London (AFP) – Leeds United on Sunday sacked manager Marcelo Bielsa following a poor run of results that has left the Premier League side teetering just two points above the relegation zone.
Saturday’s dispiriting 4-0 loss to Tottenham at Elland Road was their fourth straight defeat, a run during which their leaky defence has conceded 17 goals.
The 66-year-old Argentine remained convinced he could turn things around but the Leeds board decided they had to act to preserve their top-flight status.
The club intends to make an announcement regarding Bielsa’s successor on Monday, with former RB Leipzig and RB Salzburg boss Jesse Marsch the heavy favourite to take over.
Chairman Andrea Radrizzani said he was forced to act due to the club’s “precarious position” in the Premier League, saying it had been the toughest decision of his tenure at Leeds.
“With Marcelo as our head coach, we had three incredible campaigns and the good times returned to Elland Road,” he said. “He changed the culture of the club and brought a winning mentality to us all.
“The moments created, particularly in the 2019/20 season and winning promotion to the Premier League, will of course live long in all our memories, myself and the fans included.
“However, I have to act in the best interest of the club and I believe a change is required now in order to secure our Premier League status.”
Bielsa, who took charge in 2018 and returned the club to the English top-flight two years later, is revered in Leeds.
Murals of the mercurial Argentine adorn walls around the northern city and the club’s Elland Road stadium.
– Premier League ‘promised land’ –
After ending Leeds’ 16-year absence from the Premier League, Bielsa delivered a ninth-place finish in their first season back in swashbuckling style.
But their second campaign in the top flight has been hampered by injuries to key men such as forward Patrick Bamford, midfielder Kalvin Phillips and captain Liam Cooper.
Bielsa’s tactics and refusal to switch from his renowned attacking style have also came under fire — the 60 goals they have conceded is the worst in the Premier League by some distance.
Nicknamed “El Loco” (the mad man), the former Argentina and Chile boss has a history of walking away rather than being fired.
In his previous three jobs he resigned after the first game of Marseille’s season in 2015, lasted two days as Lazio boss a year later and just a few months at Lille. His stay at Leeds was the longest at a club during his managerial career.
Bielsa leaves with the club in 16th position, two points from safety and in real danger of slipping back down to the Championship.
Leeds players and fans paid warm tributes to the departed boss, often seen sitting on a “bucket” seat by the side of the pitch or crouching down.
“You saw in me what I didn’t even see in myself,” England international Phillips posted on Instagram, while Bamford tweeted that Bielsa “changed everything for everyone”.
The Leeds United Supporters’ Trust said in an open letter that the departed boss transformed their side into “one of the most entertaining teams in world football” after he took over in 2018.
“The next three-and-a-half years were a story that none of us could have written,” the Trust said. “Triumph, failure and redemption. A return to the promised land.”
US coach Marsch, 48, has been out of work since leaving Bundesliga side RB Leipzig last year but is best known for his work at New York Red Bulls and RB Salzburg.
Leeds are next in action when they visit Leicester on Saturday.
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