This round 15 Sky Bet Championship clash saw Leeds United take on Queens Park Rangers. Both sides rank in the top five for ball possession statistics. Therefore this game offered an intriguing encounter in regards to who would dominate the proceedings. This tactical analysis will indeed cover how Leeds United controlled the majority of the match to seal a deserved win.
Leeds made two changes: Gaetano Berardi and Ezgjjan Alioski made way for Tyler Roberts and the returning captain Liam Cooper. On paper Leeds supposedly lined up in a 3-4-1-2. However as this article will show, they were extremely fluid in and out of possession.
For Queens Park Rangers, there were also two changes after the loss to Brentford. Josh Scowen and Bright Osayi Samuel made way as Jordy Hugill and Dominic Ball came in.
Leed’s ridiculous pressing
It would come of no surprise to the regular Championship viewer that Leeds came out of the blocks flying. With the lowest Passes per defensive action in the league, one of Leeds’ tactics is to press high and aggressively. The manner in which Leeds press rarely changes. However, the individual and cohesive movements of the team depend on the opposition.
Against QPR, Leeds shaped up in a 3-3-4 formation. Tyler Roberts would step up and join Patrick Bamford as a front two. These two would relentlessly press the centre-backs. They would look to shove them one way and cut off the furthest centre-back and therefore QPR’s numerical superiority when building up. They alternated between shoving them wider into deeper areas and also into a central trap.
The rest of the squad would be man to man. The wingers in Helder Costa and Jack Harrison would take QPR’s wing-backs. The midfielders would man-mark and Leeds back three would have a man advantage. Bamford and Roberts often forced the ball into midfield, where Leeds would look to win it centrally, as seen below.
The above set-up was not the only way in which Leeds pressed. In certain instances, players would be fairly ball oriented and leave their structure in order to press the ball carrier. Often Mateusz Klich or Kalvin Phillips would burst off their assigned man and aggressively hunt the man on the ball. In particular, they would continue all the way onto the goalkeeper and force a long kick. This meant QPR had limited time on the ball in the build-up and struggled to progress from the back.
In the image below, the ball was played into Kalvin Phillips’ man. His player bounced the ball back to Liam Wallace. Phillips continued in the press, using his cover shadow to shield the pass back into his man. Wallace ended up going long in this instance and Leeds recovered the second ball.
As QPR tried to play from the back, they rarely broke through Leeds’ press. On the rare occasions they did, Leeds’ second wave of pressure was relentless. The players who were bypassed for Leeds aggressively worked back to trap from behind. The players behind the ball for used an aggressive offside line in order to further place the QPR players under pressure. Leeds’ extra man in the backline would also leave his line and place pressure on the ball carrier. All these factors contributed to a successful 2nd phase in regaining pressure or forcing a turnover.
Leeds’ attacking furores
In possession, an analysis of Leeds shows us a 3-4-3 shape. The midfield was mainly situated in a diamond shape. Kalvin Phillips was the only real static presence, holding his position in front of the back four. The rest of the midfielders floated around looking for space. Klich, Roberts and Stuart Dallas worked tirelessly in both providing forward runs and finding space to receive.
Dallas oriented more towards the right-wing, often dropping out in somewhat of a wing-back role. Roberts played a bit further forward supporting Bamford. Harrison and Costa played as out and out wingers, opening up the pitch for Leeds.
Bamford started to cause real issues for the centre-backs of QPR. He often placed himself in between the centre-backs of QPR. This led to numerous chances, with Leeds unlucky not to score on a few occasions. Bamford’s movement and clever positioning enabled him to occupy almost all three of the centre-backs of QPR. As a result, Leeds had a man advantage against QPR’s three-man midfield.
QPR’s defensive efforts to combat Leed’s
Leed’s back three were extremely wide in the build-up. Often Ayling would be touchline wide. This had the effect of making it more difficult for QPR’s front two of Hugill and Nahki Wells. The two strikers were tasked with controlling the back three but the big distances made this tough.
Because the strikers of QPR were so wide apart, the midfielders would attempt to pick up Kalvin Phillips. Depending on which side Phillips was on, either Eze or Ilias Chair would mark him. As stated before, this led to Leeds having a man advantage in the midfield.
Leeds were excellent in finding their opposite man in the half-space vacated by Either Eze or Chair pressing Phillips. This was a constant source of problems for QPR. As seen below, Ayling in the very next instance of the photo above finds Klich wide and open in the half-space. Klich then drives at the back four and releases Harrison who ends up winning a corner.
Predictable Leeds goal
This exact mechanism led to the first goal for Leeds. Dallas rotated out into the wide area. This sucked across the midfield off QPR. Klich intelligently waited in the half-space. Tyler Roberts and Dallas overloaded the right flank. They then switch to the under-load on the left-hand side. Once again, Klich drove at the backline and released Harrison. Harrison cut the ball back to Tyler Robert’s who finished well. 1-0 Leeds.
QPR change approach
QPR changed their approach in the second half. They began to play more direct and less from the back. The focal point was Jordy Hugill, with the former West ham striker having excellent hold-up play. Striking partner Nahki Well’s would run off Hugill.
A fairly clear tactic emerged for QPR, especially from goal kicks. They would drop Chair and Eze both deep and wide. Dominic Ball would also drop deeper. This created a huge central area for keeper Liam Kelly to knock the ball into. Kelly would aim for Hugill. Once the ball was played into Hugill, Eze and Chair would immediately sprint to support. This tactic worked well to bypass the front line of Leeds as it somewhat stifled Leeds’ pressing momentum.
However, QPR still struggled in the next phase. Much like the first half, they struggled to outmanoeuvre Leeds’ second pressing wave. Ball and Chair were found wanting in regards to keeping the ball under pressure. Eze was the only midfielder capable of showing the press resistance needed to keep the ball and establish possession for QPR. Because of Ball and Chair, QPR struggled to bring their wing-backs into the game.
The wing-backs for QPR have been key to their attacking play so far this year. In particular, Ryan Manning has been especially impressive. With no established phases of possession, QPR struggled to get their wing-backs up the pitch and into dangerous crossing areas. All in all, it meant QPR struggled to create any attacking momentum in the second half. Mark Warburton introduced Marc Pugh in an effort to presumably improve this aspect. However, QPR continued to struggle, with Leeds holding their grip on the game.
Game Set Match
With the clock winding down, Leeds began to crank up the pressure. Therefore it came as no real surprise to see Jack Harrison weave his way into the box and score Leeds second goal of the match. Harrison and Klich combined, with the former New York City player receiving the ball deep into QPR’s box. A failed tackle by Pugh led to Harrison receiving the ball with an easy tap in.
Leeds saw out the last remaining minutes of the match to give them a crucial three points. Their quest to keep up the pace with Preston and West Brom gained further traction with the win. Marcelo Bielsa must have been pleased with the performance from his side. They looked most dangerous throughout.
QPR were brave in their early approach. They looked to play from the back, but the relentless pressure of Leeds proved too much for Marc Warburton’s side on the day. The English manager will look to bounce back with a tough home match against Middlesborough next week.
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