Sunday, May 17, 2015

Manchester United - Arsenal

I thought we played really well in the first half and then dropped off the second half. We were able to impose our style on them the first half while the second half, their game plan of disrupting us with pace worked and we weren't able to be comfortable in possession. Young is showing us that that he still is the great player we bought from Aston Villa and I thought Fellaini was really tidy and hard working as usual. 

Disappointed we didn't win but 4th place is secured and that was the goal of this season. We'll do better next season.

1) Preventing counter attacks from offensive corners

A pretty typical counter attacking play is to rush forward from a defensive corner because the team taking their corner has a lot of their players forward. It's absolutely important to to stop the counter attack immediately if the ball starts heading back towards your own goal.

Here, Blind made a bad and naive mistake off our corner close to the 10th minute. He's about to head the ball after it bounces out and what he should be doing is making sure it goes over all of those Arsenal players. It's better to accidentally head it too hard and have it go out for a goal kick than to accidentally head it too soft and have all of those Arsenal players pounce on to it.

Blue areas are his possible options.

Instead, he heads it softly down to exactly where he shouldn't. 

This is one of those times where it's okay to just put his head through it to make sure no counter attack comes. We got lucky here and Arsenal screwed up their counter attack.

2) Calm possession

This is a nice sequence I like and I think it's a good example of what LVG is trying to implement with his possession style football. This is Herrera and Valencia and they're passing the ball back and forth between them.

This is pass number 1 (Valencia just passed it to Herrera and Herrera is passing it back to Valencia. Notice that Herrera can't receive the ball and turn because there's an Arsenal player close behind him so he passes it back to Valencia.

Fortunately, Valencia also realizes that he can't force anything and he passes it back to Herrera. This is pass number 2.

This is pass number 3. By being patient, they waited for Mata to find an open space to exploit and now Herrera has a clear forward pass to make. They weren't just passing it back and forth for the sake of passing.


Look at these pictures above and look at Falcao. He barely moves! Compare that with Mata who ran all the way around to exploit the open space. Herrera and Valencia passed it back and forth three times and Falcao didn't once make a run that would allow Herrera to make a good pass into him. He had plenty of opportunities too - looking at the second picture, all he had to do was make a run to the right of the Arsenal centerback (basically a little bit further in the gap that Mata eventually runs to).

3) I find Falcao's pressing lacking

It's kind of weird because I don't see Falcao as a lazy player but I wasn't impressed by his pressing. I felt he should have done a much better job. He may have a bad touch and he may not be scoring, but at the very least he should be pressing the Arsenal defense more. I think he presses adequately but I see Rooney doing a better job of pressing up front and Rooney can also score.

Mertesacker has the ball and he's bringing it out for Arsenal. Falcao should be stepping in to press along the red arrow.

Except he lets Mertesacker just keep strolling forward while he's walking around watching. Look who can't resist and goes forward to press him - it's Herrera. Over pressing and getting dragged out of position is a problem that Herrera has. You see here that he messes up our perform flat midfield shape and leaves a gap in midfield (black circle).

The thing is, if Falcao had done his job in the first place, Herrera wouldn't need to get dragged out of position to cover for him. It's the striker's job to mark/press the opposition defenders, not the midfielder's job.

4) Blind's needs to work on his concentration

Last week, we saw Blind shielding the sun from his eyes only to realize that a ball was getting kicked at his face and he flinched, leading to the goal from the freekick. I think Blind tends to zone out sometimes and he's not always "on". Players like Rooney and Roy Keane are always "on" but Blind seems a little too relaxed to be a top midfielder.

Here, Jones passes it to Blind and Blind doesn't even realize it. Maybe Jones was wrong to pass it to Blind with his back turned but Blind shouldn't be letting this happen. As a player, you can't zone out like this. You have to be aware of where the ball is at all times, what it's doing, how you're going to receive the ball, and what you're going to do with it - all before the ball even gets to you.

This is why Rooney has said in the past that matches are more mentally tiring for him than physically tiring.

5) Falcao makes another bad run

Here's one that really frustrated me.

Smalling is charging forward on a counter attack and the only person ahead of him is Falcao, who is marked by two defenders. The entire play, Falcao didn't manage to get into a position where a pass to him was feasible.

Smalling keeps going, clearly no available pass to Falcao.

And Smalling continues dribbling, still not possible to get a good pass to Falcao. In this picture below, I marked two options that Falcao could have done but he did neither and just kept running straight. 

With the red option, he should be further right. You see that the Arsenal defenders are not even and Falcao can exploit that by going further right and getting ahead of the Arsenal defender while staying onside because the other Arsenal defender is deeper.

With the blue option, he goes far post, which allows Smalling to whip a cross in when he goes into the box. It also separates the two Arsenal defenders so it leaves Smalling with only one defender to beat if he chooses to try to dribble past him.

Smalling continues advancing but there's no clear pass to Falcao still. The top Arsenal defender is essentially defending both Falcao and Smalling - he's ready to defend Smalling's dribble and he's blocking the passing lane from Smalling to Falcao. A top attacker should require two people to defend him, not the other way around.

Smalling runs out of options since he can't dribble past the Arsenal player and Falcao couldn't make himself available. If he had initially run along the blue arrowed option I drew two pictures above, he would be in the black circled area and Smalling would have been able to at least send a cross in. Now, he's just in an awkward position with no chance of receiving the ball.

The thing that frustrated me even more was when this play broke down, Falcao threw his hands up and blamed Smalling for not getting the ball to him. It's his own fault for not making a good run and Smalling should not be blamed for not forcing an impossible pass. At least take responsibility for his failure.

6) Some Blind mistakes

Example 1:

Arsenal have a throw-in in our half. The blue circled player is Rojo and his position is fine, he's defending a possible long throw in.

Bellerin throws it backwards and Young goes to defend it, still pretty normal and Blind is sticking tight to his man.

Except the problem is, now the throw-in taker (Bellerin) is completely open! The ball is passed to him and now, Blind should be going along the blue arrow to defend him with Rojo stepping forward to cover Blind's man, pretty simple switch here.

Except for some reason, Blind gestures at Rojo to run all the way around to defend Bellerin.

Instead of each person running only 1-3 yards, Rojo has to cover ~10 yards to get all the way to Bellerin and that gave Bellerin way too much space.

Example 2:

Arsenal are attacking and Blind knows this pass is coming, he's in a decent position to intercept it. 

Except he doesn't. He's just a yard or so off and doesn't manage to intercept the pass.

It's not a huge mistake like my first example, but he has to be making these interceptions if he wants to be the defensive midfielder/deep lying playmaker for a top club. Carrick would have 100% intercepted that pass.

Example 3:

Here, the Arsenal player is about to make a pass and Blind is slightly out of position. He should be in the blue circled area instead of running straight forward at the Arsenal player. By being in the blue circled area, he would be defending two players and would be able to intercept either of the possible attacking options. 

You might say that by being in the blue circled area, that puts him too far to the right and the Arsenal player can turn around and dribble, along the black arrow. However, Ashley Young is there and clearly ready in case he does that.

It's just disappointing that Blind is letting all of these dangerous passes get by when I've seen Carrick cut out these passes season after season.

Example 4:

Here, he's just completely out of position, should be in the blue circled area. I went back a little bit to see if there was a reason he's so far out of position but it looks like he just ran forward to the right to get the ball despite having no need to - a defensive midfielder's job is to cover for every one else and other players shouldn't be covering for him. There's more or less no reason for him to ever be further forward than Herrera or Fellaini.

7) This is probably part of why we played badly in the second half

I've said in past posts that we go much too defensive when we're winning 1-0 and then we tend to play badly as a result. Just look at this sequence - there's six of our players lined up as a defensive line marking basically no one. They're not putting any pressure on Arsenal players and it just allows the Arsenal players to run and dribble at them.

8) No discipline from Mata

We all know Mata has been playing on the right but here, he ends up getting sucked to the left pressing Arsenal's right back (Bellerin).

This left a huge gap on our right midfield area which gets exploited. The Arsenal players have the ball and we don't really have anybody close to them. If you look at the timestamp, there's a 14 second difference from the top image to the one below - this is because Mata fouled Bellerin. This should have given Mata plenty of time to sprint back to his position on the right.

One thing to question though is why no one filled in and covered on the right for Mata. It was obvious that if Mata is on the left side, someone needs to be cover his position on the right side but no one did. 


I also feel that I should mention Rojo had a pretty bad game. I wrote down six instances where he just passed it straight to an Arsenal player under no real pressure. I'm not going to bother showing them since there's really nothing interesting about showing a player passing it straight to the opposition. He did just return from injury and he's playing in an unfamiliar position so I'll cut him some slack.

One more game to go! I'm definitely happy that we've secured top 4 and I look forward to next season!

1 comment:

  1. it's amazing to see Carrick's class when he plays; he literally covers teammates' flaws in playing, which frankly are still numerous and dangerous. No wonder the system crumbles without him