Jesse Marsch has encouraged his Leeds team to leave the Premier League relegation zone, believing that a win over Chelsea on Wednesday night would be a good result after a difficult run of three games.
Leeds is 18th in the Premier League table after a 2-1 loss to Arsenal on Sunday. It was Marsch’s second consecutive setback, which came at the same time as relegation rivals Everton won at Leicester.
With a game in hand, Frank Lampard’s club is now one point away from the relegation zone. The Whites are level on points with Burnley with three games to left, but their goal difference is twice that of their nearest opponents.
Leeds have 11 points from nine games under Marsch so far, but their relegation rivals have put together impressive runs of results just as the fixture list handed them difficult assignments against City and Arsenal, the latter of which they were battling for a point late on despite captain Luke Ayling being sent off in the first half.
Leeds welcomes fierce rivals, Chelsea, to Elland Road on Wednesday, with any points allowing them to escape the bottom three for the time being. Victory would also be an appropriate conclusion to Marsch’s dreadful run of games.
“I believe [the team will be able to recover].” “I anticipated getting up points in these three games versus City, Arsenal, and Chelsea would be extremely difficult,” Marsch remarked. “I knew we’d be able to get some points.” Right now, if we win Chelsea, I’d go away from the three games thinking that if you had [given] me three points before the three games, I’d say, ‘OK, that’ll assist us.’
“Obviously, we failed the first two exams, and we have another big test against a team that has a little more rest than us on Wednesday night” (Chelsea drew 2-2 with Wolverhampton Wanderers on Saturday). All we have to do now is turn around, find a way to stay strong, and put a group on the field that will do whatever it takes to win, just as they did in the second half. Right now, that’s the only thing on my mind.”
After half an hour at the Emirates Stadium, Marsch’s team appeared to be dead and buried. Eddie Nketiah, a former Leeds striker, scored twice, the first on a heavy touch from goalkeeper Illan Meslier before Ayling was sent out for a reckless tackle on Gabriel Martinelli.
However, the visitors stayed strong early in the second half, benefiting from some sloppy finishing by their opponents before hitting with their first chance on target, a thundering back-post drive by Diego Llorente from a corner, in the 66th minute.
Leeds gave Arsenal a fright after that, with Rodrigo coming closest with a flicked header in added time. As he tries to drag his side to safety, Jesse Marsch is trying to “encapsulate” the fighting spirit of those final minutes.
“We dug ourselves a huge hole and made an already difficult assignment even more difficult,” he admitted. “We weren’t off to the best start, but our perseverance and fight – even when the game was really difficult – was incredible. I understand that there are no rewards for us, especially now that we are in the relegation zone, but we must remain positive, strong, and persevere. Right now, that’s the only way we can function.
“Our emphasis is totally on Chelsea right now, doing everything we can to recover and prepare for a major encounter on Wednesday,” said the message following the game.
“There is a lot of disappointment in the dressing room right now.” We recognize that we failed ourselves by starting the way we did, but I need to find a way to be honest with them while remaining optimistic. We must heal, get back on our feet, and not feel sorry for ourselves. That’s the only approach I can think of to deal with difficult situations.”
Leeds will be without captain Ayling for the rest of the season after his red card foul on Martinelli earned him a three-match suspension for violent behavior. Jesse Marsch declined to criticize his captain, who made history by committing a moment of lunacy against the club where he began his football career.
“It’s a little ironic given Luke’s 500 games and his experience,” Leeds manager Chris Coleman said. “It was merely a lapse in judgment on his part.” Since I’ve been here, he’s been an integral part of everything we’ve accomplished. I’m sorry for him and the squad, but that’s how things are. We have no choice except to accept it and move on.”
“He apologized, but this is not the time to point fingers,” Marsch remarked when asked if he was disappointed with his captain. We’re doomed if we start playing the blame game with our squad. Sticking together, being disciplined, and believing in what we’re doing are our only options for fighting our way out of this.”