Leeds United manager Javi Gracia has shared his justification for why the side didn’t press as intensely against Brighton as some fans at Elland Road would have liked.
Watching Javi Gracia’s Leeds in the last few weeks, it’s clear to see that the Spaniard has made some changes to how the side works without the ball.
After two previous managers were very press-heavy in the Premier League, Gracia looks to be resolving Leeds’ defences issues with a more reserved approach.
How has Gracia set Leeds up?
In an ironic turn, a vocal section of the Leeds fanbase inside Elland Road grew very frustrated very easily against Brighton as the home side sat off while Brighton looked to play from the back.
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Having seen Jesse Marsch’s Leeds picked off with ease throughout the season, Gracia instructed his side not to do the same against the Seagulls, who were very eager to wait for Leeds to begin their press, to then pass straight through.
Leeds didn’t often let that happen, but Roberto De Zerbi’s side reminded Leeds that any slips in shape and positioning would be punished.
Has Gracia spoken about it?
Leeds needed to change their setup, and Gracia is doing that right now. He was also asked to further clarify his stance on the matter during his pre-match press conference, to which he stated (via Leeds Live):
“What I can tell you is I understand someone was frustrated because we only got a point. The way we did it is something, for me, the players deserve credit.
“They did it really well. In some moments, when we were losing, some people, me as well, thought ‘we need to press higher and be more aggressive’ but I know what happens when you press these teams high.
“After watching many games and studying the team a lot, we decided to do this. For me, what is important is how the players follow the plan until the end. They were faithful until the end.
“I believe in these players. We are going to do what we think is better for the team. I like to see my players pressing high, I like to see my players recovering balls in the opposite half – but we need a balance.
It was truly baffling that some sections of the crowd on Saturday were actually angered at us not pressing Brighton high.
Anyone who has seen Brighton play will know that De Zerbi’s side were just waiting for that to happen, and then they have the quality to just play through the gaps and score.
They battered West Ham in the game prior doing just that all game, and we could have easily played into that trap.
We’ve been crying out for a change from Marsch’s obsolete setup, and plenty of the fans clearly still wanted us to do that at the weekend.