Jesse Marsch, the Leeds United elephant in the room and the acid test to come

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Nine journalists and an elephant awaited Jesse Marsch in the Thorp Arch press room on Thursday afternoon.

Marsch has made it his habit to pre-empt the questions most likely to come his way with a pre-prepared statement of sorts.

Ordinarily it deals with the latest news from Rob Price and his medical team and while the injury blow to Adam Forshaw was big news for the American to break this time round, the elephant was actually something Marsch himself said in a previous interview.

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Knowing that it would crop up, if he did not bring it up, Marsch faced the issue head on.

“I haven’t spoken at all since the comments I made on talkSPORT about overtraining and Marcelo,” he began, addressing an issue that rankled a section of the Whites support.

Marsch’s revelation in an April 12 radio interview that he arrived at Leeds to find players who were overtrained garnered the kind of headlines he could and should have anticipated.

And having made himself aware of at least some of the fall-out, Marsch was keen to emphasise the respect with which he had previously addressed his predecessor.

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“I want to say that this was not intentional to attack Marcelo in any way,” he said.

CARELESS WHISPER - Jesse Marsch admitted his words about Leeds United being 'overtrained' were careless but he made clear how much respect he had for Marcelo Bielsa. Pic: GettyCARELESS WHISPER - Jesse Marsch admitted his words about Leeds United being 'overtrained' were careless but he made clear how much respect he had for Marcelo Bielsa. Pic: Getty
CARELESS WHISPER - Jesse Marsch admitted his words about Leeds United being 'overtrained' were careless but he made clear how much respect he had for Marcelo Bielsa. Pic: Getty

“It was a little bit careless and I can see how it was interpreted in that way, but it was more about the state of the player pool and what I had observed and trying to help take the team forward.

“I think you’d be hard pressed to find an incoming coach that has spoken more positively about the person he replaced in the way that I’ve spoken about Marcelo and it’s because I have major respect for him. I want to make sure that again, the respect for Marcelo that everyone understands that was at a very, very high level from me and from everyone here.”

It was a clarification, of sorts, but certainly not a retraction. On two other occasions as the press conference went on he made a point of giving Bielsa his dues.

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One of the main problems for Marsch was and will for some time be, that comparisons to Bielsa are only natural. The Argentine was never one to blame anything or anyone other than himself and Leeds fans liked that.

Marsch is different, of course, but he couldn’t be anything other than himself when he arrived at Elland Road because authenticity is a key weapon when battling the lingering shadow of a legend. Another is results and Marsch is doing just fine, taking 10 points from the last 12 available. Another still is the kind of football Leeds are going to play and how entertaining it is to watch.

On that front, Marsch’s team are very much a work in progress and it might not be until a decent chunk of next season has passed before authoritative comment can be passed.

When they take to Selhurst Park on Monday, however, 16 days will have passed since their last outing so the head coach has had another good spell in which to embed his ideas.

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The Crystal Palace clash is a chance to further endear himself and his footballing philosophy with the fans. He says the players are picking it up more quickly than any of his previous teams and will be keen to back up his words with on-field evidence.

“I say to the group a lot that they’re ahead of schedule for me,” he said.

“They’ve adapted really well – we’ve changed the way we train, the way we play the tactics, the way we interact here at Thorp Arch, they have to get used to my leadership style, my way of communicating and I can honestly say that I’ve never had a group that has adapted and given more than what they have. It’s a big compliment to the group we have here.

“I’m personally really excited for the match on Monday and I know our guys are ready to get back at it.”

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Leeds are still in a situation that makes results king and performances very much a secondary consideration, so Marsch’s era thus far can be judged favourably. If a ‘careless’ utterance in one interview, having conducted what feels like a plethora of interviews, is the worst that can be levelled at him then he’s off to a flier. The first test is keeping Leeds up and, as it stands, he’s passing it.

The acid test of comparison, when he has the squad and the team he wants, set up exactly how he wants it with a full pre-season under his belt, is yet to be taken. Proving his football can win games and entertain will leave no room for elephants.