Brentford hosted Hull City in the EFL Championship, looking to build on victory last time out against Middlesbrough. In a match that ended 1-1, it was Hull’s impressive pressing that enabled them to come away from Griffin Park with a point. Manager Grant McCann, expressed his disappointment as he felt they deserved to come away with a win.
With a match that slowly came to life in the second half as both sides pushed to secure a victory, this tactical analysis will examine how this match ended up a stalemate. This analysis will explain how Hull managed to press effectively and force Brentford to attack using the wings.
Brentford made three changes from their last Championship game with Ethan Pinnock, Josh Dasilva and Emilliano Marcondes dropping out of the side and being replaced by Bryan Mbeumo, Luka Racic and Christian Nørgaard.
Hull meanwhile made just one change with Daniel Batty being replaced by George Honeyman in the centre of midfield.
Brentford’s build-up play
Operating with a back three in possession Brentford looked to build-up play patiently through the thirds. Initially, they had a 3v1 overload as Hull only had one striker on the pitch and didn’t send a further player forward to create a 3v2. Instead, Hull looked to prevent passes through the centre of the pitch. They achieved this by overloading the centre of the pitch, which forced Brentford to pass the ball into less advantageous wide areas.
Brentford, however, remained patient and were determined to play through the thirds. The defenders were happy to circulate the ball between themselves hoping to create a passing lane to one of the midfielders. When the ball was played wide into either Rico Henry or Henrik Dalsgaard at wing-back the ball near centre midfielder would provide support centrally to prevent them from becoming isolated and turning over possession. This prevented Brentford from the necessity to play vertical balls when in possession in wide areas.
Brentford attack the space
Key to Brentford’s attacking plan was to exploit the spaces behind the Hull defence, which was pushed high up the pitch. Ollie Watkins, Sergi Canós and Mbeumo would make runs behind the defence with the midfielders looking to play passes into the space behind the defence for them to run onto. The space behind the defence was a result of the aggressive defensive line that Hull employed in this game. The runs made by the aforementioned three were made so that they attacked the gaps between the defenders.
Due to the compact centre of the pitch, the spaces were most open in wide areas of the pitch. Brentford looked to exploit this, using their wingbacks to provide the width. Again they aimed to pass the ball behind the defence, with Henry and Dalsgaard attacking the space and looking to provide crosses into the box. With the wingbacks providing the width it allowed both Canós and Mbeumo to move closer to Watkins. This had the added advantage of enabling Brentford to have five players attacking the Hull backline.
Defensively Hull were impressive in their understanding of the pressing phase of the game. They would shift together as a block to prevent Brentford from progressing vertically, often being able to force the ball into wider areas. When the ball was in wider areas they pressed with the intention of winning the ball and counter-attacking towards goal. To facilitate the pressing game, Hull pushed their defensive line high up the pitch, which helped to close the spaces between the different units of the team.
Tom Eaves would allow the three centre backs to have possession of the ball rarely applying immediate pressure to them. This in part was due to the 3v1 overload that Brentford had, which would have made it very difficult for him to effectively press on his own. Instead, he concerned himself with blocking passing lanes through the centre of the pitch. when a pressing trigger occurred he would move closer to the ball near centre back or Pontus Jansson (the centre of the three defenders) to prevent an easy escape from the press.
Brentford’s shape out of possession
When in the defensive phase of the game Brentford defended in a 5-2-3 shape. The three forwards were tasked with covering the defensive line of Hull, while the midfield two were often staggered at different heights on the pitch, therefore making it harder to play through them. This should have created plenty of space for Hull to exploit centrally, however, as the majority of Brentford’s attacking play was focused towards the wings when Hull regained possession it was often in these areas.
In a match that was dominated by the defensive work of both teams, especially in the pressing phase of the game, it wasn’t surprising that this ended in a draw. As the game progressed more chances were created, which could have seen either side emerge victorious from a close match.
Hull’s impressive pressing tactics managed to nullify a lot of Brentford’s attacking threat and this is an area that will have pleased manager McCann. Brentford, however, will need to analyse the way in which Hull were able to force them to play into wide areas. Certainly, the movement from the midfield is an area in which they can look to improve as that will help them to advance the ball through central areas.
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