Jesse Marsch saying just enough to make Leeds United point without falling into boardroom trap
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The American's ability to give a mean press conference was not lost on the media when he first arrived on these shores. Long answers full of honesty and soundbites make for columns filled to the very last line and clips that will attract the modern day journalistic currency - engagement.
It made for a little trouble, too, because with Leeds fighting relegation and living on their last nerve, it was points the people wanted, not positive mantras or proclamations of belief.
There was no patience at all for his suggestions that the players were on their last legs and in his view 'overtrained' because even though his comments were perfectly believable, it felt to some like an interloper taking aim at a defenceless, fallen family member.
Marsch's problem was that he walked into a club somewhat at odds with itself, a fanbase spoiling for a fight with whoever was to blame for the threat of relegation hanging over them.
His other problem was his honesty. But now that he's kept Leeds in the Premier League and presided over what was a largely wholesome and restorative summer, Marsch's words strike a different chord - not because he has changed his attitude or approach, but the audience has.
And as the great striker hunt of 2022 has seen the club getting a little tangled up in the thickets of at least two failed pursuits and seemingly contradictory messaging, Marsch has continued to sound the horn for what he thinks and feels.
All summer long he has consistently intimated his desire to have another striker through the door, even going so far as to address Hwang Hee-chan's place on the wishlist after the 1-1 draw with Everton.
The plan when he walked into the media room, after breaking off a conversation with Radrizzani in the corridor deep under the West Stand, was to be quick. There was a long delay before his post-Everton press conference. “I’ll give short answers, for once,” he joked as he sat down to face the media.
But multiple transfer questions were as inevitable as his willingness to answer them in full, including that revelation of just how long the Wolves striker has been a target.
There was no attempt to conceal the desperation for Patrick Bamford to be fit enough to start , in the wake of an injury to Rodrigo that provided all the evidence needed for Marsch’s summer striker theory.
“Hopefully Saturday,” Marsch laughed, wryly.
Where CEO Angus Kinnear felt the need to clear up and explain in detail the club's position, prior to the match and Rodrigo's shoulder injury, there could be no mistaking Marsch's position. It became obvious when the idea of adding a left-back was abandoned, because the head coach started to talk more definitively about the options already at the club. That simply hasn’t been the case when it comes to his striker hope.
At times his press conference utterances have been all that has kept alive fans' hopes of seeing one more arrival and kept the story ticking over on social media or the back pages.
Unlike Scott Parker, though, who fell into one of football’s most perilous boardroom traps, it cannot be said that the American has isolated himself from the pack or sung dangerously from a different hymn sheet.
At every opportunity Marsch has accompanied his honesty on the need for a fourth forward with praise and gratitude for majority owner Andrea Radrizzani and the club's decision makers.
More than once he has reiterated that everyone at Elland Road is on the same page and that he likes the squad that has been put together.
Two things can be true at once, of course. The recruitment work completed to date, thanks to investment made possible by the sales of Kalvin Phillips and Raphinha, looks pretty spot on.
In Tyler Adams and Brenden Aaronson Leeds have recruited midfielders who, on admittedly limited evidence, look for all the world Premier League operators. One is a defensive smotherer and the other a final third menace.
Marc Roca still needs time to adjust to the physical demands of the English top flight yet has an air of class about him on the ball and a tenacity off it. And Luis Sinisterra showed against Everton that he, like Aaronson, can be a real difference maker.
Marsch likes the team because there's a lot to like. Players who predated the head coach are shining just as brightly as the shiny new additions and the togetherness seen on the beaches and training grounds in Australia has been further evidenced by the one in, all in attitude to on-field confrontations.
Mateusz Klich, who the club considered a transfer window flight-risk given his World Cup aspirations and new-found impact sub status, has been operating with a smile on his face and playing good football. He, perhaps better than anyone, sums up the greater strength in depth possessed by the Whites.
So if, and as last night showed it's a gargantuan if, Leeds can keep everyone fit and well then they will likely have more than enough to stay up.
They have been competitive in every game and could actually be in double figures already.
Eight points was seen, at Elland Road, as an obtainable and perfectly acceptable tally from these games before a ball was kicked and few will argue that it has given Marsch a platform to build a far better season than the one that preceded it.
But the body of work in this transfer window cannot be considered complete and should Marsch wake up on Friday morning with the same squad that did his bidding at Thorp Arch on Thursday, he will not have been given all that he wanted.
Should that be the case, do not expect an attack on the owners or any kind of rant, because a head coach who was happy to take another man's team into the final throes of a relegation fight is a head coach who will happily make do with this deeper, stronger squad. If asked, however, and you can bet that he will be, he'll say just enough.