Soccer  

Leeds United boss Jesse Marsch defiant but storm raging at Elland Road after another loss

Jesse Marsch (right) sits on the dugout at Elland Road
Sunday was Marsch’s 23rd game as Leeds boss. He has won six, drawn six and lost 11

If Jesse Marsch is one for omens, waking up on Sunday to the sight of black storm clouds unleashing a torrent of rain on Leeds will have filled him with a sense of dread.

By four o’clock the downpour had eased, but the figurative storm swirling around the American manager was raging.

He had just witnessed his side throw away a lead to lose 3-2 at home to Fulham. It was a fourth defeat on the bounce and leaves them in the bottom three having taken just two points from the last 24.

Familiar failings again cost them. An attack with endeavour but no end product and a litany of costly errors by a porous defence handed three points to a side who didn’t have to be at their best to earn them. A recipe for disaster.

What began as a show of discontent at Leicester three days ago from 3,000 travelling fans became outright revolt by 36,000 on Sunday, with the team booed off at full-time and chants calling for the sacking of Marsch and, more vociferously, the club’s board.

As those same fans streamed from the ground, talk will likely have been about when not if the axe would fall on Marsch.

Meanwhile, in the Elland Road media suite, found inside the John Charles Stand, the American was defiantly and confidently stating that his future remained very much with the west Yorkshire club.

“I’m here for the long term,” he said. “I love this club, I’m investing everything I have to try to make us better.

“I understand the frustrations from the fans and we are equally if not more frustrated. We are doing everything we can and we are together. The board and I are unified. We have had clear discussions that we are together.”

To add weight to Marsch’s suggestions of unity within the club, captain Liam Cooper told reporters that the players were “fully behind the manager” and “buying into the philosophy”.

Vice captain Luke Ayling added: “The boys are right behind him. He took over in a tricky situation last season and kept us in the league.

“We’re only 11 games into the season. We’ve been in worse positions, like last season, and there’s still a long way to go so please stay calm and stay with us.”

Worryingly for the Whites, they have taken fewer points from the first 11 games of this season (9) than they took in the previous one (11) – a dire opening run that contributed to Marcelo Bielsa being sacked and replaced by Marsch.

Their current points haul is their fewest at this stage of a league campaign since 2003-04 (8), when the Whites were last relegated from the Premier League.

During this run of eight games without a win there have been aspects of their play to admire, suggesting that a repeat of the impressive 3-0 win against Chelsea on 21 August was just around the corner.

Last weekend, they gave league leaders Arsenal a torrid time, especially in the second half and should have taken points – something that could also be said of the game at Southampton, where they threw away a 2-0 lead, and at home to Aston Villa, where Luis Sinisterra’s sending off cost them the chance to push for a win.

On Sunday, they were the better side for 20 minutes and deservedly led but failed to capitalise and allowed Fulham parity and then victory through their sloppiness.

Worryingly, they repeatedly fail to punch their weight.

Rodrigo’s goal against Fulham was his fifth of the season but first since the win over Chelsea. His rival for the number nine spot, Patrick Bamford, has yet to score this season, missing a superb chance to do just that on Sunday with the game finely poised at 1-1.

No player has had more than Bamford’s nine big chances without finding the net in the Premier League in 2022-23. His personal xG stands at four.

It shines a light on the failure to sign a new centre-forward in the summer to further aid an ongoing transitional period for the squad.

“What you can see is that in our good moments, we can be quite good,” said Marsch. “We can play aggressive and attractive football and the kind of football this community and club wants to see, with intensity and running and entertainment.

“In our weak moments we look naive and vulnerable and weak defensively. I take responsibility and I need to find solutions to get results, momentum and our season back on track.

“There were moments when it looked like we could do that and take control and get the season back on track but we couldn’t make it happen.

“If we were getting killed in games and were the team who were much worse we would have more worries and concerns that what we are doing is not good enough. It is not like that.

“Every game is in the balance. In these eight games we have found a way to give it away. If we can find a way to capitalise on our moments I believe the momentum can change quickly.”

If they are to build momentum they must do so during a run of fixtures that are trickier on paper than those they have faced thus far.

Their next two away games are at Liverpool and Tottenham, either side of what looks like a must-win home game with Bournemouth, before the season halts for the World Cup – a six-week break clubs may well view as the ideal time to make a change of manager.

Ominously, in his programme notes for Sunday’s game, Leeds chief executive Angus Kinnear wrote: “We should all have confidence we can correct the course of the season before the World Cup break and then return in December to build on a firm foundation.”