What Leeds United can expect from FA Cup hosts Crawley Town

IN the latest of a new series for the Yorkshire Evening Post, Jon Mackenzie takes a deeper look at Leeds United's next opponents - Crawley Town.

By Jon Mackenzie
Saturday, 9th January 2021, 11:45 am

Crawley Town currently find themselves sixth in the League Two table after a good run of form that has seen them unbeaten in nine games.

Although Leeds fans might not know too much about the West Sussex club, they will know about two of their recent managers: Harry Kewell and Steve Evans.

Evans had the more successful stint of the two, carrying the club from the Conference into League Two.

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KEY MEN: Crawley Town boss John Yems, centre, with midfielder Jake Hessenthaler, right, and striker Tom Nichols, left, after the 2-1 victory at Forest Green Rovers in which Nichols hit a brace. Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images.

Their current manager, John Yems, is in the first full managerial role of his career with Crawley, having previously been a caretaker there as well as an assistant manager at Exeter City.

Here are three aspects of Yem’s system to look out for on Sunday afternoon:

Which formation?

Throughout this season, Crawley have predominantly played a 4-4-2 in the league, although in recent months they have interspersed this with a 5-3-2 formation.

When they have used the 5-3-2 it has been against stronger teams in their division or in cup competitions.

Travelling to Forest Green Rovers at the end of December, who were then second in the league, Yems used the formation to pull off a 2-1 victory.

The same formation was used against AFC Wimbledon in the second round of the FA Cup.

This suggests that Leeds will be coming up against a back three on Sunday.

Expect Marcelo Bielsa to match this 5-3-2 with his own 3-5-2 if that happens.

Don't expect bad football

It’s easy to expect lower league sides to be something of a pushover in cup competitions but, if Leeds learned anything from their Carabao Cup exit at the hands of Hull City, it’s important that they aren’t complacent going into this weekend.

Crawley play a positive style of football not unlike Leeds United even if it isn’t of the same level of quality.

Out of possession, they aren’t scared to push high in the press and, with the ball at their feet, they try to build up from the back.

This approach worked for Hull against a young Leeds side back in September.

There is no reason why it might not work again.

Taking their chances

Looking through the League Two stats, it’s interesting how Crawley have the joint fourth highest goal total (31) for the division from a lower mid-table performance per shots taken (245 shots compared to 358 from metric-leaders Carlisle United).

Of course, as Leeds fans know, quality counts as much as quantity.

Crawley are not taking as many shots as some of their rivals, but these shots are resulting in more goals.

This is backed up by the fact that Crawley have the third highest shots on target ratio in the league (38.8 per cent).

Although they are fewer, their shots are more likely to hit the target than their rivals.

On top of this, looking at their expected goals – a metric which evaluates chance quality – Ben Mayhew, the EFL analyst, suggests that Crawley’s goal total is actually five goals lower than might be expected given the chances they have had!

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Thank you Laura Collins