Home Sports Leeds board given mid-season deadline for Marsch decision amid top flight trend

Leeds board given mid-season deadline for Marsch decision amid top flight trend

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Leeds board given mid-season deadline for Marsch decision amid top flight trend

Over the past three full Premier League seasons, there have been 20 mid-season managerial changes. Less than 50 per cent (9/20) of which resulted in a team finishing higher than the position they were in when their previous manager left the club. This presents Leeds United’s board of directors with a difficult proposition as the team currently sit 18th in the table and failure to improve on their standing will result in relegation.

Fortunately, Leeds have time on their side. Only 11 of this season’s 38 Premier League fixtures have been played and there are still 81 points up for grabs, however given the team’s current form – winless in eight, picking up two points from the last 24 available – the prospect of a rapid turnaround in fortunes appears somewhat slim.

Head coach Jesse Marsch has fielded several questions in recent press conferences, querying whether he remains the man to lead United out of the situation they currently find themselves in. While the American insists Leeds’ board are ‘unified’ behind him, similar guarantees have not been provided, at least not publicly, by directors and key decision-makers at the club.

Jesse Marsch and staff in the dugout.
Leeds United v Fulham FC. Premier League. Elland Road Stadium
23 October 2022. Picture Bruce Rollinson

So far, the Leeds hierarchy have, by default, decided to stick by the man they entrusted with backroom appointments and took advice from regarding player signings this summer.

In Marsch’s favour is a league-wide trend observed in recent years, in which mid-season managerial changes have rarely seen teams improve considerably when changing manager or head coach. Only 25 per cent of teams who made mid-season appointments improved on their league position by two-or-more places in the Premier League table, over the past three seasons. In 2019/20, Watford swapped Javi Gracia for Quique Sanchez Flores, before deciding the Spaniard should be replaced by Nigel Pearson; they moved from 20th at the time of Gracia’s sacking, to 19th by the end of the campaign.

Similarly, a year later, West Bromwich Albion and Sheffield United parted with Slaven Bilic and Chris Wilder, respectively, with their teams in 19th and 20th place. Neither side improved on their position by the end of the season. Norwich City’s decision to remove Daniel Farke in 2021/22 with the team 20th in the table, yielded no material improvement from Dean Smith whose Canaries finished bottom of the pile. Meanwhile, Burnley’s late attempt to salvage their season by sacking Sean Dyche saw them relegated, despite their best efforts, having been 18th when Dyche left Turf Moor.

There have been outliers, though; Eddie Howe lifted a winless Newcastle United from 19th to 11th place last season, while two years prior, Everton were guided to a 12th place finish by Carlo Ancelotti, after Marco Silva was sacked with the team in 18th . Perhaps crucially, both of those managerial changes were made before the halfway stage of the season.

In total, five of the seven teams who changed manager whilst marooned in the bottom three, since the beginning of 2019/20, were relegated at the end of that season, which begs the question: have Leeds already left it too late?

Marsch is expected to remain in the dugout for this weekend’s fixture against Liverpool, and this season’s unique World Cup fire-break offers Premier League chairmen and directors an extended period to think long and hard about the ramifications of mid-season axe-swinging. The data alone suggests things are unlikely to improve, but certainly not impossible.

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