Why Leeds should use 4-1-4-1 formation for every game, even when they're not underdogs

Elland Road pitchside

The tactic worked perfectly against Hull City, so must be considered the best option going forward.

Despite what Steve Evans claimed in the build-up to Leeds' game with Hull City, United were considerable underdogs. And yet, somehow, the Whites dominated the first 45 minutes, which proved pivotal to the 2-1 win. 

The reason for Leeds' success was unquestionably the change in formation. The 4-1-4-1 system nullified the Tigers' threat, while also playing to the home side's strengths, thus justifying its position as the system that Evans turns to in every game going forward.

The decision to move away from Evans' favoured 4-4-2 and instead opt for a formation that sacrifices a striker for an extra man in midfield may have seemed like the manager's way of saying that the team were being sent out to hold out for the draw, or perhaps grab a goal on the counter. 

However, the decision proved to be a master-stroke as Leeds recovered from a steady start to control the first-half, and go into the break 2-0 ahead. 

The reason it worked is that Evans began to recognise where Leeds' true strength lies on the pitch: its midfield. While the defence sometimes look as if a mistake is never too far away, and the strikers are not the most ruthless in the division, the players in the middle of the park bring a skill and versatility that has arguably saved United in the last couple of years.

Liam Bridcutt is an excellent signing at Championship level, and he proved that against Hull. On his debut against Queens Park Rangers, his role meant that he had to be aiming to get forward almost as often as he had to think about protecting the back four. 

However, against the Tigers, the pressure was off him to be in support when Leeds attacked, and he was able to concentrate on retrieving the ball if the attack broke down. 

Bridcutt's inclusion in his favoured position also took much of the pressure off Lewis Cook and Tom Adeyemi, who sat just in front of the former Brighton man. With an extra layer of support behind, the pair were able to use their energy to drive the side forward.

While Hull may have been confident that keeping Chris Wood quiet would probably have seen them go on to win the game, the runs of the central-midfield pairing asked more questions of the defenders, and created gaps that were exploited by the wingers, Stuart Dallas and Alex Mowatt. That ultimately, resulted in a wonderful move that opened the scoring as Cook threaded a ball to Dallas, who slid a cross into Wood's path. 

Although the second-half performance was much less polished, the confidence the side will have gained from holding on against a team that remain in the mix for an automatic promotion spot may contribute to United being able to see out games much more convincingly in the future. 

With a midfield that is considerably stronger than any other area of Leeds' squad, it makes sense now that Evans continues to pack the middle of the park, and allows the likes of Cook, Mowatt, Bridcutt and Dallas to win the battles that will ultimately win Leeds a few more games. 

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