Ask any Leeds fan how they feel right now, and the likely response will be negative. This is a city that is, in the words of Daniel Taylor in The Athletic, living on its nerves. Everyone worries that the two-year return to the Premier League is set to end. The sacking of Marcelo Bielsa and the hiring of Jesse Marsch has done little to appease the support. If anything, anger is more palpable than ever before.
And it is easy to see why. The attacking verve of the Bielsa era is gone, but the slapstick defending has remained. Seven goals conceded at home to Manchester City and Chelsea were fine illustrations that if a team ups the ante against Leeds they can win.
The tactical confusion of moving the likes of Raphinha, one of the true attacking talents in the team, into a wing-back role has annoyed many fans. So, too, has the total lack of certainty about how to use Kalvin Phillips. The fear is that Marsch and his tactics could cost Leeds some of the best players they have had in the modern era.
And with a tough trip coming up at the weekend, Leeds will be without some key players. They will be missing Luke Ayling after his mad red card against Arsenal. Dan James will be out, too, with the winger sent off in the loss to Chelsea for a ludicrous challenge. Jack Harrison now joins the growing injured list, with the winger set to miss this game – and potentially the rest of the season – due to a leg injury.
This leaves Marsch, who is chasing his tail with trying to win the fans over whilst getting results, with a team ill-suited to his narrow formation.
Can Marsch turn things around before relegation is confirmed?
Leeds have two games to save their season, and they need someone to do them a favour. Burnley need to go to Tottenham, where Leeds hope they will lose. It means they need to take something from the game with Brighton and Hove Albion, who are chasing a top half finish. Failure to get anything from Brighton would likely leave Leeds chasing snookers going into the last match day.
With Raphinha also cramping up in the last game, Leeds could be missing any of the pace they tend to have in attacking areas. It leaves Marsch, who plays a narrow system that relies on rapid pace from his wing-backs, with very few options. The long-term loss of Patrick Bamford has been a nightmare, too.
While the cards dealt to Marsch have been harsh in the extreme, his odd tactical setup has left some fans perplexed. Throw in his overly positive comments about building the ‘best academy in Europe’ and qualifying for European football in years to come, and some fans worry he cannot see the severity of the situation.
Something has to change and fast – and at Brighton it looks like changes will be enforced. A massive injury list is a concern, but it is only part of the problem. For Leeds to turn this around, they need more from the players left standing, and from a coach who looks increasingly out of his depth.