Leeds United style of play under two-time Championship winner Daniel Farke revealed

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Daniel Farke is expected to adopt a possession-based style of football at Elland Road after being named Leeds United boss on Tuesday, July 4.

The German arrives in West Yorkshire following an interview process which placed particular weighting on the metric of ‘demonstrated success’. Farke’s achievements with Norwich City in the Championship are believed to have been a motivating factor in his appointment as the club’s new manager just over a month before the season begins at home to Cardiff City.

Farke has tended to prefer a possession-based style of play during his time as a coach, best exemplified by Norwich’s Championship-winning 2020/21 campaign. During that season, the Canaries set up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, however when in possession of the ball, Norwich’s full-backs would push on higher up the pitch, while the wide attackers would tuck inside to create a dynamic shape resembling something more of a 2-3-5.

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The team were the division’s second-highest scorers that year, four goals short of fellow promoted side Brentford.

Farke signs his Leeds United contract at Elland Road. (Pic: Luke Holroyd/Leeds United)Farke signs his Leeds United contract at Elland Road. (Pic: Luke Holroyd/Leeds United)
Farke signs his Leeds United contract at Elland Road. (Pic: Luke Holroyd/Leeds United)

Tellingly, though, was how apparent Farke’s style was in passing and possession data. Norwich had the highest pass completion rate in the division during 2020/21, whilst also attempting the most passes.

The Canaries also recorded the most successful passes into the final third and most passes into the penalty area, according to FBRef.com, but ranked 19th in the Championship for completed crosses.

Farke’s preferred route to goal is through the middle, whilst still utilising width for rotations, progressing the ball through the thirds, before slipping an attacker in on goal.

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Norwich recorded 52 through-balls during their second Championship-winning season under Farke, which unsurprisingly ranked them 1st in the division for that particular metric. What is most striking about that figure, though, is that the team with the second-most through-balls recorded just 31, highlighting just how adept Farke’s side were at playing through defensive lines and capitalising on attacking runs off the shoulder.

A core tenet of Farke’s Norwich throughout his time there was the preference to play through the thirds, with deep midfielders and defenders playing a key role in build-up. Integral to any team dominating possession, facing stern opposition defences intent on limiting space in behind and between lines, is the presence of progressive passers.

These are typically the players capable of executing through-balls, breaking midfield and defensive lines with 10-15-yard forward passes, which inherently progress the team up the pitch. During 2020/21, three of the Championship’s top 14 progressive passers were Norwich players: Emiliano Buendia (1st), Oliver Skipp (13th) and Kenny McLean (14th). Predictably, owing to their dominance of the ball and understanding of Farke’s principles, his team were the division’s most prolific progressive passers by a distance.

Without knowing the players Farke will look to bring in before the end of the transfer window, it is difficult to predict how true to form his Leeds team will be, compared to his successful Norwich sides of the past who operated in such a way. To that end, the German admitted on Tuesday that he anticipated a ‘bumpy start’.

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It is highly likely, though, that Farke will look to bring in – or promote – midfielders capable of moving the ball in the direction of the opposition’s goal, either by passing or carrying through opposition lines. In addition, Farke is likely to prioritise full-backs who are adept at covering lots of ground up and down the flanks, supporting attacks and maintaining an aggressive position up the field during periods of ball dominance, to generate and sustain numerical superiority over their opponents.

A centre forward capable of playing on the shoulder of the last man, darting into space, latching onto through-balls in a fashion not too dissimilar to Teemu Pukki at his Canaries best, is also a distinct possibility.