Leeds United have confirmed the departure of head coach Jesse Marsch.
The news comes following a run of seven games without victory in the Premier League, consisting of three draws and four defeats, which leaves Leeds only outside the relegation zone on goal difference.
It was just under a year ago that Marsch first took charge of Leeds, replacing Marcelo Bielsa with the Yorkshire side struggling in their fight against relegation. Marsch didn’t have the best of starts as he tried to implement his game plan mid-season but it eventually worked out and safety was secured on the final day of the campaign.
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The 2022/23 campaign started well too, with Leeds picking up seven points from their opening three games including a 3-0 win over Chelsea, but an eight-game winless streak followed. Wins over Liverpool and Bournemouth brought promise of a change in form just before the World Cup, but that victory over the Cherries in the first week of November remains Leeds’ most recent league win.
Given the tightness of the Premier League relegation battle, Leeds have decided that they cannot take the risk of Marsch being unable to turn things around, parting ways with the American as well as Rene Maric, Cameron Toshack and Pierre Barrieu.
There is very little time for Leeds to readjust following the change as they take on Manchester United on Wednesday, with Michael Skubala, Paco Gallardo and Chris Armas taking charge for that game.
But who could replace Jesse Marsch long-term?
The immediate favourite for the Leeds job is West Bromwich Albion manager Carlos Corberan, and he was only recently asked about a potential move away from the Baggies.
“I don’t know, you can tell me that there are rumours this week, another week the rumour disappears, my focus is my work – after the previous game we need to keep growing a lot, to be a more competitive team,” he said.
“In front of me at this club there are many challenges. We will have moments where things are going well and we are winning games, there’ll be difficult moments – this is the work of the coach, to face the difficult moments we have.
“I need to make the players ready for the challenges that we are going to have with the mentality to keep growing, be ambitious and be self demanding of ourselves. This is my focus. I am very pleased to be working here, I’ve said before that these things cannot change.”
But now that a job has materialised, could things be different? Corberan has links with Leeds, having been under-23 manager and then assist to Marcelo Bielsa before moving back into senior management with Huddersfield Town. The Spaniard spent two years at the John Smith Stadium and led Huddersfield to the play-off final last summer, putting them on the brink of a return to the Premier League, but their hearts were broken by Nottingham Forest.
A brief unsuccessful spell at Olympiacos followed before Corberan returned to England with West Brom, and he has led the Baggies from second bottom to sixth in just over three months.
Another potential option comes from Spain, with Andoni Iraola currently thriving high up the La Liga table at Rayo Vallecano. When Iraola took charge of Vallecano in 2020, the club were in the Spanish second tier, but he led them to the top flight at the first time of asking, being Girona in the play-off finals.
Back in La Liga, Vallecano had a good start to the campaign, only really struggling against the teams they would have been expected to struggle against, but they did also manage a 1-0 win over Barcelona. However, a poor second half of the season resulted in Vallecano finishing the campaign 12th, suffering an 11-match winless streak between January and April.
This season is different, however, and Vallecano are currently fifth, just three points outside the top four after 20 games played. Already this season they have drawn with Barcelona at the Nou Camp and beaten Real Madrid at home, and fans are dreaming of European football.
What about a return? Marcelo Bielsa has been out of work since he was sacked by Leeds last year, but has spoken about his readiness to return to the dugout. Most recently he was touted as a potential replacement for Frank Lampard at Everton, and was actually favourite before Sean Dyche stormed clear.
In the end, Bielsa didn’t want to take over a team mid-season, preferring to wait until the summer where he could have a full pre-season to start from scratch and implement his philosophies rather than trying to get it done while fighting relegation. According to reports Bielsa was also unimpressed by the lack of pace in the Everton squad.
So what would make Leeds different? Well, it’s Leeds. This time last year it was a Bielsa squad playing Bielsa football, so there wouldn’t be too many changes needed for the Argentine to re-implement his style of play.
Let’s be real, it would be a big surprise to see Mauricio Pochettino turning out at Elland Road, but the Argentine is being linked. He’s always linked with a move back to England, having been out of work since leaving Paris Saint-Germain, and Leeds would be an interesting prospect.
Rather than a return to a Tottenham-like club, Leeds would see Pochettino going back to his debut in English football, when he took charge of Southampton and attempted to make them an established Premier League side.
When Pochettino took charge of Southampton in January 2013 they were 15th in the Premier League, and he kept them safe by the end of the campaign, finishing 14th. Then, in his first full season at St Mary’s, Pochettino lifted Southampton up to eighth which caught the eyes of Tottenham.
From one former Southampton boss to another, Ralph Hasenhuttl hasn’t been out of work too long since his departure from St Mary’s and he is a well-respected manager. The struggles of Nathan Jones have highlighted that Hasenhuttl wasn’t aided by the club, and he is still quite highly-rated.
Hasenhuttl also has experience in saving a club from relegation, taking over at Southampton when they were 19th and lifting them to 16th by the end of the 2018/19 campaign, five points clear of the drop zone.