'Two-horse race' - Leeds United official on relegation battle and Whites' new defensive approach

Leeds United CEO Angus Kinnear says the club's players still believe they have what it takes to beat Burnley in a 'two-horse race' for Premier League survival.

By Graham Smyth
Wednesday, 11th May 2022, 5:48 pm
Updated Wednesday, 11th May 2022, 5:50 pm

Writing in the programme for tonight's crucial Elland Road clash with Chelsea, Kinnear insists that while there is a collective frustration that the season is ending amid such peril, that isn't distracting the squad.

"The importance of the challenge of the next three games does not need to be reiterated," he said.

"While there is a collective disappointment and frustration that our position is so precarious, we are not letting this distract from the singular focus on the task in hand."

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According to the CEO, February appointment Jesse Marsch has kept disappointment from seeping into daily life at the training ground and the support of the club's fanbase is helping to maintain belief in their survival hopes.

"Jesse [Marsch, head coach] has ensured that no melancholy has been allowed to infiltrate Thorp Arch and the players still believe that they have what it takes to prevail in what has become a two-horse race," said Kinnear.

"Central to this is the unwavering support that our fans have demonstrated both home and away over the last few gruelling weeks.

"From the 97 per cent of season ticket holders who renewed their annual commitment and the 21,321 fans who broke the Premier League 2 attendance record to the relentless support approaching the final whistle at home to Manchester City (despite the margin of defeat) and the 3,000 who dominated support up against a mere 57,000 opposition fans at the Emirates - the Leeds United faithful have once again shown a passion that belies our league position.

TWO-HORSE RACE - Leeds United chief executive Angus Kinnear considers the relegation battle to now simply come down to his club and Burnley. Pic: Getty

"In an industry dominated by transfer talks and new contract discussions, it is this unswerving devotion that will provide our players all the motivation they need to prevail in our final three battles."

Marsch's remit was to keep Leeds in the division and to do so he has tried to make the side more solid, defensively. Although the American guided Leeds to three wins and an unbeaten run of five games, they go into tonight's game at home to Chelsea in the relegation zone, level on points with Burnley above them but with a vastly inferior goal difference. They've scored once in their last three games and struggled to play much in the way of cohesive attacking football, but Kinnear says pragmatism has become vital due to their league position.

"The team and staff know that the task remains to blend the more pragmatic defensive approach that has been quickly embraced, with the attacking potency that Jesse has been associated with throughout his coaching career," said Kinnear.

"We all knew the full tactical transition was impossible to complete in just 12 games, but our five-game unbeaten run and two consecutive clean sheets gives us a foundation to build from. Our predicament has forced us to temper our offensive ambitions, but being courageous in attack is still a central part of our long-term footballing vision."