"I'll start with the injury situation," Marsch began. "So Liam Cooper last time I said he was going to be ready to play and he trained and we thought he was going to be available and then he had a small little reaction leading up to the match. We all felt like it wouldn't be prudent for him to push himself with the possibility that we would lose him for the remaining games. So, I believe now he trained a bit yesterday, and I believe after that and now going into this next phase that he is better and he has less pain and I believe he will be available but we still have to go through day-by-day. Patrick Bamford is on the pitch, doing individual work, hopefully in team training by the end of the week, and doing fairly well so again it's another one that's day to day but we're all monitoring progress. and we're about on track so we'll so what that means going forward but he won't be available tomorrow and then the rest is all the same."
The team haven't been in the bottom three since October - have you worked with them to be positive in the last few games of the season?
Yeah, I mean that's definitely my way of leading and being positive. We had a talk yesterday, what's involved in the moment? I think if you look at the nine games I've been here there've been a lot of good performances, we've picked up points in a lot of matches. I think we've responded in many ways in what I'm trying to do with the group, we've stuck together, it hasn't been easy, but I said if this was the ninth game of the season and we went to Arsenal and went a man down it dug a big hole for ourselves. And second half, we played like that and found a way to get back in the game and almost were able to tie the match up, we would have taken in the ninth game of the season, we would have taken away as a big positive, but the situation that we're in means that there's stress. We're trying to manage that. And we have to accept the fact that we're in a situation, know that we have to stay strong. And we have to know that we have to play with no regrets and we have to make sure that we go after it. And we have to push down everything we can which the guys have already done and now on gameday we have to be a combination of pragmatic and clever and do whatever it takes to tactically be sharp and clear, to defend our goal and to find ways to be dangerous.
I'm sure you've seen that stat. Most yellow cards and the Premier League season. How important will discipline the ensure survival?
Yeah, so it's the yellow card thing you might say that because of Luke Ayling's situation as well. Let address Luke's situation you know for me, as much as people want to maybe draw stories of whatever they want about what the last years have been here at Leeds United, I think the Luke Ayling story is as much a definition of what this club has become as anything. Guys like him and Kalvin and Liam and Stuart who came from the Championship, who learned so much under Marcelo Bielsa and grew and helped this club become a Premiership team again and so, for me Luke is the definition of heart, fight, hard work, mentality, dedication - in every way he defines what we want this club to be about. And in one situation, he jeopardises all of that, that he's invested for himself and for the team. And so for me at the moment, of course I think about how this hurts us as a team, but honestly, I think more about Luke the person, how he has to deal with this moment, how he knows he's let the team down and he's not going to be available for these last matches. He's still gonna be massively in terms of making sure our group is strong and together and we are with him. I said after the match this is not the time for finger-pointing and blaming, this is the time for sticking together and believing in who we are and what we are, and so that's the way I've dealt with it. I've supported Luke, internally and externally as well. He's a massive part of everything that we do here. And I hope that our fans and supporters understand that as well.
When it comes to the conversation around relegation, do you think the fact that you went five unbeaten before Manchester City and Arsenal has been forgotten about a little bit?
No. Internally I think we know that we still have a good group and that we can manage the situations and even against the team like Chelsea, we believe we can get a result at home. We knew coming into these three matches with City, Arsenal and Chelsea , it was going to be very, very difficult to pick up points - and it has proved to be that like we knew it was. And so we still have so much to play for. So our focus is really on controlling every moment and being prepared for every moment. Credit to Burnley and Everton, credit to them. In a difficult moment, they've also fought for their lives and done whatever's possible to claw their way back into the situation and we'll do the same.
Erling Haaland is a player that you worked with, looks to be coming to the Premier League - what do you think he can bring?
Erling Haaland is destined to be one of the best players in the world. It's his quality but it's also his talent. I wish he were coming back home here to Leeds, this is his birthplace. But I understand the decision for him to go to Man City. It'll be interesting. He's an explosive player in transition and Man City often plays a lot in possession. He can play any style of play, but certainly I believe it makes Man City, one of the best teams in the world even better, so credit to them for getting that done and I always wish the best for Erling, he's an incredible human being.
Jamie Shackleton, do you see him as a natural fit in at right-back in the absence of Luke Ayling?
It's one of the possibilities. Jamie was hurt for a relatively long stretch since I've been here, but I've gotten to know him more and more. I've watched him with the 23s. I've also gone back and watched the games that he's played this year. And the moments that he's had on the pitch so I think he can potentially fit into that whether we play with four or five. We've also visited the possibility of playing one of our centre backs and also with Raphinha and Dan James who did that admirably in a five against Arsenal. I'm certainly not going to give away what we're going to do but Jamie is definitely in the mix.
Raphinha looked to be losing his head a little during the game, how do you get the best out of him?
First of all I like Raphinha's passion and mentality and his personality and desire to win and be a great player. He is a fantastic talent. We haven't gotten enough out of him. That's the truth. And so, you know, we've tried to find ways to play with him a little bit wider. We've tried to find ways for him to be in transition moments a little bit more. We've tried to find ways to get him around the goal more. Against these opponents, the best opponents it's not like we're going to be in the final third for you know, 50% of the game where we can really get them on the ball. So obviously that means getting him in transition and finding opportunities for getting around the goal in those moments is the way that he can be dangerous. Playing him at wing-back then doesn't always provide him the chance to be in those spaces but we'll figure out how to get him the ball more, how to get him in space more, how to get him on the move more, so that you can be dangerous and help the team.
Is there an element of this Chelsea game that makes you think you should go for it because goal difference is so far gone now?
Well, I think being pragmatic always in these matches against best opponents is important but also finding times to be aggressive, and especially at home, as we all know our fans don't want to see in our box for 90 minutes. So they want to see us be aggressive. They want to see they want to bring energy into the game and we want to do that. We want to be pragmatic in our ability to do that. We don't want to be careless, reckless, we want to be thoughtful, intelligent with our tactical plan and then our ability to be aggressive in the right moments. In the Man City match, as much as it was 4-0 and not successful on the day, we managed that part of it pretty well. And so how it fits for every opponent is a little bit different, but certainly again, we want to be aggressive at the right time, but then also intelligence and not open spaces for the opponent.
Jack Harrison said you used a quote from Gandhi prior to the Arsenal game - how do you motivate your players and why did you choose that?
Well, inspiration is a big part of this job. And when you lead people, you have to find ways to have your finger on the pulse of exactly what's happening at any moment. I have 52 articles, or excerpts from books that I sometimes give players when individually I think they need something that to motivate them based on where they are in their development path or who they are as people and how to reach them a little bit differently than just the conversations I have with them. And then I have hundreds of quotes that I use at different moments that I tried to think about how they fit with who I am and the way we try to play football and how it might fit in a scenario with where we are in a season, in a moment, in a time. I love quotes. I love learning from people in the past: sports figures, historical figures, whatever. And I think the key is understanding exactly what messages to use at the right time so that the players understand exactly how to handle moments. And here we are, you know in the stress of relegation, trying to stay strong with our belief, with our confidence, our commitment, with our mentality and so just trying to find ways to motivate, inspire our collective mentality so that we have the best chance to manage the moments that we're in. That's the way I look at that.
Dallas back at the training ground, Ayling suspended for the rest of the season - how do you use them to the best of their ability when they're not on the pitch.
Yeah, so I've already said the leadership council is Liam Cooper, Kalvin Phillips, Luke Ayling, Adam Forshaw, Rodrigo, Patrick Bamford, and Stuart Dallas. Five of those players have been injured so it's reduced our leadership core on the pitch to less and less. I've challenged all those guys to be around the team, to have their finger on the pulse of what's happening with the group, to be positive, to bring the kind of energy to our training ground every day, to make sure that everybody knows that in a difficult moment we're good and we've got this. And then it also means their ability to invest and challenge some of the other players I went through, it could be Robin Koch, it could be Diego Llorente, it could be Raphinha, it could be Dan James, it could be Klichy. It could be a lot of the different guys that still have big experiences that can still provide their voice, their personality, their confidence into what we are right now and then also to lead the younger guys to help them to understand how to be strong. So my idea of leadership is not about just the person that's in this role, it's about the entire group accessing their qualities and their ability to be the best version they can be in the most difficult times so that's where we are.
What's this situation like for you and your family?
I'm calm. I'm calm. Obviously, I'm so focused on exactly what we're doing. Right here, right now, but again, my vision was not 12 games from the beginning, my vision is over years and obviously, the first step of my vision is staying in the Premiership because I believe this club deserves it, I believe this club has earned it but we have to earn it in the moment right and so of course, that's all I think about but stress doesn't help and I know that's the situation that we're in. But our ability to remove that and go forward in the ways we want to and eliminate all the pressures of whatever it is. This is why I love our fans in the stadium, they get it. They're the ones that I see in the street that are positive with me and when the energy in the crowd at Arsenal or after the Man City game or during the Norwich game or whatever, this what pushes us, what I think will help us achieve our goal in the next three games, these people who are positive, who are behind us and they know how to express that every time we're in the stadium, so we will use that tomorrow night for sure.
What do you demand or expect from the supporters?
I don't expect or demand anything other than what I've already seen, which is love and positivity in that stadium at every moment to push us to where we want to go. I can promise to them that we're going to put a team on the pitch that is ready to go after it, that is confident, that represents the identity of what this fanbase is. I'm clear with that, clearer now than I think I've ever been in the time I've been here. We will make sure when we put a matchplan together, when we think about how we want to play on matchday that it represents those things.
Given the FA Cup Final at the weekend, is it a better time to be playing Chelsea?
Yeah, I can obviously see theoretically that it is a good time to play them. That was also a talking point playing Man City in between Real Madrid fixtures. A team like Chelsea they've been through a lot this year, they've had an ownership change on the back of winning a European championship, it's never easy to try and replicate that kind of success in the next season and there's pressures that come with that. They've had injuries. They've had a lot of fixture dates. They've had up and down form and they have a big match on the weekend. But that is a quality club with a quality manager, incredible players. They all know how to manage difficult situations. Who they bring, what their line-up is, it doesn't matter, we have to prepare for a team, that is very, very good, that will come here and play their best and we have to deliver our best.
How do you feel the players are standing up to the stress and what does being strong look like on the pitch?
The players are doing well, the moments after the disappointment in the last two games, it's obviously important for me to manage that effectively, to stay positive with them, to be encouraging with them to let them know that this is, again, not just about one match or two matches or three matches that that we continue to stay strong and that we fight until the very end and that we stay clear till the very end. And then it's about being aggressive against the ball about wanting the ball, about wanting to be in this moment, about knowing that we're good, about knowing that we're stronger together with our tactics with our group mentality, that those are the things that will reward us in the moment. I can say that the work on the pitch has got clearer and clearer and understanding of our principles and how we want to play has gotten better every week, every day. And then it's about now in a stressful situation and then against very good opponents in the stadium to execute. Right that's what it comes down to: clarity of execution, what we want the team to look like.
Do you have any examples of analysis you've shown the players of what you do like?
We have video analysis every day and it's always about principles, matchplans, roles, individuals or small groups. There's the group all together. In some ways I felt like the last three months I've been a video analyst more than a manager. My wife is tired of me sitting with my computer, that's for sure. It's important that I'm looking at every moment and sorting through the details and communicating and translating to the players exactly what I think is important for them to understand what their roles are on matchday. It's certainly not been perfect. I think it has to do with everything involved. I've been careful, not to overwhelm them. I've also been careful to understand that it's not going to be perfect and I've been careful to introduce less than more at the right times because I want them to still be free on matchday to go and plan but to do it with discipline and clarity. So, that balancing act for somebody who is detail orientated and sometimes a micromanager when it comes to these things, that balance is important for me to understand and to get right. That's what I'm trying to do every day.
Note you gave to Dan James at the end of the game vs Arsenal - what was that about?
We just changed the tactical look. The second half was almost exactly the way I wanted it to go. Where we were tight. We made it difficult. We were dangerous on a couple of transition moments. Could we get a goal of a set piece and then as the game went on, we could rearrange to be tactically more dangerous and see from the last five, ten, fifteen minutes if we could poach one more goal and we just switched Dan up top to a 4-3-2 at the end of the match so that's what that was, with a couple of instructions. The benefit of COVID was playing in empty stadiums, you could communicate with players more - I don't think the players like that. I think they like playing in front of fans, and I think they like listening to their manager less. Which is the truth, like game day isn't for managers. It's more for players, but just trying to execute a plan which I thought again the second half, if you say a man down and we played Arsenal, and we won that half 1-0 you'd say well done.
Speculation about Raphinha - is there danger he might be distracted?
Not at all. I see a person that is 100% invested in what we're doing here. I mean his emotion which someone already talked about, it could be interpreted as a lack of discipline. I look at it as total investment. He wants more than anything to ensure that this club stays where it belongs. That part for me has been no talking point or thought at all. He's all in.
Referred to the leadership council and how many you have missing, how important is it for other players to step up?
For me. It's for me the job is individually to help each player to develop and grow and get better. And then as a group to manage that, so that the individual projects add up to more within the group project. And that the sum of the parts is bigger than the whole. I could use a lot of examples of guys that I think in my time here have already grown massively. That's something that certainly in a difficult situation, I think makes me proud to see that the connection I've had with the team and with individuals and the way that they've responded and their growth has added up to making a difference. So that's really my philosophy as a football coach is trying to use the platform of football to help people develop and become bigger.
Which other historical figures do you look up to for leadership?
So many, so many. I've used Muhammad Ali a few times with the group. Michael Jordan is a guy that I'm inspired by, Phil Jackson. I'd start dating myself if I went back to Vince Lombardi and Johnny Unitas, there's a lot, I've used in the past, I've used the 1998 French football team, I've used the 2008 basketball team, the Road to Redemption gold medal team in China. For me I love basketball culture, in America, it's phenomenal. The way they combine inner-city kids with university graduates, with incredible mentors and history of the sport is amazing. I use things that resonate with me that I think can also fit within the standing of where we are and then there's also historical figures like Gandhi, like Mother Teresa, like Presidents like JFK and different people along the way that have meant something historically as to where we are right now. I like to read about those things. I like leadership books, I was a history major at university but those are boring conversations, let's get back to football.