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Daniel Levy’s Imaginary (Managerial) Shortlist: Jesse Marsch

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He may be headed to RB Leipzig, but it’s worth remembering the name

FC Red Bull Salzburg v LASK - tipico Bundesliga Photo by Guenther Iby/SEPA.Media /Getty Images

To: daniel.levy@tottenhamhotspur.com
From: cartilagefree@gmail.com
Subject: Let us help you! (Manager search)

Hi again, Daniel!

Searching for managers is a bit like searching for players: there are always a number of great candidates waiting for the chance to break out. There’s nothing quite like the romance of it, is there? You would know from experience, considering Tottenham Hotspur is a club that embodies such a rise.

That’s why I would like point you towards Jesse Marsch, current manager of RB Salzburg. It is completely fair to wonder why someone whose head coaching experience includes Canada, the United States, and Austria. For years, though, Marsch has been a rising star in Europe. He’s been working on perfecting a pressing style that’s not just signature for Red Bull clubs but recognized as attractive and effective. He’s found success in the United States and Austria, and there’s a reason Red Bull has invested time in him.


Pardeep Cattry
Cartilage Free Captain

The Basics

Name: Jesse Marsch
Age: 47
Team: RB Salzburg
Nationality: American
Elo +/-: unavailable

The Specifics

Trophies:

MLS Supporters’ Shield (New York Red Bulls, 2015); Austrian Bundesliga (RB Salzburg 2019-20); Austrian Cup (RB Salzburg 2019-20)

Tactics:

Just as you would expect out of someone with six years of experience with the Red Bull portfolio of clubs, Marsch is all about possession and an intense press. “Aggression” is one of his favorite words when describing the way he wants his teams to play, and is something he holistically believes in. He also prioritizes a fast speed of play and for his teams to stay compact in attack and defense.

He works within that existing framework, but from there is very flexible. He likes to stick with a back four but changes up the shape in front of the backline frequently, depending on what the situation calls for.

Strengths:

Marsch’s teams are hardly ever boring, and the tactical flexibility allows him to not just prepare well for matches, but adjust along the way. The most high-profile example of that is the team’s trip to Anfield in October 2019, a 4-3 loss to Liverpool in the Champions League group stage. Salzburg went down 3-0 before staging an unlikely comeback to make the game 3-3. Though they ended up losing, it was an impressive showing from an Austrian side against the reigning European champions. Here’s Marsch describing his in-game changes last year.

Marsch has won a lot of people over with his style of play, particularly tense crowds. He was unwanted by supporters of both the New York Red Bulls and RB Salzburg when he was hired. In New York, his first act was to face angry supporters in a town hall after a beloved player-turned-manager was unexpectedly fired and in Salzburg, he arrived to banners reading “No to Marsch.” Eight months into his time in New York, he was at another town hall where supporters were singing his praises. Two months into his Salzburg tenure, he was listening to supporters chant “U-S-A” after the team’s first Champions League victory in more than a decade.

Weaknesses:

The most pressing issue is that Marsch is on the cusp of accepting another job, namely going up the Reb Bull ladder to succeed Julian Nagelsmann at Leipzig. (At least he did not reject Tottenham on the way there, so there’s always a chance down the road.)

Tactically, his preference to play compactly leaves his team susceptible to conceding on the counterattack. He also lacks experience at a level comparable to the Premier League; the Austrian league is almost a cakewalk for Salzburg, and his record in Europe stands at three wins, three draws, and ten losses.

The Verdict

Likeliness of being hired

Again, he’s going to accept another job so unless things go awry at the last minute, it seems extremely unlikely.

Grade if Hired: B

It’s pretty risky, but it would signal that Spurs are about finding managers that suit an attack-minded style of play. There are worse signals to send as a club.