By Dave Woods

10th Oct, 2019 | 7:11am

MOT Tactics – Just how good has Ben White been for Leeds this season?

This article is part of a regular series from Leeds Twitter account All Stats Aren’t We – the team also host a brilliant podcast that goes in-depth into the tactics of Marcelo Bielsa and a deeper look at the underlying stats. 

Before I go any further, a note on interceptions, which you may think are ridiculously low. This is because of a quirk in Wyscout’s definitions. An interception is when a defender steps out towards the ball and stops it early on before it gets near to the intended target.

The above is an interception according to Wyscout.

If a defender steals the ball off the toes of an attacker just as the pass is reaching him, this is classed as winning a ‘defensive duel’. Here is an example of White completing one of these.

You may have called both of these events ‘interceptions’ and would thus expect White to have very high interceptions, as he seems to manage the latter all game. However, you will note that White is in the 100th percentile for defensive duels per 90 and over the 80th for success %.

As Bielsa’s defensive system is centred around man-marking, it is no surprise to see White rank so highly for duels as he tends to stay touch tight to the striker and then back his strong anticipation skills to get the ball in front of them.

Also, his aerial duels are surprisingly low, but checking the team rankings, Leeds are 4th from bottom for defensive aerial duels. One would think that might be higher as teams might seek to play direct against Leeds to beat the press or go for balls over the top.

Though his total aerial duels are low, his success % is more than respectable considering he’s not a particularly tall and physical centre-back.

It’s his passing numbers where White looks most impressive though, ranking above the 80th percentile for all of them except for long pass accuracy. Since the arrival of the Brighton loanee, Leeds have looked far more assured passing out from the back.

Comparing his stats to the man he came to replace, Pontus Jansson, who plays in a Brentford side that focusses on possession almost as much as Leeds; White completely puts the Swede to shame here and it’s easy to see that he is an upgrade to Bielsa ball.

It is interesting to note the differing defensive styles though as Jansson ranks very highly for interceptions. Leeds fans will remember him charging out towards the ball. Often he would be successful in this, but in the times he wasn’t he was horribly exposed.

With Leeds having problems defending corners, they may look at Jansson’s aerial duel success % of over the 90th percentile with regret, but I’d say that trading that aerial dominance for White has been an overall massive success and is testament to Orta’s ability to spot a player.

Victor doesn’t always get them right, but he has in a big way with White. Whilst Leeds might not be as confident from corners now, they look far better playing the ball out from the back, which is one of the signatures of their play. Set pieces can be improved in other ways.

In other Leeds news, Victor Orta responds when asked if Leeds are planning any big Jan transfers