What is the Gengenpress?
When we think of pressing modern day football fans will think of Jurgen Klopp and his Dortmund and Liverpool sides which have become synonymous with the phrase Gengenpress.
The term translates as counter-pressing. It’s sometimes misunderstood, however. Counter-pressing isn’t to pressing what counter-attacking is to attacking. It’s not necessarily countering a press, but pressing a counter.
Pressing developed in the 1960’s and was characterised by multiple players closing down the man with the ball, putting the player in possession under increased pressure, resulting in an inability to play a pass.
Teams which apply an effective press will usually win the ball back as soon as they have lost possesion, usually in advanced positions.
Klopp is not the only coach who is famous for adopting a high pressing style of game, others who have implemented a pressing variation are Pep Guardiola, Marcelo Bielsa and Mauricio Pochettino.
Different styles of press are broken down in the following video by Tifo Football.
The PPDA or Passes allowed per Defensive Action addresses the need to quantify the intensity of the pressing of each team. It is calculated by dividing the number of passes allowed in the attacking half by the number of defensive actions taken, intended as interceptions, tackles attempted and fouls committed. The resulting number indicates the frequency of a team’s attempts to recover the ball in the early stages of the other team’s build-up, allowing to measure the defensive pressure in an objective and comparable manner.
The greater the offensive pressing brought by a team and the lower the value of the PPDA will be. On the contrary, a team that prefers to defend closer to the goal will have a higher PPDA, resulting from the greater number of passes allowed in the attacking half before attempting to recover the ball.
The OPPDA is the amount of passes a team completes in their own half prior to being disrupted by a defensive action. The ability to play out whilst under a press will result in a higher value than a side who are susceptible to the press, scoring lower.
Pressing in Serie A
The below chart shows all Serie A sides plotting in relation to the two variables, giving a clear picture in relation to who are the best/worst sides in the league in comparison to the two variables.
As you can see teams which implement a high press system are Bologna, Atalanta and Juventus, with the likes of Brescia, Lecce and Udinese who prefer to invite teams onto them as they look to set up a defensive block when in transition.
Taking OPPDA into consideration Inter, Napoli and Juventus are the most adept in dealing with a press which credits their players composure whilst on the ball and under pressure. Brescia, Torino and Parma are the most likely to give the ball away under a press and therefore will probably result in playing a more direct game when under pressure.
One thing which really stood when analysing this data was the position of Lazio, the biancocelesti currently find themselves at the top of Serie A after week 26 yet their positioning on the graph had them plotted in a position of uniqueness.
As you can see, Juventus, Inter, Atalanta, Roma and Napoli (2nd-6th Place) all find themselves in the top left hand corner of the chart, this would highlight that a certain brand of football is necessary in the league this season in order to achieve a high position in the league. All the mentioned teams adopt a high pressing style game and also have the ability to play out under pressure.
Yet Simone Inzaghi’s side who are currently on a 21 game unbeaten streak do not conform, Inzaghi’s side have the fourth highest PPDA which indicates that the Serie A leaders do not adopt a high pressing game.
The other interesting trend shows that the top six teams in relation to high OPPDA actually are the top six sides in the league.