After over three years in charge, Argentinian Marcelo Bielsa’s time at Leeds United has come to an end. The man responsible for restoring the Elland Road outfit's top-flight status, regarded as a football managerial icon, was in charge of the club for 1337 days. But after a disappointing season and a terrible run of form, his departure was confirmed the day after a 4-0 drubbing at home to Spurs.
Bielsa, 66, was quickly warmed to, not only by Leeds fans but by those with an interest in English football for what are perceived to be his madcap ways. His preference for sitting on a bucket on the touchline during games, and his persistent use of a translator during his long stint in England, are prime examples.
The Argentinian also brought plenty of entertainment on the pitch via how he wanted his Leeds United team to perform. They were high energy, high press, hunting in packs and even adopted a man-marking style to boot. It got Leeds promoted, and they retained their status in the Premier League the following season by impressively finishing in ninth.
However, you could suggest that second season syndrome has come into play in 2021/22, with Leeds recording just five wins and twenty-three points from twenty-six games, at the time of writing. Yes, they’re not currently in the relegation zone, but they’ve conceded three or more goals on ten occasions, losing their last three games 3-0, 4-2 and 4-0. Their goal difference of -31 could potentially cost them, and now the onus will be on who comes next to make Leeds harder to beat.
So, what next for Leeds United, and how will life look after Bielsa? Well, the club’s Italian owner Andrea Radrizzani has moved quickly to bring in former RB Leipzig manager Jesse Marsch as Bielsa’s replacement. The forty-eight-year-old, who has also managed RB Salzburg, New York Red Bulls and Montreal, is held in high esteem by many in the footballing world and is renowned for being Manchester United’s interim manager Ralf Rangnick’s assistant at Leipzig during the 2018/19 season.
It's fair to say that Leeds United’s fate is very much still in their own hands. And while they have some tricky fixtures between now and the end of the season, there are some winnable games to come. But, what will be essential is becoming a team that is hard to beat, rather than one that when one goal comes in, several more follow.
It’s never been pointed to by Bielsa as he’s a man who doesn’t do excuses, but Leeds have been missing key players in Liam Cooper, the club captain, England international midfielder Kalvin Phillips and striker Patrick Bamford. If Marsch can get them back between now and May, surely an upturn in results and performances will follow, and Premier League survival will be on the cards. But one thing is for sure; it's going to be a challenging ride between now and the end of the season.