This article is part of a regular series from Leeds United stats supremos 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
This graph (Championship Passes per Defensive Action v Passes per shot) shows how quickly a team looks to get the ball back from their opponents compared to how quickly they then look to get a shot away at goal.
Leeds United style is clear to see here.
Leeds and Fulham are ranked 1 & 2 respectively for possession. Note the difference in how quickly they get forward to take a shot. Fulham make more lateral passes than any team in the division with an average of 201.57 per 90. Meanwhile, Leeds make 186.93.
This seems to be a real problem in Fulham’s play. They win the ball quicker than all but three teams in the league but take far too long to create a chance on goal.
In the top left-hand corner of the graph we can see the counter-attacking teams. They are happy to allow their opponents to have the ball but when they do win it they want to get a shot away as quickly as possible.
For Leeds’ passes per shot to be similar to those whilst maintaining such high possession numbers is very impressive and is the heart of Bielsa ball. Win the ball back as quickly as possible and move the ball quickly towards the opposition goal.
A phrase that has often been used to describe the style is ‘vertical football’. Leeds don’t keep possession for the sake of possession. They always have the intent to create a chance to score.
Barnsley are also very interesting on this graph. They have a more gegenpressing style of play and have mostly been let down by quality of players as they often show up well in data. It also doesn’t help that they’ve conceded the joint second-most in the league (62 goals).
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