'It could take a little while' - ex-Leeds United man on Jesse Marsch's striker injury crisis

Former Leeds United defender Tony Dorigo writes exclusively for the Yorkshire Evening Post as Jesse Marsch finds himself in another potential injury crisis.
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On Saturday Jesse Marsch said they wanted to help Joe Gelhardt get into some kind of rhythm and it felt like this might be his time to really break through.

We are desperately in need of that kind of player and, to be fair to ‘Joffy’, every time he’s come on he has looked like he will make something happen. He’s so positive, strong, skilful and you just want to see him progress, learn and get more minutes.

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Under Marcelo (Bielsa), it was a little frustrating because, after Tottenham away, a game in which he played and did well, we thought he would get a lot more minutes but he got next to no minutes at all.

Marsch has tried to integrate him and brought him on in all but one of his games in charge.

Against Southampton, Gelhardt once again made a difference so it’s a shame he’s picked up another niggle. Hopefully it won’t keep him out for too long. With dead legs, it depends how bad they are really; sometimes you can run through it to a point but, if there’s a lot of bruising in there, it could take a little while.

The striker role is a bit of a problem area for Leeds United and, unfortunately, the best solution was sitting next to me on Saturday. Patrick Bamford was commentating on the game, not where we want him to be. We all know how good he is as a striker but, as a commentator, he’s got a little work to do yet! He was in good spirits, though. I really felt for him at Wolves when the camera kept panning to him and he was so emotional. During my career, the worst periods were always those when you were injured. This season, with things going badly, if you’re the main goalscorer and you can’t help, it must tear you apart. He’s nice and positive about getting back, we really enjoyed his company but, hopefully, we’ll be commentating on him instead of with him as soon as possible.

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With him out, the next-best solution is to have Gelhardt up top and Rodrigo playing the role he’s now doing so well. I thought he was great on Saturday in that space in between a striker, staying up top, and the midfield is where Rodrigo can roam left and right, get on the ball and show how good he is at turning to get us going forward. At times, we found him really well on Saturday and, more often than not, he played the right ball at the right time. You certainly need a striker who plays right up top and, if Gelhardt isn’t playing, it’s a tough one. Unfortunately, you have to use a player who isn’t a natural centre-forward to plug the gap.

DEAD LEG - Joe Gelhardt limped out of the Leeds United Under 23s game against Crystal Palace on Monday night at Elland Road with what the club believe is a dead leg. Pic: Jonathan GawthorpeDEAD LEG - Joe Gelhardt limped out of the Leeds United Under 23s game against Crystal Palace on Monday night at Elland Road with what the club believe is a dead leg. Pic: Jonathan Gawthorpe
DEAD LEG - Joe Gelhardt limped out of the Leeds United Under 23s game against Crystal Palace on Monday night at Elland Road with what the club believe is a dead leg. Pic: Jonathan Gawthorpe

Before Saturday’s game, we would have taken a point but, as it progressed, with the way we played early on and having gone a goal up, we really would have wanted to go on and win the game. There was a little bit of disappointment; the boys will be disappointed not to see it out at home. There’s an understanding there, it’s coming together more and more under Marsch and we look less open - we don’t look like conceding four or five goals.

We look closer together when we have the ball and, the way we hunt the ball down, in packs, is different to the one-on-one system we had. Bamford was saying it’s like throwing a net over the opposition. When the right-back gets the ball and takes a touch or two, suddenly there are two or three players coming in to close down his options.

Kalvin Phillips and Liam Cooper coming back was great to see. To think of the length of time Cooper has been out, for him to play like that was really impressive. I really had missed that 60-yard ball that Phillips played out to the right-hand side to put Luke Ayling in on goal. When he gets on the ball in that quarter-back style and suddenly ‘bang’ it’s out wide and we’re in with a chance, it’s so great to see. There were a lot of positives and, crucially in the context, another point towards safety.

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Style-wise Marsch has to make sure he has the players to play his system. When Bielsa wanted a certain player, he would tell Victor Orta of the attributes the player needed and Marsch will no doubt be the same. Has he got the right players to play the exact way he wants? That’s something for him to work out in this period before the summer. He has to be clear on that to build the squad he wants for next season. There’s plenty at stake for lots of players for lots of reasons.

Taking seven points before the next game, which is such a big one, has helped us to breathe more easily but Watford are a funny side. I watch them at times and think they look shocking and then they look like they have real ability and you wonder how they’ve done it. The game at Elland Road was really shocking because the attitude of the Watford players was so poor. No matter how talented you are, if you don’t show the willingness to work for each other you won’t win games. Clearly the manager has changed but Roy Hodgson has a big job to get them out of it. It’s a Watford side with a fragile confidence but you have to be wary, we have to be at our best. If we are, with our spirit, we can be very positive.

I always thought, from a long way out, that there would be at least three teams worse off than Leeds and I still see that. It’s not something to take for granted, of course, but the pressure is mounting on those sides. It’s all very well saying that Burnley know how to do it, they’ve been down there before, but, at some point, you find that you can’t keep doing it. They’re finding it difficult and so are Everton for the opposite reason because they’re not used to being down there and they’re struggling for results to find a way out. I see at least three being below Leeds come the end of the season and, for the bottom three, it will be very difficult indeed. Now it is all about results and we just need to keep picking them up.