Leeds United defender lays out Jesse Marsch aim as future role and pecking order become clear
Leeds United defender Robin Koch expects a more thorough schooling in Jesse Marsch's footballing philosophy this summer, free from the intense pressure of a relegation battle.
Marsch arrived as Marcelo Bielsa's replacement in February with the Whites fighting for their lives in the top flight and there was no let up for a beleaguered, injury-hit squad until the late stages of the final game at Brentford.
Falling into the drop zone took a toll, with Marsch revealing the impact of tension plaguing his players. The stress of being in the dog fight to the bitter end, not to mention the natural uncertainty of an unplanned mid-season managerial change, left Koch and his team-mates in need of serious decompression.
"I think I can speak for all the team, we needed a break and some holidays and we used it well to recover and get the body fit again," he told LUTV.
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"[It was pressure] not only on your body but for your head. You have to give 100 per cent in every game, right up to the last second of the season and this is hard for the body and the mind so it's good to have some days off after the season."
Koch reported to Leeds Beckett University's Carnegie School of Sport last Monday for pre-season testing and has been working at Thorp Arch all week ahead of a reunion with the squad's internationals. They return tomorrow for their own bout of tests and measurements.
Leeds' friendly schedule is also already underway. A mixed squad of youngsters and senior professionals beat Stoke City 1-0 in a pre-season friendly on Saturday, Patrick Bamford getting the game's only goal. On Thursday Marsch takes his men to York City to host Blackpool and then it's off to Australia for games against Aston Villa, Brisbane Roar and Crystal Palace.
"All of the team is happy to come back from the holidays, recovered from holidays and ready to go for the new season," said Koch.
"We're looking forward to starting the new season. The next four or five weeks are to get fit again and prepare.
"I enjoy more the season but it's part of the season, so you come back from holidays and you're happy to work again, to see the boys. I'm more happy when the season starts.
"When I came here two years ago I didn't know what I was meeting here, the boys, are they good to each other. From the first minute I was so impressed, the boys welcomed me so well. You look forward to seeing them again after some time off."
The faces will mostly be familiar to Koch, entering his third campaign as a Leeds player, but the pre-season will be different to the ones he experienced in Bielsa's reign.
This one will afford the German international and his team-mates a pressure-free opportunity to learn more about Marsch's style of football and prepare for a campaign that, the hope is, will feature far fewer trips to the treatment room.
Koch has endured a rough time of it since his move from SC Freiburg. There were operations in each of his first two seasons, a knee problem and complicated pelvic issue accounting for months of absenteeism in his first and second campaigns respectively. His game time last season had to come predominantly in defensive midfield, a position he has held previously in his career but not, you would think, his most natural home. There was a stint at right-back, too, as emergency cover, and only four games in the heart of the back line.
Although the club’s first choice defensive midfielder Kalvin Phillips is expected to complete his move to Manchester City on Monday, Leeds have plans to replace him and have already brought a number six to the club in the form of Marc Roca in from Bayern Munich. Pre-season will make it clear where Marsch envisages Koch’s future in his Leeds team and where he lies in the pecking order, along with fellow centre-backs Liam Cooper, Diego Llorente and Pascal Struijk.
"It's quite normal that you have different pre-season in your career, every preseason is a little bit different," he said
"We're looking forward to this one.
"Like last year we have a good team together, we need to prepare, get fit and play a good season with not as many injuries as last year.
"This is now a good start for us. To get a little bit more time to improve some of our plays. Of course last season there was a lot of pressure and we needed results. Now we have more time to go through all things, his ideas of playing football. It's quite important for us now."