Javi Gracia: Leeds appoint ex-Watford boss to replace Jesse Marsh | Football News

Leeds have appointed former Watford boss Javi Gracia as their new manager on a “flexible contract”.

Jesse Marsch was sacked by the club on February 6 and U21s coach Michael Skubala has been in interim charge for the last three games, but Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at relegation rivals Everton left the club two points clear.

Gracia, who kept Watford in the Premier League in 2018-19 and also led them to the FA Cup final, has been out of work since leaving Al Saad for Qatar last June.

Confirming Gracia’s appointment, Leeds said in a statement: “Leeds United are delighted to announce that the club has agreed terms with Javi Gracia to become the men’s first team manager, subject to obtaining a work permit .

“Experienced 52-year-old agrees flexible contract at Elland Road”.

Leeds host rock-bottom Southampton in a crucial game on Saturday.

Why pragmatic Gracia makes sense for Leeds

Javi Gracia has been appointed as the new manager of Leeds United
Javi Gracia has been appointed as the new manager of Leeds United

It remains to be seen whether Gracia will get the chance to oversee a full season in charge of Leeds. There’s a lot to be done before that’s even a consideration, and it’s no secret that the 52-year-old wasn’t their first choice to succeed Jesse Marsch.

But given the circumstances, and while some Leeds fans will need convincing about his credentials for the role, it’s not hard to see how the club’s decision-makers took him.

Gracia brings considerable experience, for starters, to the former midfielder’s coaching career having managed 12 different clubs in five different countries, and two themes are consistent across them.

“Above all, his teams are very organized, with a great commitment to helping each other,” Unai Emery, a former teammate and long-time rival of Gracia’s, said in 2018.

Those traits were certainly evident at Málaga, where they secured back-to-back top-10 finishes in La Liga on a shoestring budget, taking points off Barcelona, ​​Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid in the process, and again in 2018/19 at Watford, a team, like Málaga de Gracia, defined by their cohesion, diligence and discipline.

It is a quality that Leeds will need if they are to stay in the Premier League this season. Marsh spoke of progress before his dismissal. On the field, however, there was chaos. His team were too open, too easy to beat and ultimately too vulnerable to the threat of relegation.

Read Nick Wright’s full presentation on Javi Gracia’s appointment here.

Gracia’s in-tray: Continue Leeds

Javi Gracia
Javi Gracia has been out of work since leaving Al Saad in Qatar last June

Marsch succeeded in one aspect of his tenure in ensuring Leeds retained their Premier League status last season and that will be Gracia’s top priority.

Forty-four percent shareholders 49ers Enterprises, the investment arm of the San Francisco 49ers, have the option to own 100% of the club and Elland Road stadium before January 2024 and while relegation will not necessarily void the deal, it will affect the Leeds valuation and throw a spanner in the works of the current deal, which depends on the club’s stay.

Turn dominance into wins

Gracia must quickly figure out how to stop Leeds from losing games they should have won or at least earned a point.

Marsch’s last game in charge, a 1-0 defeat at Nottingham Forest earlier this month, was typical of the model under the American. Leeds dominated possession and had long spells in the opponents’ half, only to concede soft goals from set-pieces or on the counter-attack.

Immune deficiency

Throughout Marsch’s tenure, the opposition rarely needed to create too many chances to score.

Having committed players forward, Leeds often lost their defensive shape and as well as being vulnerable in transition, they also continued to leak goals from set pieces. The Whites conceded three or more goals in a game under Marsh on more occasions than they shut out the opposition.

Unleash the offensive arsenal

Leeds appeared to have thrown their support behind Marsh in the January transfer window.

Austria defender Max Vomber and United States midfielder Weston McKenney were both in the starting line-up, but Gracia must integrate club-record signing Georginio Rutter into his playing system.

Patrick Bamford, the injured Rodrigo, Luis Sinisterra, Willy Gnonto, Brenden Aaronson, Jack Harrison and Crysencio Summerville offer plenty of attacking talent and the Spaniard must find the best way to use it.

Restore Leeds’ identity

The swarming, high-tempo attacking philosophy under respected former boss Marcelo Bielsa gave way to a confused version under Marsch. The American’s game plan looked chaotic, leaving fans and pundits confused, while his players seemed disinterested in their roles.

Gracia teams are renowned for being disciplined and hard to beat rather than playing free-flowing football.

Whatever his vision for Leeds is, he needs to translate it consistently on the pitch, something Marsch has been unable to do and time is not on his side.

Analysis: Who did Leeds consider for the vacancy?

Leeds United manager Jesse Marsh during the English Premier League soccer match between Nottingham Forest and Leeds United at City Stadium in Nottingham, England, Sunday, Feb. 5, 2023. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira)
Jesse Marsch was sacked by Leeds on 6th March

Sky Sports’ Tim Thornton:

Last weekend’s defeat to Everton opened up the prospect of Leeds dropping to the bottom of the table if they lose Saturday’s crucial home clash with Southampton, and the spotlight is quickly turning to those at the top of the club .

Leeds have been widely criticized for not having a replacement for Marsh and took the decision last week to put Under-21 coach Michael Skubala in charge for the upcoming matches.

The reality is that Leeds had a short list of targets when they sacked Marsch and they did move quickly to try and replace him.

Sporting Director Victor Horta has led the search for a new manager and has flown to both Spain and Holland to try and seal a deal for those at the top of the club’s target list.

However, it quickly became clear that the top contenders were unavailable midway through the season and it was the lack of an alternative plan that led to anger and frustration among fans.

Leeds were confident they could lure Rayo Vallecano boss Antoni Iraola but underestimated how difficult it would be to prize him away from the LaLiga club, who blocked his exit.

Use Chrome browser for more accessible video player

Tim Thornton provides an update on Leeds’ search for a new manager. Former Watford manager Javi Gracia appears to be closing in on the position as he arrived for talks with the club.

Feyenoord coach Arne Slot was in a similar situation. He led his team to the top of the Eredivisie and the Dutch club made it clear that they did not want to lose him.

Former River Plate boss Marcelo Gallardo also has his admirers at Elland Road but is understood to be keen to start his next job at the start of the season.

Fans chanted “sack the board” at Everton on Saturday and it was clear the pressure was on for Horta and the club’s hierarchy to get their next call right.

The boardroom-level decision-making is tied to president Andrea Radrizzani’s planned sale of the club to minority shareholders 49ers Enterprises. And with that scenario looming, all parties involved are understandably keen to ensure that whatever decisions are made are in the club’s best long-term interests.

But Leeds have not won in the Premier League since November and have won just two of their last 20 games.

They need to find a way to quickly change the trajectory of the season, and if the mood among the fans is to change, that must start with three points against Southampton at Elland Road on Saturday.

Gracia’s first 11 games for Leeds

Start 15:00 unless stated

February 25 – Southampton (H), Premier League

February 28 – Fulham (A), FA Cup fifth round

March 4 – Chelsea (H), Premier League

11 March – Brighton (H), Premier League

March 18 – Wolves (A), Premier League

April 1st – Arsenal (A), Premier League

April 8 – Crystal Palace (H), Premier League, live on Sky Sports, kick-off 5.30pm

April 17 – Liverpool (H), Premier Live, live on Sky Sports, kick-off 20:00

April 22 – Fulham (H), Premier League, kick-off at 12.30

April 25 – Leicester (H), Premier League, start at 20.00

April 29 – Bournemouth (A), Premier League

Leave a Comment