Normally when you’re a manager and you save a team from certain relegation you’re given a key to the city and you have a welcome mat anywhere (and let me tell you from experience having that in Leeds can lead to a lot of rough mornings). Jesse Marsch is not that guy, even though he saved Leeds from some relegation. One, because he replaced a legend in Marcelo Bielsa, and two, because he comes from a country that is still the subject of a high level of suspicion in football circles (and all other circles , most likely).
Marsch did not help himself by first proclaiming that he had never seen Ted Lasso, which everyone in the UK lazily tried to give him the label. And then filled almost every press conference after that with any inspirational quote he could find on Twitter, which is exactly what this character would do. Even though they barely managed to retain their Premier League status, Marsch eventually did, but he didn’t win many fans.
And it’s about whether buying players from his home country will appease Leeds fans and media. But that seems to be his chosen path.
It’s not strange for a coach to bring in players he knows and has worked with before, and Brenden Aaronson and Tyler Adams, who are rumored to be joining the former in the coming days, respond to this standard. Marsch managed Aaronson in Salzburg and he managed Adams in New York. And it’s not that they don’t meet a need Leeds have either.
The problem for both is that they may replace Leeds’ two most important and certainly most popular players. Although Aaronson is not being touted as a direct replacement for Raphina, it’s likely his Leeds career will start in the front line, but possibly on the left side instead of the right where Raphina played. But he will take this place. He’s not the same type of player, but that won’t stop fans from pointing out what Raphina could have done in a certain situation or place that Aaronson failed to do. Raphina could dazzle with her spectacular dribbling and goalscoring, while Aaronson is more focused on energy and ball flight (although he could do some of those Raphina things as well).
Adams will be more direct to take the place of a predecessor in the lineup, and it is Kalvin Phillips who will be the most difficult task. Phillips came through the Leeds system, went on from there and became an England international. There is no other type of player that fans cling to more. And Phillips was the kingpin of the Bielsa system, which many of the Leeds faithful have yet to abandon. Not only was Phillips a great defensive midfielder and capable of protecting his overstretched defence, but he also wasn’t shy about getting up at the other end and helping create chances. This kind of dual role is only skillfully served by very few players in the game.
This is not what Adams does, although he is not helpless when attacked. Adams is more of a classic defensive midfielder, and he might even play with more energy away from the ball than Phillips. His positioning is excellent, although he’s more content to just make the simple pass to get his team going the other way than joining in the counters and attacks himself. There will be less fireworks with Adams than with Phillips, but maybe a little more stability?
Adams still fell out of favor with Leipzig last year, however, and the recent history of players moving from Germany to England is mostly disheartening. Leeds’ style, or what we think it will be now that Marsch can define it however he wishes, will be Red Bull-esque, full of pressure and counter-attacks and fiery runs, which Leipzig had been longing for. distant and why Marsch didn’t work there. Adams and Aaronson should fit in perfectly.
How much rope they will be given though…the strong tendency will be to say “not much”. Both will earn an early buffer simply because they both work so hard, and fans rarely immediately blame a player who is putting in maximum effort. But Leeds were short on goals towards the end of last season, and if Aaronson doesn’t find the net early he will be tagged ‘try hard’. Aaronson is not asked to be their top scorer or anything like that, but he has to participate and he has to create looks as well. It’s a big step from the Austrian league to the Premier League.
Adams faces a test nonetheless, as even if he plays well, Leeds’ defense could still be shaky. They certainly need a player like Adams to back them up and protect them, but this is a team that simply bled goals against last season and a defensive midfielder, no matter how good, is going to solve that problem. .
The calendar should help. Leeds see only one of the big boys, Chelsea, in their first seven games. They will also see Everton and Nottingham Forest in those first seven, and Wolves and Southampton who shouldn’t really wow anyone. Even a few wins should help everyone breathe a little. In fact, Leeds’ tough time isn’t really until the end of October, when they take on Liverpool, Spurs and Man City in the space of four games.
But again, their passports will have all three under a likely unfair microscope. Adams can be out of position at times, especially if he gets a little brave when his team has the ball. Aaronson must go from producing in Austria to the biggest league in the world. If they succeed, it’s a huge boon to the USMNT. But if that doesn’t work, how quickly will Marsch pull the trigger? And if he doesn’t, how many more knives will he take out? There is a track here, but all three must reach it.