Amazing match. One that had direct effects on breathing rates of millions of people around the globe. I thoroughly enjoyed it and that’s the reason I am feeling sorrier of being a party pooper.
End of third match leaves us with so many more problems than solutions. Problems which might have serious implications on our season, our European form and even on our younger players:
For starters, with all due respect, Sir Alex is struggling to find an answer to the puzzle of playing RVP, Kagawa and Rooney in the same team. He is experimenting a lot, in almost all the departments and in his tactics. He is experimenting so much that it almost gives you this feeling that he is neglecting the tactical battles against small/decent oppositions, just because he is too much focussed on preparing team for Europe and big domestic games. In all three matches; managers of Everton, Fulham and Southampton have out thought us in tactical battles. Many of you will not hesitate to point out that we always start season experimenting our way. But you have to agree that too much experiment cost us the league last season and everyone knows about our European performance.
Coming back to tactics, he is certainly experimenting with the formation, trying to change it to 4-2-3-1 shape and coming back to 4-4-1-1 in desperate situations. With one lead striker (RVP/Rooney/Hernandez) who is the target of all crosses and through balls, one right winger(Valencia/Nani) whose main work is to stretch the play and provide crosses , one player in hole(Kagawa/Rooney) whose work ofcourse is to link the midfield and attack and one left winger/support striker (Welbeck/Young/Nani) whose work is to cut inside the penalty and create chances with main striker(s). In midfield we have one deep lying playmaker (Scholes/Carrick/Anderson) to keep feeding diagonal balls/ long balls and one orthodox CM (Scholes/Cleverly) who can keep the ball moving quickly.
In defence the roles are quite clear with Right wing backs (Rafael/Valencia), Left wing back (Evra), two central defenders (Vidic/Carrick/Ferdinand)
The problems which we are facing can be broken down into two categories:
<!--[if !supportLists]-->1. Tactical:
<!--[if !supportLists]-->1.1. <!--[endif]-->Experiments with Left Winger in 4-2-3-1: As seen in all three games, Welbeck was preferred to do this job who is quite clearly inexperienced and unsuitable to do the job. Welbeck has performed well in support striking role last season and he needs someone like Rooney to get the ball rolling for him. His qualities are his excellent work rate which helps winning the ball in attacking third and his positioning as striker which helps create space for the other striker. On the other hand, as a winger he has been expected to move the ball forward in counter attacks and create chances for other team mates in better positions. I don’t know if this is the right expectation from a person of his skill set but it is not working at the moment. We also tried Young in that position, which gave some better results in Fulham game but still far from convincing. This also leaves Evra to do too much in terms of getting forward and crossing which again, he is unable to do. This is the reason our left side has not shown great attacking threat. Another problem is, due to irregular positioning and attacking mentality of Welbeck; Evra is left exposed in defence.
<!--[if !supportLists]-->1.2. <!--[endif]-->Experiments in central midfield: We have tried so many combinations of Scholes/Cleverly against Everton which was not very effective since both of them were unable to combat the physicality of Fellaini. Anderson/Cleverly - which was going ok for the first half against Fulham, but failed miserably in second half due to constant pressure from Dembele and restricted passing ability of Anderson; which doesn’t suit him to be a deep lying playmaker. Carrick/Cleverly who couldn’t dominate from midfield even after having so much possession, primarily due to Carrick returning from CB position plus the pressure of Southampton players on Cleverly and Kagawa which didn’t allow them to pass quickly and move. Things changed when Scholes was introduced but Southampton also played their part. They ran out of energy and sat deeper after leading 2-1. This allowed Scholes to dominate proceedings. Ofcourse our attack looks solid in presence of Ginger Ninja but this says a lot about options of Sir Alex in Midfield. Teams have found a way to exploit the weakness by playing more physical game and constantly applying pressure on our CM players.
<!--[if !supportLists]-->2. <!--[endif]-->Form of Players:
<!--[if !supportLists]-->2.1. <!--[endif]-->Rafael - I don’t know what to say. Simply awful in one on one situations. No match for aerial abilities of strikers. Good in going forward and linking up with Valencia but leaking too many goals at the back. Most importantly, teams have started to target him and he is becoming a liability as shown by first goal of Southampton.
<!--[if !supportLists]-->2.2. <!--[endif]-->Vidic/Rio/Evra - This covers the whole defence. Age? Fitness?..Whatever it is..Cant take this defence to Europe.
<!--[if !supportLists]-->2.3. <!--[endif]-->Anderson – Simply not good enough to compete at highest level.
<!--[if !supportLists]-->2.4. <!--[endif]-->Cleverly/Carrick – Solid, Simple, Dedicated..also Clueless, Uninspiring, Monotonous
<!--[if !supportLists]-->2.5. <!--[endif]-->Nani – Just one quote from The Matrix: “Don’t try to hit me..and hit me”.
<!--[if !supportLists]-->2.6. <!--[endif]-->Valencia – I don’t know what happened to you man..but that’s not what we expected when we handed you no. 7. Good against Fulham but it was heartbreaking performance against Southampton.
<!--[if !supportLists]-->2.7. <!--[endif]-->Rooney – We want you back .. and I don’t mean back from injury .. I mean back back.
RVP can try and hide our flaws as he did for Arsenal last season. Don’t get me wrong, I am glad he did that. Just remember, more we rely on him, more we are turning into Arsenal and I am sure nobody wants that.