he wants them to play, and argued if they keep performing as they did at Leicester City, they will achieve their objective despite another defeat.

The 1-0 loss was the Whites’ fifth on the trot and they have not won since the mid-January trip to West Ham United. An Everton victory at Tottenham Hotspur tonight would drop them to 17th, two points above the relegation zone having played a game more than Burnley and Watford.

But despite Harvey Barnes’s winner, it was generally a good performance from Leeds, who had almost three times as many shots as the Foxes whilst looking far more secure than the side which conceded 20 times in five February matches.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Marsch said afterwards that “intensity of fight, tackles, run, counter-press (and) transition are elements which are very important to the way I would like our team to play football,” and they were all in evidence during a performance which had the away end – briefly – breaking away from singing Marcelo Bielsa’s name to serenade his successor.

Leeds United's players stand together ahead of their Premier League clash at Leicester City in support of Ukraine. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe

The way Leeds played had characteristics of the best parts of “Bielsaball” and new elements. They played a 4-2-2-2 formation which even a side as a good at counter-attacking as Leicester struggled to break down.

They did, however, in the 67th minute, former Barnsley loanee Harvey Barnes finishing off a move which saw far too many home players enjoy too much time and space on the ball, whereas Leeds were as wasteful in front of goal as they so often were under Bielsa.

Even so, Marsch was pleased with how much information he got across to his players in four days of working at Thorp Arch.

“They had to sit through some long video sessions, and I think they were used to them – I think Marcelo used to do them in detail – and the video is really important in helping them understand exactly what tactically we’re trying to achieve,” explained Marsch. “I think that was a very effective and dangerous set-piece day for us, against and with. The only negative is the result, really.”

NEW ERA: Leeds United new head coach Jesse Marsch Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe

There is plenty still to do with matches at home to Aston Villa and Norwich City this week. Leeds simply cannot come out of them without having broken their winless sequence.

“It was (a fluid front four) but I think they can be even better connected,” reflected the American.

“When we get into build-up phases I want them to understand their positioning and also always be ready to be in a counter-pressing position and I want them to understand what their relationships are with each other so it can start to become second nature and rely on where they can find each other in the pitch.

“In many phases of the game when we had four, five, six players around the ball, the behaviours and the movements were good with and without the ball but if we looked at the whole group and some of the players furthest around on the pitch we still need to work on the discipline and what the tactical relationships are in those moments.

Leeds United's Stuart Dallas skips away from Leicester City's Luke Thomas Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe

“Sometimes we’ll press a bit higher, deeper, different formations, sometimes different build-up actions.

“Ideally it’s about understanding the principles of what I think the game should be and implementing it with players who I believe have the qualities to play the way I like and using all their energies to benefit each other and themselves.”

Patrick Bamford was in a matchday squad for the first time since scoring against Brentford in December, but did not make it onto the field. Tyler Roberts was preferred from the bench, only to get injured almost as soon as he came on, reducing him to a virtual passenger for the final 14 minutes, including stoppage time.

“Patrick was maximum 10 minutes,” said Marsch. “We want to get him on the pitch ASAP but we needed to make a change before the 10-minute (remaining) mark.

WATCHING ON: Leeds United owner Andrea Radrizzani - left - chief executive Angus Kinnear and director of football Victor Orta in the stands at Leicester City Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe

“Roberts had a weird collision which leads to hamstring strain.

“Bamford is back in training, fitter and fitter, sharper and sharper. We’ll be able to rely on him. We’ll see what’s going on with Tyler but I don’t think Patrick is ready to be on from the start (against Villa). He’ll be ready to put in some minutes come Thursday.”