Hull City hosted Charlton Athletic in the first game after the restart of the Championship due to the pandemic. The two teams are fighting to avoid relegation. Both managers chose different tactics to face each other. This tactical analysis will demonstrate the approach of both teams in the game.
Hull City played with a 4-2-3-1 formation. George Long was between the goalposts. Matthew Pennington and Callum Elder were the right and left full-backs, respectively. Between them, were Jordy de Wijs and Angus MacDonald, as centre-backs. The two defensive midfielders were Daniel Batty and Herbie Kane, who is on loan from Liverpool. In front of them, as an attacking midfielder, was Jon Toral, while on the wings were Josh Bowler, who is on loan from Everton, and Mallik Wilks.
Charlton Athletic came into the field with a 4-4-2 formation. Dillon Phillips was the goalkeeper. The back four were Adam Matthews, as a right full-back, Tom Lockyer and Jason Pearce were the two centre-backs, Adedeji Oshilaja was the left full-back. The two central midfielders were Darren Pratley and Josh Cullen. On the right flank was Aiden McGeady, and on the left flank was Albie Morgan. In the top of the formation as centre-forwards were Macauley Bonne and Tomer Hemed.
Hull City faced some problems when the players had possession of the ball, according to this analysis. This is because Charlton Athletic was pressing high before scoring. Hull City could not control possession of the ball. For that reason, the players tried to play a more direct approach style. Hull City’s players chose to transfer the ball quickly in the middle and final third, because of the high pressure of Charlton Athletic’s players. For that reason, Hull City tried to transfer the game into the final third quicker and with a more targeted approach: by transferring the ball with a pass into the opponent’s half, you can force the players that put pressure on your team back. This is something that Hull City tried: a quick pass which made the opponent’s press useless. Moreover, the opponent had to show a good reaction in the defensive transition to overcome the gap between the offensive and the defensive line.
When the ball was transferred into the opponent’s half, Hull City faced another issue: the players were isolated and there was a lack of creativity in the final third. The full-backs of Hull City were not overlapping the wide attacking midfielders. So, the options that a wide attacking midfielder had in the flanks were either go into an offensive challenge that probably could not be won because he was outnumbered, or to pass backwards to retain control of the ball. Analysing these options, we can see that, with those options, Hull City could not pose a threat in the opponent’s box.
The Hull centre-forward, Eaves, was trying to support his teammates when they had possession of the ball. For that reason, there were times that he was coming deep on the field, and other times he was taking a wide position. The issue was that Eaves faced some difficulties in controlling the ball, so despite his intentions to help the team, his attempts to do so were not so successful. Moreover, when he was coming wide on the field, the box area was too empty, as his teammates were not taking a good position there in time. Those were things that made Hull City struggle in the final third of the field.
For that reason, Hull City’s manager, Grant McCann, substituted on Josh Magennis. Magennis is a muscular centre-forward, who can stand between two strong centre-backs and hold the ball. With that substitution, Hull City gained more metres in the field. He won more challenges in the middle and final third of the field. Magennis managed to control the ball more efficiently. That gave his teammates time to come higher up the field and find more free spaces, and put some pressure on the defensive line of Charlton Athletic.
Charlton Athletic with the ball
Charlton Athletic did choose a direct approach in the game, with long balls, combinations and quick transfers of the ball into the opponent’s half. The goalkeeper was targeting with long balls the two centre-forwards, who were overloading either the left or the right flank. In that way, they dragged out of position one of the two centre-backs of Hull City. That created an imbalance in the defensive line, which Charlton Athletic tried to take advantage of by bringing extra players into the free space.
When Charlton had the control of the ball in their own half, they were moving the ball around in the field until they could find the right moment to pass forward into the offensive line. The players were trying to take advantage of the speed of the two centre-forwards. For that reason, the players at the back were passing together. With every pass, a new situation was being created on the field, and if the opponent did not have a correct position there was a possibility to take advantage. For that reason, Bonne and Hemed were playing on the shoulder of the last defender. They were trying to take advantage of bad positioning and receive a long ball with a lot of free space in front of them.
Another way for Charlton Athletic to transfer the ball through the thirds was via a combination game. This was happening with the support of Hemed, who was supporting in the wide areas the possession of the team, while his partner in the offensive line, Bonne, was positioned around the box. Charlton Athletic with the combination game could take advantage of the speed that their players had: the players that were playing at the flanks, the full-backs and especially the two wingers, Morgan and McGeady, are players with electric pace who can take advantage of the quick alternations of the ball. For that reason, Bonne was supporting them by becoming an extra player and was helping the combination to take place.
Charlton Athletic without the ball
Charlton were starting their defence high up the field: the players were putting pressure on their opponents from the final third of the field. The forwards of Charlton Athletic were trying to manipulate the opposing goalkeeper by forcing him to play to their right side by blocking his options. The 4-4-2 was turning into a “flexible” 4-3-3. By “flexible”, we mean that, in whichever area the ball was, a player from the midfield line was supporting the two centre-forwards. So if the ball was in the centre of the field, Pratley was supporting behind the two centre-forwards, while when the ball was in the wide areas, one of the wide midfielders was going higher up the field, next to the centre-forwards.
In this picture, we can see the left-winger coming higher and supporting the offensive line. When the ball was in the wide areas, one of the two wingers was coming higher and trying to keep the balance in the area.
Charlton Athletic was defending with a 4-4-2 formation in their own half. In that way, the team was making sure that they were compact. For Hull City, it was difficult to break the lines of Charlton Athletic. Moreover, Charlton Athletic managed to keep tight its lines and control the distances between the players. For that reason, the opponent could not pass through them, and, if Hull City’s players wanted to approach the box, they had to find a way to do it around them. The deeper that the opponent managed to come up the field, the more players Charlton Athletic was putting into the box. In that way, the players were making sure that they were in control in the box and were dominant in every challenge that was taking place.
Charlton Athletic turned into a more defensive team after scoring the winning goal. The players wanted to make sure that they were going to win this match. For that reason, we can see ten players of Charlton Athletic taking a deeper position on the field and supporting the defensive part of the game. The only player that was high on the pitch was the centre-forward Bonne. Charlton Athletic depended a lot on the speed of specific players to take advantage of the transition game. The wingers and Hemed were closer to the challenges and were trying to regain possession of the ball. In that way, these players would go into a counter-attack that Bonne would take advantage of.
Charlton Athletic took a precious victory in the relegation battle here. From this game, we can understand that they are tough team, who know how to defend and have a plan on the field for every moment of it. On the other hand, Hull City lost a crucial match. Hull City has to learn to adjust its game better for every situation. By doing so, the team will become more resistant against “stronger” teams and will have more chance of getting something from these games.forwar