Tactical analysis: the different philosophies exposed at Tottenham Hotspur vs Leeds United

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Tottenham Hotspur vs Leeds United on Matchday 17 of the Premier League was a highly anticipated match for several reasons. It was José Mourinho vs Marcelo Bielsa for the first time in England, a well-trained defense against an all-out attack, and the second favorite team of every FPL coach against the second favorite team of every football fan.

The game ended in a comfortable 3-0 win for the Spurs, but the overall balance of play showed that they certainly didn’t deserve to win so easily. Leeds, as they did with all the other teams in the top six, did not back down and went head-to-head against Tottenham. In any case, it was the home team that had to sit down at times.

An important narrative in this match was the different ideologies of the two coaches: the more pragmatic style, defensively solid and based on Mourinho’s counterattack against Bielsa’s crazy style of football. In this tactical analysis, we will look at some of the opposing philosophies displayed in this match:


Marcelo Bielsa is called ‘El loco’ for good reason. He asks his players to run like crazy when they are on the field. This is very evident in the Leeds United press, where they chase the ball relentlessly.

Patrick Bamford is usually the trigger. Here, he begins by hunting the ball while playing Hugo Lloris.

In the box above, there was no one near Toby Alderweireld. But, when the ball reached him, Rodrigo was already breathing down his throat, so he had to continue playing immediately. Notice how Mateusz Klich and Raphinha are tied to Harry Winks and Ben Davies respectively, which means Alderweireld had to pass the ball to Matt Doherty.

However, there was no respite for Doherty either, as Jack Harrison quickly shut it down. Although he was able to bring the game back to Alderweireld, there was no way out for Tottenham thereafter as Leeds scored them all in their 4-1-4-1 so they had to clear the ball down the field.

Tottenham, on the other hand, did not press as intensely as they sat higher than usual, but did not press as high as Leeds and allowed their opponents to go through their backs on most occasions as they were happier to maintain. its way.

However, this is not to say that the Spurs did not push at all, as we will see below.


Leeds United have held an average of 57.6% of the ball per game so far this season in the Premier League, the third highest possession in the division behind Manchester City and Liverpool. This obviously means that they like to play from behind, and this is how they do it:

When they have the ball in their defensive third, Leeds moves in a sort of 3-4-3 fashion, as Kalvin Phillips falls between center-backs, while the two full-backs push up.

Often, one of the two center-backs pushes the field to carry the ball forward. Here Luke Ayling steps out of Harry Kane’s shadow to open a passing angle for Phillips and advance the ball.

At this point, Leeds does one of two things. Either they play a long ball into a wide area where a winger or winger has some room for him, or they make a pass that breaks the line through midfield. In this case, Luke Ayling did the latter.

After getting between the lines, Leeds can cause real damage. In this position, Rodrigo had two clear options: get Bamford through the center or send Dallas running down the right. Unfortunately, he missed his passing and the play slowed down a bit, but it was clear that Leeds could get into good positions by playing his way through the Spurs.

However, the fact that Leeds is playing from behind could hurt them too, especially when the Spurs chose to push. This is exactly how they conceded the penalty for their first game, as Tottenham pounced on a loose pass.

As the Spurs pressed Illan Meslier, the goalkeeper rushed a bit on his pass. He had three teammates around, but ended up splitting the gap between two of them and allowing Harry Winks to intercept with ease. Look how disjointed the Leeds defense is from then on:

There are two major gaps in Leeds United’s defense: one between Stuart Dallas and Luke Ayling, where Heung-min Son is located, and the other between Pascal Struijk and Ezgjan Alioski, where Steven Bergwijn has managed to slip into the left-back. Winks opts to exploit the latter with his pass, and in an attempt to compensate for his positional problem, Alioski ends up missing Bergwijn in the area.

Tottenham have a very different way of working with the ball. They don’t run it down the back too often, instead they like to push it forward and contest the first and second balls.

This is exactly how his second goal came about. A drop-kick from Hugo Lloris set it off, and after Pierre-Emile Højbjerg won the second ball, Leeds were in trouble. It doesn’t take away any of Harry Kane’s quality here though, as he jumped to his man’s side and threw a precise cross for Heung-min Son, who had a simple touch to score his 100th goal for the Spurs.


A match between two teams with almost opposite ideologies was won by the team with the highest individual quality and the one with the fewest mistakes. Leeds’ carelessness was punished thoroughly, as a misplaced pass from Illan Meslier led to the first goal, and his failure to catch the ball twice in the second half led to the third goal. The Lilywhites might feel like they should have scored at least once, and if they made the most of their starts in the first period, we could have been seeing a different result.

Statistics courtesy whoscored.com

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