It still feels like a dream for many of the traveling Leeds United fans.
The opening minutes of the encounter between Leeds and Leicester City saw chants of ‘Marcelo Bielsa’ ring around the King Power Stadium even as new man Jesse Marsch tried to implement a new system on the pitch.
A system and tactical change
On paper, Marsch made just two changes to Marcelo Biesla’s final starting XI, with Mateusz Klich and Rodrigo replacing Adam Forshaw and Diego Llorente.
— Leeds United (@LUFC) March 5, 2022
However, the system transformed from Bielsa’s famous 4-1-4-1 to a more secure 4-2-2-2, as utilised by fellow former RB Leipzig bosses Ralf Rangnick and Ralph Hassenhutl in the English top flight.
Raphinha and Jack Harrison occupied the wide areas, while Robin Koch and Mateusz Klick forming the base of the midfield. It certainly left the Leeds side more closely packed, removing many of the gaping holes that Tottenham so ruthlessly exploited in Bielsa’s final game in charge.
Gone too was the man-to-man marking system that Bielsa employed with this group of players, Marsch instead opting for a zonal system that saw a more rigid Leeds United shape and less reliance on individuals not to lose their man, as happened so frequently in recent weeks.
It made Leeds harder to play through, though Jamie Vardy still caused problems off the shoulder of Pascal Struijk. However the system, certainly on first viewing, seemed more sustainable than that of Marsch’s predecessor.
Even the goal that ultimately decided for Leicester was somewhat against the run of play and required some Harvey Barnes brilliance, rather than the usual Leeds implosion that sees the Yorkshire side concede several.
Brilliant from Harvey Barnes! 🎯
The forward plays a one-two with Kelechi Iheanacho before picking out the far corner 👌
We have our opener at the King Power! pic.twitter.com/0pnGUUonvR
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) March 5, 2022
Leeds were a constant threat when they had 11 fit players on the pitch (Roberts suffered a hamstring injury and was rendered a passenger for the last 10 minutes), and forced Kacspar Schmiechel into several brilliant saves that saw him named man of the match.
Within the defeat then, there certainly seemed to be shoots of progress.
Marsch the antithesis of Bielsa
‘I don’t have to be Marcelo Bielsa.’ I have to be me. I am different and I am my own person’, Marsch told the media ahead of his debut in charge of Leeds, and so it proved in the technical area too.
The departure of Bielsa also saw the end of the bucket upon which the Argentine squatted in the technical area for much of the 90 minutes every game. Marsch, by comparison, hardly sat down, forever pacing around (and often outside) his technical area as he barked orders to his new side.
Marsch lived every pass, tackle and missed chance with his players, even in defeat, and was seen constantly cajoling his new charges as they chased an equaliser.
Ultimately, the result for Leeds United proved the same under Marsch as it had been under Bielsa, but there were signs that a new, tougher to beat side may be emerging out of the legacy of one of Leeds’ greatrest ever managers.
Of course, this doesn’t help them in the immediate future when it comes to staying in the top flight.
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