In this feature we analyse effective high pressing and focus on Leicester City. They have had plenty of plaudits for their fluid attacking style this season under Brendan Rodgers and rightly so with them sitting within the top four. However we have noticed another aspect of their game which has been outstanding so far and was when they played Arsenal at home in November (2019). In this analysis we explore their defensive organisation and in particular their effective high pressing structure. The high press is a brilliant method of regaining possession in the final third and also a way to stop the opposition dictating play and progressing through the thirds as Arsenal like to do. Within this analysis feature we look at some key principles that are needed to be effective when pressing:
Having good defensive organisation all falls down to this this first point. Structure is having a solid shape throughout the team from the GK to the forward players and they are aligned on the triggers and process to press. The team needs to have good distances between units and be compact to not allow passes to break the lines and play into big spaces. If the defensive unit do not squeeze up as the forward players press it will leave big spaces for the opposition to exploit. All players need to be focused and recognise these moments with the aid of communication to initiate the press. This structure doesn’t just happen, it has to be rehearsed on the training pitch and it’s clear to see in these examples every player knew their role.
Arsenal played a 3-4-1-2 against the Leicester 4-3-3. The main trigger to press was a backward pass, which then CF Vardy (9) or wide players Perez (17) & Barnes (15) would react and close down the player in possession. A key component to enforce these backward passes was the organised setup being a compact shape to stop forward passes. Leicester did really well at stopping Arsenal gain momentum even from restarts such as throw ins by not allowing the switch of play or key forward players time and space to receive the ball.
A common trend was for the wide players to press against the Arsenal RCB & LCB and CF Vardy (9) to stay central to close down the GK. When the ball was played into the Arsenal wing backs, the Leicester full backs Chilwell (3) & Pereira (21) would press high and on numerous occasions won the ball back.
Pressing without intensity is pointless if you want to regain possession high up the pitch in the final third. Without the intensity, players will become comfortable and have time and space to play. It is important that when the decision or trigger happens to press, every single player has the same intensity. If one player isn’t on the same level it can break the system by allowing one opposition player to have time to play forward and break the press.
Selecting the moments to press is also key as it will be very hard to press for the whole 90 minutes. This will also depend on the context of the game and scoreline. Along with intensity comes the technique required to close down with a good angle of approach. This means can players force the opposition player on the ball to pass into certain areas of the pitch to where numbers are.\
CF Vardy (9) would always angle his approach blocking off certain passes and forcing the longer pass or the short pass to the RCB & LCB. This would allow the next player “in the chain” to be already on their way as they can read where the ball is going.
Quality on Regains
Regaining possession in the final third provides a great opportunity to create chances or even better score goals. When the regain happens, players have to be composed to find the next pass or make the correct decision. Winning the ball high also will likely mean the opposition are out of shape to defend their goal effectively and will have players recovering. This will mean the ball having to be moved quickly to produce opportunities. There will be times when it’s best to retain the ball and control the tempo of the game which players will need to decide themselves.
The positioning of players is also important for the transition. In this analysis we show CF Vardy (9) would stay within the ‘frame of the goal’ to be in prime position to have a chance of scoring.
If you like this analysis feature, then check out the analysis of Liverpool v Manchester City from a few seasons ago here: