Leeds United explain why they've sacked Marcelo Bielsa with Jesse Marsch arrival expected

Leeds United have sacked Marcelo Bielsa and are expected to replace him with former RB Leipzig manager Jesse Marsch.

By Graham Smyth
Sunday, 27th February 2022, 10:59 am
Updated Sunday, 27th February 2022, 11:02 am

The news comes less than 24 hours after a 4-0 defeat at Elland Road by Tottenham Hotspur.

Leeds are sitting 16th in the Premier League table, two points clear of the drop zone after a six-game winless streak and four straight defeats at the hands of Everton, Manchester United, Liverpool and Spurs. The manner of the latter two losses appears to have brought the situation to a head for the Whites board. Bielsa's men were beaten 6-0 by Liverpool at Anfield in midweek and when they conceded another four at Elland Road, boos were heard from home fans for the first time in his tenure.

Reports emerged shortly after the full-time whistle that Bielsa was on the brink of the sack, with Marsch being lined up to replace him.

Leeds have now confirmed his departure in a statement.

It read: "Leeds United can today confirm the club have parted company with head coach Marcelo Bielsa.

"The 66-year-old was in charge of the team for over three-and-a-half years, having taken the reins in June 2018. He transformed the club’s fortunes on the pitch, which began with the 3-1 demolition of Stoke City at Elland Road two months later and he led Leeds to the Sky Bet Championship Play-Offs in his first full season in charge.

"In his second campaign Bielsa succeeded where those before him had failed, guiding the club to the Sky Bet Championship title, winning the division by 10 points, and resulting in promotion back to the Premier League for the first time in 16 years.

ERA OVER - Leeds United have sacked Marcelo Bielsa after nearly four years in charge at Elland Road. The Whites are expected to replace him with ex-RB Leipzig boss Jesse Marsch. Pic: Bruce Rollinson

"On the club’s return to the top-flight, Leeds finished ninth, securing the highest points tally by a newly promoted side in the Premier League since the 2000/01 campaign.

"However, this season has proved to be difficult and the team has recorded just five Premier League wins."

Owner Andrea Radrizzani caled it the most difficult decision of his time in charge of the club.

"This has been the toughest decision I have had to make during my tenure at Leeds United, taking into account all the success Marcelo has had at the club," he said.

“With Marcelo as our head coach, we had three incredible campaigns and the good times returned to Elland Road. He changed the culture of the club and brought a winning mentality to us all. The moments created, particularly in the 2019/20 season and winning promotion to the Premier League, will of course live long in all our memories, myself and the fans included.

“However, I have to act in the best interest of the club and I believe a change is required now in order to secure our Premier League status. Recent results and performances have not met our expectations.

“We find ourselves in a precarious league position and I feel now is the right time to bring in a new head coach, in order to have an impact in the decisive stage of the season.

“Naturally, myself, along with everyone else at the club would like to thank Marcelo for his efforts and achievements and we wish him the very best for the future.”

Director of football Victor Orta paid tribute to Bielsa's remarkable contribution to the club's history.

"Since arriving at Leeds United Marcelo had a huge impact on the club, on a scale I have not seen before," he said.

“He has created a legacy, overseeing major infrastructure improvements at Thorp Arch, uniting the supporters and the players, and giving a clear pathway for young players to transition into the first team.

“It is disappointing his reign has had to end in this manner, given the special times we have enjoyed in recent years, which have been some of the best in my career, but we cannot hide from recent results.

“I would like to thank Marcelo for his commitment and dedication, and I wish him every success going forwards.”

Leeds hope to make an announcement on Bielsa's replacement tomorrow. The club say they are planning a permanent tribute to Bielsa at Elland Road.

Bielsa arrived at Elland Road in the summer of 2018 and immediately set about transforming a midtable Championship outfit, taking the second tier by storm and masterminding a near-brush with promotion in his first season. Play-off semi-final defeat by Derby County didn't deter Bielsa from signing a second one-year deal however and he succeeded at the second attempt, ending Leeds' 16-year exile from the Premier League. Leeds romped to the Championship title by a 10-point margin and Bielsa celebrated the fourth league title of his 32-year management career.

There was no hint of a parting of ways in the summer of 2020 and Bielsa once again led Leeds through an impressive campaign that culminated in a top-half finish. A famous 2-1 win at the Etihad against champions elect Manchester City, despite being a man down, was undoubtedly the highlight of a fine first season in the Premier League for the Argentine and his men, many of whom defied expectations. Kalvin Phillips broke into the England squad to become a mainstay and Patrick Bamford fired in 17 top flight goals to put himself on the fringe of Gareth Southgate's plans, although unlike Phillips he missed out on the Euros.

But as several players, Luke Ayling and Bamford included, made no secret of their expectations that the second season would be tougher, Leeds' summer recruitment failed to address concerns over the depth of Bielsa's squad in key areas. CEO Angus Kinnear said the club were expecting to be able to count more upon their summer 2020 signings, players like Diego Llorente, Robin Koch and Rodrigo who all had injury-disrupted debut seasons at Elland Road. But that hasn't proved the case and as injuries have struck repeatedly, Bielsa's small squad has struggled to maintain form.

The January transfer window came and went without a senior addition, despite efforts to prise Brenden Aaronson from RB Salzburg, with Bielsa revealing the club had been prepared to invest but insisting the possibility to reinforce the squad simply wasn't there. Kinnear used his matchday programme notes to suggest the club's strategy was to put faith in the young players being developed in the Under 23s and expensive additions would not only block their route to the first team but fail to represent a significant improvement for the squad.

Serious injuries to key players Patrick Bamford, Kalvin Phillips and Liam Cooper continued to hamper the Whites, although Bielsa offered the view that Leeds' problems would exist with or without the trio. Speaking before the game against Spurs Bielsa admitted that the teams' results were having a negative impact on the belief in his ideas, having already acknowledged that the club's owners would have having doubts, but he vowed to do all he could to fix the issues.

A first half capitulation left his side 3-0 down at the break against Tottenham and boos rang out from the Elland Road crowd. Leeds hit the post twice during the game and Stuart Dallas squandered a golden chance, but the Whites were handily beaten and had it not been for goalkeeper Illan Meslier, the 4-0 scoreline could have been much worse.

Bielsa was asked if he remained confident in his ability to turn things around with 12 games of the season remaining and replied 'of course' but it is now clear the Leeds board did not share that confidence and felt a change needed to be made to save the season and stave off what would be a financially disastrous relegation.