Leeds United’s new kit and new look - the time to judge Jesse Marsch begins now

In keeping with Marcelo Bielsa’s departure in February, his Leeds United team unravelled far more quickly than anyone could have expected.

As one of the great teams and producer of some of the most memorable football in the club’s history, that is sad to say. But like it or not, time has fast-forwarded on, and the squad which has emerged is much better suited to the way his successor Jesse Marsch wants to play.

When the Whites kick off their Premier League campaign at home to Wolverhampton Wanderers on Saturday it will not just be the obligatory new kits that provide a different look.

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Stuart Dallas will be in the stands nursing a broken leg. Luke Ayling, Liam Cooper and Adam Forshaw will be injured too. Kalvin Phillips and Raphinha left in the summer, Tyler Roberts was loaned to Queens Park Rangers and Kiko Casilla quietly released. Mateusz Klich’s future is being openly debated.

Leeds United's new away kit (Picture: LUFC)Leeds United's new away kit (Picture: LUFC)
Leeds United's new away kit (Picture: LUFC)

Patrick Bamford remains as important as ever, but if Leeds’s transfer window goes to plan that will no longer be the case by September 2. Bamford will feel the heat of competition from a rival centre-forward just as Ayling, Klich and Forshaw’s places already look threatened.

The way Leeds are run – in keeping with most Premier League clubs finally falling in line with continental traditions – means director of football Victor Orta can in theory present the coach with whatever players he sees fit and leave him to figure out how best to use them but this summer’s recruitment drive has Marsch’s fingerprints all over it.

Midfielder Brenden Aaronson played for him at New York Red Bulls and Salzburg, right-back Ramus Kristensen just in Austria and Tyler Adams at RB Leipzig. Holding midfielder Marc Roca is working with the American for the first time, but played for Julian Nagelsmann, a fellow coaching student at the Red Bull gegenpressing school, at Bayern Munich.

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All came in impressively early in the summer – along with winger Luis Sinisterra – even though they would have had a better chance than most of slotting in late, so familiar are they with the way Marsch – very affable off the field but unrelentingly aggressive in how he wants his players to perform on it – operates.

Brendan Aaronson for  Leeds United v Cagliari on Sunday (Picture: Bruce Rollinson)Brendan Aaronson for  Leeds United v Cagliari on Sunday (Picture: Bruce Rollinson)
Brendan Aaronson for Leeds United v Cagliari on Sunday (Picture: Bruce Rollinson)

After having to get a tune out of a squad built for someone else in last season’s run-in, the excuses have been swept away. Whether it brings success or failure, Marsch has full responsibility for 2022-23.

He has even been able to bring in assistant Ewan Sharp and fitness coach Pierre Barrieu – two more who earned their wings with Red Bulls.

Orta’s grand plan was for Marsch to succeed Bielsa at the end of last season but events meant he started 12 games before the rebuild.

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Given those matches eked out just enough points to escape the relegation threat that brought about Bielsa’s sacking, it could be a good thing. Marsch has had the time to suss out which players are receptive to the thinking he has been ingraining – inevitably different to his predecessor’s eccentrically unique approach – and they to decide if they want to be part of the journey.

New look: Leeds United summer recruit Marc Roca (Picture: Bruce Rollinson)New look: Leeds United summer recruit Marc Roca (Picture: Bruce Rollinson)
New look: Leeds United summer recruit Marc Roca (Picture: Bruce Rollinson)

The hope is that this summer’s work adds more finesse to the early Marsch freneticism.

Being a Bielsa winger, for example, is very different from being a Marsch one – much more chalk on the boots for starters – but Jack Harrison, a one-time rival of Marsch’s with opposing footballing gangs of New York, has already shown himself a player Leeds desperately want to keep despite Newcastle United’s petrodollars.

And judging by the praise Kalvin Phillips showered on Marsch in his farewell love letter to Leeds, the talisman’s disappointing departure cannot be taken as a vote of no confidence in the new leader and his cosier man-management. Playing Champions League football for Pep Guardiola in a World Cup season would be tempting for any footballer with half a brain, let alone a cultured holding midfielder. Ditto Raphinha bailing out for Barcelona, even if the Nou Camp’s cloud cuckoo land economics might put some off.

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Both will be huge losses to a squad which only stayed in last season’s Premier League by the skin of its teeth. The new arrivals may know Marsch inside out, but will still have to get used to the Premier League.

Patrick Bamford could soon find his place in jeopardy (Picture: Bruce Rollinson)Patrick Bamford could soon find his place in jeopardy (Picture: Bruce Rollinson)
Patrick Bamford could soon find his place in jeopardy (Picture: Bruce Rollinson)

The football Leeds play this season will not hit the heights of Bielsa’s three full campaigns but that could only ever have been otherwise had Guardiola somehow taken over. Like Bielsa’s boys at their best, this should be a very well-drilled squad, and a deeper one.

Five senior additions so far and only two key figures out points to learning the lessons of the skeletal squad whose many wounds Lady Luck repeatedly rubbed salt into last season.

As their new contracts this week underlined, Joe Gelhardt, Sam Greenwood and Crysencio Summerville will no longer be regarded as wearing L plates, and quite possibly the same will be true of Archie Gray, even though he is only 16.

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Orta’s recruitment beneath the surface holds the prospect of a bright future in years to come but only if the more immediate signings he and Marsch have made can keep a Premier League platform for them to prosper on in future.

Last season showed that will not be easy but whatever else Leeds lack in 2022-23, it should not be a clear plan.

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