Jesse Marsch proving to be the perfect man to carry Leeds into post-Bielsa era

Graeme Bailey
Jesse Marsch can take Leeds to next level
Jesse Marsch can take Leeds to next level / James Baylis - AMA/GettyImages

In the shape of Jesse Marsch, Leeds United have the manager they actually wanted and probably still believed they had in the late days of Marcelo Bielsa.

Bielsa did well for Leeds - nobody can deny that after he restored the club to the Premier League after such a long and painful absence - but he was on the cusp of failure in avoiding 'second season syndrome' and suffering relegation.

Bielsa’s CV tells us that success in Europe has so far eluded him, so are we that surprised that he did not achieve anything other than promotion at Leeds, arguably the biggest club he ever took charge of?

Yes Athletic Club and Marseille have pedigree, but neither is necessarily bigger than Leeds - especially when you take the Premier League into account.

Many Leeds fans were hugely upset when Bielsa was relieved of his duties earlier this year, but the change was necessary. However, that doesn't mean there wasn't massive pressure to get the next appointment right, but thankfully that is exactly what Leeds did.

Marsch was already in line for the Leeds job, as the club had all but accepted a change was coming either imminently or at the end of the season, with the Argentine only committing to one-year contracts at a time.

The opening couple of games of the American's tenure against Leicester and Aston Villa were disappointing, ending in defeat - but then finally things turned with hard-fought wins over Norwich and Wolves.

Yes they were held by Southampton on Saturday, and although their Premier League status is not guaranteed, they are now eight points clear of the drop zone and planning can probably just about begin for next term.

Leeds were so full of running, but Marsch - although he might not admit it publicly - must be furious about Bielsa's failure to sign a forward in January.

They created a lot of chances at Elland Road, perhaps not clear-cut but certainly some that a good striker would have converted. This will doubtless be an area that Marsch and Leeds look to remedy in the summer.

The fact that Marsch has the players pulling in the right direction already is proof that there is something genuinely special about this man - this is not some Ted Lasso-impersonating American wannabe coach who is just trying his hand at soccer.

Listening to Marsch after the draw with Southampton, it is remarkable to think that Leeds fans were mourning the loss of a club legend less than a month before. He talks with such sense and his plan is clear, and the respect he has for the players is evident too.

"What a pleasure it is to have players like this, and I told them again after the match how lucky I am to work with them," he beamed.

Some will argue that Leeds have maybe gotten ‘lucky’ with Marsch, but have they? The Leeds hierarchy, CEO Angus Kinnear and director Victor Orta, have clearly done their homework.

Marsch has been plucked from the same coaching tree as Bielsa, but something has happened at Leeds, something has changed: the attitude of the players.

The smiles on the faces of the players are not just a result of points, they are smiles of enjoyment, they are smiles of belief and most importantly smiles of optimism with the future suddenly far brighter at Elland Road.

Yes, Bielsa showed them a glimpse of what was to come, but Marsch and his staff offer a roadmap to where they should be aiming for next.

Bielsa left Leeds having won the adulation of fans, pundits and colleagues - but nothing tangible followed that richly-deserved promotion. Indeed, he departed with the club on the brink of relegation and with a squad that was clearly lacking in depth.

It is now up to Marsch to restore Leeds from plucky underdogs to what they actually are: one of the biggest clubs in English football.