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Talking Tactics

Chelsea's pressing style can pin Leeds back

Adrian Clarke 19 Aug 2022
Reece James, Thomas Tuchel and Mason Mount, Chelsea

Adrian Clarke says Blues can stifle their opponents by winning the ball high

Adrian Clarke looks at key tactical points and players who can be decisive in Matchweek 3.


Chelsea will press Leeds United's side with intensity and organisation at Elland Road this Sunday.

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Last weekend, Thomas Tuchel’s team stifled Tottenham Hotspur in a 2-2 draw with some outstanding work off the ball.

Reece James’ 77th-minute goal was a perfect example of this tactical ploy.

Pushing up midway into the Spurs half, central defender Kalidou Koulibaly dispossessed Dejan Kulusevski and from that turnover, they freed up James to score seconds later.

James' goal v Spurs

Aware that Jesse Marsch’s new-look Leeds are a work in progress, expect Chelsea to be hostile and structured in the way they pressure their hosts.

Opposition passes before defensive action & highest turnovers
Team Opp. passes
Liverpool 6.8
Chelsea 7.1
Leeds 8.1
Spurs 9.4
Man Utd 9.5
Team Turnovers
Newcastle 32
Chelsea 25
Southampton 25
Leeds 24
Man City 18

Chelsea and Leeds are two of the best pressing sides in the Premier League.

The Blues have won the joint-second highest number of high turnovers (25) with Leeds just behind (24).

And opponents are averaging only 7.1 passes before Chelsea disrupt those moves with a defensive action.

They have already produced five shot-ending turnovers, a tally only bettered by Brentford (six) and Brighton & Hove Albion (eight).

Mount working hard

Chelsea work as a collective when trying to pin opponents into their own half.

Kai Havertz and Raheem Sterling occupy defenders, both wing-backs push on, while midfielders Mason Mount and N’Golo Kante like to jump from their positions to engage in advanced positions.

Mount is brilliant at this aspect of the game, clearly understanding his tactical role.

Against Spurs, he got tight to midfielders and pressed in the full-back areas with aplomb, winning five ball recoveries and four tackles inside the opposition half.

Across the first two matches, Mount has been Chelsea’s best player out of possession.

In Premier League terms, Leeds' Jack Harrison is the only midfielder to win possession back inside the final third (six) more often.

Chelsea defensive stats 2022/23
Player Poss. won final third Player Tackles
Mount 5 Mount 7
Kante 2 Koulibaly 6
Sterling 2 Kante 5
Havertz 2 Loftus-Cheek 5

Leeds will be satisfied with the start they have made, beating Wolverhampton Wanderers 2-1 before collecting a point in a 2-2 draw at Southampton.

The visit of Chelsea does, however, represent a step up in class.

Summer signings Marc Roca and Tyler Adams will have less time on the ball in central midfield and new right-sided pair Rasmus Kristensen and Brenden Aaronson will also be tested in what could be a fast, chaotic encounter.

Most failed passes in own half 2022/23
Club Total
AFC Bournemouth 70
Spurs 69
Wolves 63
Man Utd 58
Leeds 57

One slight concern for Marsch could be that his side is not yet as press resistant as Chelsea.

When put under pressure by Wolves and Southampton, Leeds lost possession inside their own half with regularity.

Expect Chelsea to take advantage of any such mistakes.

Also in this series

See: Record-chasing Pope ready to stand up to Man City
See: Ten Hag rethink can put Liverpool on back foot

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