Brendan Aaronson only featured for just over 30 minutes in USA’s 1-1 draw with Wales on Monday night and just over 10 minutes for their draw with England, but there were certainly many take-aways from his brief spells on the pitch. Many Leeds fans may have been surprised to have seen the talisman occupying both wider and deeper positions than he typically does at club level.
His involvement in this capacity has raised questions as to whether he is being fully utilised at club level in such a narrow formation. The international fixtures have placed a spotlight on the American’s defensive capabilities in two hard fought fixtures, which could be useful for the Whites.
What differences did his game involve?
Notably, Aaronson can be seen as somewhat of an attacking playmaker for Leeds United; he often makes runs to bridge the gap between midfield and attack, and aims to distribute the ball via square balls or through balls to Rodrigo/Bamford. In the Wales fixture, however, he was positioned much deeper. This may have been half down to the context of the game; USA were defending a lead up until Gareth Bale’s equaliser, and then had to deal with continuous pressure from Wales. However, the US were seen to be playing a 4-3-3 formation which naturally would mean that Aaronson (who replaced central midfielder McKennie) would be playing a deeper role than at club level. Wales played a very wide formation which forced midfielders like Aaronson to play much wider than he would normally do at club level, too.
Jesse Marsch employs a very narrow formation which allows vertical movement of the ball, with the directive for Aaronson to carry the ball forwards. In a stretched international fixture against Wales, though, the American had to play many horizontal passes towards surrounding midfielders in order to alleviate pressure and slow down the game. Against England, the tricky attacker didn’t get much time to impose himself, but according to WhoScored?, he did manage 100% passing accuracy, which will come as little surprise to Leeds fans, with the player maintaining 80% passing accuracy in the Premier League this term.
How Marsch may implement this experience
It’s no secret that Jesse Marsch favours a narrow, compact formation, which means that Aaronson’s experience playing wider for his nation may not help him at club level. However, as has been the case quite frequently this season, the narrow formation Leeds employ often leads to the team being overrun on the wings. Having seen Aaronson’s defensive work-rate against Wales, it could be a good idea to play the American wider in order to nullify opposing wing-play. Going forward, it would help the Whites create more space to run at defenders, pulling back lines wider, giving the team more scope to find space on the edge of the box; something the narrow formation doesn’t seem to be doing. Aaronson has been out-muscled on a few occasions this season when running towards central players, and he may find that using his skilful dribbling down the flanks would be more effective.
With wingers like Sinisterra, Harrison and Summerville, Leeds have enough players to play on the opposite side of the field, creating a balanced formation. In addition, they have enough quality down the middle to be able to allow Aaronson to play a wider position. While the Whites have had a fairly decent run going into the international break, it may be beneficial to change things up and explore a new dynamic. With the January transfer window looming, Leeds would have the opportunity to add players to compliment this dynamic, and finally fully utilise one of the best crop of wide players the club has seen for years. Aaronson has stood out this season for his footwork and creativity, and a wider position could increase his effectiveness.