This game between Luton Town and Nottingham Forest was played in round eight of the EFL Championship. Nottingham had two draws and one victory in last three games before this match. Luton Town won their last game after two losses in a row. Nottingham Forest manager Chris Hughton chose basic 4-2-3-1 formation, whilst Luton Town manager Nathan Jones chose a 3-4-2-1 tactical setup. Let’s look at our tactical analysis.
Nathan Jones allowed to play tactical structure with three central defenders. The main attention was paid to defensive part of the game. It was the reason why we can see three defensive midfielders, three central defenders and two wing-backs in the starting lineup of his team. It’s necessary to notice that Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu played as pressing winger in order to use his best qualities, such as speed, technical ability and agression. Also, this tactical movement was useful when scheme of Luton was turning from 5-2-3 to 5-4-1 or 5-3-2.
Nottingham Forest had well-known and interesting players in the lineup. There was former Newcastle United player Jack Colback, who is left-footed defensive midfielder. He played a big role in build-up phase and was responsible for ball moving and creative solutions. Also, there we can see Anthony Knockaert, on loan from EPL side Fulham. Generally, Forest had four fast players in the offensive group. Besides Knockaert, we can see Lyle Taylor, Joe Lolley and Sammy Ameobi.
The next step of our analysis is to look at how Nottingham Forest tried to break defensive structure of the hosts.
Luton Town defensive phase
To increase defensive power, Nathan Jones used three schemes. The first was 5-2-3, with additional movements of Mpanzu. The main idea was to close both defensive midfielders of the guests and do a pressure to full-backs. It caused U-shaped ball moving, that wasn’t dangerous. Also, three-man attack group had to progress the ball forward on a high speed when Forest’s players did a mistake.
Sometimes, when the game structure was unbalanced, Luton weren’t afraid to do a high pressing in order to deny fast ball moving to their half of the field. It could have been done by long balls or fast low combinations. So, 5-3-2 and 5-2-3 Luton Town defensive schemes was clearly seen in this game.
Also, the 5-4-1 defensive structure was used a lot. Mostly, it was helpful when the game was proceeded at their half. This formation allowed to close the centre and be patient about defensive line.
Nottingham Forest defensive phase
Chris Hughton chose 4-4-2 as it is a basic defensive formation. It’s not amazing, that sometimes his team played differently. For example, when they did high pressing, the scheme was 4-1-4-1. This formation allowed to close build-up activity and return possession.
But the main idea was to close both defensive midfielders and to cover as much space in the centre as it could be. The 4-4-2 structure is one of best options to do it. Also, this scheme allows do a quick defence-attack transition, using the best qualities of offensive group.
It’s necessary to say, that when you use 4-4-2 defensive formation, it’s very important hold on both four-man lines as narrowly as you can. If it’s not will be done, opponent can get a chance to find a time and space to do something dangerous. Especially, when we talk about high-level football.
In this picture we can see that lines don’t stay narrowly and it caused a good situation for Luton player. Let’s look at the main principles of Nottingham Forest defensive plan.
Second half of the game
After Nikolas Ioannou was sent off in 44 minute, second half of the game became interesting. The main question was how Luton would try to get something positive from numerical superiority. Chris Hughton substituted Sammy Ameobi to former Arsenal full-back Carl Jenkinson. As it usually goes, defensive formation turned to 4-4-1. Lolley became left midfielder, Taylor left alone in the first pressing line. No wonder, that Luton got a beautiful opportunity to do a successful build-up. Also, they got a chance to create overload on the one flank in order to pass the ball on the other flank to do a dangerous attack.
Nottingham Forest’s players tried to do pressing when was favourable situation to do it. But the main problem was to keep fit during the game. Besides defensive movements, it was important to look for a chance to score a goal. As we know, they coped with it.
The most interesting things started when Luton manager Nathan Jones made two substitutions in 77 minute of the game. He brought on wingers Kazenga LuaLua and Jordan Clark, with central defender Tom Lockyer and forward Elliot Lee leaving the field. So, the basic formation turned to 4-2-3-1. Newcomers became left and right wingers. Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu, Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall and Glen Rea became parts of the central triangle.
Then, Nathan Jones made a third substitution. Dewsbury-Hall left the field, central midfielder George Moncur came on. Offensive structure of the hosts turned to 4-2-4. The main idea was to create 4v4 situation and get a chance to use it. There wasn’t a need to make something with build-up, because due to red card, Luton got a 2v1 overload when we talk about central defenders on the ball.
To sum up, this game was a typical confrontation of tactical scheme with three central defenders against 4-2-3-1 structure. Nottingham Forest tried to hold on 4-4-2 defensive scheme and do pressing movements. The hosts used a good tactics in order to close the centre of the field and do patient build-up. Also, they tried not to allow the visitors to shoot from qualitative shot positions.
But everything changed, when Nikolas Ioannou was sent off. Nathan Jones was patiently waiting his team do something dangerous and score a second goal, but a good cross from the flank made him change the game structure. Then he removed from the field one of the central defenders in order to transform tactical scheme to more offensive condition.
Stats can show us, that the hosts had more good chances to score than the guests (0.99 xG against 0.3 xG). But it’s necessary to notice, that 0.48 xG belongs to Glen Rea’s shot, that became a goal. Also, statistics helps us to see, that pressing intensity of Nottingham Forest was too low in a second half of the game (28.9 PPDA).
This game will be useful for somebody, who looks for a tactical example of fighting 4-2-3-1 against 3-4-2-1 formation. In addition, this game can give a thought about how to change your game structure when your team has numerical disadvantage.
The competition they are playing in will give us many other different and interesting games, but this wasn’t one of them.