Leeds United vs Rangers – Data Analysis

Leeds United 1-2 Rangers FC (agg 2-4)

UEFA Champions League Second Round 2nd Leg

November 4th, 1992

Elland Road, Leeds

By Alistair Bain (@allybain)


Tactical Analysis

Rangers Tactical Set Up

Rangers Defending

With the scoreline poised at 2-1 in Rangers favor headed into the second leg Leeds set up with a robust attacking strategy that saw a relentless stream of direct ball entries into Rangers defensive third. This naturally required Rangers back four to defend well as a unit, but also to be individually sound. Rangers right back, Dave McPherson, had operated as a center back earlier in his career, so given the strength he would provide alongside John Brown and Richard Gough this made for more solidity in being able to handle multiple defensive duels. Any apprehension there may have been around Rangers more attack minded left full back, David Robertson, and his ability to defend where quickly dismissed as he performed admirably.

Walter Smith would set up in his preferred 442 system, however a more conservative right side in McPherson and Gordon would be complimented by McCall and Ferguson taking up deeper positions centrally. While there would have been provisions for their placement prior to the game they were certainly tested by Leeds forward movement, which spoke to how much Rangers would rely on their defensive strength throughout the match.

Without doubt Rangers strongest defensive performer, and arguably best performer on the field overall, came in the form of keeper Andy Goram. A string a big saves throughout the match not only gave Rangers a solid platform in which to build a confident defensive display, but also lead to a visible reduction in Leeds United players belief that they could turn this tie around.

Attacking Transitions

Given that Rangers lived in a solid defensive shape for a large percentage of this match they relied heavily on counterattack play to create chances on goal.

Primarily we saw a lot more direct kicks from Andy Goram, both from his hands and from the ground, which allowed the strikers to attack the ball in the air and flick it into the path of a runner. Ian Durrant would compliment the target play of McCoist and Hateley in the air, which was evidenced in the opening goal of the game where Durrant would flick on the ball into the path of Hateley who applied a truly stunning strike.

Rangers also found success in countering through the wide areas, exposing the spaces behind Leeds full backs who were both often taking up advanced areas. McCoist would often peel into a wide left position, freeing Durrant to attack centrally and work off the target play of Hateley, but also with the width Gordon would supply on the right side it gave Rangers the ability to attack across the width of the field.

Laterally Rangers used quick ground combinations to advance the ball forward into space, again perfectly illustrated by a goal, as the ball worked into a crossing space for Hateley, who found the run of McCoist at the back post to apply a sublime diving headed finish.

Build Up Play

The only consistent in possession movement that we saw in the match was a rotation on the left side, with Durrant stretching the field to receive the ball on the touchline only to cut inside, which initiated an overlapping run from David Robertson to attack the flank and force Rocastle to track back.

Leeds Tactical Set Up

Build Up Play

Given the importance David Batty had on this Leeds side as its defensive anchor any strategy Wilkinson would put together would suffer in moments of defensive transition. In contrast to this he would opt for a higher emphasis on attack play, in the hope that outscoring Rangers would nullify any attacking threat they would possess. In time this would prove to be counter productive to their chances of progressing, but the strategy served as follows:

Dorigo and Strachan worked on parallel lines of the left flank, with Dorigo working to create width through overlapping movements and Strachan cutting inside to create crosses or diagonal attacks on the dribble.

Speed’s attacking intent was quickly evident through his runs forward into the box to attack crosses, but also to create space in the Rangers central midfield area as he looked to pull either McCall or Ferguson with him. McAllister worked with Whyte and Fairclough to serve lots of direct passes into the final third, with Chapman serving as the target on the right hand side and Cantona running central channels in behind the Rangers back line.

Leeds only change to the line up would see Rocastle coming in to invert as a narrow right sided midfielder. Like Strachan on the left his role was to pick holes in the Rangers midfield, but also allow space for Fairclough to pull wide and serve balls into the box. Defensively his central positioning kept him closer to Rangers dangerman Durrant, who at times had a free role in finding the best spaces in which to pick up the ball.

Data Analysis

Value of Chances

xG Timeline:

We can see from the timeline that in the first half the overall chances are fairly minimal (Leeds 7 to Rangers 5), however Leeds have had the better of the chance quality yet find themselves a goal down. The second half is a complete whirl wind with Leeds rattling in 14 second half efforts with some decent upticks in there, but it was Rangers who again were clinical needing only 7 attempts to double their lead.

Chance Quality:

Leeds chance creation during the game is one that the staff would have been happy with, but clearly it’s their inability to execute these chances that has saw them exit the competition. Despite a small lull in the first half their attack play was relentless, and would see them create 1 big chance in the opening throws of the match. Their second half attacking performance is arguably the most threatening from both sides across the four halves of this tie, but given they needed three goals in that time to progress and could only record 1 goal while being 2-0 down it illustrates how wasteful they were and how influential Andy Goram was in the direction of the game.

Rangers attacking performance is almost impeccable in terms of keeping a consistent stream of heavy hits throughout the game. While they don’t land a multitude of blows to Leeds back line, they attacked in a fashion that required Leeds to constantly be mindful of their threat, and it was the inter-connecting of McCoist, Durrant and Hateley that were clinical when the opportunities presented themselves.

Type of Chances Created

Rangers would create 10 of their 12 attacks from Key Passes, and based on their general style of play we can see they favored counter attack play from deeper central areas and the left wing. We can see by the size of the dots (sized by chance value) that their ability to create chances was high, especially in moments of transition when decision making and incisive technique were required.

Their most effective method of creating a shot on goal came from a Crossing, with 3 of their 4 attempts resulting in an effort that tested the keeper.

Leeds would only create 13 of their 21 attacks from direct Key Passes, which we can see did most damage when coming from the left flank and top of the box. Crosses were a big part of Leeds attack play, but only 3 of their 21 shots on goal came from a cross. They would gain as much traction from headed passes (Typically flick ons from Chapman – 2) and through passes (from Strachan and McAllister – 3), yet it was the ability to set the ball for each other that became the most effective (4 overall). Leeds target play was designed to gain territory close to Ranger goal, so a direct ball into a chest or the feet of the forward could be set back for a quick shot on goal from those attacking the top of the box, Speed, Strachan et al.

Where Chances are Created

Leeds attack play shows us that they have almost a 50/50 split in xG from chances during open play and set pieces. While they would have 9 set play attacks to 12 open play efforts, the relative probability is significantly lower from set plays, so it shows the prowess Leeds had from these instances and how strongly they relied on them. Rangers on the other hand were in complete contrast, only recording an 8% probability from their 3 set play efforts.

When we look at chances on target for either side we see that while Leeds would hit almost double the amount of overall shots than Rangers, the conversion rate was very similar with Rangers hitting 7 of the 12 attacks on target (58%), where as Leeds would only hit 11 of their 21 on target (52%). This flurry of attack from Leeds clearly heightened their probability of scoring, as evidenced by the xG, but the frequency of on to off target still clearly gave Rangers hope that their strategy would bear fruit.

If we finish by examining chances inside the box we can see that performance inside the Golden Zone (Central portion of the 18 yard box) was vastly different. Leeds would record 11 of the 21 shots inside the golden zone, with Rangers only turning in 3. Whats interesting is that within those three efforts Rangers would create two big chances (A situation where a player should reasonably be expected to score, usually in a one on one scenario or from very close range when the ball has a clear path to goal and there is low to moderate pressure on the shooter) both of which fell to McCoist and the latter he would convert to make it 2-0. Leeds would create their own big chance in the golden zone on 34 minutes, which if Cantona had taken wouldve levelled the tie at 1-1, but its miss would only serve to strengthen Rangers resolve.

When we look at Leeds shot map overall it underline the dominance of Rangers defensive performance in the match. Of their 11 shots 3 would be blocked and a further 6 would be saved by Andy Goram. While I’m sure Leeds will look back on these opportunities as chances missed, given the quality of the defending and goal keeping this must be taken into account when assessing probability and their shot outcomes.

The final and telling statistic from either sides xG that we can take away comes in the form of xG on target. When comparing the value of efforts overall versus that of efforts that tested the keepers, we see that Leeds would acquire 48% of their chance probability from shots on target (2.35 xG vs 1.15 xGOT), where as Rangers would enjoy 75% of their chance probability from shots on target (0.96 xG vs 0.72 xGOT). While nothing is guaranteed in football when a side takes its chances, stops its opponent from converting the majority of its shots inside the box and their keeper has an outstanding performance, sometimes outcomes like these seem utterly predetermined.

Who Created Chances

Ally McCoist would finish as Rangers best statistical attacker, taking part in 3 attacks on his own and creating 2 more for his teammates. His 3 attacks would generate 1 goal, and his personal xG for the match was 0.50, which equates to 52% of his teams overall attacking value.

Ian Durrant would finish as Rangers best statistical creator with 4 key passes, two of which turning into shots on target, and a goal assist with a headed pass to Hateley to score Rangers opening goal of the evening.

Eric Cantona was Leeds United best statistical attacker, recording six shots in the match four of which hit the target and returned one goal. His personal xG for the night was 0.58, which was marginally above Leeds second most influential attacker, second half sub Rod Wallace who recorded 0.57 xG from his four attempts on goal.

Leeds United’s best statistical creator was Tony Dorigo, with two of his three key passes turning into a shot on target. Lee Chapman would provide Leeds goal assist in the game, which came from 1 of his 2 key passes in the game.

Why not check out the Match Report from this match? CLICK HERE to do so.

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