Every word Jesse Marsch said on Leeds United's Bamford plan, dressing room anxiety and Dallas return
“I want to start with Stuart Dallas. He had a successful surgery, it was a long surgery – five and a half hours. But they believe that the outcome was very positive and they say it’ll be a long recovery, but believe it will be a full recovery. He has had something like 400-500 messages from fans, family and friends. We know that he’s loved and I think that this moment proved that more than anything. I don’t want to speak for Stuart but I’ve heard that he’s been very appreciative of so many people reaching out and extending their concerns and love towards him. We all hope the absolute best for Stuart and we hope is soon pain free and back here in the training centre so we can really start his recovery. Then on the other injury front Patrick has been on the pitch, so we remain cautiously optimistic with that. Tyler, Adam and Cry are all moving in the right direction. Liam Cooper trained today, Diego trained today so we should have, other than those 4/5 guys, a full complement of players.”
About Stuart Dallas, you said a long recovery, we talking a year/18 months, that kind of duration and also how much of what he’s going through is that going to be an incentive for the other lads to make sure that he’s a Premier League player?
I think we can safely say it’ll be six months but it could be longer and I don’t think anyone wants to rush him. I think the bone has to heal, and then they have to look at all the things like the articular cartilage, the meniscus which everything seems to be relatively intact. The ACL is intact, I’m not a doctor but a lot of the main structure of the knee is in place and it’s just got to heal over time. And we all know Stuart’s such a big part of the group, he’s such a fantastic person and player. I think he had the ongoing record for most consecutive matches so I think he’s an iron man. It’s motivation for us but more importantly it’s an indicator for the fact Stuart will be back stronger than ever.”
When you say you’re cautiously optimistic about Patrick, does that mean he’ll play a part before the end of the season?
Yeah, I think so. Again I watched him on the pitch today and he was moving really well. He was doing a lot of ball work, relatively active and dynamic and so I think we still have two and a half weeks and we’ll go step by step, but hopeful we can get him into training next week.”
The Southampton manager has come out and said he doesn’t think 40 points will be enough to stay in the Premier League. That’s what they’re on at the moment, it’s not just three of you in the scrap. How many do you think are?
I have no idea what it’ll take. I have been asked this many times, all I care about is focusing on each match and right now that’s on Arsenal.
I was talking to the Burnley manager the other day about how their matches are falling ahead of everybody else’s and drawing comparisons with other sports like cricket/baseball, it’s like going into bat first and saying catch us. Do you think that’s an advantage to playing first or second?
No I don’t. I guess the advantage is if you get the result it puts a bit of pressure on the teams who play after you. But going into the last match I don’t think we even knew what the result was. And then if you lose it can be a disadvantage. So the key is to, again try to do everything you can to control your own results. That’s my strategy in this process.
Everton will be playing at the same time as you on Sunday, so in terms of controlling your results, will you want to know what’s happening there. Say for instance if you’re drawing or winning at Arsenal with five minutes to go and you know that Everton are, we hold with what we’ve got, or if Everton are winning and you’re not, on goes another striker.
Not right now, there’s still too many games. I think when you get down to the last two what is happening with the other results, specifically the last one if it’s tight. But right now the best thing we can do is pick up points.
Liam Cooper, are you ruling him out for this weekend?
No, I actually think Liam will play. He was in full training today and felt good, so I think he’ll be available.
It caught the fat pad, but I don’t know what that means. It’s not a muscle, it’s something in his knee that’s a lubricant but he’s feeling good.
On the Stuart Dallas issue, with the amount of tackles he makes, interceptions. Losing that now for these four games and beyond, what’s your plan to compensate for that?
I think we have players that can play the positions that Stuart played and play them well. Quite honestly in the moment, I’m thinking more about Stuart than what it would be like to replace him because I trust our team and our roster, and all our players. I want Stuart to be healthy, pain free and back here with us and on the road to recovery. That is my main focus for Stuart.
But there’s no natural replacement for him right now, is it going to be a rethink of how you do things?
Yeah, even before Liam had to withdraw from the match, we were going to play with him as a six against Man City. His flexibility, not just his quality, is helpful. But again we have enough to cover him as well.
Going into Arsenal, you surprised Pep with how you set up. What’s your message – to try win the game or contain?
It’s to try win the game for sure. We respect Arsenal a lot, they have a lot of quality players and they’ve developed over the past few years with Arteta and we know that we’ve already gone over what we want the game to look like and what their strengths are. They’re like a version of Man City, they like to spread the field, like to play with combinations, are a very good passing team and a lot of movement. So our ability to limit and our ability to command the game with the ball and be good in possession and then in transition phases. One thing that was disappointing about the Man City game was we’d been relatively stable in defensive set pieces and then we gave up two. We’ve talked through that a little today and done some on the pitch but I expect us to be better with that in the next four games.
How have you kept confidence because the top sides this season Leeds have struggled against – 10 games against the top sides and not won?
I think our group has a very strong belief in themselves. Since I have been here we’ve tried to ease the pressure of every moment and enjoy the process more and still then be ready to go out and compete on matchday. Then to execute a match plan that gives us a chance to pick up points. In many ways even with the Man City game I was very pleased with that process and the way we played. But against the best opponents you have to be really, really good on the day. The margin of error is so thin and we have to find a way to be razor sharp. That will be the emphasis going into this game against Arsenal.
Mikel has signed a new contract – how much has he improved them?
I haven’t been able to follow him a lot but certainly as a player watched him and he was a great player and I think he’s transitioned into a very good manager. Watching his team play I can see their intelligent and have a plan. I think that comes down to the way he’s been coaching them so I think when you’re in this business you always like to hear when a manager gets a vote of confidence from the organisation and normally the only way to do that is give a contract. So good for him, congratulations.
How much are you enjoying the challenge that is facing you and how much have you settled in?
My family has been here, we are still in temporary housing so haven’t moved in to our permanent housing yet but we will be doing that in the next couple of weeks. I can only speak about the positivity I have felt in this community. Starting at Elland Road, the way our fans treated us after the match against Man City, I’ve never seen in football. The positivity we need right now. We need to be so aligned and I can say that the singular focus here at Thorp Arch, is that everyone is doing everything they can to control our destiny and we need all the positivity from our fans like we saw at Elland Road. I’ve felt that in the community too, whether that being people who recognise me and then come up and support and say how happy they are with the team and how excited they are for the future. Then there are people who have no idea who I am, which I prefer more and then we have a really nice exchange whether it’s at a coffee shop or the friendless and kindness is amazing. I’ve said from day one I love being here and I hope to make this my home for many years. I love the club, the team, the area, we’re really enjoying ourselves. That gives me more motivation and desire to do whatever it takes to help this team achieve.
From a personal POV, how much of an achievement would it be to keep this club in the PL and lead them in the PL next season?
I think it’s all about the team. However I knew when I came early it was an opportunity to evaluate everything for how to help it move forward. Not just to take over from the summer and try to do that. I think that part has been great, I’ve got to know the people here that work around the team, support the team. I’ve got to know the players, I’ve got to know the academy and got a feel for everything that’s going on here and how we can move forward. But again it’s all about achieving our goal and that’s what every day is right now.
Losing a player like Stuart at anytime is hard, but the timing with what’s at stake, it couldn’t be worse?
Yeah, but again you don’t want to have a big injury like that at anytime. Football is football and life is something else. In that moment we just want to support Stuart and as a team, this is bigger than any one man. That’s just the way it has to be. But we obviously all think about Stuart a lot and want him to be healthy, strong, back living his life and we want to support him in that process. That’s how that works for me. We will miss him but we’re thinking about him.
Has the lack of a natural centre forward been costly in terms of making chances at times?
I think probably so. We’ve asked Dan James to play a lot in that position and I know that’s not ideal. We will still probably need him at times to play there and I think that he’s developed more flexibility in his game over the last couple of years because he’s been asked to do different things and different roles. If we can get Patrick back, sharp and fit, that would be helpful for sure. Then I’ve always been thinking about how to use Joffy more and more. We’ve used Rodrigo sometimes in that position but I think he’s more a false nine, or a ten and operates better when there’s another striker up with him. It hasn’t always been perfect in terms of trying to get the most out of every game time but the guys have given everything no matter what role has been asked of them.
Is there a risk, reward balancing act with Bamford and other players at this stage given there’s only four games left that are so important. Take more risks?
It depends on the situation. Especially with the three day week coming we can’t be coming into the third game on fumes and not having enough players and healthy bodies so we have to think about how to rotate through the week the right way so that we get the most out of every game, but also have as many fresh legs and ready legs on the pitch for each match. Right now we’re focused on Arsenal and what that’ll take and then we’ll have to transition quickly into Chelsea.
Back five last weekend, coming into Arsenal – second match against big six. Temptation to keep with that?
My goal from the beginning was to have flexibility with positional play. Players playing different positions, and formations and everything. We’ve got better and better at understanding principles so that we can apply it to tactics a little bit more. Each opponent is a little bit different and requires something different against the ball, with the ball, the whole bit. The good news is we’re at a point where we’re clearer so we can use tactics so we can manipulate opponents and their match plans a bit more. The key will be that the players are clear when they step on the pitch so that can play their best. I feel like we’re getting there and Sunday will be another test of that.
No goals in last two – what do you want to see different from your attack?
Against Man City we lacked a little bit of poise when we won the ball. In build up phase we were quite good, we were able to move the ball around, manipulate the opponent and make them defend in certain moments. But a lot of time when we won the ball in transition we gave it back and maybe rushed actions a little bit. For me the key is to understand what moments we have to be vertical and attack immediately and what moments we need to have more patient to control the game a bit more with possession. We’re still working on that. I think I said in one press conference the 100 to 70 message, so we’re continuing to work with the ability to slow ourselves down, especially in attacking moments so we can finish off our plays.
Are you seeing confidence or tension on the players? How do you stop anxiety dominating?
I think it’s normal after results, whether they’ve gone for or against us, to have emotions attached to what’s happening. But by the time we get to work and get on the pitch and start talking about what we want the weekend to look like, there’s clarity and not a lot of tension at that point. It’s normal for everyone to have emotional responses to different results that don’t go our way or do go our way. But again, I think the work and the focus and the focus on the work here has been phenomenal. It’s been a real strength of ours so far.
How hard is to shut the outside noise?
That’s what it is, eliminate the emotion and continue to focus on our ability and discipline to have concentration on what’s important to us. From a media perspective people like to write about the emotional side of football, the momentum here, or this or that or what people are saying. When you’re in this business for a long time you know that the job is preparing to perform and the focus and ability to do that. Also the ability to eliminate things such as media that get in the way of us doing our job. But we have a lot good pros and we understand that is clearly my approach to every day and I think that the players respond to that. And they understand it.