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For a team sitting 18th in the Premier League table and facing relegation, Fulham played like they already had no hope. Leeds United fought long and hard and came out with a well deserved three points, shooting them up to 11th. Looking at the statistics on paper, no one would be able to tell that Fulham played a lackluster game. Here is Amelia-Toni Adejobi’s Tactical Analysis of Leeds’ 2-1 win over Fulham on March 19, 2021.
FORMATIONS AND MIDFIELD BATTLEEmbed from Getty Images
Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds set up in a 4-1-4-1 formation, preparing to play on the counter-attack. The formation worked well against Fulham’s 4-2-3-1, and Bielsa’s midfield triangle easily tamed Fulham’s defensively-minded midfield. Kalvin Phillips effectively managed super-dribbler Andre Anguissa, while Dallas and Roberts stuck to their tasks well against the relatively fruitless Harrison Reed and Mario Lemina. This also proved to be a tactically sound way to set up against Fulham’s attacking midfield trio, with the Whites playing very narrow and condensing central areas. With his nuanced tactical set-up, Bielsa secured an easy win, and it was a textbook performance from the Argentinean manager.
FULHAM’S HIGH DEFENSIVE LINEEmbed from Getty Images
In the first half, Leeds were the stronger team and deserved their lead. Fulham’s defenders lacked teamwork, and an absence of good communication between them allowed Patrick Bamford through on goal in the 29th minute. His finish was crisp, although after the match he admitted that the ball came off his shin.
Fulham played a high defensive line in front of their eighteen-yard box, making it hard for Leeds to move through without being caught offside. This was an effective strategy to an extent, but it also ended up restricting their own movement and actively worked against them in crucial moments of the match. Leeds had two goals ruled out for offside at the beginning of the game, but eventually found their reward.
The high defensive line was also risky as a winger could easily find a blind spot and sneak in behind the opposition’s defense. In the end, it proved to be more risk than reward for Scott Parker’s men. Fulham tried to play it safe, but ended up using methods that were far too cautious for a team in the bottom three, battling to stay alive. Some daring attacks, or stronger counter-attacks would have been needed to truly establish a foothold in the game.
A win would have temporarily gotten them out of the bottom three, as they only needed three points to leave the bottom of the table and leapfrog both Newcastle United and Brighton & Hove Albion to reach 16th place. Normally in matches that are a matter of relegation, the team in danger would fight till the end, especially if they are the hosts and have the so called ‘home advantage’. However, Fulham threw in the towel too early and waited too long before strutting their stuff in attack. Yes, it was 1-1 at the break, but once Rafinha scored in the second half, Fulham simply did not try to fire back. Their slow reaction and inability to penetrate central areas cost them three crucial points that could have saved their season.
bamford – leeds’ star playerEmbed from Getty Images
The undeniable star of the game was 27-year-old Patrick Bamford. As their main striker, he fully encapsulates everything that Leeds United is and stands for – their mentality, hard work, perseverance, desire, and most importantly their heart. These qualities make Leeds a beloved underdog team in the league and Bamford himself is developing into the star of the team.
Bamford didn’t appear in the most recent England squad, and it looked like he had a chip on his shoulder with something to prove in this match. With his goal, he’s now up to 14 for the season, to which only Salah, Fernandes, and Kane have more in the Premier League.
What’s been perhaps most impressive is that Patrick Bamford has not always been known as a man to score on a consistent basis. He only reached 16 in last season’s Championship, over the course of a 46 game season. But now, at 27, he’s consistently proving himself in the big time.
Bamford’s movement was a constant threat for Fulham and the duo of Tosin and Andersen could never get a hold of him. As the British striker dropped deep to pick up the ball, the wingers and attacking midfielders ran in behind and made runs of varying movements into the box. He scored the first and assisted the second, playing a crucial role in the win. Impressively, he also popped up at the other end with five clearances for his team.
Illan Meslier also deserves credit for his performance in goal, making five saves. However, it was Bamford’s day in the end and Leeds walked to a 2-1 win.
CONCLUSIONEmbed from Getty Images
Overall, Fulham’s high defensive line turned into more risk than reward and sparked further liveliness for Leeds’ rapid attack. Bielsa’s side now sit comfortably in 11th place just below Arsenal, a well deserved reward for their win. Fulham however, come out of the clash without any points, remaining in 18th. This match was a good opportunity to comfortably exit the drop zone, but Fulham unfortunately did not make the best use of this chance.
So there it is! A tactical analysis of Leeds’ 2-1 win over Fulham on March 19, 2021. Be sure to check out more of our Match Analyses, Tactical Analyses, and articles pertaining to this Premier League season. Also be sure to follow @mastermindsite on social media and follow via email below to never miss an update. Thanks for reading and see you soon.