MOT Tactics: Bowen the threat but Leeds are not the team Hull want to be playing
This article is part of a regular series from Leeds United Twitter account All Stats Aren’t We – the team also host a brilliant podcast that goes in-depth into the tactics of Marcelo Bielsa and a deeper look at the underlying stats
- Leeds United v Hull City
- Tuesday, 7.45pm
And so, dear readers, to Hull: a club who display a confounding level of inconsistency. This season, they have hammered Fulham and Preston. But they have also lost to Barnsley and Huddersfield.
Hull are a relatively easy club to cover because they have shaped up in a 4-2-3-1 all season. That said, Grant McCann has tweaked around with personnel a lot this season. Looking back the last few months through their starting elevens, we couldn’t see a single repeated line-up.
Hull line up something like this:
Give or take personnel, of course. This is basically last week’s line up with Kevin Stewart instead of Daniel Batty. The idea of putting a D. Batty in the opposition line up was just too much.
As Leeds fans, you’ll know that Hull’s star players are Jarrod Bowen and Kamil Grosicki. They’ve gazumped us enough times by now.
As a result of this, Grant McCann has a unique problem on his hands: how do you make the most of having your stand out players be your wide players?
He solves this in a manner similar to the way Marcelo Bielsa sometimes solves the problem of playing Jack Harrison as an out-and-out threat.
At times this season, we’ve seen Kalvin Phillips drop into the left-back position to help out defensively when Harrison and his corresponding full-back are attacking:
We’ve also seen, in recent weeks, Stuart Dallas doing the same in a 3-3-1-3 from… um… right… wing back?
With White and Cooper forming more of a classic centre-back pairing, Dallas would drop into the left-back position and allow space for Luke Ayling to push forward and get closer to Helder Costa—a more attacking wide player than Pablo Hernandez.
Anyway, we’re supposed to be writing about Hull. Grant McCann does similar with his double pivot. With the ball in possession on the right, the right-sided CM drops into a right-back position and allows the right back to push forward:
The same happens on the left-hand side but with the left-sided CM now doing the honours:
This has the advantage that it allows the full-back to support the wide player, giving the width to allow the wide player to push inside if they want to as the full-back overlaps. Both of Hull’s goals against Stoke came from Bowen taking a more central position, for example.
Defensively, Hull aren’t up to a huge amount. They defend in a 4-2-3-1 out of possession and they don’t seem to press too aggressively:
With two attacking wide players, they look to soak up pressure in deeper areas, win the ball back, and then catch their opposition on the break. Tom Eaves is a big centre forward and offers a good out ball, holding the play up until one or other of Bowen or Grosicki can catch up.
Much like Swansea, the Hull double pivot sits quite deep. At times defensively it looks like they’re sitting in the backline, making a six.
With their involvement in build-up play for full-back positions, they have a tendency to be off the pace of the attack, especially if the ball is sent long.
How will Leeds look to counter Hull’s style of play? Out of possession, Leeds will likely adopt a 4-1-4-1 formation which allows the two centre backs to deal with Eaves and then leaves Ayling and Dallas to deal with the dual-threat of Bowen and Grosicki:
In possession, though, Hull’s build-up play could be susceptible to Leeds’ attack in two ways. Firstly, it plays into the hands of Leeds’ ‘overload to isolate’ policy. With the double pivot rotating left and right with the ball, the ball-far full-back is left exposed:
With just one CM patrolling the middle of the pitch, Leeds will have even more space around Harrison and should exploit it without too much worry.
On the other hand, the solitary midfielder in possession is fairly vulnerable as a solitary midfielder out of possession. Leeds—with their midfield three—will likely make the most of this and look to progress the ball through the centre of the field in the event of a turnover.
It’s easy to see Hull as a threat given they have two excellent wide players who can cause any team troubles. However, this should be a game that Leeds should control for long stretches, reducing both Bowen and Grosicki’s time on the ball.
McCann’s tactics will work well against teams who give you time and space on the ball. Leeds United are not that team though.
In other Leeds United news, the Whites are in the hunt to sign an in-demand forward from West Brom