Nottingham Forest hosted Huddersfield Town in the EFL Championship. The two teams have different goals in the league, as Nottingham Forest is fighting for promotion to the EPL, while Huddersfield Town is trying to avoid relegation. In this tactical analysis, we will see how the two teams faced each other. From this analysis, we will see how Huddersfield Town could not take advantage of Nottingham Forest’s weaknesses, and how the home team adjusted into the game.
Nottingham Forest started the game with a 4-1-4-1 formation, and during the match changed its tactics into a 4-4-2. Brice Samba was the goalkeeper of the team. Tobias Figueiredo and Joe Worrall were the two centre backs. Next to them, Yuri Ribeiro, and Matty Cash, were the left and right full-backs, respectively. Ben Watson was the defensive midfielder. Tiago Silva and Brennan Johnson were the two central midfielders. Joe Lolley and Sammy Ameobi were the wingers of Nottingham Forest. In the edge of the formation as a striker was Lewis Grabban. In the bench was sitting players like Carl Jenkinson, who joined from Arsenal.
Huddersfield Town chose to deploy the same formation as their opponent: 4-1-4-1. Jonas Lossl was between the goalposts. Christopher Schindler and Richard Stearman, who joined from Sheffield United during the winter transfer window, were the two centre backs. Harry Toffolo was the left full-back, and Demeaco Duhaney was the right full-back. Jonathan Hogg was the defensive midfielder. The two central midfielders were Andy King, who is on loan from Leicester City and Alex Pritchard. At the right and left flank were Chris Willock, and Lewis O’Brien, respectively. Karlan Grant was the centre forward.
Starting the analysis from when Huddersfield Town’s players had control of the ball, we notice that most players in the team, except the two centre backs, Schindler and Stearman, had a high position on the field. That helped Huddersfield to control the game in the first half, as it was easier for them to maintain high pressure on the opponent while they had the ball, and put an instant pressure at the time that Nottingham Forest’s players won possession of the ball. This is something that we can notice from the PPDA metric of Wyscout: PPDA is a metric that calculates the pressing rate of a team in the opponent’s 60% of the field. It shows the total number of passes that a team allows an opponent to make in its half. The lower that number is, the better for the team that is putting on the pressure. Specifically, Huddersfield Town had 7 PPDA in total, with 8.1 in the first half, and 5.9 in the second half. We can spot the difference with Nottingham if we compare both halves: Nottingham Forest had in 17 PPDA in total, with 12.1 in the first half, and 28.8 in the second half.
Moreover, Huddersfield Town had an advantage when they were building up the game from the back. The two centre backs had a numerical advantage against Grabban, who was the first line of defence against those two. So, with a 2 v 1 situation, the two centre backs could drive or pass the ball into the final third more often than usual. That made the transfer of the ball through the thirds a lot easier for Huddersfield Town, and gave them control of the game in the first half.
Huddersfield Town’s players were targeting the flanks of their opponent. To achieve this, the full-backs when receiving the ball were driving it inside the field. With those kinds of moves, Nottingham Forest’s players were also coming inside the field to cover the space and mark the player that was carrying the ball. In that way, the full-back was dragging the opponents into a “trap”, and the winger had more space in the flanks. The winger was going wide and could receive the ball without instant pressure. Additionally, the wingers not only were receiving the ball without pressure but also had a lot of free space to drive the ball deeper on the field.
The next tactical scenario that the players of Huddersfield Town tried was to overload the flanks. The central midfielder had a special role in achieving this. Whenever the ball was at the flanks, the centre midfielder of that specific side was moving there to support the positional game. Specifically, they were moving in between the lines and among the half-spaces of the opponents’ lines. In that way, they managed to become target players and link the defensive with the offensive line. The centre midfielders, by receiving the ball between the lines, had time to turn around with the ball and transfer it closer to the final third of the field.
The analysis of Huddersfield Town without the ball showed that the team was defending with a 4-1-4-1 formation when they were pressing in the final third of the field, and with a 4-4-1-1 when Nottingham Forest was coming higher up the field, with the centre midfielders staying a bit higher up the field. Huddersfield Town’s striker, Grant, was taking a position in the field that was blocking the passing game between the two centre backs. That move was forcing the centre backs to play long balls. That was something that Huddersfield Town wanted to achieve, as the opponent could not play the style of game that they wanted to, and they had more chances to win the ball if the opponent was playing long balls.
Nottingham Forest in the first half
Nottingham Forest faced many issues in the first half. Starting the analysis of the team from when they had the ball, we notice that they could not build up the game in the way that the players wanted to. That was happening because of the high pressure of the opponent. Nottingham Forest could not transfer the ball through the thirds normally. Moreover, the striker was isolated in the first half, and he could not support his teammates when they had the possession of the ball. For that reason, the wingers were coming inside and were trying to create an advantageous situation in the axis of the field. However, because of the compactness of the opponent, this was a tough thing to achieve, as Huddersfield Town managed to overload the area around the ball with many players, who were all supporting each other.
In the first half, without the ball, Nottingham Forest was waiting for the opponent in their own half of the field with a 4-1-4-1 formation. It was more like a passive defence and not an aggressive one. The most common mistake for Nottingham Forest’s players was that they did not have the right intensity in their defence. Many times in the first half, Huddersfield Town’s players managed to receive the ball between the lines and the half-spaces of Nottingham Forest, turn and pass forward to a teammate. That was a problem for Nottingham Forest in their defensive function.
Additionally, that was not the only problem that Nottingham Forest had in the first half as far as the defensive function went. The team faced several issues on the flanks and did not have the solutions to defend against the opponent, who were overloading the flanks. That was because Huddersfield Town’s players were trying to have many players around the ball. On the other side, Nottingham Forest in the first half did not show that kind of energy: that was because the centre midfielders were not supporting each other efficiently on the flanks. In that way, an imbalance was created, and Nottingham Forest had several issues in that area.
Nottingham Forest in the second half
Nottingham Forest in the second half grabbed an early goal. That gave them a huge advantage for the rest of the match, as the team later took the lead by two goals. The management of the match was a lot easier after that. Nottingham Forest managed to score the second goal in one of the few times that the striker did support his teammates deeper on the field: Grabban came deep and managed to get the centre backs of Huddersfield Town out of position. In that way, he created free space for himself. After a quick combination game with Ameobi, he took advantage of the space that he created and scored the second goal. That was also one of the few times that Nottingham Forest tried to create a dangerous situation by playing the ball from the axis of the field.
In the start of the second half, the formation changed for Nottingham Forest. Johnson came off, and Ryan Yates came on. That move pushed Tiago Silva higher up the field, and the formation changed into a 4-4-2. The change in the formation made Nottingham Forest more compact without the ball. That was because Grabban was not in a disadvantageous 2 v 1 situation anymore. The situation in that area turned into a 2 v 2. Huddersfield Town played with more long balls during the second half, compared to the first.
Despite those efforts, Nottingham Forest had positional issues and Huddersfield Town managed to penetrate their defensive line. That was because the first line was sometimes distanced with the rest of the team. That caused some issues and allowed the centre backs of Huddersfield Town to break through the lines of Nottingham Forest with penetrative passes. This was able to happen not only because the strikers had big distances between them, but also because the midfielders were not close to the front line, leaving space in the middle. If Huddersfield Town’s defensive midfielder had managed to take up a good position, he would have had a lot of time to receive and turn without any opposing pressure.
Going deeper allowed Nottingham Forest to shorten the distances between the lines and in the half-spaces. In that way, they made the opponent play more long balls and not so many short passes. Moreover, Nottingham Forest became more compact in their half. Nottingham Forest deployed a defensive block by eight players with a 4-4 formation. In that way, Nottingham Forest’s players forced their opponents to try long shots out of the box that didn’t threaten the goalkeeper. Furthermore, Nottingham Forest, by having that compact formation, forced the opponent to go around them and not to go through them.
Nottingham Forest managed to take the three points and remain high in the league table. Nottingham Forest managed to score a goal late in the first and early in the second half. That gave them a great advantage as the match went on. On the other hand, Huddersfield Town had a good performance, but needed to be more effective in the final third of the field to take something from the game and aid their attempts to avoid relegation.