KEOWN TALKS TACTICS: Marcelo Bielsa will have the odd trick up his sleeve for Leeds’ clash with Liverpool
Arsenal won the FA Cup but could have been out of that competition by half-time in the third round when Leeds visited the Emirates.
Leeds, with a system that should soon become familiar, posed the Premier League side problems. They were fearless and limited Arsenal to 37.2 per cent possession in the first half and a single shot on target.
All Leeds lacked that day was a finishing touch. Patrick Bamford came closest, smashing a shot on to the bar after intricate passing in the final third.
Leeds almost knocked eventual winner Arsenal out of the FA Cup last season in the third round
But the tie, which Arsenal won 1-0, showed what Leeds are about. They attacked in numbers and set traps to win the ball back with Arsenal’s midfielders put under incredible pressure. There was one moment when Rob Holding tried to find Granit Xhaka, only for Mateusz Klich to pounce. Leeds won the ball and broke, resulting in a shot by Bamford.
That is the Marcelo Bielsa press in action. Jurgen Klopp likes to stand on the halfway line and watch the opposition players warm up – he openly spies on you! Bielsa will rock up at Anfield, sit on that bucket of his and feel he belongs at this level.
Bielsa’s formation is listed as 4-1-4-1 but this can change mid-match with so many moving parts, depending on if they are in or out of possession.
If full backs Luke Ayling and Stuart Dallas fly forward and leave behind their centre backs, midfield sitter Kalvin Phillips can drop to make it a three-man defence. Great flexibility.
Leeds attacked in numbers in the tie and set clever traps to win the ball back at the Emirates
IMAGINE NO POSSESSION
Leeds averaged 64 per cent possession in the Championship last season. Naturally it will be more difficult to dominate the ball in the Premier League. Liverpool will not sit back like some of Leeds’ Championship opponents did. As defending champions at Anfield, they will want to take the game to the visitors.
Liverpool opened the last campaign with a 4-1 win over Norwich City, the winners of the previous season’s Championship. But Leeds will have studied how others, such as Atletico Madrid in the Champions League, got the better of Liverpool last season.
Diego Simeone’s side pinned back full backs Andrew Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold, and succeeded in splitting forwards Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino. Salah and Firmino did not exchange a single pass in the last-16 first leg and Liverpool didn’t muster a shot on target as they lost 1-0.
In their 3-0 loss to Watford, Dejan Lovren was targeted and the soon-to-be Premier League champions made uncharacteristic mistakes. It would be difficult for Leeds to simply target Joe Gomez because a lot of his attributes are as strong as those of Virgil van Dijk.
Liverpool opened last term by downing Norwich but Leeds will have studied how to beat them
Liverpool will not sit back on Saturday at Anfield like some of Leeds’ Championship opponents
PHILLIPS THE DYNAMO
Phillips, as the deep midfielder in front of Bielsa’s defence, might be Leeds’ most important player. He impressed Gareth Southgate enough to earn an England call-up and made his debut this week against Denmark.
His performance wasn’t spectacular, it has to be said, but he wasn’t in his usual position. He was used alongside Declan Rice in midfield. Yet he is vital to Bielsa. Phillips is used to hearing his captain and centre back Liam Cooper yelling at him not to leave too large a gap.
I used to do that – Gilberto Silva has told me he can still hear my voice ringing in his ears when he goes to bed! You don’t want a big area to develop in front of your defence.
Leeds’ new centre back partnership of Cooper and £13million summer signing Robin Koch will have their hands full looking after Liverpool’s inside forwards, Sadio Mane and Salah. Phillips must help deal with Firmino, who drops deep and links play. When the Leeds midfielder wins the ball, he can then look to hand it over to someone who can do something creative with it, such as Pablo Hernandez.
Phillips, as the deep midfielder in front of the defence, might be Leeds’ most important player
Saturday is a big day for Leeds fans. The club was brought to its knees as they went from Champions League semi-finalists in 2001 to relegated from the Premier League in 2004.
It hurt the city, which I’ve always considered a hotbed of football. Now they’re back from that nightmare and back in the big time, with a well-respected manager.
And Bielsa may have a surprise up his sleeve.