‘Playing against Leeds is like going to the dentist‘ Mikel Arteta, Arsenal Head Coach
Monday the 6th of January 2020, The day Bielsa’s Leeds went mainstream and the whole country took notice. ““We’re Leeds United, and we’re taking the p*ss,” sing visiting fans. And they are. Leeds currently giving Arsenal a lesson in passing, pressing and work ethic” Tweeted the chief writer of the TimesSport, Henry Winter. Gary Linker also tweeted “If you didn’t know which the Premier League team was, you could be forgiven for thinking it was Leeds”. Forty-five minutes, that was all it took for Bielsaball to take over the nation.
The way Leeds played in the first half was a revelation to many, but to us it was just another day at the office. We went to the Emirates and took the game to them. Arteta’s men just couldn’t match our high intensity pressing. Passes Allowed Per Defensive Action, (PPDA), is a metric that can quantify the extent and aggression of high presses employed by teams. The smaller the number the better. In the first half at the Emirates, Leeds had a PPDA of 5.86 compared with Arsenal’s 23.33 PPDA. So we were quadrupling the aggression and intensity shown by our Premier league counter parts. These numbers really stood out to me and say so much about the two teams mentalities. Leeds simply wanted it more and certainly, were not afraid to show it.
The map to the left shows where Arsenal lost the ball during the first half. The white shapes with red outlines show where a loss led to a Leeds shot. This happened seven times. The Bielsa press was causing the opposition all sorts of problems and created seven of our fourteen shots in the first half. Arsenal had an average of three passes per possession in the first forty-five minutes which just shows how dominant Leeds were in hunting the ball down and winning it back whenever we lost it.
Klich was ferociously hunting Xhaka and Guendouzi, not giving them a second to think. He made eight ball recoveries, eight challenges and two interceptions in the opposing half and didn’t let their two man pivot have any time on the ball. This meant Arsenal had to bypass the two defensive midfielders and go long to Lacazette. Where White and Phillips were lying in wait ready to pounce on any heavy touch or loose ball. This resulted in Lacazette losing the ball ten times in the first half alone, a team high at that point. Thus restarting the barrage of attacks launched by the whites. The pressing from Klich and the other attacking players was crucial in our ability to pin them into their own half and keep the attacking pressure on.
Leeds United’s work off the ball meant we could be effective and dominate on the ball as well. Our two shots resulting in the best expected goals value, (Xg), both came from counter-attacks. This is shown in the image to the right. Where we had won the ball back and immediately attacked arsenal’s defense while they were still out of shape. Leeds dominated the ball with 62.77% possession and managed to retain the ball brilliantly. We made 282 passes to Arsenal’s 148 in the first half, That’s nearly double as many passes. This really showed as we constantly pulled the opposition around the pitch by moving the ball at such a high tempo.
Bielsa’s side were by far the most threatening team in the opening forty-five minutes notching fourteen shots to Arsenal’s three. This is shown in the adjacent image. Leeds also managed to get into the opposition box quite frequently, having sixteen touches inside their box and fifteen entries into the penalty area through runs or crosses. compared to Arsenals three touches in our penalty area and no entries through runs or crosses. Leeds also had a much higher Xg than their Premier League opponents, with an Xg of 0.84 at the break compared to Arsenal’s Xg of 0.2. This represented the feeling that Leeds were quite unlucky and deserved to be in-front at the break. From kick-off to the half time whistle Leno’s goal was under fire. Bamford, Alioski and Harrison had the best chances of the half and better quality in-front of goal could well have seen Leeds net the opener. Leeds forced Leno into making a save on four occasions, as seen in the below image. Bamford also rattled the crossbar in the fifteenth minute, as shown as shot number 6 below, after the best move of the game. It was trademark Bielsaball with many intricate little passes out side the penalty area at speed before the killer pass was sent into Bamford’s feet who then unleashed a powerful effort onto the crossbar.
All though our first half wasn’t replicated in the second, Leeds showed everyone what we are capable of. That was the Premier League’s first taste of Bielsa’s Leeds United. Dare I say it wont be the last.
Credit to https://wyscout.com/ for all data and images. Credit Timesoccer.net for the featured image.
Written by TheYoungPeacock. Twitter: @young_peacock