How Leeds United can win the tactical battle against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge

In the latest of a new series for the Yorkshire Evening Post, Jon Mackenzie takes a deeper look at Leeds United's next opponents - Chelsea.

Friday, 4th December 2020, 4:45 pm
Chelsea head coach Frank Lampard. (Getty)

When it comes to Leeds United fans, Frank Lampard needs no introduction. Over the course of his managerial career to date, Lampard’s biggest success has been to make himself persona non grata in Leeds.

After four games against Marcelo Bielsa in 2018/19, Lampard got the last laugh in a crazy play-off final second leg before taking up the reins at Chelsea. Saturday’s game at Stamford Bridge, then, gives Bielsa the chance to right the wrongs of that fateful night.

The accelerated trajectory of Lampard’s career makes it fascinating.

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Will the Chelsea legend continue to improve tactically or will Roman Abramovich eventually regret using a top Premier League club as an academy for managerial talent?

At the moment, Lampard is doing just enough. But how long will the hierarchy remain patient at Chelsea?

Here are three aspects of Lampard’s system to look out for on Saturday evening:

1. A New Setup

During the course of this season, Lampard has switched from a 4-2-3-1 formation to a 4-3-3 structure. This is not a new system for Lampard’s Chelsea; they played in the 4-3-3 a lot last season. But the personnel in this setup are almost entirely different this time around.

After a big transfer window in the summer, Lampard faces the logistical challenge of fitting a crop of attacking talent into his side.

To do this, he’s begun playing N’Golo Kante as a defensive midfielder with two eights ahead of him. This allows Lampard to field five attacking players at once but puts a lot of defensive responsibility on Kante’s shoulders.

2. Facing The Press

Throughout his managerial career, Lampard has been committed to a fairly aggressive press. This is one reason why he is desperate to get Mason Mount into his team if he can.

This season, Leeds have looked suspect at times against high presses so, after playing a litany of sides who don’t really press high in recent weeks, it’ll be interesting to see how Leeds fare against Chelsea.

Will they persist with build-up in wide areas or will they go direct down the channels using Kalvin Phillips’ excellent long distribution?

3. Looking for Weaknesses

One thing that could decide how Leeds play against Chelsea’s press will be that Lampard has adopted a style of play that sees his full backs carry the ball into advanced areas.

With Kante already doing a lot of the heavy lifting defensively, this can leave Chelsea’s centre backs exposed.

If Leeds can make the game fairly transitional and try to hit Chelsea quickly on the break down the wings, they could have some joy in front of the goal this weekend.

Jon runs All Stats Aren't We, a Leeds United media channel that focuses on the tactical and statistical aspects of the game.