Leeds United wouldn’t be daring enough to classify this summer as quite plain sailing. It took until this morning for their new home kit to hit stores and eyes were rolling in Elland Road a few weeks ago when the club learned that a cargo ship carrying goods out of Vietnam had overturned several containers in the sea , threatening another delay.

Only at Leeds, or so they like to say, but the delays in producing shirts for this season have affected teams other than them and overall the business of reasserting itself in the Premier League has proceeded almost as planned. . Sunday’s demolition of Chelsea found Leeds in their element, a club happy in their own skin again. Jesse Marsch is theirs and, at the end of this match, the fans of Elland Road were delighted.

Marsch has a phrase he likes to repeat, the one he first used when he became head coach of the New York Red Bulls in 2015 to the delight of no one in particular: “Some people will love, some people will hate me and as any coach learns, that’s football.

But in saying that on Sunday, he misinterpreted the wave of approval around him. The question is no longer whether Marsch has it in him, but whether Chelsea were a fair and accessible reference and if his team is really as good as they looked in this game. Quality football does not cause emotional conflict. Marcelo Bielsa’s murals are proof of this.

When Leeds offered Marsch the job of manager in February, they presented it as a two-part role, at least until he showed the longevity to take the club beyond those stages. The final 12 games of last season were all about survival – no more and no less – and all Leeds asked of him was leadership to hold the dressing room together and prevent relegation. Safely out of this, as he did, and this season would kick off his tenure in earnest: a fresh start with a new team and the open expanse of a full 38-game campaign.

Andrea Radrizzani, the club’s president, appreciated how Marsch motivated the players and kept the team from falling apart as the walls threatened to close. Now Marsch was expected to really shine. Victor Orta, as he had done with Bielsa, craned his neck as he backed the 48-year-old so strongly for the job.

It was agreed before Survival that if Leeds failed and fell, Marsch would stay. Leeds were all about their style, tactics and suitability, even when their position in the Premier League looked hopeless.

The journey from abject crisis to feeling victory over Chelsea has been multifaceted – a combination of transfer activity matching Marsch’s demands and the manager connecting with his team tactically and mentally.

Bielsa liked to keep players at bay and this arrangement worked for him. Marsch prefers to get closer to them, to be softer on the team without being soft. His empathetic style is appreciated, especially because of the stress the club underwent last season.

Leeds were one of several clubs that spent part of their pre-season in Australia. Manchester United was another. Manchester United players and staff were told to adhere to strict evening curfews, but Marsch’s attitude was to tell his team that the line between fun and disrepute was blindingly obvious and that he preferred to trust them to stay on the safe side.

He berated a player who missed a public appearance at a fan event in a way that quickly cleared the air. Leeds could feel their tactics taking hold.

Over the past six months, Thorp Arch has become a world of conversations, one-on-one chats, small group chats and larger meetings involving the entire locker room. People who know Marsch well still describe him as a natural communicator and his expansion of Leeds’ leadership group – the collection of senior players who speak on behalf of the team – has created a stronger bond between him and them.


Marsch is getting the most out of Rodrigo this season (Photo: Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/Getty Images)

Rodrigo was targeted for special attention. The striker, Leeds’ record signing, had had a mixed two years in England and Marsch felt Rodrigo was at a crossroads, in need of support.

Marsch was ridiculed in public when it emerged he used quotes from historical figures, including Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Theresa, as inspirational tools, but his interaction with the team went further than that. He encouraged them to read books or newspaper articles written about world-class athletes, to find out what made them tick or how they had made marginal gains, especially in endurance and fitness.

He tried to engage with those players who weren’t seen as natural leaders, to make sure they felt valued.

Many one-on-one meetings were handled by his assistant, Cameron Toshack, and the topics of conversation varied. Some focused on tactics and technical improvement. Some had an ambitious tone, asking players to think about where they wanted to be in five years. Some challenged them to think about how long they would live outside of football; place importance on finding pleasure and fulfillment beyond daily work. The idea was to create stronger personal relationships and an environment that was not entirely obsessed with business.

Marsch and Leeds agreed in advance what would happen in the transfer market if they avoided relegation, preparing to press the button as soon as survival was assured. Marsch recently said he views the club’s purchases as ‘our signatures’ rather than his alone – deals made collectively – but the aims Leeds have been pursuing have been identified with Marsch’s tactical model in mind, a strategy built around it.

Brenden Aaronson could press short, crisp bursts, as he did to force the opener against Chelsea at the weekend. Tyler Adams would give the midfield industry – essential after the sale of Kalvin Phillips – and Marc Roca’s comfort on the ball would go along with Adams, complementing the American’s aggression.

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Aaronson and Jack Harrison celebrate against Wolves (Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images)

Regardless of the stereotypes of American players, the rest of the Leeds squad felt the self-confidence of Aaronson and Adams upon their arrival.

Marsch began adapting the training to make those signatures work. Bielsa’s strenuous sessions had created a team with impressive stamina – on Sunday Leeds were able to outrun Chelsea by more than 10km, having already recorded the most distance covered of any Premier League team in the first weekend of the season – but Marsch shifted the focus from distance to intensity.

Much of the run in pre-season was designed to condition players for its tactic, pack hunting which required repeated rapid acceleration. The exercises have been designed to induce high intensity sprints, to aid in pressing and counter-pressing.

Even though Bielsa’s shadow was big, Marsch wasn’t afraid to talk about himself. He would tell his side to take the character and personality they developed under Bielsa and apply it to his own model. The set pieces were practiced daily and certain sessions were entirely devoted to them. Above all, Marsch would urge his team to ensure their football matched the passion and fervor of Elland Road. It was this intensity that forged the bond between Marsch and the crowd on Sunday, the mutual desire to bully Chelsea and roll them. Football like that was an easy sell.

The problem for Marsch as last season spiraled out of control was that Elland Road was no longer scary – at least not to opponents. There was passion and fervor, but much of it was channeled negatively, a consequence of a frightening decline on the pitch. The Chelsea rout told the league that the crowd had his back and he had theirs. His inauspicious departure was dramatically buried, the vicious tension of spring left behind.

When Athleticism interviewed Marsch in March, shortly after his appointment, communication and interaction were two of his watchwords, the weapons he planned to use to his advantage. “Through these channels, I felt like I could clear the air and let everyone move on,” he said.

And five months later, he did.

(Photos: Getty Images/Design: Eamonn Dalton)