Wigan Athletic – Leeds United 1-2 (1-1)
Sun 5/11/2018 Matchday 16
Starting Line Ups
Game Plans And Formations
Marcelo Bielsa this time opted for a 1-3-4-3 formation (better yet 1-3-1-3-3 as Forshaw and Klich were almost never at the same parallel line). Either he expected Wigan to play with two strikers (actually offensively they played with a striker and an attacking midfielder) or he decided that with this formation Leeds can face better the characteristics of this game (maybe he understood that against Ipswich the 1-3-4-3 formation worked well whereas with Nottingham his usual 1-4-1-4-1 didn’t work that good).
In any case this formation has shown that provides good balance between the tasks of the game, brings out the best of Philips (more on that later) and gives plenty attacking options mainly from the flanks. Once again Saiz sat on the bench while Forshaw continued to impress with his mature game, distributing well the ball and providing one of the two crucial players for regaining possession (the other being Philips).
On the other hand, Wigan (who hadn’t lost a game at home since Februray, something that gives an idea of the difficulties to win the 3 points) couldn’t count with four important offensive players and this showed, as they lacked offensive quality, especially at the flanks. The main curiosity of Wigan’s structure was that many times while attacking and the ball was on their left side, their RWMF would come inside into areas normally occupied by an attacking midfielder.
Actually one of the few times when initially he followed him but then overcommitted and went to press Wigan’s central defender, after losing the ball his opponent received and made a final pass for the only really big opportunity Wigan missed:
While defending Wigan some times seemed as if they wanted to press high but in these situations the team seemed broken in two: some players wanted to press while others were hesitant and stayed back. That was more than enough for Leeds to break their pressure easily and continue attacking:
The 2nd Balls: Key To Success
Leeds were unfortunate to concede a goal from an -unnecessary- foul Cooper committed, and Peacock-Farrell probably could have done something better in defending it. Nevertheless, they showed early on that their pace and flow were in good levels. They equalized almost instantly, with a textbook vertical movement by Klich:
Notice how Leeds’ two midfielders, Forshaw and Klich move to the same side to create an overload and take advantage of empty spaces they themselves create: in this moment, after winning the 2nd ball, Forshaw drops back luring opponent CD, while Klich attacks the space in his backs. Well coordinated and executed movement.
Leeds once again dominated possession, something they have done in almost all of their games played so far. They didn’t have problems building up their attacks as the opponents mainly waited for them to come, not wanting to give space on the backs of their defensive midfielders. That opened up the possibility to receive rather easily in front of Wigan’s defensive midfielders and distribute the ball from there:
Of these movements I would like to focus on one that can be seen as a textbook attacking example:
Leeds first play on the right to shift opponent’s defensive lines there. immediately after, they change to the left side with Alioski and Klich making signature moves.
Truth is that while Leeds dominated possession, something was amiss. They couldn’t convert this possession into clear opportunities. Not that they didn’t have opportunities to score:
It’s only that in the final 1/3 of the pitch they lacked some components crucial to score: determination, creativity and killer instinct. However, and this was the most important feature of the game it didn’t feel at any part of it that they could concede. Their defensive set pieces were flawless but most importantly they won almost all 2nd balls. Whenever they lost possession, they would press immediately and force the opponent to give away the ball. This is crucial for a team that dominates.
Imagine if you are constantly attacking but when you lose the ball the opponent gets to counter-attack and reach your area with good conditions to score. Not only you wasted energy to drop back, but next time when you attack you will feel insecure as maybe another counter attack is lurking. Not this time.
This time Leeds didn’t permit this, mainly due to Forshaw and Phlips in the first place who were at the right time in the right space to collect the ball, secondly due to Cooper and Jansson who stayed close to their opponents and won the duels, and thirdly due to the immediate pressure the attacking players exercised when they lost the ball, forcing opponent to make long balls without a target:
It was clear that Leeds had a determination and hunger to win the game. More than that. As Jansson explained: ‘last year when we were losing the ball we waited for a teammate to run for us. This year when we lose the ball we are the first to run back. That really says it all’. Watching the moment below, how can you argue with that point of team spirit?
We said earlier that Leeds played with a 3 back line. Normally Philips plays in between Cooper and Jansson when Leeds play with 3 central defenders. This time he played as a right central defender, but offensively he had the liberty to push up and help the circulation of the ball. In this he was perfect. He played really intelligently, some times going up to free space for Forshaw to receive while others to be the link between Cooper and Jansson. Moreover, he helped a lot in securing many 2nd balls.
Overall, a fair win. Maybe Leeds should have scored more, as when your lead is only one goal, anything can happen and you might lament it afterwards. While this is true -actually, Wigan had their opportunity to equalize on one of the rare occasions they won a 2nd ball, Leeds controlled the game defensively. Offensively they were not as good as in other games but they did sufficient in order to win. Some times these wins can boost your confidence -not playing superbly but winning anyway.
Next week against West Bromwich Albion will be a good test to see where the team is standing right now. Until then, Leeds have plenty of tike to prepare being first in their league.