Tiki Taka Toe Poke – Leeds’ improved passing? Graham Smeaton August 30, 2014 Leeds United, Stats 29 Comments I hate Maths; it’s too concrete with all its ‘adding up’ and ‘correct answer’ leaving no room for opinion; that’s why I became an English teacher. For the record I hate physics too but that’s a longer story. However, I like simple sums such as ‘passing + movement + accuracy = chances’; there’s been very little of ANY of those parts in any consistency at Leeds United this year…so far. Fresh from the Hock-a-days, Neil Redfearn tears up the midfield, bringing in Alex Mowatt for his first start, giving new signing Casper Sloth (it’s pronounced Slott apparently) and promoting youngster Lewis Cook from his 3 appearance – 47 minutes of cameo to the starting line-up; all of this alongside an improving Tommaso Bianchi. Leeds’ fans must have shuddered when realisation dawned that ‘diamond’ was on the cards, but this one actually shone like a gem rather than a dully-polished turd. Key Green – successful pass Red – unsuccessful pass Blue – assist Orange – key pass (leading to shot) Graphic one – Leeds’ passing after 22 minutes. The above graphic shows a much better cluster of passing around the central midfield area and team passing was at 80% accuracy. What is encouraging is the number of passes in/towards the ‘final third’; an area thus far this season unknown to the majority of Leeds games this season. Graphic two – Leeds’ passing after 45 minutes At half time, and with 81.75% accuracy, the Leeds passing continues to be concentrated in the midfield area with some use of the flanks being evident. At half time the Leeds’ midfield quartet returned the following passing accuracy: Bianchi 91%, Mowatt 87%, Sloth 76% and Cook 73%. Graphic three – Leeds’ passing after 68 minutes After 68 minutes, despite being put under more pressure from Bolton, Leeds’ passing is still neat, compact and tidy and the accuracy remains high at 82%. There is more use of successful passes in the ‘final third’ (2 more key passes) and an increased use of the left hand side of the Bolton area after Charlie Taylor relaced Stephen Warnock in the 55th minute. Graphic four- Leeds’ passing after 90 minutes The final quarter of the game saw a drop in accuracy of passing (down to 79%) as Leeds were under the cosh from an increasingly desperate Bolton side. Leeds continued to work the left and this resulted in two more ‘key passes’ in this area of the field. Final passing percentages for midfield players: Bianchi 88% (with 1 ‘key pass’), Mowatt 86% (with 1 ‘key pass’), Sloth 84%, Cook 73% and Benedicic 100% (6 passes in 12 minutes of play). The phrase ‘chances were at a premium’ is used so often that it has become a cliché in football. Well, in football, chances have been so rare that Leeds’ fans are more accustomed to seeing new signings than shots at goal, let alone on target. Therefore, it is reassuring to see that Leeds midfield players are passing with more accuracy and with increasing intent of purpose and creating chances. One particular mention needs to be given to new Italian striker Mirco Antenucci for his contribution to today’s passing performance – 85% accuracy and 2 ‘key passes’ leading to Leeds chances. Added to this, before his departure in the 55th minute due to injury, Stephen Warnock was highly accurate down the left flank with 91% of his passes finding their intended targets. Leeds’ fans have bemoaned the fact that a seemingly lightweight midfield has been over-run at times; today wasn’t the case as badly as other games. Leeds fans have also bemoaned the fact that ‘chances are at a premium’ but today seemed an improvement with Leeds managing 7 shots and at least showing encouraging signs; more needs to be done in this area though because without the formula of ‘increased passing + more key passes’ then you won’t get the result of ‘= more chances and shots’. Leeds’ old frailties still remain in that they allow the opposition far too many opportunities to shoot (22 today for Bolton: 8 saved, 7 blocked and 7 off target) and were today indebted to the goalkeeping of Marco Silvestre who made 8 saves that, ultimately, kept Leeds United in the game.