It wasn’t easy, but Leeds United head coach Jesse Marsch and his players accomplished their task as they came away with a dramatic 2-1 win over Brentford on Sunday to secure their Premier League status. Now, his attention turns to next season as he wants to avoid another relegation battle.
While most of the attention may have been at the top of the standings as Manchester City and Liverpool vied for the title on the last day of the season, the stakes were just as high at the other end with Leeds and Burnley battling to avoid relegation.
Raphina gave the team the lead from the penalty spot, but Brentford leveled the score through Sergi Canos. The last 15 minutes of the game would be bonkers as Brentford was reduced to nine men following the sending off of Canos while Kristoffer Ajer left with an injury. Well into stoppage time, Jack Harrison scored the game-winner. Coupled with the loss by Burnely, the Leeds players and fans could breathe a sigh of relief as their top-flight status for next season was confirmed.
Taking over from Marcelo Bielsa in February was never going to be easy for the 48-year-old as the Argentine is revered at Elland Road for guiding the team back to the Premier League after a 16-year absence. However, he remained laser for on his objective and now he has written himself into the club’s history by leading them to survival.
Despite some stumbles along the way in the 12 games Marsch coached, he remained steadfast that Leeds would not go down.
“I believed all the way we were going to do this. I never talked about being in the Championship,” Marsch said to the press following the game. “This business is about belief and exuding it as a leader. I believed in the players and their resolve. It made us stronger, not weaker. Earned us what we think we deserve.”
Since taking over coaching duties from Bielsa, there have many comparisons between the two, and many Leeds supporters were not happy that the 66-year-old was relieved of his duties.
While Marsch recognizes the tremendous contribution Bielsa made for the club, his only focus is on Leeds and making the necessary improvements to make them a competitve team come next season.
“There’s so much been said about Marcelo Bielsa vs me and there’s been people counting us out. I get it, this is high level stuff, and fans pay attention all over the world.
“It’s not a perfect representation of what I want this team to be, but in this situation we came together well and I still feel strongly about the group we have and the football we can play. We need to get better and add some pieces but I love this group, team, character, commitment and spirit.
“We were with our fans enough and I appreciate the fans singing my name, but that’s not the important thing. We are Leeds United and that’s what we will always be as long as I am here – I love our fans but I don’t care if they sing my name.
“It’s important we are a committed group and show us that every time on the pitch.”
Turning to the next season, the former RB Leipzig coach said the Leeds players and staff need a well-deserved break. However, he knows there won’t be much time to relax as the new Premier League season will kick into gear in a couple months’ time.
“There is so much to do. We have started the process in a good way and what we have from a resources and a people perspective means we are just scratching the surface,” he said.
“It’s been a stressful time. We will have a meeting in a few days to build the roster and this club to represent what we want it to be. Teams always change. From the academy upwards we want to maximise its potential.”