The Scope – “Welcome To English football”
David may not speak much English, but his probable shaking of the head as Sir Alex said those words, must have reflected complete comprehension. He understood what those words meant and he’ll be the first to chorus this line when potential ‘Manchester Whoever’ signing Wesley Sneijder’s knee cap is “high twelved” and smashed by the two flying feet of official Premier League thug and part time footballer, Kevin Davies. Wait till you meet the politically untouchable, Stevie G.
Welcome to English football Red Rants. Welcome to the 22nd edition of the Premier League. Welcome to The Scope, where the Microscope scrutinizes the minute and viral details, and the Telescope watches the bigger galaxy of the broader picture.
This season the pressure is on. The big money signings, the debutants, old players trying to impress and the online community competing to see who posts the matchday team first. Every misplaced pass will be analysed, debated and archived. Every cross will be monitored and De Gea better get his £18m gloves over Peter Crouch’s head when Bale makes a fool out of Smalling and sends in one of his DHL deliveries on Monday night.
1.Carlos Alberto Pareirra
Well the former Brazil coach predicted the formation of the future to be 4-6-0 and while I think we were somehow four four two-ed, he had a point. Both Wayne and Welbeck were playing deep and advancing like attacking midfielders,to dislodge the centre backs. This is what was lacking last season in our 4-4-2 with Chicharito against packed midfields. Deep lying forwards nullify the extra midfielders.
Whilst the general consensus is, this season’s opener was a game of two halves (as seems to be the United way – how many ways do we have now?), I believe it was a game of four quarters. First quarter. United dominance and energy. Second quarter. Ping pong back and forth with the hosts beginning to put a bit more authority. 3rd quarter. Highly competitive from both sides. 4th quarter. Defensive chaos more pronounced from United.
2. Slingshot: The attack
We started off brightly, putting pressure on the opposition’s defence, and trying to squeeze and stretch them. Both wide players were playing very close to the box and further away from the corner flag and cutting in. Fabio and Smalling providing versatile outlets with overlapping. Wayne and Welbeck were dropping into the infamous ‘No Man’s Land’ dragging the centre backs with them, then suddenly storming forward in seemingly unrelated directions. A slingshot attack. This had an overall
loosening effect on their planned tight, flat back 4. It showed in their defence’s reactions leading up to Wayne’s goal.
3. The KFC Factor
United love wings. 74% of our attacks were from either wing. The left wing particularly, was the most utilised with 43% of our attacks fashioned from Ashley Young and Fabio’s Boutique. Young seemed the main gateway to most of our attacks with 73 touches and 44 passes, compared with the largely ineffective Nani’s 43 touches and 30 passes. Not surprising that both United’s goals were tailored from the left by Young, whose underrated skill, saw him beat his marker on a couple of occasions.
4. The Nuclear War
Inevitably the Microscope will be more focused this season, on the nucleus. Anderson and Cleverly,were generally dominant. Hardly
misplacing a pass(96% and 91% respectively) and competing toe to toe with the Baggies’ forceful duo of seasoned Paul Scharner and West Brom Player of the Season Yousuff Mulumbu. Cleverly, playing more offensively, started the first quarter slightly anonymous, playing hide and seek with bounty hunter, Mulumbu. He did show his ability with some classy touches. It was somewhat clear that Anderson was more in a playmaking, control based role. To keep the team ticking over as they say in England, but disciplined in his movement. The pair was instrumental in the possessional dominance United enjoyed throughout, with mainly short,incisive, passing,with 441 of our 540 passes, short.
Anderson did well with distribution,with 7(highest on the pitch), all accurate long balls, helping us spread the play . The two provided dynamic movement and skill(Anderson completing 4 successful dribbles, the most both sides)in midfield. It was also attack minded, with Cleverly’s 43 attacking passes of 64 attempted.
The midfield was a real battlefield and you could have lit up London with the energy generated around the centre circle. According to OPTI Anderson and Cleverly were the most influential players in midfield according to overall “football actions”. However,the defensive side of United’s midfield was seriously inefficient. Anderson(3 tackles, 1 interception) and Mulumbu(5tackles, 4 Interceptions),both played deeper than their midfield partners, but with slightly different roles, with Mulumbu more specialist in protecting his defence and winning the ball. Given Anderson’s numbers, it’s not suprising that Mulumbu was allowed to have a 95% pass rate.
5. The crumbling
Nerves. That is the keyword for defence. We had a rather awful defensive display. Even with both our first choice centre backs on. Chief culprit Fabio,battled hard, but was too rash with his decision making. It was his loss of possession that led to De Gea’s embarrassment. Both full backs struggled at different points with the man in the hole,Tchoyi. That man was all over the place and his eeny mini maini mo election of which United defender to torment saw all our 6 participating defenders exploited individually and collectively. I’d book him for a drug test immediately if I had authority.
And authority should have been the keyword iro our defence as it has always been. Yet everyone was nervous. No Sherlock there, with a 20year old debutant behind you,a similarly aged centre back at right back, a left back who sometimes tackles with both hands and critically no Michael Carrick in front of you, I’d not want to be either of Vidic or Rio. But generally the whole team did not match the offensive spark with defensive efficency. The lack of pressing upfront was discouraging and yet West Brom’s two main attackers, Tchoyi and Long were doing just that and really caused our defence no end of trouble. In midfield, there were moments when Anderson was lazily covering his zone,with his legs spread apart in a crapping position, urging his teammates to defend.
Going forward seems to be the focus of our tactics since February but the efficency and forceful manner in which we’re attacking should be acknowledged. And hats off to the technical dept’ for a job well done. Our attack seems more dynamic with two deep forwards and the energy and enterprise in midfield was encouraging. Can this energy be sustained till end of May? If our taking the foot off the metal after 25min, is a projected image of our season, then maybe not. But we did pick it up again in the third quarter and perhaps February could once again prove to be pivotal in how we end the season.
Hunting season has begun and David De Gea is the prize target, with West Brom setting the pace with half their shots outside the box. Next up is Spurs,and they’d have learned of how weak we have become lately, defensively. Luka Modric,Van Der Vaart and Gareth Bale are not Somen Tchoyi, Chris Brunt or James Morrison. They’ll have an end product.
The midfield combination of Anderson and Cleverly, whilst excellent and complimentary in possession, does not work well when the team is defending. It’s very much like Xaviesta without Busquets or Lampard and Essien minus Mikel. In the system we are using they must not start together. The return of The Pendulum is, as usual, of extreme importance, particularly with the totally inexperienced backline we have for the coming tough fixtures. Of course we’ll “learn” of how his sideways passes are regressive. Well with 31 crosses recorded, we look pretty much a wing based, sideways team so that should be okay. And with Sky Sports’ Man of the Match Ashley Young,with an 85% success rate in the attacking third,from wide…. well.
I’d go with The Pendulum and The Headless But Dreadlocked Chicken against Spurs because of their experience together. I’ll probably start them most games this season. But whilst Anderson has cover(or competition, which ever faction you’re in), Carrick doesn’t and fingers crossed he doesn’t develop the Rio Ferdinand Vacation Syndrome, with his Achilles.
The Scope will be published once a month.