Post match analysis: Leeds United 1 v 3 Norwich City
The top two in the EFL Championship came face to face at Elland Road on Saturday and what most fans of the two sides, and neutrals, were expecting was that a hard fought, tough tackling encounter would be what we would see come 5:30pm.
The game didn't dissapoint in any way whatsoever. A tactical battle that saw The Canaries worthy victors come full time and Leeds left humbled on their own turf. So how did Norwich City manager Daniel Farke mastermind such an emphatic win over the tactical genius that is Marcelo Bielsa?
Bielsa likes the 4-1-4-1 set up just as much as Farke likes his team in the 4-2-3-1 shape so formation wise we didn't see anything new in the game. Casilla replaced Bailey Peacock-Farrell in the Leeds goal after signing from Real Madrid which was probably expected and Bielsa went with former NYCFC wideman Jack Harrison instead of the in form Jack Clarke on the right hand side of the Leeds midfield quartet.
Daniel Farke has been lucky enough to keep a semi-regular starting eleven but injuries to central midfielder Moritz Leitner and centre back Timm Klose meant Mario Vrancic and Ben Godfrey came in respectively.
Shots count y'know
As my xG timeline above clearly shows Norwich had the better of the chances albeit spread throughout the game mostly in two small clusters and at vital points in the game (just before half time and around 75-85 minutes). Leeds had started the game well creating a mulitude of low xG value chances and not only that, they were regular throughout the first 30 minutes of the game especially after Vrancic had given Norwich a very early lead in the 3rd minute. Pukki's tap in on 35 minutes had a value of 0.58 on its own it must be said, both teams regularly outperform there match xG numbers especially the visitors (who are second only to West Brom as highest scorers in the league).
Playing them at their own game
Under Bielsa Leeds are relentless high intensity pressers in every single game, home or away it doesnt matter this is the way Bielsa likes to play no questions asked, period, with his side recording the best PPDA (passes allowed per defensive action) in the Championship this season so far at just 6.46. However City are no mugs in this department either recording just 8.15 PPDA themselves so when Norwich started to press United in the middle third, Pukki also used his tireless work ethic to press and hurrie Jansson and Liam Cooper who were reasonably spread apart, Buendia, Vrancic, Trybull, Stiepermann and Hernandez all pressed and recycled the ball with superb intensity across midfield, with Buendia the pick of the bunch with his calmness on the ball something to behold, they thwarted the time allowed on the ball when it was with the Leeds midfielders. It was the constant stealing of the ball and the disruption of the Leeds passing rhythem that won Norwich the game.
Both teams are reknowned for their challenge intensity and today was no exception but Leeds were truly taken aback by the way Norwich came at them with their offensive game and the side from Norfolk also showed zero fear when going forward.
A key point worth noting in the game is that City did not give away needless free kicks around their own penalty area knowing full well the likes of Pontus Janssen and Liam Cooper are a huge threat at set pieces.
Alioski at left back
In wide areas Leeds usually tend to produce results but with Alioski again deployed at left back this threat was nullified for much of the game and by the time Barry Douglas came on at the start of the second half to replace Pablo Hernandez Alioski was only then pushed further forward down the Leeds left hand side with the pattern of the game already set with the City game plan in full effect all this despite City ending the game having had only 37% possession of the ball.
Alioski, when playing at left back thrives on being able to bomb down the flank to end up providing crosses. In the graphic below we can see why he wasnt able to do that against Norwich.
As described in the graphic, Alioski literally couldnt get into the areas he wanted to. Essentially Norwich had a spare man and this was partly due to the strange actions of Leeds United's right back Luke Ayling. Ayling was another full back who found it very difficult to make any leeway down the Norwich flank. Ayling is another raiding full back and full of energy to get up and down but his reluctance to do this was either a Bielsa ploy or Leeds had a major fear of the Norwich City attack down that side. To that end Leeds were slightly lop sided when in the defensive to attacking transitions phase and this alongside the previously detailed Norwich City press is partly why, in my opinion, Leeds lost the game.
Leeds seemed to lack ideas in how to beat the Norwich press and in truth I dont think Bielsa was surprised at how Daniel Farke had set his team up more that he was caught out and hugely surprised at how intense Farke's team came at United and to that end simply couldnt find a way around it as City kept the same levels going for the majority of the game. That being said Norwich were organised, energetic and came out deserved winners in the top of the table clash.
Daniel Farke and Norwich City came with a high risk high reward strategy and the reward was worth three valuable points at the top of the SkyBet Championship.