Leeds United’s ill-fated season could have been avoided if only… Of course hindsight is the best sight, but what if…?

As the inquest into Leeds United’s relegation continues, few culprits begin to emerge in my book, chief among them the Board.

The reasons for the club’s exile from English football’s top table can be traced back to some of the decisions made at the highest level. Leeds United surrendered their top-flight status with a whimper due in no small part to poor boardroom decisions, especially around managerial appointments.

If managers are judged on results, so too the Board must be judged on the quality and performance report card of the managers they hire.

Marsch, all sizzle no steak

Jesse Marsch was supposed to rouse Leeds United players from the slumber and inertia that had begun to set in under Marcelo Bielsa, and put the fire back into the players’ bellies.

He did no such thing. If Leeds United as a squad had plateaued under Bielsa, they definitely regressed under Marsch.

When a club sacks a manager on grounds of poor performance, the expectation is that the replacement will do better. A look at Marsch’s record shows the American fared worse than his predecessor, Bielsa.

The euphoria of the dramatic final day escape masked Marsch’s failings and excused his inadequacies over the whole piece. It clouded the Board’s judgement. The decision to keep faith with the American for the start of the ill-fated 2022/23 campaign was therefore ill-advised and sentimental.

There is also a case for arguing that we paid the price for the co-owners’ vanity agenda/project; American owners wanting an American manager, who recruited a few American players in the transfer market. This is not a slight on the professionalism of the players, who acquitted themselves reasonably well in the circumstances, but could Leeds United have been better served by a different calibre of player, one suited to the rigours of the Premier League and with the stomach and temperament for a relegation scrap?

As for Marsch, the effervescence on the touchline produced very little on the pitch. His teams huffed and puffed.

The Board should have thanked him for keeping us up – largely by fluke and huge slice of luck – and then shown him the exit door for unsatisfactory performance on the whole. There would have been nothing scandalous about that.

Marsch was given more than a fair crack of the whip. Some clubs routinely fire managers fresh from winning the league title because for them its not just about winning, but winning well in pursuit of loft ambitions.

The decision to keep faith with Jesse Marsch for as long as the club did was therefore a serious dereliction of duty by the Board.

Gracia, all froth no beer

There were suggestion the club was rebuffed by a couple of its preferred candidates to replace Marsch. So they plumped for Javi Gracia, whose Premier League managerial record, to be fair, was not too shabby based on his stint at Watford.

But was he the Spaniard the ideal candidate for the challenge the club faced? The relegation battle required pragmatism over aesthetics, and an understanding that performances would be secondary to results.

Sam Allardyce revealed that the Board did not sound him out when they were looking for Marsch’s successor with the club’s Premier League status at stake. To then bring Big Sam in with four games to play was an admission that overlooking him in favour of Gracia was another mistake by the Board. So the club hierarchy expected Allardyce to accomplish in four games what their preferred candidate couldn’t in over a dozen matches?

The Board must take a good look in the mirror.

A solid striker

Goals win matches. This season Leeds United were weighed on the goals scale and found wanting.

Rodrigo (13) shouldered the bulk of the goal-scoring burden. Jack Harrison, arguably the club’s player of the season, and Luis Sinisterra, were joint-second in the charts with five league goals apiece.

Patrick Bamford is (was) a decent striker when fit. Unfortunately his injury record shows that he will, almost inevitably, miss a sizeable chunk of the season.

Could the club have done more in the transfer market to mitigate the paltry goal supply? Absolutely.

What next?

We are back in the Championship. The aim should be to bounce back at the first time of asking. The longer we stay in the second tier the more difficult it is going to be to get back to the top table again.

Therefore the Board can’t afford to get the next managerial appointment wrong, while the squad will need an overhaul in favour of a group of players equipped for purpose.

Leeds United, how do I love thee!

Rob Arnold and Leeds United farewell party

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Rob Arnold and Leeds United farewell party


I'm Barrie Jarrett, born in Leeds, lived over a decade in South Africa, CEO And Co Founder of Planet Sport Limited and Planet Bet Limited.

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