Now, there is nothing necessarily wrong with not being Bayer Leverkusen (he said, grudgingly). The counter-press need not be an attacking strategy. It can stop opposition attacks before they begin and enable a slower possession-based game. That is precisely how van Gaal’s press works. It is debatable whether this is the best way to use a press and whether Manchester United’s attack is working at full capacity. But the numbers and my observation both suggest the reason United are not replicating the exciting gegenpressing style is because they just don’t want to.
By contrast, Tottenham Hotspur look like a club that is trying but failing. Under Mauricio Pochettino, a manager who learned these tactics playing for Marcelo Bielsa in Argentina, Spurs have created a good number of attacks at speed (32) and stand third in the league with 89 shots attempted early in possession. These are not world-beating numbers, but they reflect a club trying to speed up the tempo of the match with their press.
Published at SB Nation.
So what is going on here? The Bundesliga features more goal-scoring, more shooting, and much more attacking at speed than any of the four other largest leagues in Europe. It seems unlikely this should just be random chance.
Indeed, there is one man most responsible for the Bundesliga’s speed explosion. Jürgen Klopp. The Borussia Dortmund manager introduced his version of the high press to Germany years ago, and his ideas have spread.
Hoffenheim, Wolfsburg and Werder Bremen are all playing aggressive, high-pressing styles, while Roger Schmidt at Bayer Leverkusen has introduced a shockingly fast new style which appears to have turned Klopp’s gegenpressing up to eleven.
Published at SB Nation.
(The debut of gegenpressing statistics.)
The attack is structured to create shots as quickly as possible. Bayer Leverkusen have attempted 27 shots where the strike was the first action in the attacking move. That is, 27 times a Leverkusen player has recovered or won the ball and immediately looked to goal and taken his chance. On top of that, Schmidt’s men have attempted 62 shots from attacking moves of seven seconds or less. (To calculate these statistics, I have removed shots from set plays and shots off rebounds.) This is how those rates compare in the Bundesliga:
If you’re looking for a Premier League analogue, you can stop. There isn’t one. The side with the most shots to start an action this year is Sunderland, with 18. Arsenal lead in the seven seconds or less category with 42 fast shots. But Arsenal have fired off only 10 shots from the start of an attacking move, and Sunderland have just 21 attempts in the seven seconds or less bucket. If you want to see this style of football, you have to watch the Bundesliga. (Jürgen Klopp’s Dortmund run closest, but they are still not nearly as quick to shoot as Leverkusen.)
Published at the Washington Post.
The faster an attack is, the higher the chance of scoring along a roughly linear scale. But weirdly, at above about eight yards per second, the relationship breaks down.