Brentford who were on a hot form, having won three out of six of their recent games and drawing two including a 4-0 thumping of Bristol City entered this game as favourites to win in the 2019/20 Championship season. The home side did not share similar form in the lead-up to this match, having won two out of their six recent games and lost the other four. Brentford was looking to get into the direct promotion spots, being comfortably in the play-off positions now. Hull had a different agenda entirely, sitting at 14th place and hoping to not drop off into the relegation spots. With both teams having fiery incentives to win, the game was set to be close from the start.
Unfortunately for Hull, they were beaten 5-1 by the Bees in a wondrous performance from Said Benrahma, the man linked to Premier League teams like Chelsea and Arsenal, who picked up a hattrick. This puts Brentford only six points off the automatic promotion spots meaning that they are closer than ever to promotion to the Premier League and hopefully can build upon their form to grab more wins and more goals.
In this tactical analysis, I will attempt to look at the tactics implemented by both sides and how they attempted to win the game and make an analysis on how exactly Brentford was able to put five past the Tigers.
Thomas Frank’s side stuck with his 4-3-3 formations, with David Raya Martin in goal, Rico Henry and Henrik Dalsgaard as full-backs to play as an attacking option and Ethan Pinnock and Julian Jeanvier completing the defence as centre-backs. Christian Norgaard played as the holding midfielder, while Josh Dasilva and Mathias Jensen playing as advanced supporting midfielders to help with the front three of Said Benrahma, Ollie Watkins and Bryan Mbuemo, all three of whom were playing important roles in attacking and as a goalscoring threat.
Grant McCann’s side opted for the 4-2-3-1. George Long was the player between the sticks, with Reece Burke and Ryan Tafazolli in front of him as the centre-halves. Eric Lichaj played at right-back and Steven Kingsley played at LB to form the back four. Leanardo Lopes and Jackson Irving played as the two holding midfielders who helped in transitioning the attack from the defence to the three in front of them. George Honeyman played as the central attacking midfielder and was flanked by Malik Wilks at right-wing and Keane Lewis-Potter at left-wing. Josh Magennis completed the team as the main striker.
The most feared front three in the Championship this season would have to go to Brentford this season. Benrahma, Mbeumo, and Watkins have torn apart defences with their creativity and finishing abilities. In this game, Benrahma has to take the credit from the three, scoring a hat-trick and having an overall great game. In this game, an important takeaway was how the front three were keeping themselves compact, making short passes and through balls.
The circled three tend to stick with each other throughout most attacking plays and linked up well to progress the ball. This suits Benrahma’s and Mbuemo’s style as they tend to drift in centrally and play creatively to the target man – Watkins. However, the players would stay wide when the creative midfielders were running up the pitch and making progressive runs. This aided the team to create width in attack and exploit spaces left by the full-backs, like below.
One of the main reasons that Benrahma scored a hat-trick was because of his quick changes in positioning, drifting in centrally multiple times or staying out wide as seen fit. His first goal and Brentford’s first goal came from a shot from outside the box, where he cut inside from the left-wing from a short corner from Jensen and released a shot which went past the entire Hull defence and keeper. The goal played out as seen below:
Another obvious observation throughout the game was how Ollie Watkins acted as the target man in the centre. He received crosses from the full-backs and from the wingers and took shots, even scoring one like below:
Ollie Watkins anticipates the cross from Rico Henry and waits menacingly in the box to strike and score his first and only goal of this game. Repeated manoeuvers like these are what makes him the joint top scorer in the Championship this season.
Brentford full-backs and their defence
Both teams used their full-backs efficiently in attack and defence. Brentford had Rico Henry and Dalsgaard, while Hull had Lichaj and Kingsley. Rico Henry was the attacking full-back, bombing up into attack as an extra winger. This forced Brentford to shift to three at the back, with Dalsgaard shifting in slightly centrally and helped prevent and limit any counter-attacks from Hull.
Brentford are very reliant on their full-backs in defence to combat any threat of counter-attacks. This is particularly prominent with Rico Henry and Dalsgaard at 7.6 and 6.8 successful defensive actions respectively.
Here, the spread between the three defenders creates width and helps mitigate pressure from the wingers. This also stretched Hull wide and allowed Brentford’s central midfielder to exploit the space left between them.
Another important part of Brentford’s defence is their incessant pressing from all members of the team. Other than Benrahma, who was given permission to stay up and be ready for any counter-attacks due to his pace and ability to turn quickly, the others all pressed their opponents.
This season, Brentford presses their opponents higher up the pitch 11.5 times in a game, which is the third-highest this season. An example below shows how the players crowd the opponent with the ball.
The strength in numbers here helps Brentford quickly get back the ball from the opponents, and stop any and all counterattacks before it started.
Hull’s Low Block
To prevent losing the game, Hull City played a low block and tried to keep the attacking threat from Brentford at bay. However, this did not work to plan, but as for why, I will detail below.
The intended effect of the low block employed by Hull was to close off and prevent space for the Brentford attackers to exploit. This meant that the players were behind the ball to prevent exploitation of space by the Brentford attackers like they usually do. Hull was parked outside their own box and waited to dispossess the Brentford players when they could do so.
However, Hull did not really get on the front foot in this game and were dominated from start to finish. They did not press Brentford to win back the ball and simply hit the ball upfield when they got in possession, which only invited more pressure.
A large number of men are present behind the ball to prevent creative players from getting some space to work with and create opportunities. While this system works very well in teams that employ these tactics well, like Nottingham Forest, the system becomes ineffective when not used with men that are competent and effective in this form of defence.
The role of Saïd Benrahma
An important part of the game was Saïd Benrahma and his role in this game, considering he scored a hat-trick and was important in playmaking as well. Due to his relatively lower height, he has the ability to change the direction at which he runs towards at ease. This is evident when looking at his playstyle this game and how quickly he darts around the pitch with or without the ball. In this game alone, Benrahma attempted 13 dribbles, the most in this particular game. His passing also plays an important role when goals are being scored. He made four key passes and nine passes into the final third in this game with 100% success in both metrics. An example of one of his key passes is below, where Benrahma plays a through ball to Watkins, who proceeds to hit the crossbar. This routine is something Benrahma specializes in, having made 6.61 progressive passes per 90.
Another form of important passes made from the centre is to the far-right winger, in this case, Bryan Mbuemo. As Mbuemo tends to stay on the right flank when the centre is overcrowded, he can exploit the space left by the defenders and cross into the box. These passes can be seen below.
However, especially in this game, Benrahma’s main skill was in his shooting. He took nine shots with five on target in this game. Three of those five shots on target ended up in the back of the net as well. An important reason for that was because of his creative ability to penetrate Hull’s low block and shoot from within or around the box. His positioning to score goals is very important as well, as indicated below.
Benrahma staggers his run to remain offside and waits for Mbuemo to turn before calling for the ball. This manoeuver gives Benrahma a lot of space to operate in and can take a bit of time to shoot. He performs this routine plenty of times and is one of the main reasons as to why he has the most shots attempted in the league this season.
To conclude, it was very evident that Brentford were the deserved winners, dominating in attack and while defending, by countering Hull’s minimal attacking threat and using their front three to destroy the Hull low block. In the future, Brentford should be looking to progress directly to the Premier League or at least make the playoffs this season. On the other hand, Hull must strengthen their defensive lines to ensure that they do not get relegated to League One and to ensure at-least a mid-table finish.
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