Jesse Marsch wants Leeds United to 'stay calm and be clear' in relegation fight

Leeds United head coach Jesse Marsch has called for calm after seeing his new team make a mess of his big first Elland Road game.

By Tony Harber
Friday, 11th March 2022, 11:31 am
Pascal Struijk's unfortunate deflection led to Aston Villa scoring the crucial first goal against Leeds United.

It was not the start Marsch wanted when the Whites lost his first game in charge at Leicester City, but it was much worse as they were beaten 3-0 by Aston Villa in his second game and alarming at the lack of confidence on show at times.

United were booed off at half-time and at the end after a toothless display in which they did not manage a single effort on goal in the first 45 minutes - and Marcelo Bielsa was the only coach having his name sung by the supporters.

Marsch's 4-2-2-2 tactics plainly did not work with these players and he has his work cut out making it work in time for the even bigger game to come now against bottom of the table Norwich City on Sunday.

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Jesse Marsch has lost his first two games as Leeds United head coach. Picture: Getty Images

But the American is not panicking and has vowed that he and his players will be up for the fight to come.

He said: "It was clear from the start we lacked confidence and aggression in the match.

"Heard a lot about the crowd and I thought it was fantastic from the beginning, but I could see the players want to do so well so badly for the fans, it brings more pressure and stress.

"We have to stay calm and be clear. Can see here we have to stay strong with that message. We have to know the fear will ensure failure, not protect us from failure. Have to attack and go after opponents. Biggest lesson from tonight.

"I am not afraid of the moment and the situation. In some ways I like having my back against the wall.

"We have a situation that is really tough, Not going to sleep a lot tonight, but will think carefully and I hope we'll regroup and be better on Sunday.

"This is what I am here to do. Help the players understand what we need to do to thrive in this situation."

Marsch explained where he thought the team went wrong: "We lacked aggression in our duels.

"The way I want us to press is the group attacking the ball and opponent together. Too many times the guys two yards from the ball was allowing the player closest to the ball (to do the press).

"This is a product of playing man v man against the ball for four years. I have a different tactical style and I'm trying to get the simple things right to help them be successful together, without changing everything.

"It's a lot, we had a big first step against Leicester even though we didn't get the result and today was not a good step forward. It wasn't all perfect before, it isn't all terrible now. Staying calm and steady will be paramount now. Stand tall.

"I know is there is no lack of desire or work ethic, but because those things are so high it almost adds to the stress.

"My job is to provide confidence. Big job. Knew that when I came here. Not surprised with the situation. My job is to stay strong. Help the players to understand their roles and execute clearly. We'll keep pushing."

Marsch added: "At half-time I addressed the tactics, the fear and then we had a good phase at the start of the second half when we played how we want to play, brought the crowd in.

"But we were not sharp enough or good enough to find the equaliser. We invited too many counters and gave up the second goal. It was a bunch of individuals after the second goal."

The biggest difference to a Bielsa game was the lack of goalmouth action with Leeds getting no good football together in the final third for the whole of the first half.

Villa were held at bay initially before the first chance of the game brought the first goal in the 22nd minute.

Philippe Coutinho's shot looked like it would have been easily gathered by keeper Illan Meslier, but Pascal Struijk's deflection took into the net as the Whites wretched luck of recent weeks struck again.

The goal did expose a big weakness in the Leeds system, though as Villa full-back Matty Cash had a wide open space to have time to pick out Coutinho in the box.

There was little response from the hosts and it was Villa who came close to scoring more goals in a generally poor first half when Meslier saved two long range efforts by Douglas Luiz and made an excellent save low down to deny John McGinn.

Leeds players were sent out early for the second half, Joe Gelhardt was sent on for the ineffective Rodrigo and they gave it a good go for 20 minutes or so.

Less than 30 seconds into the half the Whites managed their first shot, but it was a poor one as Robin Koch sent the ball well over after it had fallen to him on the edge of the box following Raphinha's cross.

Villa keeper Emiliano Martinez was forced to make his first save soon after, but it was a comfortable one from Gelhardt's 35-yard shot - the only effort on target all night.

More dangerous crosses were fizzed into the visitors' area, but they survived, the ball would not quite drop for the United forwards even when Patrick Bamford made his return to action as a substitute to the biggest cheer of the night.

And a decisive break saw Villa double their lead on 66 minutes when Junior Firpo was caught ball watching from Danny Ings' cross and then was unable to stop Cash from rounding him to fire home.

What followed was worrying as Leeds heads dropped. Coutinho almost made it three, but the respite was brief as Calum Chambers did find the back of the net with a superb shot from the edge of the box.

Coutinho hit a 20-yard shot narrowly off target shortly after and it was only the fact that Villa were happy to run the clock down that they did not make the margin even bigger.

United did manage one more effort in vain with Bamford shooting over from just inside the box, but they were well beaten by then and ended with 10 men after Firpo was carried off on a stretcher.

Aston Villa 3

(Coutinho 22, Cash 66, Chambers 73)

Thursday, March 10, 2022

Premier League

Attendance: 36,400

Leeds: Meslier; Dallas, Ayling, Struijk, Firpo; Forshaw (Klich 66), Koch; Raphinha, Harrison (Bamford 59); Rodrigo (Gelhardt 45), James.

Villa: Martinez; Cash, Mings, Chambers, Digne; Luiz (Young 86), McGinn, Ramsey; Ings (Sandon 72), Coutinho (Buendia 76), Watkins.

Referee: Simon Hooper