Tactical Analysis: Brentford Hold Top Dogs Leeds


After a few days of speculation of manager Dean Smith potentially heading to Aston Villa, Brentford Football Club produced one of their best away performances of the season as they held high-flying Leeds United to a 1-1 draw at Elland Road.

In this piece, I will look at the tactics Dean Smith deployed that saw Brentford almost leave Leeds with all three points, as they conceded a late equaliser. I will also analyse how and when Brentford can expect their first away win of the season and end their current form of no wins in six games in all competitions.

Brentford’s Attacking Intent

After going four consecutive Sky Bet Championship games without a win, Brentford’s style of play away to the league leaders at the time, Leeds, was refreshing. The most eye-catching theme of Brentford’s game plan at Leeds was their attacking intent. Throughout the first-half, Brentford found themselves in great attacking positions whilst also managing to successfully nullify the third top scorers in Championship, with 22 goals. All in all, Brentford had eight shots in the first half, with seven of the eight either blocked or on target. 

However, despite the attacking intent, coming away with a draw would’ve been disappointing for Dean Smith, who watched his side create and not finish chance after chance throughout the game at Leeds. Brentford’s lack of potency in front of goal is slowly becoming a problem, with three of their last five games ending in draws.

Brentford Leeds United Championship Tactical Analysis Analysis
One of the many attacks Brentford managed to conjure, showing great attacking intent

In the above image, it can be seen that Brentford are counter-attacking to great success, and with three players in support of Sergi Canos, there was plenty of support for the man on the ball who was running at the Leeds defence. The attack eventually fizzles out as Neal Maupay, screws the shot harmlessly wide.

Brentford Leeds United Championship Tactical Analysis Analysis
A shot taken once again by Maupay that could’ve reaped many more benefits if the right pass had been played outside Maupay.

At this point in Saturday’s game, Brentford were asserting their control in the game with regular attacks. In this attack, Maupay makes the wrong decision in taking a shot from the best part of 30-yards. However, if he had looked up to his right he had an easy pass to Romaine Sawyers, who had two players breaking forward into the Leeds penalty area. Despite the wrong decision in attack by Maupay, the attacking intent is once again clear to see in Brentford’s attacks.

Brentford Leeds United Championship Tactical Analysis Analysis
The scenario from which Brentford were awarded a penalty, and from which they scored from.

The annotated image above shows the intent of Brentford which led to their goal. This attack started after Brentford pressed high to win the ball back off Leeds. There are two willing runners into the box, with the pass eventually being played to Ollie Watkins (top of the image), who is fouled for the penalty, from which Maupay puts Brentford ahead.

Brentford’s performance away to Leeds proved to be a success as they limited Leeds attacking threat whilst also increasing their own by committing men forward. It was a risky tactic from manager Dean Smith, who would’ve been let down by the lack of ruthlessness in front of goal from his forwards.

Leeds Stray Passing

Leeds had many problems on Saturday, with their all-around game and lack of tactical planning proving to be their weaknesses. Brentford went to Elland Road with a clear game plan to counter-attack Leeds, with plenty of men supporting the attack. Leeds sloppy all-around play meant that after losing the ball from failing to build sufficient attacks Brentford’s swift counters in number posed them problems. Leeds should’ve been more aware of what Brentford came to do at Elland Road, however, failed to do so, and therefore struggled to contain Brentford’s attacks.

Leeds struggled came from two main points; giving the ball away in attack, which led to Brentford counter attacks, and a lack of numbers back to deal with Brentford counter-attacks. This was evident in the first-half where Brentford dominated, and in the goal, Brentford scored. Out of 393 passes Leeds attempted, only 301 of them found their target, which comes out at a 75% pass completion rate. This was the number one problem that Leeds found themselves in, which limited their attacks and benefited Brentford.

Brentford Leeds United Championship Tactical Analysis Analysis
1/2: Leeds failed attack, which shows their mass number of players forward and out of position.
Brentford Leeds United Championship Tactical Analysis Analysis
2/2: Brentford have benefited from winning the ball back, with great numbers in attack compared to Leeds’s defence.

This was just 11 minutes into the game, Leeds had seven players committed forward in attack. However, they lost the ball and were immediately outnumbered when Brentford counterattacked. Committing too many men was a lack of tactical knowledge by the Leeds players as they greatly underestimated Brentford’s attacking threat.

In the awarding of Brentford’s penalty, Leeds gave the ball away in their own defensive third. This was a mixture of great pressure and committing a good number of men forward from Brentford and poor concentration on the ball by Leeds. Brentford’s overload on their left-hand side meant that there was an easy pass through for Watkins, who was then brought down for the penalty.

Brentford Leeds United Championship Tactical Analysis Analysis
1/2: High pressure from the Brentford attack made the mistake from Leeds, and the subsequent penalty possible for Brentford.
Brentford Leeds United Championship Tactical Analysis Analysis
2/2: Another common theme for Leeds throughout the game is players, especially defenders out of position.

The first of the above images annotates the great high pressure from Brentford and how their shift in tactics in the second-half, in attempting to get something from the game, reaped rewards. After winning the ball high up, the second image shows how just four seconds two more players joined the attack in attempts to support the man on the ball.

However, the poor positioning of the Leeds defence and midfield shows just how they suffered as a result of Brentford’s swift counter. Unable to re-position themselves, the Leeds defence still find themselves out to their left and thus freeing up space on their right for Brentford to attack.

Final Thoughts

Bluntness in attack for both Brentford and Leeds was apparent in Saturday’s game. With many chances in the game, for it to only finish 1-1 shows that both teams lack the cutting edge in their feeble attempts to make it to the promised land, the Premier League. For Brentford, the defence showed signs of promise.

Despite conceding the late equaliser to Leeds, Brentford did a lot to keep a fellow promotion rival from scoring, especially away from home where Smith’s side are still looking for their first win.

For Leeds, greater emphasis is needed on being more “street smart”. Their draw to Brentford showed they lacked the necessary tactical nous to prevent the opposition from scoring. This was seen in the amount of counter attacks and shots Brentford had throughout the game.