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Premier League - Football: Marsch the man to take Leeds forward

Leeds United have wasted little time in finding their successor to Marcelo Bielsa, with Jesse Marsch drafted in to guide the Whites to safety.

Bielsa was sacked on Sunday after the previous day's 4-0 home defeat against Tottenham, a result that marked Leeds' fourth Premier League defeat in a row.

Marsch takes over a side sitting 16th in the table, two points clear of the relegation places.

However, with both 17th placed Everton and Burnley in 18th having two games in hand on them, he will need to hit the ground running, starting on Saturday against Leicester.

Leeds are 16/5 to win that game and 4/9 not to be relegated but with a repeat of last season's finish of ninth in the table out of the question, the next three months are all about Premier League survival.

Who is Jesse Marsch?

There will inevitably be those around the game simply asking 'Jesse, who?'

The 48-year-old had been tipped as a potential successor to Bielsa had the Argentine decided against extending his deal at Elland Road in the summer and was available having been sacked by RB Leipzig in December last year.

The American lasted just five months in Saxony but had impressed in previous roles, winning the MLS' Supporters' Shield while in charge of New York Red Bulls, before leading Red Bull Salzburg to successive Austrian Bundesliga and Austrian Cup doubles.

Things may not have worked out at his third club within the Red Bull stable, and the reputation of those sides explains why Leeds were keen.

Marsch's teams play football akin to Bielsa's ideas of the game and are likely to play with vibrancy and verve, a combination that will be welcomed by the LS11 crowd.

Injury issues set to ease

That said, you cannot play that kind of football without the right kind of players and injuries and a lack of numbers made life extremely tough for Bielsa.

The Argentine's insistence on utilising a small squad and dipping into the youth ranks, rather than buying in depth, meant he often had to be creative with his selection policy.

At one stage in the season, Leeds were without 10 players through injury but kept attacking their opposition, albeit to limited success.

England internationals Kalvin Phillips and Patrick Bamford, 10/1 to be in England's World Cup 2022 squad, have both spent long spells on the sidelines, while captain Liam Cooper has also been absent, all of them with hamstring injuries.

All three having similar fitness problems may not be a coincidence and the abundance of such issues has been attributed to the intensity of Bielsa's training regime.

The good news is that all three are expected back this month and being able to call on the Cooper-Phillips-Bamford spine could prove crucial to Leeds' survival push.

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Marsch likely to target key games

Leeds won 3-1 at the King Power last season, a result that is 33/1 to be repeated on Saturday, and a positive outcome against Leicester will set them up for home games against Aston Villa and bottom club Norwich City.

The Whites then travel to Watford on 9th April with Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal on the agenda in April and May, it may come down to their final two matches.

In an ideal world for Leeds, Brighton may have little to play for when they visit Elland Road on 15th May, and a positive result will set them up for a potential showdown at Brentford on 22nd May.

The Bees currently sit 15th in the table but, after a solid start to their first top-flight season since 1946/47, have slipped up in recent months and have won just once in the Premier League in 2022, with them now 2/1 to be relegated.

Long-term goals

While Premier League survival is the immediate target, Marsch may still be around next term if they fail to survive, having signed a contract until June 2025.

Marsch's experience of working within the Red Bull organisation shows he knows how to coach attacking, exciting football, and is happy to implement a process to help work toward long-term targets and goals.

After 16 years outside of the Premier League, establishing themselves as top-flight regulars, even if that means rebuilding for a season in the Championship, is paramount for a club representing a city region that is second only to Greater London in terms of population in the United Kingdom.

Marsch will likely be more open to transfers and is thought to have a pre-existing relationship with director of football Victor Orta so might be more open to adding to his squad.

The Leeds supporters will be hoping Marsch's stint is more successful than that of fellow American Bob Bradley, who lasted just 11 games at Swansea during the 2016/17 campaign.

However, there is no hiding the size of his task, taking over a side who have collected just one point from their last six games and conceded 20 goals in their last five.

For all the questions regarding the latter weeks of Bielsa's reign, few would argue against the notion that he performed miracles with a squad that had finished 13th in the Championship the season before his arrival.

On current form, the Whites will need similar magic from Marsch if they are to avoid a return to the second tier.

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