It was first time both Pep and Bielsa faced each other in Premier League and it was nothing short of a spectacle for football fans. Leeds United and Manchester City played out a 1-1 draw at Elland Road on Saturday night... a mundane scoreline for what was a total blockbuster of a game. A great result for newly promoted Leeds but Pep's woes continues as they fail twice in a row to get 3 points.
Leeds started the game 3-4-1-2 on paper but changed their formation to 4-1-4-1 after the whistle. Leeds struggled to cope up with City's pressing at the start, constantly losing the ball in the midfield. Kalvin-Phillips who is Leed's main midfield man was very well marshalled by the trio of Mahrez, de Bruyne and Foden. With him being marked constantly, Leeds had to find a different route towards the opposing goal. It took time to figure that out but after discovering it Leeds took the game to City. Klich and Tyler Roberts were now more proactive in the midfield and with City's focus on Phillips they were given more space and time on ball. Dallas and Ayling had a chance to equalise before the half time as their late runs into the box were not marked by City players.
With introduction of fresh legs of Paveda and Rodrigo early into the second half, Leeds now increased the intensity and tempo of game. This was a gamble against City who are drilled to keep possession but it payed off with a goal from Rodrigo. Overall Leeds were good in possession once they figured out City's plan and had almost 52% of possession - unthinkable based on the first half. It is a rare feat to achieve against Pep Guardiola' side.
Without possession Leeds struggled for first few minutes. Because of a narrow back line there were gaps on flanks. Sterling heavily benefitted from it and with Helder Costa not tracking his runs, he had acres of space on that left flank which resulted in City's opener. After the goal Leeds formation turned into 4-2-3-1 with Klich and Phillips forming a two man midfield pivot without possession to provide cover on the flanks. As mentioned earlier Leeds were now more active in second half and were aggressively pressing City players deep in their half.
City started the game 4-1-4-1 with Rodri playing alone in a single pivot opposed to their 4-2-3-1 with double pivot in prior games. With the ball City's plan was to attack the flanks, stretch the game and create spaces for de Bruyne or Foden and with Torres, Walker on right side and Mendy, Sterling on left side, City always had that superiority before Alioski and Costa arrived to even the numbers.
In the second half City players were not able to keep possession and with Leeds players constantly running towards them, City had less time to think and had to move along quickly with the ball, otherwise they would have been run down by Leeds players. With just 2 shots finding the target out of 23, one can see they were reckless and had to quickly build up their attack.
Due to injuries to Aguero and Jesus, Mahrez started as the striker. He did not contribute much in attack but his off the ball movement was amazing. His role was to take out Kalvin-Phillips from the game. Mahrez was constantly covering the lane between the centre backs to Phillips and whenever Phillips got hold of the ball, Mahrez always pressured him from behind and de Bruyne was always able to take ball of him. The communication between Mahrez and de Bruyne was amazing which led to Leeds turning over ball in the midfield. Off the ball City lined up 4-2-4 formation with Foden joining Mahrez to counter Leeds playing from the back strategy.
Even though Leeds are playing in the Premier League after 16 years and had to face Liverpool and Manchester City in their first four games, they are flying high with 7 points out of their possible 12 and are currently 5th in the points table. It is all good going for Bielsa and Leeds at the moment and a top 10 finish looks more promising now, but fatigue can come into play late in the season which could ruin their European aspects.
Problems for Manchester City and Pep continue to grow as they to failed to beat Championship winners twice (last season Norwich, this season Leeds). City have 4 points in their first 3 games and are 5 points behind Liverpool. Pep can say good bye to Premier League title if they do not get their things sorted pronto.
Leeds United: I. Meslier, L. Ayling, R. Koch, L. Cooper, S. Dallas, K. Phillips, H. Costa, T. Roberts, M. Klich, E. Alioski, P. Bamford.
Man City: Ederson, K. Walker, R. Dias, A. Laporte, B. Mendy, Rodri, K. de Bruyne, P. Foden, F. Torres, R. Sterling, R. Mahrez.