Derby County hosted Charlton Athletic in the final EFL fixture of 2019 with both teams teetering above the relegation zone. So far, this has been a disappointing start to the season for both teams with their tactics failing to turn good performances into wins.

This tactical analysis will deconstruct an important fixture in a tough season where Derby have won only one of their last nine fixtures whilst Charlton have won only one in their last twelve.


EFL Championship 2019/20: Derby County Vs Charlton Athletic – tactical analysis – tactics

Derby made five changes to their side and opted to maintain their 4-2-3-1 formation. Tom Lawrence was still suspended whilst Matt Clarke was reinstated after missing the last eight matches. Wayne Rooney was present for the match and will be eyeing up a first start for the club in the New Year.

Charlton made two changes from Boxing Day with half the squad still holding injuries. There have been 13 injuries in all this season which is playing havoc with Bowyer’s team selection. Macauley Bonne is preferred to Lyle Taylor as the front man in a 5-4-1 formation.

Charlton leaving space between the lines

Charlton started the match with a significant gap between the defensive and midfield lines. The result is that Derby County dominated the opening 15 minutes by utilising the wide areas between the lines.

EFL Championship 2019/20: Derby County Vs Charlton Athletic – tactical analysis – tactics
Charlton leave a large gap between the lines which allows Derby to dominate possession in the opening exchanges.

As you can see, the vertical compactness is virtually non-existent which allows Derby County the opportunity to play within that space. It is an attack from this area which leads to the opening goal in the fixture. At times, this situation was exacerbated further by the central midfielders who committed to the Charlton attack and were slow to transition back to their defensive responsibilities.

Derby County were proactive in exploiting Charlton’s weakness and dominated the midfield in the opening exchanges. Andre Wisdom used the wide areas well and supported the attack when he could. Derby’s width was enabled by overlapping wingbacks who supported the attack well.

EFL Championship 2019/20: Derby County Vs Charlton Athletic – tactical analysis – tactics
Derby use the wide areas to launch another attack.

As the graphic shows, Wisdom holds the ball out wide which leads to a dangerous ball into the box. Knight showed desire and courage to put the ball into the net for the first goal despite picking up a knock in the process. Derby could have gone on to dominate this fixture were it not for a moment of madness that led to Bielik being sent off in the 17th minute. A poorly timed tackle with studs showing earned him an early shower.

Charlton dominate possession

With the numerical advantage, Charlton are able to hold possession much more easily and dominate time on the ball. In the 15 minutes following the sending off, Charlton held 73% of the possession. Derby were forced to readjust their formation to a 4-4-1 occupying a low block.

EFL Championship 2019/20: Derby County Vs Charlton Athletic – tactical analysis – tactics
Derby drop deep into a low block having moved to a 4-4-1 formation.

From this position, Derby’s tactics are primarily defensive in an effort to cut out the passing channels. Despite the numerical advantage, Charlton are unable to break them down. During this phase of the match, Derby County use their width on the counter to bypass the Charlton midfield. A couple of dangerous attacks take place but Derby are unable to capitalise. The defensive discipline in the transition from attack to defence sees Derby pick up a low block quickly to counter the Charlton’s subsequent offensive moves.

EFL Championship 2019/20: Derby County Vs Charlton Athletic – tactical analysis – tactics
Wisdom continues to exploit wide areas as he supports another counter attacking move.

Wisdom uses another wide position to launch an attack which shows the full extent of Derby’s width. With Charlton committing to the central areas, Derby exploit the wide areas. Ordinarily, defensively minded tactics wouldn’t use so much width but Derby use this to good effect. It stretches the play and allows them to play on the break with Knight and Marriott moving into dangerous areas.

Derby’s counter-attacking threat

Marriott and Knight continue to stretch the play in the second half with good support play from those wide areas. Despite the 4-4-1 formation in defence, they attack in a 4-1-3-1 formation which allows four players to join the offence. Despite only having ten men, Derby committed good numbers to the attack which was surprising. It made for a more competitive match and frustrated Charlton who were struggling to get a final ball into the box.

EFL Championship 2019/20: Derby County Vs Charlton Athletic – tactical analysis – tactics
Derby move the ball quickly and exploit the poor positioning of Charlton’s central defenders. Knight turns to score his second of the evening.

As the ball is cleared, Derby once again use the wide areas well with Bird finding space on the left flank. His well-timed cross is met by Knight’s spin into space for a good finish. The space is gifted by both central defenders standing in the same area. Derby were then well disciplined in defence and transitioned back to the low block quickly and without giving away needless set pieces. Despite being the defensive side for the majority of the match, they only committed five fouls. Charlton on the other hand committed 21 fouls despite holding 61% of the overall possession.

Waghorn performed well and picked up possession frequently. Despite often having limited options, he used his strength to keep hold the ball forcing the foul. This helped Derby hold possession and transition effectively from defence to attack. This was typical of Waghorn’s performance who held the ball up for nearly all of Derby’s offensive moves.

The standout performer of the evening was Knight who is an attacking midfielder with enormous potential. He was able to support play and provide an attacking threat at the same time. This was shown in his two goals but also in his support from wide areas. Knight picked up the ball up in good areas and showed both his skill and composure to put in a dangerous ball. For both his goals and a for well-rounded performance, he was named man of the match and is a promising talent for the future.

Despite Charlton’s late resurgence and penalty goal, they were never really an attacking threat. Bowyer moved back to a 4-4-2 with the introduction of Lyle Taylor in the second half which looked like a more balanced side but they were unable to compete against Derby for large swathes of the fixture. Despite getting into dangerous areas, the final ball wasn’t good enough and on the occasions when they did get inside the box, they were unable to capitalise with numbers. The result was a poor outing for Charlton who look to continue their struggles.


This analysis concludes that Charlton have clearly struggled with injuries this season but despite those concerns, their tactics couldn’t break down the ten men of Derby County. The gap between defence and midfield was enormous and they lacked the quality to deliver a good ball into the box. Unless things change quickly for Charlton, they may well find themselves slipping into the third tier of English football.

Derby County have had a resurgence and may well be able to use this as a springboard for climbing the table. It will be interesting to see where Rooney fits into this side that seems to have finally got some traction. I look forward to seeing how they get on against fellow strugglers Barnsley in the New Year.

Total Football Analysis Magazine #16: December 2019

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