Win or lose, Leeds United have been one of the most entertaining teams in the Premier League this season. This is especially true for a team that just got promoted. And Marcelo Bielsa’s unyielding tactics are the nucleus for Leeds’ high-intensity football.
Before providing an analysis of our findings, it is noteworthy to introduce Leeds’ system. Bielsa claims that all tactics in football can be broadly categorised into 10 set-ups. These systems are furthermore derivative and ductile.
Systems with three centre-backs can be derived as mirror images of systems with two centre-backs. In possession, a 4-1-4-1 routinely transforms into a 3-3-1-3. One of the two full-backs joins the midfield, allowing the “enganche” to roam free. Thus, the following tactical analysis consists of system-players that exhibit versatility, and the ability to play high-intensity football.
1. Ben White (Brighton and Hove Albion)
Kalvin Phillips has been Leeds’ backbone in playing the number 6 role. He is not only essential to their build-up but also quite adept in his defensive contributions. Leeds suffered the most when the Phillips was injured indicating that they must look to spend on someone matching his profile in the summer.
We believe that statistically and tactically Ben White ticks all the boxes here. The 23-year-old played for Leeds in the Championship at centre-backs and is currently one of the most promising young talents in England. White has, furthermore, routinely played at CDM and even RWB for Brighton this season.
The statistical similarities between both players are uncanny. Though Phillips has a slightly better passing range, White is more optimistic and defensively solid. As a result, White has received interest from the likes of Liverpool and Manchester United.
While the likelihood of this move is questionable, White has played alongside the current Leeds squad, is versatile and talented. On paper, this would be an ideal addition.
2. Domenico Berardi (Sassuolo)
The ‘enganche’ role is Bielsa’s version of a number 10 and is given the most tactical freedom in this Leeds squad. Leeds spent a marquee fee for Rodrigo to replace the outstanding Pablo Hernandez but have been arguably underwhelmed by the Spaniard’s output.
As a result, Bielsa should consider Domenico Berardi, who has been Sassuolo’s maestro in the final third. Having recorded 14 goals and 4 assists across all competitions, the Italian has also played across 4 different positions for his team. Additionally, he averages 3.4 shots per game and an impressive 1.4 tackles per 90.
The above radar chart comparison highlights that Berardi is more direct and defensive astute than Hernandez. this may be a needed difference as Berardi’s profile could provide more solidity to Leeds’ style of play. In addition, Bielsa could utilise the Italian as a right-midfielder and even number 9 depending on the situation.
3. Krzysztof Piatek (Hertha Berlin)
Patrick Bamford has had a truly inspiring season for his team in consistently scoring important goals. And while the Englishman is only still 27, Leeds’ scouting department must look at finding a strong back-up for him.
After a statistical search, Hertha Berlin’s Krzystof Piatek must be considered – financially, technically and tactically. The Polish centre-forward has recorded 8 goals and 1 assist this season. Despite playing for a team with an opposite style of play, he shares a notably similar radar chart shape as Bamford.
In addition to having a similar shape, both players have a similar possession chain value (xGChain90) of 0.51 (Piatek) and 0.60 (Bamford). Furthermore, the Polish centre-forward tends to make the players around him play better. This inherent selflessness is a trait that Bielsa will surely value.