Leeds United: Jesse Marsch’s work in progress shows early, encouraging signs for Whites despite defeat at Leicester City

In four days’ work at Thorp Arch, Jesse Marsch got Leeds United looking much more solid defensively and better at set pieces without sacrificing the goal threat they carried under Marcelo Bielsa. But you cannot turn unreliable finishers into dead-eyed assassins in half a week.

It seems a tall order to do it by Thursday, when the Whites host Aston Villa, or Sunday, when it is Norwich City. By the time of the next international break, after the trip to Wolverhampton Wanderers a week on Friday, Leeds will have eight matches – including against Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal – to confirm Premier League status.

There was positivity aplenty from Marsch’s first game as Leeds coach but if they had just put one of their 19 chances away, there would have been points too for the first time in five matches.

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Marsch said afterwards: “The only negative is the result,” but laughed at the ridiculousness of his words because results are all-important in avoiding relegation from a division where end-of-season prize money cheques have nine figures on them to one where it is six or seven.

THAT'S THE WAY TO DO IT: Leeds United's new head coach Jesse Marsch tries to get his point across to his players against Leciester City. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe

Actually, there was one other negative: a hamstring injury to Tyler Roberts almost as soon as he came on as Marsch’s final substitute. Despite the good signs about Marsch, early indications are not that Leeds have found a lucky general to replace Bielsa, who at times this season probably wondered if he dropped a mirror trying to avoid a black cat as he walked under a ladder.

But if Leeds’s injury list has been unlucky – and when your coach insists on a small squad enduring such intense training it probably has not – missing chances is not down to misfortune.

Leeds were always wasteful under Bielsa, it was just in the good times it might mean settling for only a 3-0 win when it should have been five or six. A fit Patrick Bamford would have helped –Leeds reckoned he had 10 minutes in him and decided to use all three subs before then – but even he cannot be banked on.

The Whites’ four most attacking players – Dan James, Rodrigo, Raphinha and Jack Harrison – plus substitute Joe Gelhardt all had good chances but either missed the target or allowed Kasper Schmeichel to save.

Leeds United's Stuart Dallas is fouled by Leicester's Wilfred Ndidi Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe

“We’ve worked hard on relationships in the last third to understand where the roles are and what areas to attack and the last part is we’ve just got to relieve the stress a little bit,” explained Marsch.

“This is what it’s like when you get into the last third and things haven’t gone our way.

“But I told them if we keep playing like this, we’ll get the points we need.”

Leeds’s football was good enough that 23 minutes into the game, the away end broke off briefly from serenading Bielsa to sing “Jesse, Jesse Marsch” before getting back to their idolatry.

Leicester City's Harvey Barnes scores what proved to be the winning goal against Leeds United Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe

Marsch likes a good huddle – and not only the very stage-managed one in the centre-circle at full-time.

Where Bielsa tries to create space for players to express themselves in, Marsch likes to huddle them together.

Marsch’s first selection was a very Bielsa one with a surprisingly Bielsaesque back four – Robin Koch’s midfield position putting Luke Ayling at centre-back and Stuart Dallas right-back – but where Koch and James would have had space in a 4-1-4-1, Marsch gave them partners.

Koch could push forward and centre-forward Rodrigo drop deep from the starting point of a 4-2-2-2.

Leeds United's new head coach Jesse Marsch. consoles Joe Gelhardt at the end of the 1-0 defeat to Leicester City Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe

That formation is popular in the coaching hothouses Marsch learnt his trade in at New York, Salzburg and Leipzig but Red Bull football rarely gives you wings.

Where Raphinha and Harrison would hug the touchline for Bielsa, Marsch used them as inverted wingers, two No 10s, inside-forwards, call them what you will.

Marsch talked about a fluid front four, tactical relationships, phases of the game, behaviours and movements, but Ayling cut through that: “It felt like we were a lot tighter.”

As ominous as former Barnsley loanee Harvey Barnes looked on the left and as dangerous as Leicester are on the counter-attack, they only created seven shots.

They still equalled Leeds’s four on target.

Marsch’s narrow approach meant there was always someone close at hand in a team where defence and attack got too disconnected too often recently but it needs full-backs to get forward to provide width. Junior Firpo grew into that on the left.

NEARLY: Leeds United's Junior Firpo takes on Leicester City's Ademola Lookman Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe

He appeared on the penalty spot in open play in the 41st minute, but Caglar Soyuncu threw himself in the way of his shot. He popped up again at centre-forward on the hour, but Schmeichel stuck out his left leg. It was his cross Raphinha ought to have buried but he let the former Leeds goalkeeper saved again.

Ayling has only started nine times at full-back/wing-back all season – he would enjoy it there under Marsch.

The characteristically voracious Leeds pressing went missing in the 67th minute as Leicester built up from their own half, spread the ball to Barnes, who exchanged a one-two with Kelechi Iheanacho, then stroked it home.

One moment was all Leicester needed. If only Leeds could say the same.