Norwich continued their seemingly irresistible march towards the premier league with a resounding 4-0 victory over QPR, who dispensed with the services of Steve McClaren after defeat at Bolton last weekend.
Daniel Farke named an unchanged side from the one that emerged victorious at Middlesbrough last weekend. QPR, ravaged by injuries, were looking to win for the first time in five games.
In this tactical analysis, we examine how Norwich adapted to QPR’s shape to exploit the weaknesses and emerge with a comfortable 4-0 victory.
Norwich overload the wide areas
Norwich looked to create overloads in wide areas to penetrate behind the QPR defence. Key to this particular tactic was Marco Stiepermann. Nominally positioned as the central attacking player behind Teemu Pukki, he constantly moved to support the ball possessor in wide areas. With QPR pressing out of a narrow 4-4-2 shape, Norwich looked to combine in wide areas through the ball near fullback, wide midfielder, centre midfielder and Stiepermann.
These overloads were facilitated by the positioning of Tom Trybull who was the deepest of the midfielders and often moved into the back line to create a back three in possession. Both fullbacks were, therefore, able to push higher and wider as there was sufficient cover should they lose possession.
Norwich’s attacking fullbacks
Norwich positioned both fullbacks high and wide when in possession, which caused QPR problems as they didn’t want to leave their narrow defensive shape to mark them. This enabled Emiliano Buendía and Onel Hernández to move infield as the width was provided by the fullbacks. The rotations between coming inside and staying wider further caused disruption to QPR as their midfield was pulled out of position. During the opening 30 minutes, the wide men were more often in wider areas as Norwich already had numerical superiority in the middle of the pitch. If both wide players were positioned narrower they would have made it easier for QPR to stay compact leaving just the fullbacks as an outlet.
Norwich’s opening goal of the game came from a switch of play from their left-hand side out to Max Aarons. Stiepermann had moved towards the right half space as part of a possession sequence earlier, whilst Buendía had taken up a more central position. Luke Freeman and Jake Bidwell both tucked inside leaving space on the outside for both Aarons and Stiepermann to exploit. Aarons brought the ball down with one touch and played a low cross into the box for Buendía to finish.
The extra player that Norwich had in midfield allowed them to control the game. QPR’s midfield two of Jordan Cousins and Geoff Cameron were unable to cover the passing options through the centre of the pitch. Buendía, in particular, moved infield from his starting position on the right-hand side of the pitch which further overloaded this area. This allowed Stiepermann to position himself between the midfield and defence and drift across to support in wide areas with nobody marking him. As he was often unmarked he could move to create an overload without dragging in another opponent near the ball. Norwich were, therefore, able to easily manoeuvre the ball out of pressure before penetrating with runs in behind the defence.
QPR’s tactical adjustment
QPR switched formations before the 30-minute mark to combat the problems caused by their 4-4-2 shape. Eberechi Eze dropped back into a left midfield position from his starting position as a striker, whilst Freeman moved into central midfield. Cameron dropped behind the midfield line to create a 4-1-4-1 shape. Whilst this helped to close the space that Stiepermann was operating in, Cameron wasn’t the ideal person to help in the build-up of the play and was exposed for Norwich’s third goal of the game.
QPR were attempting to build out from the back through the two centre backs, whilst being pressured by Pukki and Stiepermann. As the deepest of the midfielders, Cameron needed to move closer to provide numerical superiority and enable the progression of the ball. Instead, he was too far away to provide an option which led to a ‘u’ shape pattern between Joe Lumley, Toni Leistner and Joel Lynch. When he did realise the need to move closer he did so with a straight movement towards the centre backs, which was easily followed by Trybull. Eventually, Freeman dropped to support but played an under-hit pass that was intercepted by Buendía, who played Pukki in to finish.
Norwich adapt to QPR
Following the change of shape of QPR, Norwich adapted the positioning of their wide players. Whereas in the opening 30 minutes they switched between coming inside and staying wider, they both positioned themselves inside after the switch. This in part was designed to enable the penetration into the box to be via low crosses or quick interchanges with runs in behind.
Both wide players were positioned behind the midfield line of four and to the side of Cameron. With Buendía, Stiepermann and Hernández all operating centrally Norwich were able to create numerical superiority again in the middle of the pitch, which maintained their control of the match.
Norwich adapted their shape and tactical plans to exploit the weaknesses in QPR’s tactics expertly. The adjustments made by Farke ensured Norwich were able to maintain control of the match and were never really threatened by QPR.