MOT Tactics – Leeds defensive woes exposed as one player makes 'unforgivable' error
This article is part of a regular series from Leeds United stats supremos 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
Time for this week’s frame-by-frame… and we’re finally making good on our promise to cover Birmingham’s fourth goal.
Here’s the full clip… brace yourselves…
— lufcvids (@lufcvids) January 17, 2020
Context: it’s 4-3 to Leeds… the stadium announcer has just indicated there will be six minutes of injury time… Leeds have gone to a back five, presumably to prevent what ends up happening… Kiko rolls the ball out to Cooper who moves it wide and then lofts the ball down the left. Harrison challenges for the ball with Maxime Colin, doesn’t win it but the ball bounces out into space.
Alioski is the first player to reach the ball – still in acres of space – although Jeremie Bela is tracking back.
Alioski’s first touch is nothing short of woeful: the ball doesn’t move into the space in front to him but a little too far sideways and he struggles to set himself, allowing Bela to catch up.
Losing possession in this situation was unforgivable. Alioski had so many options and so much space it seems incredible he lost the ball to the only real threat in his immediate vicinity.
Alioski is worked off the ball and falls over. Colin plays the ball immediately to Gary Gardner who turns and is faced by Kalvin Phillips and, to Phillips’ right, Stuart Dallas. Bela drives into the space left behind by Alioski. Both Alioski and Harrison are behind in the race.
With Phillips isolated in a one-on-one, Gardner easily sells him the wrong way and feeds the ball in front of Bela on the left-hand side. At this point, Stuart Dallas isn’t making a recovery run. It’s late in the game of course but still.
At this point, Leeds’ back line isn’t particularly badly set. White has come across to cover for Cooper who has been tracking Alvaro Giminez. Giminez burns Cooper in the foot race and presents the most immediate threat for Leeds at this point. Alioski is nowhere.
From this point, Cooper slows up which is almost certainly a mistake. Berardi is now caught between staying in front of Jutkiewicz and pushing over onto Giminez. That, in turn, causes Luke Ayling to creep in front of Jutkiewicz.
Jutkiewicz is savvy. He realises that the area he can attack is behind Ayling who is where Berardi should be (who is where Cooper should be).
When the ball comes in, everyone anticipates it going to the more dangerously positioned Giminez – except for Jutkiewicz. But it doesn’t. It falls perfectly at the back post.
By the time Ayling realises, he can’t reposition himself in time and Jutkiewicz taps in.
Where are the mistakes in this clip? 1) Alioski takes a bad touch 2) Alioski doesn’t maintain possession of the ball or find a teammate 3) Cooper loses his man Gimenez, causing Berardi and Ayling to shift over positionally.
What we would say, though, is that this is another example of a team capitalising on mistakes made by Leeds and doing everything perfectly. This happens a lot. Yes, Leeds are sloppy sometimes (oftentimes!) but they seem to get punished for it inordinately.
There is a sense that we play a style of football which invites this sort of pressure from defensive transitions, of course. But it does seem unlikely that they should suffer this much for it.
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