The 4-4-2 may have lost its status as the reigning king of formations long ago, but it could be the answer to Leeds United’s goal scoring woes. Javi Gracia frequently fielded a 4-4-2 at Watford during the 2018-19 season and Gerard Deulofeu was at the heart of the Hornets’ success.
Gracia deployed Will Hughes and Roberto Pereyra as inverted wingers, while Etienne Capoue and Abdoulaye Doucoure acted as double pivots. Troy Deeney assumed the responsibility of talisman, which provided Deulofeu with the platform to roam freely across the final third. Deulofeu notched a career-high 10 goals in a single Premier League season, and also scored twice during Watford’s run to the FA Cup final.
Deulofeu is somewhat of a renegade and his lack of consistency perhaps underlines his positional struggles over the years. Playing a free roaming role in the Watford attack provided him with a new lease of life, and Gracia must find a way to do the same with Georginio Rutter.
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Rutter has either played out wide, or as a sole striker during his rare moments in a Leeds shirt. He looked isolated in the 1-0 defeat against Chelsea last Saturday, and is more comfortable collecting the ball in pockets of space and driving the ball forward by combining his speed and skill to unlock the opposition’s defence.
In simpler terms, Rutter is a free spirit, and has been at his free-flowing best when playing alongside a regular goal scorer such as Andrej Kramaric or Mu’nas Dabbur at Hoffenheim. Rutter has not yet been afforded the same luxury at Elland Road – partly because of Leeds’ preference of playing with a sole striker, and also due to Patrick Bamford’s struggles in front of goal of late.
Therefore, Rutter has been relied upon for goals at Leeds because there are very few goal scoring threats in the side. That is possibly an understatement considering the Whites have registered just one goal in their last five in all competitions. But the imminent return of Rodrigo from injury could present Gracia with the ideal opportunity to unlock Rutter’s potential in the Premier League.
Leeds have scored 1.39 goals per 90 with Rodrigo on the pitch compared to 1.06 without him. Rodrigo has also scored 38% of the Whites’ 29 goals in the Premier League - further underscoring his pivotal importance to the team.
Gracia is unlikely to play with inverted wingers at Leeds, especially considering the attributes of Wilfried Gnonto, Crysencio Summerville, and Luis Sinisterra, but the adoption of a second striker could provide another dimension to their attacking play.
Brenden Aaronson and Jack Harrison have generally been deployed in the number 10 role this season, but their underwhelming form of late hardly demands an automatic starting place. Their misfortune could be Rutter’s breakthrough moment in England and an attacking partnership of Rutter and Rodrigo would once again provide Leeds with a focal point in attack.
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