By Dave Woods

7th Dec, 2019 | 12:13pm

MOT Tactics: Huddersfield face crisis ahead of Championship clash v Leeds

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


  • Huddersfield v Leeds United
  • Saturday, 12.30pm (live on Sky)

It only seems like last week that Huddersfield got rid of Jan Siewert and replaced him with Danny Cowley. But in that time, they’ve had an unbeaten month and Cowley has racked up 13 games and picked up a Manager of the Month award.

If that sounds impressive, then a reminder that Huddersfield are far from being out of the woods yet. They’ve crept up the table, of course. A 23rd place when Cowley took over has become a 19th place now.

Last weekend saw them at the wrong end of a 5-2 drubbing from everyone’s favourite Lee Johnson and his Bristol City. There are caveats to that result. Frazier Campbell got injured pretty much in the opening play of the game and Cowley was forced to throw the game plan in the bin.

On top of this, Trevor Chalobah is suspended following a red card and Juninho Bacuna has been playing… well… everywhere… but mainly at right-back, filling in for Danny Simpson.

Campbell’s injury will hardly help and Huddersfield are also waiting on news about Jaden Brown at left back.

The good news is, Danny Cowley has settled his side into a fairly regular system since taking over. There was a brief flirtation with a 4-3-3 but he’s since decided a double pivot in midfield is preferable to a single.

The resulting formation looks something like this:

(We’ve included Hogg and Chalobah because Hogg will be playing instead of Chalobah but Chalobah is probably preferred.)

To show you how desperate things got in recent weeks, here’s the starting XI from the beginning of the Bristol City game:

And here’s how it looked after Campbell went off:

Wild. That should at least soften the impact of us losing Kalvin Phillips in the midfield area.

Against Bristol City, because they found themselves so quickly 1-0 down (11 mins), the 4-2-3-1 of Town pretty quickly became a 4-4-1-1, with the wide players dropping to help out their respective full-backs:

Danny Cowley clearly likes his team to press hard out of possession. In forward areas, O’Brien and Grant would split and one would go ball-near while the other blocked off the passing lane across the pitch or got ready to pressure the keeper:

If the high press was evaded, Town would continue their press in midfield. Forced back, they assume a 4-4-2 and their midfielders tend to mark tight to their corresponding men.

O’Brien pushes to press the right-sided centre-back; Grant looks to close off the passing lane to the other centre-back; Diakhaby presses the right back; Kongolo pushes up to the wide left player; Hogg and Bacuna push up on their respective central midfielders.

The result is that Town end up playing very narrow in order to close down the immediate vicinity of the ball. Watch them on Saturday and they will spend a lot of time shifting laterally on the pitch as the opposition move it from side to side, following the ball.

As with many teams who press aggressively, Town look to win the ball with the opposition in a decompressed, attacking set-up and then counter-attack with them wide open.

In possession of the ball, Huddersfield look to build down the wide areas as much as possible. With players like Karlan Grant and Elias Kachunga in the wide positions, this makes sense.

However, unlike Leeds, Town aren’t quite so protective of the ball. If the ball is turned over by the opposition, they use it as a chance to press, turn over and counter-attack. This is gegenpressing. Counter-pressing: win the ball back then attack.

How to respond to this? Well, it’s been a while since Leeds played a team who didn’t play a strike partnership. Of course, Town could almost form a 4-4-2, but we expect Bielsa to return to last season’s 4-1-4-1, not least because Kalvin Phillips is out and replaced by Ben White.

Here’s what we’re looking at (ignore the Town line-up—we have no clue how they will line up with injuries):

The back four will mean that, when the Town strikers split, Ben White will be in space, evading the press easily enough.

With a dearth of central midfielders, Pablo Hernandez should go central and Costa should come in on the right.

As we said before, the weakness of Huddersfield formation is width. This will make them susceptible to quick switches of play. This is pretty much our tactic: overload to isolate.

Expect Leeds to build on the right around Hernandez and look to get Harrison in space on the left:

Whoever is played as Leeds’ left-back will have to push up to support Harrison. We expect Dallas to be started and Alioski to be brought on depending on how the game is going.

We said on @TalkingShutt this week that we expect this to be a tight game, but we don’t so much any more. Partly because we’ve watched a lot of Huddersfield and partly because we always panic making predictions on podcasts.

If Town come out as they did against Bristol City, they’ll get stretched by Leeds and lose big. If they come out and play a more pragmatic defensive game, they’ll have a chance of holding out for longer. But this is not how they’ve been playing since Cowley came in.

That said, almost every team that has played against Leeds this season has played reactively so don’t be surprised if Town look nothing like they have to this point and make things difficult for us. High risk for them, of course, but they would be happy with a point.

In other Leeds news, 19y/o turns heads – 3 things we learned from U23s in 2-0 win v Wigan