EFL Championship 2019/20: Huddersfield Town vs Nottingham Forest – tactical analysis
Saturday’s EFL Championship clash between Huddersfield Town and Nottingham Forest offered the former the chance to move back into the league’s playoffs. Meanwhile, Danny Cowley was looking at the opposite end of the table, hoping to move further away from the bottom three.
A victory and all three points for the Terriers did not end up moving them further away from the relegation zone in terms of position, however, they gained a further point in their advantage over Forest. Sabri Lamouchi’s side, however, slipped a place further down the table and have three points to make up on the playoffs, as opposed to one, following the defeat.
This tactical analysis will dissect key areas of the two sides’ tactics from the clash at the Kirklees Stadium and use analysis to explain how those tactics had an impact on the game’s outcome, a 2-1 victory for Huddersfield.
For the game, Cowley switched his side’s starting structure from the 1-1 draw with Wigan at the DW Stadium last time out. The Terriers dropped their 41-year-old manager’s preferred formation of 4-2-3-1 for a 4-4-2, which has been used by Town three out of the last four games. In terms of personnel, Cowley only made one change, with Josh Koroma making way for Karlan Grant’s return to the starting lineup.
In the away dugout, Lamouchi opted to stick with the same structure from the 4-0 home defeat to Sheffield Wednesday last time out and lined up in his trusted 4-2-3-1. If there is one thing the Frenchman is proving this season, it is that he is incredibly fluid in the formations he uses, having deployed 4-2-3-1, 3-5-2, 4-3-3, 4-1-4-1 and 4-4-2 as a starting formation at some point over the last ten games. Forest made four changes to their lineup after the battering from the Owls, with Michael Dawson, Jack Robinson, Ryan Yates and Joao Carvalho making way for Tobias Figuereido, Chema, Joe Lolley and Samba Sow.
Huddersfield’s lateral compactness
While the visitors boasted a much greater amount of possession than the Terriers – 58% to Huddersfield’s 42% – Forest were frustrated in their possession of the ball by Cowley’s tactics. Despite all their possession, Forest only had one more shot at goal (14) than Cowley’s side did (13), and the sides shared the same amount on target (5). This occurred, in part, because of Huddersfield’s lateral compactness which frustrated Lamouchi’s side.
As can be seen in the above annotation, when out of possession and in their third of the pitch, the Terriers maintained compactness in their defensive and midfield lines. This frustrated Forest as, rather than being able to play through the lines, they had to play around or over them. This resulted in the visitors playing a large number of long balls forward and playing into the wide areas of the pitch.
How Cowley’s lateral compactness influenced the game can be seen here. With the defensive and midfield lines keeping no more than around four or five yards between them, it was incredibly difficult for them to be played through without intercepting the ball. Here, Lolley is in possession with three options for short, forward passes. One to his left, one to his right and an option for a through ball. However, the compactness in the Terriers’ lines meant that if the ball should be played in any direction a simple sidestep would allow a defending player to intercept the pass, as marked by the red arrows.
This led Town to boast a far greater number of interceptions than their midlands opponents. Huddersfield made 20 more interceptions than Forest did, with 49 at the final whistle compared to Lamouchi’s side’s 29.
The Terriers’ energetic presses
Another way in which the visitors were frustrated at the Kirklees Stadium, also impacting the overall number of interceptions, was in how Huddersfield pressed the Reds. By deploying an energetic press and a counter-press, which in itself is energetic, Huddersfield again made life difficult for Forest to play in a way which suited them.
Here, Cowley’s energetic press can be seen beginning from Forest’s third of the pitch. With the ball played out to the defender from Brice Samaba, as marked by the first yellow arrow, the man in possession is immediately and intensely pressed by Grant. Feeling in danger of losing possession to the attacker, the defender then launches a long ball forward and possession is still lost, just further up the pitch.
In this instance, Huddersfield’s counter-press can be seen in action. The counter-press, or Gegenpress, which has been popularised by Jürgen Klopp, essentially has the goal of winning back possession as quickly as possible after losing it.
Here, a ball forward from Town has been collected by a defender and played forward, as marked by the first yellow arrow. Then, pressure is instantly and quickly applied by Jonathan Hogg, which forces the pass left, as marked by the second yellow arrow. With Juninho Bacuna believing that Hogg’s run will force the ball in his direction he pounces, meeting the ball as it arrives at its intended target. Inside six seconds of losing the ball, the Terriers have reclaimed possession with a throw in on the near side of the pitch.
Forest’s sloppy man-marking
While the previous two tactics explained were ones which led to Forest becoming frustrated, the game was lost by the visitors in the implementation of man-marking, with both of Huddersfield’s goals coming directly from corners. Admittedly the first ricocheted around the box a little first, however, man-marking was still at fault for both goals.
As can be seen in this annotation, from corners the visitors had themselves lined up in a man-marking setup, as opposed to a zonal one. When performed perfectly, each attacking player is constantly marked by a defending one and they follow their attacker until the ball is properly cleared – which promotes player ownership as it is easy to spot which defender has lost their attacker should a goal be scored.
This annotation is taken from just a second prior to Christopher Schindler opening the scoring for the afternoon. In this situation, life was made difficult for the defending player as the ball has ricocheted off two or three players before it falls to the German. This makes life difficult as maintaining knowledge of where the ball and the player being marked is once the ball is live is difficult. Therefore, Schindler was able to break free of Figuereido’s marking and slam into the top corner.
Here is an annotation from seconds before the Terriers’ second goal of the afternoon. In this instance, it is much more a case of a well-worked corner routine which was designed to take advantage of Forest’s man-marking from corners. Steve Mounie’s movement in this goal is impeccable as he knows exactly where the corner will be delivered, as marked by the red circle. Using the row of players, as marked by the yellow line, as a block between himself and his man marker, Mounie makes a reverse run to evade Joe Worrall, marked by the red arrow, and having lost his marker has a free header into the Reds’ goal.
Danny Cowley will be delighted that his Huddersfield Town side was able to pick up another three points on their quest for Championship survival, his initial aim when being appointed as manager. However, Sabri Lamouchi will be hugely frustrated that his side now does not have a victory in five games, seeing them drop out of the league’s playoffs. A further annoyance will have been seeing his side frustrated by the clever implementation of tactics by the man in the opposite dugout.
This tactical analysis has dissected the Championship clash between Huddersfield Town and Nottingham Forest. It has highlighted key areas of the two sides’ tactics and used analysis to show how that led to the game’s outcome, a 2-1 victory for the Terriers.
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