Jesse Marsch training complaints ignore precious Marcelo Bielsa inheritance that Leeds United survival depends upon

Leeds United fans were divided in their response to Whites boss Jesse Marsch’s observation that his players were negatively impacted by ‘over-training’ under former coach Marcelo Bielsa.

By Flora Snelson
Thursday, 14th April 2022, 6:00 am

The comments opened up a split between supporters who feel Marsch is right – ‘and why shouldn’t he say so’ – and those who feel his comments did a disservice to the respected ex-manager.

Either way, Marsch has earned his right to pass comment on Bielsa’s way of doing things since, so far, his own way of doing things is yielding the results that the Argentine failed to achieve.

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Later in his contentious talkSport interview, the former RB Leipzig boss distinguished the Bundesliga – a “coach’s league”, where managers manipulate players “like chess pieces” – from the English game, which is characterised by the mentality and fight of the footballers on the pitch.

As Marsch makes his first forays into the Premier League, he wants to combine the two approaches. “I try to do both,” Marsch said. “I want to have a manager that has a distinct plan and a tactical model on the pitch, but I also want a team that goes out, fights for everything, believes in each other, runs for each other, and wants to do everything to get the result on the day.”

The retention of the ‘core group’ who fought tooth and claw to drag Leeds up from the Championship in 2020 has proved effective in this regard, as the battle to hold onto Premier League status is fortified by the memory of what it cost to gain it in the first place.

“They have worked so hard to get here, they know how much it means,” Marsch said.

Luke Ayling is at full stretch to keep the ball in while Leeds United boss Jesse Marsch looks on. Pic: Michael Regan.

“They understand the city, the club, the fanbase.

“They understand what it means to be a part of Leeds.”

Indeed, the desire of the Whites squad is perhaps never so evident than in the spate of recent goal celebrations so hectic and ripe for ridicule that they have spawned TikTok compilations.

Meanwhile, in March, Alex Iwobi skyrocketed Everton’s chances of survival by scoring a winner against Newcastle in the ninth minute of stoppage time and marked the moment by sprinting a few paces, and posing stock still well beyond the grasp of a rabid home crowd.

Raphinha got carried away celebrating Leeds United's opener against Watford. Pic: Ben Stansall.

The £30m man’s response to supplying such a vital goal looks tame when held up next to Patrick Bamford’s hamstring-snapping gallop inspired by a mid-season equaliser against Brentford.

Catch Raphinha wincing and rubbing his leg after a Vicarage Road knee slide and you begin to see United’s injury crisis as much a symptom of “training methodology” as an occupational hazard of wanting to give everything for Leeds.

After Leeds put in a dreadful performance against Aston Villa on Marsch’s home debut, the Whites boss told the media in his post-match conference that he was “not afraid” of the situation which, then, looked bleak. That is the privilege of a fresh face on the scene whose understanding of what Leeds stands to lose is, relative to that of the players he is leading, small.

While “stress” may continue to impact training and matchdays, Marsch is fortunate that promotion to the Championship and three-and-a-half years under Bielsa bred a powerful ingredient set to counteract it. The Leeds squad may be burdened by the knowledge of what’s at stake, but they are also stacked with the chutzpah to rise to the challenge of protecting it.

Norwich City almost snatched a result against a wasteful Leeds United in March. Pic: George Wood.

It wasn’t composure but fearlessness that helped them to beat the Premier League champions with 10 men in one of a series of outrageous displays with which a newly-promoted side stole a ninth-place finish last season.

Bielsa, the coach who once released his starting XI a full 48 hours before facing West Ham, was never a chess player. Showing his hand eventually cost him his job as it allowed too many Premier League clubs to put him into check in his second term in the top flight.

Leeds, under Marsch, are out of hot water for now but their recent success owes as much to mettle as it does to poise and strategy. Before Joe Gelhardt’s miraculous winner against Norwich there was a disastrous result – the Whites’ lead surrendered to a soft goal and a bunch of wasted chances - and the youngster’s late introduction was less knight to A6 than the setting free of a tightly-wound Jack-in-the-Box.

The lion’s share of the points earned since Marsch’s appointment are the product of sheer desire and grit.

Just like his predecessor, Marsch is the first to hold up his hands and refuse credit – but it’s not just the players that he has to thank.

Leeds United boss Jesse Marsch, former RB Leipzig manager, feels coaches have a larger role to play in German football. Pic: Stuart Franklin.
Stuart Dallas' late winner against Manchester City typified the never-say-die attitude that fuelled Marcelo Bielsa's Leeds United. Pic: Michael Regan.