Leeds United faced three tough games in February 2022 against Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur and a rescheduled match at Anfield against Liverpool. Marcelo Bielsa’s tactics in these three games were crazy. Trying to take these three quality teams on at their own game was madness. Leeds are not blessed with having the same quality as the top teams and you have to be pragmatic when you are playing the best teams in England.
At this time, Leeds were still without Kalvin Phillips, Patrick Bamford and Liam Cooper due to injury. Their squad was stretched at this time with having to play players out of their normal position. Leeds conceded 14 goals in these three games and it looked like Leeds were doomed. It would have taken a miracle to stay up if they continued with their crazy tactics.
Leeds United move Forward with Jesse Marsch
Leeds took action about their form against these teams and announced after their game against Tottenham Hotspur on 26th of February 2022 that they sacked Marcelo Bielsa. Marcelo Bielsa will always be remembered for being a hero, especially in getting Leeds promoted to the Premier League for the first time in 16 years. On must have no sympathy in how it ended for Bielsa. It was the right decision at the time as Bielsa made no effort to change his tactics despite repeated losses. It was announced on 28th of February that American Jesse Marsch would be the new Leeds United manager.
— Jesse Marsch (@jessemarsch) May 22, 2022
Marsch Takes Over
Jesse Marsch’s first match as Leeds boss was against Leicester City at the King Power Stadium on Saturday 5th of March 2022. Leeds was harder to break down in this match and had more of a shape and structure to their performance but lost narrowly 1-0 to Leicester. Marsch’s first home game at Elland Road was a big one against Norwich City. Leeds created plenty of chances in this game but it looked like this game would be a draw as Norwich scored in the 90th minute. Joe Gelhardt gave Leeds fans a present by scoring a winner for Leeds in the 94th minute. Everything was going wrong in this game for Leeds as they lost Diego Llorente, Mateusz Klich and goalkeeper Illan Meslier all in the first half. Leeds were given a lifeline when Wolves were reduced to ten men halfway through the second half and this forced an unbelievable comeback by Leeds which was finished in added time by defender Luke Ayling. This result was massive in giving Leeds a confidence boost to kick on in the remaining games.
After Leeds beat Watford 3-0 it put Leeds on 34 points and it looked like Leeds were nearly safe but faced three tough games against Manchester City, Arsenal and Chelsea before the end of the season. While Leeds lost these three games both Everton and Burnley were putting extreme pressure on Leeds as both teams started to win games.
The final two games were Leeds two biggest games of the 2021/2022 Premier League season against Brighton & Hove Albion at home and Brentford away. Leeds were getting beaten 1 nil by Brighton for the majority of the match and it looked like that Leeds were going to lose this game until Pascal Struijk scored a huge equalizer in added time to give Leeds hope in the battle to avoid relegation. This was a massive result for Leeds as both Burnley and Everton lost on the same day. Everton came from two goals down against Crystal Palace and won 3-2 which confirmed their Premier League safety for another season. Burnley drew 1-1 against Aston Villa which meant that it would go to the final day between Leeds and Burnley for the final relegation spot.
The final day of the relegation battle was as exciting as the title race. Burnley was in a better position going into the final day as they had a better goal difference than Leeds. Burnley hosted Newcastle at home and Newcastle gave Leeds a boost as Newcastle were 2-0 nil up against Burnley after 60 minutes. Leeds had a positive first-half performance against Brentford and thought that they went ahead as Joe Gelhardt scored at the end of the first half but VAR disallowed the goal. Leeds took the lead in the 56th minute as Raphinha scored from the penalty spot but Brentford gave Leeds a blow, equalizing through Sergi Canos on the 78th minute. Brentford got two players sent off but Leeds were panicking as they couldn’t keep the ball and Burnley nearly equalized against Newcastle only for a clearance off the line which would have changed everything. Jack Harrison put the game to bed as he put Leeds 2-1 up in the 94th minute.
Leeds fans could finally breathe at full time as Leeds won and managed to confirm Premier League football for another season. Making the decision to sack Marcelo Bielsa was a good decision as Leeds wouldn’t have stayed up if Bielsa was still in charge. Leeds need to plan for next season by having a successful 2022 Summer transfer window which will include managing to keep both Kalvin Phillips and Raphinha for next season.