All Stats Aren’t We’s Leeds United Season Review 20/21

The Story of the Season

The Stuart Dallas Tactical Shift

Defensive Overview

Centre Backs: ‘A Nice Problem to Have’

  • Diego Llorente defends in a proactive style. He tries to win the ball as quickly as possible and wants to keep his team on the front foot. He will often try to nip in front of his opponent and steal the ball. This means that he is likely to show up well for tackles and interceptions.
  • Liam Cooper is also proactive in his approach but will generally try to stay goal side of his opponent, making a tackle as soon as the opportunity presents itself. There are clear similarities to how Cooper and Llorente approach defending.
  • Pascal Struijk is a positional defender, will often refrain from making a tackle and will jockey his opponent away from danger, denying space, pressuring before making blocks or intercepting passes.
  • Robin Koch is also positionally focused, excellent at staying calm when players are running at him or a team mate, not overcommitting or making an attackers mind up for them. He and Struijk have some similarities in how they approach the role, but to my eye, Koch is more passive, Struijk tends to press more tightly.

Defensive Midfield Position: Leeds With and Without Phillips

  • Phillips plays more passes than Struijk, attempting 6.22 more per 90.
  • He also plays more long passes than Struijk, attempting 16 to Struijk’s 9 per 90, and 3.97 switches per 90 to Struijk’s 2.4.
  • To the eye, Struijk seems more risk-averse than Phillips in the role. He’s more than capable of hitting the long balls that Phillips does, but he is more likely than the Englishman to play a lateral pass in these scenarios.
  • There is likely a confidence element to this. In interviews he has often spoken about his preference to play at centre-half and how the role in midfield is something he is learning, which would make risk-aversion understandable. Again to the eye, he has appeared more confident in the role in his recent appearances there, particularly in his 45 minutes against Southampton on Match Day 37.
  • As a more reactive defender, Struijk won’t step in to make the challenge too quickly, but will look to move the opponent into less dangerous places. If he does tackle, it often comes later in ‘safer’ areas, evidenced by how he makes almost 10% more of his tackles in the defensive 3rd than Phillips does (67% vs 58%). However, regaining the ball deeper means that Leeds’ attacking transition will be less effective: Struijk has registered 0 shot-creating actions from defensive actions all season.
  • Phillips’ proactive style is fundamentally more ‘high-risk, high-reward’, by engaging and attempting tackles earlier and higher up the pitch. If he gets something wrong, it may open Leeds up to a more dangerous attack, but if he wins it back then Leeds have serious potential in attacking transition.

Illan Meslier: A Vertiginous Rise

Luke Ayling: The Glue Holding Leeds Together

Attacking Overview

Wingers: The Key to Marcelo Bielsa’s Attack

Patrick Bamford and *That* Article

Rodrigo: ‘Only Time Will Tell’




A Leeds United blog which focuses on the tactical and statistical aspects of the game

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store