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Tactics Bored: A Phil Jones special

What makes United's most versatile player tick?

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Tactics are popular. Tactical analysis is even more popular. For a long time, The Busby Babe has only occasionally touched on these subjects, and has been lacking compared to the competition. Things are about to change — hardcore analysis will now feature regularly, prominently, and above all, eloquently.

With the match against Liverpool looming, we've decided that it's time to focus on a key figure in the Manchester United side, a man who'll need to be at the very top of his game, and who made the highlights against Spurs from the opening whistle: Phil Jones. The man was brought to Old Trafford from Blackburn Rovers, with United having joyfully beaten off Liverpool for his signature, and as Alex Ferguson departed, he suggested the player could be the very best player in United's history. That moment, at a stroke, summed up Ferguson's approach to his signings in his later years.

So, how has Jones progressed since that praise? Not in a linear direction of progress. He has disrupted that vector, tactically speaking.

Phil Jones skill wheel

We should take a look at a skill wheel. The skill wheel was invented by the excellent and talented Ted Knutson. It breaks down the player's key strengths and weaknesses in an easily digested visual representation. He has his own formula, but The Busby Babe has its own proprietary software (clubs, it is for sale, so do get in touch if you like what you see). Knutson's original is obviously a groundbreaking piece of work, but this takes thing, if we do say so ourselves, that one step further. Think of this skill wheel as the pre-assist to Knutson's assist. Let's Ozil!

tactics bored 1 - skill wheel

Phil Jones: how he sees the pitch

Another area of development for Jones is how he sees the match. Andre Villas Boas has his crouch, to better analyse just what's going on at foot level. Trophy-light genius Marcelo Bielsa has a similar stance, perhaps as an ironic way to celebrate another meaning of his famous verticalidad. He is a deep thinker — we should certainly not put such an excellent joke past the hilarious Argentine funster.

We saw that, we liked on it, and Hans, booby, we built on and improved it. At the start of the season, in conjunction with Toshiba, who have revolutionised the medical department at Carrington, all United players had a nanochip inserted into their optic nerves, allowing the club doctors and analysts to examine — in real time and from the players' perspectives — exactly what players saw throughout the game. It also had other uses, such as when the club were able to watch Anderson [redacted].

Over the season, we have chosen the average location of the opposition position, and how Jones sees their presence. The diagram below might go some way to showing why Jones makes the tackles, passes, runs and decisions that he's increasingly well known for. It also might show why his face appears so often to be contorted in a display of confusion and utter horror.

tactics bored 2 - vectorwheel

DNA analysis from joining to now

And again, Tactics Bored hasn't rested on its not inconsiderable laurels. We seized the medical records of Jones when he joined United, and took a sample of the blood kept for tests. We've carried out a DNA test on the blood, and we have shown what his footballing DNA is made up of. When he first joined, what we saw was a remarkable array of talent and potential, which his DNA shown below:

tactics bored - dna 1

Now, as we all know, DNA go through minor, almost imperceptible changes over time. It's what causes the decay of the human body, and the various ailments that may eventually kill us as we age. It's dreadful, but unavoidable. We therefore checked up on Jones' make up to see how his body was holding up to the rigours of professional football, and what we saw was utterly remarkable. His DNA is radically different, just take a look:

tactics bored - dna 2

This might show why Jones is not quite the player United had anticipated he would develop into. That concludes the in depth analysis of Phil Jones.