It's official. Liverpool are in the faces of their opponents like never before.
Liverpool and Manchester City led the way last season, pressing and harrying their opposition deep inside their own halves.
But the Reds have taken it to a whole new level this term. An analysis of how each Premier League team has pressured their opponents this season reveals:Liverpool are the Kings of the Press, pressing higher than any other team in the top flight and they are one of the best at recovering the ball Tottenham Hotspur are surprisingly second in terms of pressing high up the field, but the least likely to get the ball back Manchester City are the most likely to regain the ball when they press and put the most pressure on the opponents in midfield Leeds United put more pressure on opponents all over the pitch than any other team through their man-to-man pressing system Manchester United are putting less pressure on the ball in midfield so far this season and doing more of the defensive work in and around their penalty area
Liverpool's Sadio Mane is often the trigger for team mates to advance and pressure opponents
Liverpool’s approach is epitomised by their use of the high press - a tactical device to win the ball back high up the pitch to both stifle the other team, and to give their side a great chance to score.
The Reds manager, Jurgen Klopp, is a huge fan of the approach and is the most famous exponent of the technique, often called ‘gegenpressing’, which is German for ‘counter-press’.
‘You win the ball back high up the pitch and you are close to the goal and it is only one pass from a really great opportunity,’ Klopp recently told Sky Sports. ‘No play maker in the world can be as good as a good counter pressing situation.’
Liverpool pressed Arsenal high up the pitch in their 3-1 victory over the Gunners on Monday, regularly winning the ball back around their opponent's penalty area. The high press was triggered by Sadio Mane (on the left side of the penalty box) pressuring goalkeeper Bernd Leno. This was the signal for Mo Salah, Roberto Firmino, Naby Keita and (out of shot in the top right) Trent Alexander-Arnold to rush in to cut off passes to either full back or to the edge of the penalty area. The black dotted line is the path of the ball, which was passed from Leno to David Luiz and on to Ainsley Maitland-Niles, who dropped deep to receive on the edge of the box. He was dispossessed by Alexander-Arnold as Arsenal ran out of options.
Analysis of Liverpool's matches so far shows they are pressing their opponents more, pressing them higher up the field and winning the ball back more often. It is a deliberate development of the strategy that helped bring home the title in 2019/20.
Liverpool are now officially, the Kings of the Press. It’s early days but City and every other Premier League team have been left well behind.
Last season, Liverpool pressured opponents, who were in possession of the ball, on 148 occasions on average in each match; this year they have upped it to 155.
Not only that, but 32% of those presses, just under a third, were in the top third of the pitch, in and around the opponent’s penalty area; this term they have increased that figure to 49%, just under half.
areas Pressing in
areas Pressing in
areas How often
the ball is
won back Number
per match 1. Liverpool 49% 38% 14% 34% 155 2. Tottenham Hotspur
32% 43% 25% 22% 156 3. Brighton 31% 41% 28% 34% 129 4. Fulham 31% 38% 29% 26% 135 5. Manchester City 29% 53% 18% 38% 103 6. Sheffield United 29% 39% 32% 26% 145 7. Manchester United 29% 33% 39% 30% 128 8. Southampton 24% 48% 28% 30% 130 9. Burnley 24% 47% 29% 29% 163 10.Arsenal 23% 44% 34% 26% 135 11. Aston Villa 22% 48% 30% 31% 100 12. Everton 20% 44% 36% 30% 118 13. Crystal Palace 20% 43% 37% 26% 177 14. West Brom 20% 39% 41% 24% 129 15. Newcastle 19% 40% 41% 26% 136 16. Leicester 19% 38% 43% 27% 148 17. Leeds United 18% 44% 38% 34% 184 18. West Ham 18% 42% 40% 27% 126 19. Chelsea 17% 40% 43% 29% 139 20. Wolves 11% 40% 49% 31% 140 Source: Fbref.com
Liverpool’s closest rivals when it comes to the high press this season are Tottenham Hotspur, who have achieved 32% of their presses in and around the opposition penalty area, but they have a much lower success rate when it comes to reclaiming the ball - just 22% compared with Liverpool’s 34%.
However, the proportion of presses made high up the pitch is not in itself a measure of success.
Beleaguered Fulham press high – 31% of the pressure they place on the player with the ball is in the top third of the pitch - unfortunately for them they have a poor success rate in regaining possession and become stretched with spaces for better teams to exploit.
Fulham press high but have lost three Premier League games and are struggling defensively
Whatever the club’s chairman, Tony Khan, was accusing the Fulham players of when he took to Twitter to apologise for their performance in the 3-0 defeat against Aston Villa on Tuesday, it should not have been for lack of effort.
The Cottagers are working extremely hard for manager Scott Parker making, on average, 135 presses per game all over the pitch, but the tactics are clearly not working.
Fulham boss Scott Parker is struggling to find a defensive formula for the Premier League
The Tactical Press
The high press employed by Liverpool is like a Red wall built on the edge of the opposition box.
It is the tactical equivalent of saying, 'our players are better than yours and we will dominate you'.
It is not the only approach and it does not suit every team in every situation.
Liverpool commit lots of players high up the pitch to win the ball in dangerous areas
Coaches might adapt with a low block if they are up against highly technical teams and ultimately any side's system will be designed to suit the players they have.
Liverpool have developed a particularly hostile approach. But a team can still press high without committing so many players, so high, so often and so quickly.
Brighton and Hove Albion have pressed high this season, higher than most teams in the top division.
Against Manchester United, a game the Seagulls inexplicably lost 3-2, the press was ably led by Neal Maupay and Aaron Connolly.
Brighton used a tactical press against Manchester United in their Premier League encounter at the Amex with great success and it led to their opening goal. The Seagulls waited for triggers from the United back line. Here, Harry Maguire played a slow cross-field pass to Aaron Wan-Bissaka at right back. This was the trigger for Brighton's forwards and midfield to press in unison. Solly March on Brighton's left wing caught Wan-Bissaka in possession and forced him backwards (indicated by the black dotted line).
Brighton quickly cut off all options for United's Wan-Bissaka. Steven Alzate pushes onto Paul Pogba and Leandro Trossard shuts down a pass to Nemanja Matic effectively closing off United's central midfield. Meanwhile, at the top of the picture Maupay prevents a pass inside to Victor Lindelof and the Seagulls' other striker, Aaron Connolly, takes care of Maguire. As a result, Wan-Bissaka loses possession to March. Brighton move the ball quickly to the right-hand side of the field, where Tariq Lamptey overlaps and wins the penalty, which Maupay scores.
Their aim was to force United’s players into areas of the pitch where their team mates could then attack and win the ball back.
It was ruthlessly executed and incredibly effective.
The front players worked extremely hard to create the situations for their colleagues to exploit, but if those situations didn’t develop, then the Brighton midfield could simply stay in position and retain a solid, two banks of four.
The players were waiting for triggers, such as delayed passes or long passes across United’s backline to the full back, who could then be dispossessed or isolated.
It was often the United right back, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, who was exposed, not through any fault of his own, and as the Seagulls rushed in there were no easy options to play either forwards or back.
Brighton's pressing led to Manchester United's Bruno Fernandes bringing down Tariq Lamptey
This tactical press led to Brighton’s first goal.
Wan-Bissaka was robbed of the ball on United’s right pulling defenders and midfield players out of position to try to repair the damage.
Brighton quickly shifted the play to United’s left, where they could exploit an overlap by their own wing back, Tariq Lamptey.
United’s Bruno Fernandes gave away a penalty in his efforts to recover and pick up Lamptey up. Maupay scored from the spot.
Brighton's press on Manchester United resulted in a penalty, which Maupay scored
The Bielsa Way
When fans and pundits talk about pressing, it often relates to the high press like Liverpool’s, but analysts actually measure pressure on the ball – or presses – all over the pitch.
Leeds United are another aggressive pressing team in the Premier League, but they don’t press so high.
However, with an average this season of 184 presses per game, they press more than any other team in the league.
As a result, Leeds’ statistics look different to Liverpool’s. Less than a fifth of their presses are at the opposition end of the pitch, mostly they are busy in the middle third of the field.
Leeds United boss Marcelo Bielsa is a master tactician and uses a man-to-man press
They stifle teams –