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Leeds United Preview (23/10/2020)

Aston Villa face Leeds on Friday evening, with their 100% record in the Premier League at stake. The last time these two sides met was a spicy affair, the match ended 1-1 but the scoreline conceals the true nature of the game.


The match is remembered for Bielsa and Leeds allowing Villa to walk in an equaliser after Klich scored a goal under questionable circumstances with a Villa player on the floor. Worthy of note as well is that stroppy Swede Pontus Jansson is now plying his trade at Aston Villa feeder club Brentford and won’t be able to try and stop us should Bielsa decide we deserve another goal.


Phantom faller Patrick Bamford also featured after his histrionics earned El Ghazi a red card. On closer inspection El Ghazi does appear to brush Bamford’s chest, though whether the face-holding and dramatic crash to the ground were warranted is debatable.


A debate had, in fact, by the Regulatory Commision of the EFL who charged Bamford with "successful deception of a match official".


The decision by Beilsa earned Leeds the FIFA Fair Play award 2019, and Bamford a Best Performance nomination at the BAFTA’s.


Aston Villa head into the game with a tactical advantage, Leeds have several key players struggling with injuries. The most notable absences are expected to be influential defensive presence and captain Liam Cooper and headline grabbing man-bun persister Kalvin Phillips.


No doubt this will give more fuel to the pundits when they pontificate about how Bielsa has masterminded a defeat to Aston Villa, while claiming Dean Smith is sleeping in a horse shoe shaped bed, with a rabbit foot pillow and snacking on four leaf clovers.


Obviously a big help to Villa will be the lack of Phillips in that holding defensive midfield role, although Leeds are expected to stick to their game plan of high energy pressing.


The example above from the Wolves game this week shows how Leeds defend especially when there's danger in the box. There's three men all on one player here and it seems to throw the decision making and the player continues forward, running into a dead end. This is evidenced by Leeds having the highest number of tackles per game in the Premier League according to WhoScored.

Many teams panic under this pressure, but at least one player (Jack Grealish) is adept at drawing players and using the resulting space to thread a pass.

The image above shows how the group press from Leeds players leaves gaps in the field, the sort of gap that Ross Barkley loves to exploit and perfect range for a signature Barkley strike. As Smith said after the Liecester game we have seen Barkley score this type of goal, driving into space and banging one in from the edge, countless times and it is good to see him do it for Villa.


This movement was slightly offside but led to a brilliant strike. It shows the other shape of defence that Leeds adopt when not swarming in on one player. The line itself is far back with 5 players in the box.

Firstly when moving down the right or the left, Villa normally have someone supporting the wide runner. A lot of the time we've seen this with Watkins being the front runner after breaking and then being supported by Cash/Grealish/Trez/Targett.

But also we tend to have more players looking to create chances from outside the box - which will either force Leeds higher up and allow for space for our faster players behind the defence OR will allow us space on the outside of the box where again, we always look dangerous.

Especially in a situation like this having Grealish/McGinn with the ability to get the ball in behind defenders could be crucial. Also key to note here that Phillips was providing that pace to try and cut off the attack - Leeds are a good team but they don’t have the depth to provide a backup player with that kind of intelligence and poise in that position.


This goal was not dissimilar to Villa’s style of play. Jimenez came alongside the box from the right hand side, drawing the players and getting space for a shot. Again something that Grealish, Barkley and Meatball all have in their locker.

The other weakness is the high line that they play on attack that we know Villa can take advantage of (7-2 anyone?). To throw back to the start of the season this is why Liverpool/Leeds was so evenly matched as their systems were similar and cancelled each other out.

Leed's attack looks quick, but not always clinical. Nothing that Konsa, Mings and Martinez can't handle given how solid they have looked this season. Villa couldn’t buy a clean sheet last season despite billionaire owners, this year they look a much more assured unit.


A final mention has to go to Trez who has been a workhorse this season. They say that three quarters of the world’s surface is covered by water, the rest is covered by Trezeguet. Perhaps not as technically gifted as some of his counterparts, Trez definitely deserves his place in the starting XI in my opinion purely for his work rate and willingness to get back. Leeds rely on a high press, nicking the ball and scoring quick goals - Trez is the player who is willing to get back for the tackle and then bust a lung on the counter, even if the Mings long ball is looking for Grealish.


Article by: Kieran Williams


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