Everything Jesse Marsch said on Leeds United’s striker battle and Kalvin Phillips emotion

Leeds United head coach Jesse Marsch shared his thoughts with the press today ahead of Saturday’s Premier League opener with Wolves

Thursday, 4th August 2022, 2:51 pm

Jesse Marsch is looking forward to the new Premier League campaign as he embarks on his first full season as Leeds United head coach.

The American shared his pre-match thoughts with the media on Thursday afternoon ahead of Saturday’s encounter with Bruno Lage and his Wolves side.

Marsch defeated the Portuguese manager not long into his tenure as Leeds boss, coming back from two goals down to win 3-2 in March this year.

He is expecting just as stern a test on August 6 when the Whites welcome Lage’s men to Elland Road, hoping to make a better start of this campaign compared to last year at Old Trafford.

Here’s everything the head coach said on Thursday afternoon.

“Let me go through a few things with us personnel wise,” Marsch began. “So Dan James, if we can remember is suspended one more match. So he will be out this weekend, he will be playing 90 minutes tomorrow night in the 21s match. And that was by his request, so I think that's incredible, really good professionalism from him to know that getting 90 minutes is good for him. Then let's go through some injuries. Liam Cooper has had an Achilles issue from his offseason programme and running on a treadmill and it's taken him a long time to get back into training. This week, he's been on the pitch doing individual work finally, but he will not be available this weekend. But we're hopeful by next week, he's in team training. Junior Firpo has had a scan today and he is ahead of schedule where we hoped, so we can be more aggressive with him. But I would say he's still probably two-three weeks away from being match eligible. Adam Forshaw has made really good progress with a little bit of a knee MCL issue. It's not a pure MCL strain. It's a little different than that, but we're hopeful that he will be training next week. Luke Ayling has made a lot of progress after his surgery and is ahead of schedule. We're trying not to pressure him too much. But he's showing really positive signs and hopeful that he can be in training in a couple of weeks. Luis was on the pitch today, Sinisterra, and looking very good. He's getting closer and closer to his top speed. So I would assume that he will be in training next week and hopefully available for the weekend after, let's see. Stuart Dallas has made really good progress and has had a couple of check-ups after the severe surgery and they feel like he's right on track and that he's looking better and better, so that's a good sign. Let's talk about Mateusz Bogusz, he has been working incredibly hard and has also been on the pitch and we're hopeful that in a few weeks he can be in team training. So this maybe becomes an option. I need to get to know him better and see him with our team but it's exciting that he's coming back strong. And then I'm not sure if everyone heard about Dani van den Heuvel, but he had a car accident with the U20s in Holland. And it was a pretty severe neck injury where he broke some vertebrae. And so we were really worried about him. Not even as a football injury but as a life situation, but he's showing really good progress. He's back in the gym. And we'll be ramping him up over time, but it's probably a couple of months before he'll be eligible to be training and be ready to go so that's the full list of our sort of surrounded team. Few surgeries from the past but then a couple of injuries that we've just picked up along the way but again in two-three weeks, we feel like a lot of these guys will be back on the pitch and ready to start playing.”

Could we see a new look Leeds United under you this season?

Jesse Marsch has spoken to the media ahead of Saturday's game versus Wolverhampton Wanderers (Photo by Daniel Carson/Getty Images)

Well I think we've been able to use the time in preseason to work in a little bit more stress-free environment. Obviously there's always pressures to improve and grow and we know once the season starts that the games demand the absolute best from you. But yeah, I mean we've been able to invest heavily in tactics that we we think are important set piece ideas, to the idea of like what we want this environment to be like from from a team perspective, from a day to day work perspective. From a physical [perspective] you know, we've even made some adjustments of what's going on here at Thorp Arch, to really just be more efficient and clean with everything we do. So, of course, when new managers come in, they bring a lot of new ideas and new styles of play and everything. I think that we have made incredible progress in the last six weeks. And I think that yeah, we're going to see a better version of what I would like us to be on matchday, which is exciting for me, and certainly some of the additions have been important for that but I think also the players that have been here have now had more time to work more intensively and minutely on the details, so that we can now transform ourselves into what we want to be.

You've sold arguably your two biggest name players, two of your best performers in recent years. Do you feel you've got enough within the squad that other players can can step up and take the mantle?

Yes, we know we lost two great players, but that has allowed us to bring in I think 6, 7, 8 other players that can help us even more precisely play the version of football that we want to play. It was great working with Kalvin and Raphinha and I'm very thankful for the time that I had with them and the way they committed to everything that we did here, but I think we'll use the situation to make us stronger. I really believe that.

What is your take on the way the club have backed you now, you sold those two players for big money and as you see that you've brought in what six, seven new additions?

Well listen, it was easy for me to see from the first day that I came in that for that the club and the people here at Thorp Arch and Elland Road had supported Marcelo 100% all in, they did everything they could and that was from support staff to coaching staff to a players, everyone. And so I took that as a real positive and opportunity for myself. And I can only say that, obviously I think you're referencing our transfer politics, but I think even more so if you were here to see the work that's done every day from day one, I've never felt so supported in my life. So it's a real credit to the people of this club and this club in general, that that's the situation.

Are you looking to add in the striker department still?

I don't want to go too much into the transfer situation because it takes away attention from the group that we have here right now. What I said at the end of the game and Cagliari when we had our little group together what I said is we've done a really good job with the group with the guys that we've brought in so far. And I think we're really trying to again be very precise with exactly who we want and and and what we need for the next steps in this transfer window. So we have some time. I think we'll probably make

one addition next week. And then we're we're continuing to look at what else is out there.

We're asking all managers ahead of the new season. Premier League statement yesterday said that players, the captains have all met and decided they won't continue to take the knee before every game, just doing certain games. What is your take on that as a manager?

I love the fact that there's been an appreciation of diversity in our sport, which I think is our sport is the most unique of any in the world. It's not just racial, it's international. It's cultural. It's religion. It's everything. Like when you become a manager in this business, you have to have an open mind to what it's like and you have to love it. You have to love to work with people in different kinds of people. And the key is to make our differences to make us stronger, not weaker. And I've always tried to emphasise that. So whether we take a knee or not, I know here we have massive appreciation for all of the differences in the different kinds of people we have and we enjoy that. And I'm American, that's a big part of our culture and who we are anyway. So in general this league is at the forefront of so many things, like the LMA is to me an amazing, established organisation that supports the managers for life. I think the player pool and the unions and the togetherness of how they work, how they think. I think taking a knee was absolutely the right thing. I think the referee organisations are fantastic. I mean, the league is for me at the forefront of any league in the world in all of these areas. So it's a privilege to be here, and I'm excited about the future.

How productive have your meetings been with Andrea, particularly on the transfer front?

Yeah, I think we're already excited about what's been done and I've expressed almost daily my appreciation to Andrea for his support that when we've made plans that he's carried them out, and invested heavily. And so now we're just again, we're trying to be prudent. We were very sure in every transfer that we attacked in this window and then now we're just trying to really evaluate the team carefully to make sure that whatever addition we make that it fits the way that these these others have already done.

So the money's there for a significant signing?

Yeah, I mean, yeah, I think every manager wants more money. That's not a big secret and I've always said good players make good managers, not the other way around. But we really like our team and I think we will be intelligent with how we add here

in the next weeks

Can I ask about the goalkeeping situation. Kristoffer Klaesson has a bit of a knock doesn't he, will he be available to be on the bench?

I didn't include him [in the injury round-up at the beginning]. He has had a little bit of an ankle injury but it's not enough to not consider he'll be available for tomorrow or Saturday.

Do you think there is an argument to have maybe a more established keeper?

Absolutely. Absolutely, there's an argument for that but again, the key is to get the right kind of person because Marcos has created a really - Marcos Abad our goalkeeper coach - has created a really good environment with his goalkeepers and I think we we think very highly of not just Illan but Kris as well. And anyone we bring in we have to be very clear as to what the expectations are, what the role is, and then to make sure that that person will strengthen us and not necessarily create friction within that young goalkeeper corps. So, you know, I think we're close to making a decision on that and I think it'll be someone who does exactly that makes us stronger,

And how does it feel not having that stress and different pressure from last year?

It's a fair question. I mean, listen it's not a relegation battle, but I know the games are so damn good, like the opponent's like my my respect of Wolves. And to be fair in the first half we played at Wolves we had a really good first for me 12-15 minutes but then they they commanded the game with, with their quality with their tactics, with their ability to move the ball. And we were a little bit lucky to turn the match the way we did and you know, we had a fortuitous red card, but I just you know, you can call it stress. You can call it pressure. It's just the league is so good. And it demands the absolute best out of you as a manager and as a team. And so I'm just totally focused on everything to try to get our team ready to have a good first step in the season and do everything we can to put ourselves in the best position to have a really strong season and feel very confident about who we are and what we're trying to achieve

And on the opposition, they look like they're gonna play a different way with four at the back. What are you expected from them on Saturday?

Yeah, they've changed a little bit in preseason, to four in the back with him and Jimenez being out it's made them also kind of retool some of the things that they've done. They've played Podence a little bit more in the striker position, and we'll see, he'll be on the pitch but whether he plays in that role or a different kind of role, but I think that their manager is very intelligent has a lot of good tactical ideas, and they have an incredible player pool. Their players are good in tight spaces, are really intelligent. They fit well together. They defend really well, one of the best defending teams if not the best defending team last year in the Prem and then they still can unbalance you with the way they move the ball. So it challenges you in every phase of the game. I think we can really get an edge on set pieces and we have to be really strong and clear with what our goals are in that phase of the game come Saturday but a big challenge, one that we're excited for and and let's go let's get started.

Obviously the team sailed close to the wind last season, just about survived. So you have to be pragmatic as a manager when you came here with that particular job. So now having a full preseason. What does your Jesse Marsch Leeds team look like this season?

Well, listen, there was a lot of talk that that wasn't exactly the way we wanted to play it. Yeah, it wasn't but we made steps along the way. And we introduced a lot of new topics and tactics. And we challenged the players to adapt quickly, but we didn't throw a million things at them. We wanted to be just good at the simple things. We wanted to adjust some things defensively, we wanted to be harder to play against. But you know, it wasn't anywhere near a finished product at the end of last year, but it allowed us to I think start the process of this season. affirmatively and clearly and even when I talked about the idea was me to come in the summer I don't think we'd be where we are as a team right now if I would have come in summer versus when I did come, so I'm thankful that we're ahead of schedule. I'm thankful that the players have adapted really well. And I'm thankful that we've brought in the right kinds of players to add to what we have and I'm hopeful that this team will be really strong.

Do you have to manage expectations from your fans? What's the aim?

It's too early to start talking about goals, but you know, certainly we want to finish better than we did last year and I think the key in that is just to have a good start. You know, I'm really happy that we play the first match at home in front of our fans. I know there'll be anticipation, but there'll be support. I know that. And so we have to come out and play on the front foot. I think we have to play aggressively and I think we have to play well with quality, with confidence, to honour what the fans are going to bring to the stadium and to honour what we believe is going to be a good year for us.

How important was it for Patrick to last the full 90 against Cagliari and how has he reacted physically and mentally?

Yeah, massive, it's been a huge week for him. He looks great. He looks fit. He looks strong, he looks sharp. The good thing as well as is now having Patrick closer and closer to 100% is we've actually been able to work through what tactically we want him to look like. And I thought the way he played against Cagliari was very good and in the vein of the direction that we want him to go. So I believe that there's a lot of room for improvement for Patrick as a player and that's our goal is to help him to be more dangerous, to score more goals, to be a better pressing player, to be more complete. But he looks great. He looks fit. He's psychologically incredibly excited. And I know we have a great player on our hands and then he's only going to get better. Is he at 100%? Probably not quite yet, but he's really really close.

And who is his competition in the squad now?

Yeah, I think his support - I would call it more support than competition - would be is that we're going to need Joffy to come off the bench at times to help him. I think we can play with both of them at times. I think Rodrigo can play as a striker as well. We know that's not Dan's preferred position, but there's different ways where we can play with nine, half nine, two strikers, central 10 There's different flexibility we can have at different times.

Jesse, the left back situation has been one of the big conversations we've had across the entire preseason period. Seems like we've settled on Pascal, can you tell us about the quality he brings there and exactly how comfortable you feel playing with him. in competitive games with Junior still three or four weeks away?

Yeah, I mean, it's not his natural position. But Pascal still is mobile enough. He's intelligent, he's technically good. Yeah, he understands the tactics. It gives us a little even more flexibility that if we want to build with three if we want to build with four and in the last matches, I think his flexibility and his positioning has been quite good. You know, we've worked a lot with him show him a lot of videos talked a lot about different phases of the game and what we want it to look like. He helps us on set pieces by being a little bit bigger. He helps us defend a little bit harder in and around the box. So there's benefits actually to having Pascal on the pitch in this position. And I think he's taken it on that way. And I think he's ready for a big season and to show that he can play in that position quite well.

Spoke about Rene Maric on Sunday after the game how much of an impact have you already made on the training pitch? So what does he come in and try to bring in immediately?

Yeah, he's been great. He's been kind of in and around a lot of the discussions already. He's watched all the matches, and we've had interaction after each match about a lot of different things. And tactics and ideas of what we're trying to accomplish. When he's here, internally and working more closely with us, he can see my way of working and thinking and then he's really good at adapting to what that that is and then brings his own ideas. We've had Frankie Schiemer in as well this week. So we've had our kind of our full complement of staff and support system to make sure that we're prepared for a good start to the season. Rene and I have never worked intensively together, but we share a lot of the same education I think in a lot of the same concepts of of the foundation of what we want as a playing model, and then it's just about the nuances of what we can get out of our player pool and what each game will require and what each opponent will require

Jesse, Kalvin was such a big personality big part of the team. Was it important that you didn't sort of directly try to replace him with just a different midfielder next year?

Yeah, I still had contact with Kalvin. We're really excited for his new opportunity. Last week I drove through the city and I saw the mural of Kalvin, you know, it got me a little emotional, because I know what he means to this fan base and this community and not having him in our kit is not so easy to accept, but moving forward we knew that it wasn't going to be about replacing Kalvin with one player or two players, and more just about continuing the process of what we wanted to achieve in that position on the pitch with the way we want to play. I think that as a starting point, first, a lot of the players that we've had here have adapted more and more and more, including Adam Forshaw into what we need in that position. And then I think Tyler Adams and Mark Roca, the balance of who they are and how they complement each other and how they understand what we want the game to look like I think fits really well for where we're at right now. And those two, for me both have still much more room for improvement and have both been very good in preseason. So we still feel you could also include Darko, you could include Archie as guys who I think are going to see playing time in that position over the season because I think those two still have a lot of qualities as well.

And just in front with regards to Brenden Aaronson. I spoke to Brendan Burke, who's known him pretty much all his footballing life. And he said he thought he'd start in the Premier League as a wide player and graduate to number 10. How do you sort of see his development?

Yeah, I think he can be effective and actually, he even talked about the striker position. It's not necessarily naturally what he does, but he could play like a false nine or nine and a half position as well. Brenden's work ethic is different than probably any player I've ever known. His ability to cover ground and his intelligence and ability to adapt is one of the best I've ever seen. So you have the league demands, like I said already, demands the best from people. And it will demand the best from Brenden and and he will know that physically he will have to manage some situations. I think coming from wide situations and coming in and moving into the middle, it suits him maybe a little bit more physically, but he's intelligent enough to know that anywhere he plays in the front along our front four that he knows how to find space. He knows how to challenge opponents in behind and he's clever in tight spaces and he's good around the goal. So he has a lot of good qualities and he's been good in preseason. I know he's gonna get better.

How do you manage the balance between using Bamford as much as you need to while also pushing Gelhardt because he looks very ready to push?

Yeah, I think they will dictate that more than anything. You know if Patrick is fit and strong and healthy, which we're thinking he can be then Patrick will play a lot of minutes. But I also have to be cautious of the fact that he hasn't played a lot in the last 10 months and not kill him from the beginning more than physically I've put them in danger of picking up little things. Joffy, the more he pushes himself and the more he takes advantage of every minute he's on the pitch and continues to show his quality and understanding of what we want the game to look like then he's going to obtain more minutes and he'll be rewarded. And then Rodrigo is still a big piece of that puzzle. And for me, Rodrigo has made big progress in the last weeks as well and, and obviously the performance he had on the weekend was quite good. So you know, it's that's where you talk about healthy competition, and guys pushing each other and I think we have that more in our squad right now. And it's brought the best out of guys, you know, it's my job to to create an environment that does bring the best out of them and doesn't challenge them to act more selfishly and I'm trying to get that balance right every day with opportunities with what training's like with how we treat everybody and to let everybody know that their development path is important to what we're trying to achieve here.

Just weighing up the players who've gone against the players who've come in. Do you think your strongest line-up is better than last season?

Yes, I believe our strongest lineup is better and stronger than it was last season and mostly because there's more clarity as to the way we want to play the game.

Jesse you're talking about driving past the mural, what were your emotions and was it sadness, regret?

I don't know how much I want to go into this. But when I started, when I knew I wanted to be a coach, I thought it would be about tactics and competitiveness. And what I realised more and more is that the role of the father figure took the more prominent position in the way that I lead and it was mostly because I care for people. And I've said before for me this is a people business. In a stressful time, in a stressful 12 weeks, all of us invested in everything we had and there's along with that comes a real I think affection for the people and for the situation and a fondness to the fact that we did it together, that we really achieved our goal of last year, we did it. It wasn't any one person it was really a group and and everybody sacrificed everything they had to try to get there and so yeah, when I see the mural of Kalvin, it's hard not seeing him here every day. And it's hard not being attached with a young man that you really liked that you think has high potential and that you want to really see be successful and and so now I just have to do it a little bit more from afar and can see him in an ugly colour of blue.

Jesse, Liverpool assistant Pep Lijnders was talking about five substitutes and how it can be both used as a weapon but also to protect the players and was just wondering how you think it's gonna affect Leeds?

I mean there's there's no secret that I've been behind it. There's no secret that I like to play with power and speed and intensity. And the more that we can interject that into games, I think it can be a benefit for us. But obviously other teams are going to try to use that to gain strategies to benefit them as well but for me just in terms of now really pushing the game at every minute. I'm really excited and it gives - for me it's a development thing where we can develop a theme or we can give more players chance and minutes on the pitch to grow, to show that they're ready to learn, to adapt. And then yeah, from a from a strategical tactical perspective, I think it's a way to use more formations based on what is happening within the game and to also use more players within formations to try to manipulate opponents.