The opening round of Premier League fixtures sees the Premier League champions host the Championship champions with two of the world’s best coaches going head to head. Jürgen Klopp and Marcelo Bielsa both like their teams to press and play attacking football, but they are both very different.
Klopp has previously stated that counter-pressing is the best playmaker whilst Bielsa demands his side both press and counter-press.
Bielsa’s system is high energy, like Klopp’s. However, Bielsa’s is more possession orientated and requires a lot of man marking. One or two players go to close down the player in possession whilst other players man mark possible passing options. This limits passing options but also puts the player receiving the ball under pressure straight away, giving Leeds the upper hand and increasing the chance of winning the ball back.
In defence, Bielsa likes a ‘+1’ approach. This means his side will have a spare central defender to act as a sweeper. Whilst in attack it is a ‘-1’ approach. The player(s) leading Bielsa’s press from the front will be outnumbered either one to two or two to three. This approach means his side remains balanced and are less likely to be caught out defensively.
Klopp’s pressing has changed from his time in Germany. His side would use a space-orientated counter-press meaning when they lost the ball, as many players as possible would swarm the player in possession, surrounding them. Now they are less aggressive but still press high.
Instead of aggressively going to the player in possession, only one player goes to them. The others will cut off passing lanes, forcing the player to try and dribble forwards or play it long.
These two pressing systems saw Liverpool fourth for passes per defensive action and second for high turn overs in the Premier League last season whilst Leeds were second and first respectively in the Championship. In fact, Leeds averaged 8 passes per defensive action which would’ve been first in the Premier League by 1.5 and ahead of Liverpool by 2.3.
Bielsa won’t change this approach. He will make his side press with intent and they will be aggressive. Klopp is known for his “heavy metal” approach but against a Bielsa disciple, Pep Guardiola, his approach changed. They looked more to counterattack and hope Man City made a mistake, but Pep had also changed his approach to be more defensive which saw the 0-0 draw at Anfield in October 2018.
The Argentine tweaks his system depending on the opponent whilst Liverpool have their one effective system.
The two sides will press high and look to attack. On paper, it looks to be a great game.