The formation tweak

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Bergen Blade

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Paul Heckingbottom didn't change a lot after taking over from Chris Wilder. He tried the odd change of player, but it was more or less Chris Wilder's tactics that were kept.

This was the Leeds line up:

1621794645371.png

Our biggest problem this season has been covering space in midfield. Whoever we've put there just haven't been able to do it.

To simplify - our back 3 became back 5. Our 2 strikers were easily passed through. Leaving the 3 midfielders struggling to get close enough to their opponents.


At Wolves we made a tweak. On paper it may look pretty much the same - from 5-3-2 to 5-2-2-1.

1621795134467.png

We did lose to Wolves. But for me it was the first real attempt at doing something different. And we made Wolves struggle. They couldn't get their passing going and looked like having an off day. Remember that from last season?

Having a front three, including the extremely hard working Osborn, actually gave us a chance to press high up the pitch in a manner we hadn't seen all season. When we lost the ball in their half, we were in their faces and preventing them from comfortably building attacks. In later games Jebbison came in and McGoldrick was moved to a role behind the central striker, but the effect of the tweak was similar. We'd gained a new layer of pressure, defending from the front with the front three.

It meant both Norwood + Fleck and the defenders could play more aggressively, positioning themselves to make interceptions and challenges. If the front three didn't win the ball back they often made the forward pass a bit hasty, and so easier for the players behind to challenge. It was so refreshing to see Norwood and Fleck being close to themselves again. Great to see the wing backs doing more than just minding whoever the oppostion manager had told to hug the touchline high up.

After the positives at Wolves we beat Brighton with the same approach.

Then we had a set back first half vs Spurs. They were well up for it on the day and managed to get past our forward three, meaning the likes of Alli, Son, Bale and Kane caused havoc in front of our back line. We struggled to keep them out. We made two second half changes, maybe thinking that bringing Berge back would mean the old 3-5-2 would make us fabulous once again. It didn't. We conceded three more goals in the second half.

We kept the 3-5-2 for the next game vs Palace. Poor Berge returned to the starting line up, but was again forced to play in the same formation that had failed so spectacularly all season. A new defeat, and a poor performance, followed.

So we returned to the 5-2-2-1, or 3-4-3 at Everton. With Jebbison giving us something different up front we gave a thoroughly professional performance and won. We'd learned our lesson and this would be the formation for the rest of the season.

We struggled more against Newcastle, but this was a Newcastle side who'd also found good form. A sidenote, I think the management should have made more substitutions second half, as Newcastle looked to be tiring.

Of course we beat Burnley today, again with the tweaked formation. We were solid.


So, the formational change gave us 3 wins from 6 matches. 3 clean sheets.

Among the matches we didn't win was:

  • Wolves, which was a positive performance, maybe one we would have won if we had tried to change things earlier?
  • Spurs, where the formation was only played 1st half (though I think we'd lost anyway).
  • Newcastle, who were in great form.
2 were 0-1 defeats.

I don't think this proves that we've found some superior formation. But I do think it suggests that it is worth trying something different when things aren't working. What Heckingbottom turned to isn't what I suggested - in fact I was worried that this actual tweak would make things worse. I think there were other things to try, maybe that could have had an effect too. But I applaud that he had the guts to make some sort of change.

That's what is so sad about Chris Wilder's last season. To just decide that we weren't going to try a different approach, and even ridicule alternative suggestions is so out of character for a man who got so much right the previous four seasons.
 

Wards

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That's what is so sad about Chris Wilder's last season. To just decide that we weren't going to try a different approach, and even ridicule alternative suggestions is so out of character for a man who got so much right the previous four seasons.
If he’d been a bit more flexible in this regard I’d wager he’d still be in charge. Granted we’d have probably still gone down but I reckon we’d have teased out a few more points than we had done and maybe invested a bit more in January. Probably the reason why no PL team will come running for him, sadly shown him to be a bit too proud to adapt.

Think Hecky’s done alright, if not spectacular. At least he’s tried to address where some of our glaring weaknesses are going forward but ultimately you can’t make a silk purse from a sows ear.
 

HodgysBrokenThumb

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Paul Heckingbottom didn't change a lot after taking over from Chris Wilder. He tried the odd change of player, but it was more or less Chris Wilder's tactics that were kept.

This was the Leeds line up:

View attachment 113538

Our biggest problem this season has been covering space in midfield. Whoever we've put there just haven't been able to do it.

To simplify - our back 3 became back 5. Our 2 strikers were easily passed through. Leaving the 3 midfielders struggling to get close enough to their opponents.


At Wolves we made a tweak. On paper it may look pretty much the same - from 5-3-2 to 5-2-2-1.

View attachment 113540

We did lose to Wolves. But for me it was the first real attempt at doing something different. And we made Wolves struggle. They couldn't get their passing going and looked like having an off day. Remember that from last season?

Having a front three, including the extremely hard working Osborn, actually gave us a chance to press high up the pitch in a manner we hadn't seen all season. When we lost the ball in their half, we were in their faces and preventing them from comfortably building attacks. In later games Jebbison came in and McGoldrick was moved to a role behind the central striker, but the effect of the tweak was similar. We'd gained a new layer of pressure, defending from the front with the front three.

It meant both Norwood + Fleck and the defenders could play more aggressively, positioning themselves to make interceptions and challenges. If the front three didn't win the ball back they often made the forward pass a bit hasty, and so easier for the players behind to challenge. It was so refreshing to see Norwood and Fleck being close to themselves again. Great to see the wing backs doing more than just minding whoever the oppostion manager had told to hug the touchline high up.

After the positives at Wolves we beat Brighton with the same approach.

Then we had a set back first half vs Spurs. They were well up for it on the day and managed to get past our forward three, meaning the likes of Alli, Son, Bale and Kane caused havoc in front of our back line. We struggled to keep them out. We made two second half changes, maybe thinking that bringing Berge back would mean the old 3-5-2 would make us fabulous once again. It didn't. We conceded three more goals in the second half.

We kept the 3-5-2 for the next game vs Palace. Poor Berge returned to the starting line up, but was again forced to play in the same formation that had failed so spectacularly all season. A new defeat, and a poor performance, followed.

So we returned to the 5-2-2-1, or 3-4-3 at Everton. With Jebbison giving us something different up front we gave a thoroughly professional performance and won. We'd learned our lesson and this would be the formation for the rest of the season.

We struggled more against Newcastle, but this was a Newcastle side who'd also found good form. A sidenote, I think the management should have made more substitutions second half, as Newcastle looked to be tiring.

Of course we beat Burnley today, again with the tweaked formation. We were solid.


So, the formational change gave us 3 wins from 6 matches. 3 clean sheets.

Among the matches we didn't win was:

  • Wolves, which was a positive performance, maybe one we would have won if we had tried to change things earlier?
  • Spurs, where the formation was only played 1st half (though I think we'd lost anyway).
  • Newcastle, who were in great form.
2 were 0-1 defeats.

I don't think this proves that we've found some superior formation. But I do think it suggests that it is worth trying something different when things aren't working. What Heckingbottom turned to isn't what I suggested - in fact I was worried that this actual tweak would make things worse. I think there were other things to try, maybe that could have had an effect too. But I applaud that he had the guts to make some sort of change.

That's what is so sad about Chris Wilder's last season. To just decide that we weren't going to try a different approach, and even ridicule alternative suggestions is so out of character for a man who got so much right the previous four seasons.
Congratulations on coming up with a well-argued criticism of Wilder’s mistakes. I have so far refused to contemplate such a possibility, but your analysis is very persuasive. I will have to learn to live with the notion that he is human, after all. Great post, thanks.
 

mancunianblade

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Don’t recall exactly what he said in his pre match presser but he suggested he was given the gig to see out the season and not to change things I took it as the formation
 

DeanLearner'sCat

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Wilder tried a similar 3-4-3 a couple of times earlier in the season. Away at Burnley and I think against Everton at home.
 

newforestblade

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If he’d been a bit more flexible in this regard I’d wager he’d still be in charge. Granted we’d have probably still gone down but I reckon we’d have teased out a few more points than we had done and maybe invested a bit more in January. Probably the reason why no PL team will come running for him, sadly shown him to be a bit too proud to adapt.

Think Hecky’s done alright, if not spectacular. At least he’s tried to address where some of our glaring weaknesses are going forward but ultimately you can’t make a silk purse from a sows ear.
You cant polish a turd
 
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The only thing Hecky could do is tinker the formation as he couldn’t change the players although he did by adding youth so his hands were tied, all in all Hecky has done as good a job as he could based on what hand he was dealt.
 

vas borbokis

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Good post Bergen.
I think having Ossie buzzing around pressing the defence causes balls out from the back to be more rushed, and means teams can't just play it around and pick us off so easily.
He's made a big difference to how often we win posession back because passing through us happens less often.
 

Bergen Blade

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OP written in May. SJ has also ended up with the 3-4-2-1/3-4-3, so it may be a smoother transition this time.

When judging Heckingbottom's last manager spell I think it's important looking at what was behind those results. He seemed a bit shocked at first, just trying to do whatever Wilder would have done. But then he found some tweaks that improved us.
 

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