Football
Leeds have taken one point from last six games to leave them outside the relegation zone by only two points; chairman Andrea Radrizzani says: “This has been the toughest decision I have had to make”; Jesse Marsch in line to replace Bielsa, with club hoping to make new appointment on Monday
Sunday 27 February 2022 19:45, UK
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Marcelo Bielsa has been sacked by Leeds on the back of a 4-0 hammering by Tottenham at Elland Road on Saturday, with American coach Jesse Marsch expected to replace him.
Bielsa joined Leeds in 2018 and led them back to the Premier League after a 16-year absence two years later, as well as a ninth-placed finish in the top flight in 2020/21, but he leaves with the club only two points above the relegation zone and on a run of five defeats from six games.
Leeds have conceded 21 goals in that time and slumped to a 4-0 defeat at home to Tottenham on Saturday after being thrashed 6-0 in midweek away at Liverpool, leaving them with a goal difference of -30 and the leakiest defence in the Premier League, having shipped 60 goals in 26 games, five more than bottom side Norwich.
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Marsch, who left RB Leipzig in December, is expected to be announced as Bielsa’s replacement on Monday.
Bielsa’s contract was already due to expire at the end of the season and after the Liverpool defeat he admitted he was concerned the Whites could be relegated back to the Championship.
Andrea Radrizzani, the Leeds chairman, said sacking Bielsa was the “toughest decision” he has had to make during his time at the club, but added he believed the change had to be made to stave off relegation.
He told the club’s website: “This has been the toughest decision I have had to make during my tenure at Leeds United, taking into account all the success Marcelo has had at the club.
“With Marcelo as our head coach, we had three incredible campaigns and the good times returned to Elland Road. He changed the culture of the club and brought a winning mentality to us all.
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“The moments created, particularly in the 2019/20 season and winning promotion to the Premier League, will of course live long in all our memories, myself and the fans included.
“However, I have to act in the best interest of the club and I believe a change is required now in order to secure our Premier League status.
“Recent results and performances have not met our expectations. We find ourselves in a precarious league position and I feel now is the right time to bring in a new head coach, in order to have an impact in the decisive stage of the season.
“Naturally, myself, along with everyone else at the club, would like to thank Marcelo for his efforts and achievements and we wish him the very best for the future.”
Leeds say plans for a permanent tribute to Bielsa at Elland Road are under way, while they hope to make an announcement regarding the Argentine’s successor as soon as Monday.
Sky Sports News’ Tim Thornton:
“There will be an incredible amount of sadness at Leeds among the fans. The vast majority of the fanbase will have wanted Bielsa to stay for the remaining games of the season.
“He’s created something unique, it’s been an incredible journey and one the fans didn’t want to end in this way.
“But Leeds have been dropping down the table and the goals conceded recently have been the tipping point.
“The style of football has been unbelievable for the fans to watch – he’s given Leeds an identity – but there was a feeling that something had to change, and we know Bielsa wasn’t going to change. The decision has been taken with a heavy heart.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if his name is sung around the ground for the rest of the season, he’s a legend here and has united a whole city.
“He’s improved each and every member of the Leeds squad and that happens very, very rarely.”
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Sky Sports’ Gary Neville:
“The fact of the matter is, in the last few weeks, months, it’s become really desperate.
“You go from admiration to despair watching them, just thinking they’re not exciting anymore, they’re really bad. They’ve been really bad defensively, conceding so many goals.
“No respect for the opposition – we know Bielsa has his values and his principles which he’s never going to change, and that’s ultimately cost him. But there just didn’t seem to be a lot of respect on the pitch for the opposition players.”
Sky Sports’ Graeme Souness:
“I’ve been an enormous fan of Leeds under Bielsa. I’m a neutral but watching them play was exciting, partly because they were so vulnerable without the ball.
“But 60 goals conceded has danger written all over it. As sad as it is for the manager, it’s inevitable.
“If you’re looking to survive, the first thing you need to get right is not conceding goals. They’re the opposite. There’s no way Bielsa is going to change at this stage of his life and in his career.
“He wants the game to be played this way but I’m afraid at the highest level it’s going to lose you more games than win you games.
“A goal difference of -31 has relegation written all over it. You need someone with a pragmatic approach and the priority should be to stop conceding goals and look to nick goals.”
Former American international midfielder Marsch has been out of work since December when he was sacked by RB Leipzig only five months after he was appointed.
The 48-year-old had taken over from Julian Nagelsmann in July 2021 when his predecessor left for Bayern Munich, but last season’s Bundesliga runners-up had dropped to 11th in the league, as well as losing three of their five Champions League group-stage games, before he was dismissed.
Before that, he had led Leipzig’s sister club Red Bull Salzburg to back-to-back domestic doubles in the Austrian top flight in his two seasons at the helm, and previously managed in the MLS with Montreal Impact and New York Red Bulls.
Sky Sports News’ Tim Thornton said: “I think Marsch would be a good fit. He plays a similar style of football. It didn’t work out for him at RB Leipzig but he was only there for a very short period of time.
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“But it will be difficult for anyone to come in and succeed Marcelo Bielsa. The only way I think he’ll win the fans over is by getting results and keeping Leeds in the Premier League.”
Speaking ahead of the Tottenham loss, Paul Merson told Soccer Saturday that Bielsa was “pulling the wool over people’s eyes” with Leeds fans’ continued support of the Argentine in spite of their wretched form.
He said: “He’s pulling the wool over people’s eyes. He needs to change things. His squad is depleted, I know he’s got big players out, but he has to change it. You can’t keep going to Liverpools and Man Uniteds and opening games up and get beaten sixes and fours. You have to stop it. At the moment, I worry for them, I really worry for them.
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“I think the fans need to get a bit stronger. Don’t start clapping your team off. If I got beaten by Tottenham by four at Highbury when I was playing there is no way I would be getting clapped off. Just go home. You don’t have to boo, I’m not saying boo and throw shoes at them.
“They’ve worked so hard to get to where they are in this league and at the moment it is fizzling away. I love watching Leeds, I have no affinity to Leeds and I love watching them, but I know there is going to be goal after goal, no matter what end it’s going to be – and that’s worrying.”
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