Wycombe Wanderers hosted Lincoln City in the EFL League one with both sides in the playoff positions at this early stage of the season. Wycombe secured a 3-1 victory thanks in part to Joe Jacobson, who scored twice for the hosts.
With a well-deserved win, Wycombe went top of League One on goal difference. Their impressive ability to carry out their game plan which in the main nullified Lincoln enabled them to have a relatively straightforward afternoon. In this tactical analysis, we examine the tactics used by Wycombe to beat Lincoln.
Wycombe made just one change from their last fixture with Adebayo Akinfenwa being replaced by Alex Samuel. Lincoln were missing Joe Morrell, who was away on international duty with Wales. He was replaced in the side by Michael O’Connor.
Wycombe drop deep
Lincoln looked to build out from defence, with both centre-backs often dropping deep to receive the ball. This enabled John Vickers to play a simple five-yard pass and start an attack. Wycombe, however, dropped deeper defensively allowing the Lincoln centre-backs possession of the ball.
With Wycombe allowing Lincoln to play out from the back, they should have been able to push their defenders higher up the pitch. Instead, the two centre-backs Michael Bostwick and Jason Shackell positioned themselves close to their goal despite the fact they were under no pressure.
In the image above we can see both centre-backs are positioned in their penalty area. They both should have been positioned far higher up the pitch as a result of Wycombe’s deeper defensive line. This, in turn, caused the rest of the team to be positioned further away from the Wycombe goal, making it easier for Wycombe to defend.
Despite being passive in their positioning, when Lincoln did advance the ball towards the middle third of the pitch, they looked to prevent passes being played through them. Matt Bloomfield and Nick Freeman as the two more advanced midfielders looked to close passing lanes through the middle of the pitch.
Lincoln centre midfielders Callum Connolly and O’Connor dropped towards the two centre-backs. This left Jack Payne as the most advanced midfielder positioned between the lines of Wycombe’s midfield and defence.
When Lincoln progressed the ball near the halfway line Wycombe began to engage them. They were man-orientated in their pressing, beginning their pressing when triggered by Samuel. The midfielders then concerned themselves with man-marking the Lincoln midfielders.
In the above image, we can see the Wycombe midfield positioned close to their opponents. This enabled them to prevent Lincoln from passing forward, instead of leading to them circulating the ball between their centre-backs. This man-orientated approach caused Lincoln problems as they were unable to escape the pressure applied by Wycombe.
By closing off access to the centre of the pitch, Lincoln were forced to pass into wide areas. When the ball reached these areas Wycombe looked to press aggressively and win the ball back. They again did this by using man-orientated pressing. In the image above we can see three Wycombe players have moved across to press the ball.
Lincoln had limited success in advancing through the wide areas. On the occasions they were successful, they were often able to transfer the ball back into the middle of the pitch. Due to Wycombe’s focus on man-marking, this created opportunities for the full-backs to become free and provide crosses into the box.
With clever positioning from the centre-midfielders, they were able to provide support centrally when the ball was played into wide areas. This gave the ball possessor an option to pass inside into more dangerous areas of the pitch. With passes infield, Lincoln were able to exploit Wycombe’s focus on man-marking as their players were drawn towards the ball. The midfielders were then aware that the space was for the advancing full-backs who had overlapped to cross into the box.
Wycombe use the wings
In this match Wycombe were more direct than Lincoln, focusing on playing the ball into forward areas as quickly as possible. This was primarily focused on long balls into wide areas behind the Lincoln full-backs.
Wycombe weren’t concerned with necessarily winning the first ball as Samuel, Scott Kashket and David Wheeler don’t possess great height. Instead, they focused on securing the second balls.
In this image, we can see that two Wycombe players have moved towards Wheeler to help secure possession. Even when Wycombe overhit or misplaced a pass, they were aimed towards the corner which gained territory for them.
When playing balls forward Wycombe ensured they had sufficient support around the ball. In the above image, we can see Bloomfield has run past Samuel to challenge for the aerial ball. With a Wycombe player always challenging for the long ball it made it difficult for Lincoln to control their clearances due to the pressure they were under.
When they had secured possession in the Lincoln half Wycombe looked to create chances through their combination play. The two wide players, Kashkett and Wheeler made forward runs looking to penetrate behind Lincoln’s defence. Bloomfield and Freeman both also looked to get forward in support with Dominic Gape sitting the deepest of the midfielders to provide defensive cover.
The support provided by the midfielders was key to Wycombe being able to sustain attacks. When Lincoln cleared the first ball it would often be collected by a Wycombe midfielder. In the image above we can see forward runs being made to threaten the space behind the Lincoln defence.
When possession was secured, more Wycombe players moved forward into attacking positions and this enabled them to make combinations between the midfielders and striker. When the ball was in central areas the two wide players were positioned narrower to facilitate the combinations, while the full-backs stayed wide to provide width.
Wycombe’s direct approach caused Lincoln problems continuously as they were unable to cope with the second balls. Wycombe limited the amount of risk they took in their own half by playing long balls deep into wide areas. By applying pressure on the Lincoln defenders, they were able to prevent them from making controlled clearances. The analysis undertaken by Gareth Ainsworth and his side prior to this match highlighted areas that Wycombe exploited.
Lincoln struggled to adapt to Wycombe’s tactics and their poor structure when building out from the back caused them issues. Coupled with Wycombe’s effective positioning out of possession and their pressing, Lincoln were unable to create many chances, finding themselves outshot by 24 shots to 10.
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