Leeds United are officially the Premier League’s most aggressive pressers of 2020, according to a study by The Athletic.
With manager Marcelo Bielsa famed for his high-press and intense style of play, it should be no surprise to those with even a remote interest in English football, that his Leeds side would come out on top in a statistic such as this.
However, there were some dissenting voices who questioned whether Bielsa’s high octane tactics could be translated to the Premier League, but those doubts have been quickly banished with Leeds sat comfortably in mid-table and staying true to the methods that have served them so well since the Argentinian’s appointment in 2018.
Tom Worville, Football Analytics writer for The Athletic, said in his ‘Underlying stats stars of 2020‘, “As soon as Leeds’s promotion back to the Premier League was confirmed, you could have confidently predicted them being the most aggressive pressing team by the end of the season.
“It was never in doubt that Marcelo Bielsa would continue to instil his aggressive man-marking style in Leeds’s first season back at the top table in 16 years.
“The club doubled down on that style by handsomely backing their manager in the transfer market, signing the electric duo of Rodrigo and Raphinha. Both signings raised the ceiling on Leeds’ physical intensity in midfield, but the more telling move was the choice to not go after another striker, sticking with Patrick Bamford up front instead.
“Leeds’ PPDA — or opposition passes allowed per defensive action — is the lowest in the league, ahead of Ralph Hasenhuttl’s aggressive Southampton side and Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool.”
If this wasn’t enough, there are a number of other statistics that further paint the story of Leeds’ seamless transition to the top-flight.
Per WyScout, their challenge intensity, which is their duels, tackles and interceptions per minute of opponent possession, is an average of 8.1 this season, with Southampton again their nearest challengers in second (7.4).
Leeds also absolutely demolish the rest of the Premier League when it comes to defensive duels, with their 81.45 per 90 streets ahead of second placed (you guessed it) Southampton, who record 69.94.
They’re not headless chickens, either, ranking 14th for fouls made (9.78 per 90), so there is clearly a considered approach to their aggressive nature. They are also one of nine teams yet to receive a red card in this season’s Premier League.
Championship winners earlier in the year and ending 2020 11th in the Premier League table, Leeds fans can be delighted with how their year has developed, and they will take special comfort in the fact they did it their way – with aggression and intensity, fitting for the man who seems to control their every move on the pitch.
In other Leeds news, Phil Hay picks out his star man of 2020.