The job Jesse Marsch really wanted - Graham Smyth's Verdict on Leeds United 2-1 Brisbane Roar

Jesse Marsch’s version of Leeds United is beginning to take shape on and off the pitch
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This is the Leeds United job Jesse Marsch wanted.

A process man, he was parachuted into last season’s relegation scrap and instead of building something was forced to fight fires with results king and performances a secondary concern.

“If you look at the end of last year, we were introducing tactical themes, but it was so much about just managing the game to get as many points as we can,” he said before the 2-1 Queensland Champions Cup win over Brisbane Roar.

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“And really I hate that. Right? I’m much more about a process and developing a team the right way and less about trying to win right in the moment.

“But relegation demands that you do that. So I’m proud of our team for the way that they performed. I’m proud of the team for the way they stuck together. And now we need to play better football and maintain that mentality and belief and commitment from the group and we will. We will.”

This summer presents a big chance to do things his way, working from the ground up to create a team that plays the football he wants to see. He’s now got the job he asked for and time in which to do it properly.

Evidence of how properly he’s doing it doesn’t have to present itself immediately – pre-season has three weeks to run and Leeds won’t be the finished article on the opening day of the Premier League in any case – but it was important that there were at least some signs that his ideas are bedding in and that they work.

Jesse Marsch and his side have made it two wins from two during pre-season (Photo by George Wood/Getty Images)Jesse Marsch and his side have made it two wins from two during pre-season (Photo by George Wood/Getty Images)
Jesse Marsch and his side have made it two wins from two during pre-season (Photo by George Wood/Getty Images)
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Happily, that was the case – although there was just as much evidence that Marsch and his players still have work to do.

What was most important of all was that Leeds came off the pitch carrying no fresh injuries or nasty surprises.

Marsch plans to rotate players during pre-season and was already missing Liam Cooper and Junior Firpo through injury, so by resting Illan Meslier and keeping Patrick Bamford and Luis Sinisterra on the bench it was some way short of what might be currently considered his strongest XI, against the Roar.

And yet the Whites had the ball in the net after 19 seconds, a quick and well-worked passing move cutting the Roar open and allowing Daniel James to find Brenden Aaronson, who finished, only for the flag to go up.

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It was a comfortable enough start for Marsch’s side, who moved the ball quickly in the Roar half and created at least the sense of danger even if it didn’t translate to reality.

Jack Harrison, in the left-back role, and right-back Rasmus Kristensen provided width that both Marc Roca and Adam Forshaw looked to exploit with big switches of play, but it was Leeds’ work and their quick thinking in central areas that caused the most damage.

The Roar had just enjoyed their best spell when Leeds broke and although their counter broke down, Forshaw’s first-time pass put James in enough space to motor into the area and whistle a shot inside Macklin Freke’s near post.

That goal came in the 23rd minute and the second arrived inside two minutes, Forshaw again involved with a pass to James who dinked a cross to the back post for Joe Gelhardt to rise above his marker and thump home a header.

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Forshaw has watched the club go into the transfer market to bring in players in his position and appears to have taken that personally, in the best possible way. His was one of the brighter displays in a first half that contained a number of positives.

With a goal and an assist, James’ work was done inside half an hour and Luis Sinisterra took his place, but before the Colombian could get involved the home side put together two chances and steadied the ship enough to avoid being steamrolled before the break.

The left side was Leeds’ problem, Pascal Struijk and then Harrison being beaten too easily to put orange shirts in space in behind, although Rasmus Kristensen just about dealt with the first cross and Leeds got bodies to the scene of the second to keep their clean sheet intact.

With five minutes to go in the half it was gone, though, the Roar working the ball into the area from the left side this time and after Struijk blocked an initial effort, trialist Joe Knowles finished off the loose ball.

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Half-time brought a swathe of changes and with it the obligatory disruption to the game’s flow and rhythm.

Even if Leeds didn’t sparkle in the final third, they kept play in the opposition half and assumed total control for a spell, moving the ball, pressing high to dominate territorially and on a number of occasions had all 10 outfield players within 35 yards of goal.

Chances were few and far between, despite the possession they enjoyed, only a curling Gelhardt effort that didn’t miss by much at the far post exciting the Leeds fans assembled behind the Roar goal. Again the changes came, Sinisterra probably the most frustrated looking man to come off having failed to impact the game or work his way into it meaningfully, and then the Roar had a moment.

They worked the ball too easily into the Leeds half, deep into the penalty area and a cut-back allowed Jay O’Shea to aim for the far corner, Kristoffer Klaesson pulling off a fine save.

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Patrick Bamford’s return to action livened things a little, the striker glancing a header just past the post in a period as flat as a pancake.

Positives were there, if you went looking. Bamford on the pitch, creating a problem or two, and Leeds exercised patience in possession, probing for openings and showing that they don’t just want to kick and rush towards the opponents goal.

And they won. Although they very nearly didn’t, the A-League side giving them a far greater headache than anyone had predicted and somehow failing to level when, with Klaesson beaten, Jez Lofthouse twice miscontrolled and the goal gaped.

The ease with which the Roar gained entry to Leeds’ area and the chances they created were the negatives, or action points, for Marsch and his team to consider and address. Which is all just part of the process.

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