UNITED ATTACKING ISSUES

 Cautious, slow, robotic and attritional are just some of the adjectives associated with Manchester United’s play. Stats such as 9 goals in 6 home matches and just 2 1st half goals at Old Trafford so far this season, further emphasize how far LVG’s United are from the other teams past.

Be that as it may, that’s United’s play this season, at least until LVG is for some reason shown the backdoor, because fact is results have been so good irrespective of the team’s play.

Recently, as though not all season, United have struggled in attack. Goalless draws in United’s matches is often nearly the bookies bet. Below are the solutions that could end MUFC’s struggles in attack, within LVG’s ‘feelosofee’-‘had to come out’.

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Build-up play down the flanks: In this ultra- competitive league, especially this season’s version, opponents visiting OT, will be damned if they did just allow, United to waltz through the middle and score, especially when players such as Rooney, Martial, Mata, Depay should score an absolutely worldie, without too much wrong on their part (Individual brilliance). That’s the more reason why build-up has to be on the flanks. After all, in this rigid, possession based system, with central players, DMs static to screen the back 4 against counterattacks, the onus surely is on the wide players to help transition the team into attack. Anytime the play has been developed play down the flanks, United have looked predictable but purposeful in attack. Going through the middle results in a lot of break down in attacks.

Be decisive in the final 3rd: How often we see Darmian finally get played in behind the defence, after elaborate, slow build-ups and the OT faithful screaming ATTACK, ATTACK, ATTACK, only for him to misdirect a cross. Quite simply United have got to make every attacking situation count especially when there is a real struggle to create even half decent chances. Rooney is always intent on recycling or spreading play to the flanks, though he could really do more to affect the score by testing the goalie with precision shots. The least said about Depay the better; always cutting infield to shoot as though it’s the newest trick, an opposition right back is yet to see.

Attack as a Unit: Honestly it’s no surprise to see United in behind the defence, with the ball on flanks but with no or just a single player in box, surrounded by 4 opposition players!! Only one sure outcome then, when the ball does make it into the box. Playing in a system where runs from Carrick, Bastian or Schneiderlin is ‘forbidden’, the attacking four surely need to be telepathic in attack. Hold-up play is a very important tool in this system. Attackers have got to be more protective of the ball at feet, to allow others move into right positions to continue the attack. Quite often, when Mata has the ball dead at feet on the right flank, Darmian overlaps him in behind the defence to carry out the next phase of attack. But also what you would see, is the AMC making no attempt to make a run into the box. In the 3-0 win at Everton, immediately Rojo had the ball on the flank, after an advantage to United after a foul on Martial, Rooney made a near post run drawing Stones away and Herrera made a run into the box to take advantage of the space in between the Jagielka and Stones…..BOOM!!! 2-0.; an example of beautiful, predictable but simple attacking play.

Weirdly, with all the groans and moans about our play, we are 2nd (after 14 matches) and well in with a chance at winning the league, mainly due to fantastic team spirit and water-tight defence. Credit to LVG for resolving the defensive and midfield issues and transforming Smalling into Smal-dini!!!. But as long as attacking issues persist, United may very well start preparing for the battle for 4th!!!!

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Swansea Tactics

TALKING TACTICS

Swansea City: the team from South Wales has started this campaign yet again by upsetting the so-called established premier league powerhouses. A deserved draw against the champions and then a superb comeback win against Man United have seen Swansea establish themselves as no pushovers in this division.

With Montero on hot form, providing assists at a premium and summer recruit Ayew and powerhouse Gomis grabbing the goals, Swansea will feel they can push on this season after finishing 8th last season.

I look to analyze exactly the tactics they employ.

Philosophy

Manager Gary Monk has made the successful climb from playing the game to management. Playing under Martinez, Rodgers and Laudrup taught him the Swansea way, and it’s reflected in his managerial style. Add this to his leadership qualities and defensive nous as a player, and you see a balanced team; solid at the back, comfortable in ball possession and quick on the counter.

Monk sets his team nearly always in a 4-2-3-1 shape, with the focus ‘not to dominate possession’ stats but rather to utilize ‘quality’ ball possession as and when it happens to feed the wingers (Montero/Ayew) for chance creation.

Mentality

Swansea play a counterattacking system; capable of transitioning using vertical passes through central midfield (William-Shelvey) to the flanks (Montero, Ayew/Sigurdsson) who then create for the Gomis and a second striker (Ayew). *So it’s not your usual running with the ball kind of counterattack*

There is some measure of control to it.

Starting 11

Central defenders

Williams and Fernandez are standard defenders who keep possession and circulate the ball in build-up phases. Williams is the captain and the leader Monk was in his time. He has good tackling ability, anticipates situations well, a good passing range and good aerial ability. He can be imperious on his day. Fernandez’s strength is his good positioning. The two complement each other to form a solid partnership.

Laterals

These two on the left and right respectively, (Taylor and Rangel) are present to help build-up play from the defensive third when opponents block passing lanes into midfield (Shelvey’s feet) They will not be found combining with the wingers to create 2v1 overloads on opponents fullbacks or marauding the flanks ahead of the wingers and getting into the box unless the team changes to a more attacking mentality in a bid to get a result.

Central Midfield

A 3 man midfield wit, 2 situated in the middle of the park and 1 further ahead as the CAM (central attacking midfielder), that is a 2-1 midfield. Each player has a role and a specific duty to perform, although all 3 are technically proficient in ball possession.

Of the two in centre of the park, one midfielder (Jack Cork) protects the defence by the use of good positioning and anticipation to sniff out opposition attacks and stops them before they progress to the defensive line.

Shelvey who partners Cork mostly, is the metronome; (the controller/dictator/conductor of Swansea’s play). His fantastic passing range and technique allows him to play a variety of passes, (short, diagonal passes or occasional direct through balls into the path of the striker running in behind opposition defense. You would rarely see Shelvey run with the ball in this system (unless a change in mentality).

He also wins back possession in the middle of the park, in conjunction with Cork, by pressing opposition midfielders OR instigating the team’s press by pushing alongside the CAM, with Cork behind, to mop up loose balls. Most of his passes are towards the flanks (esp. left flank) where the team look to utilize the speed, flair and directness of Montero* and Ayew.

The CAM in this system, usually Sigurdsson, provides extra defensive support from the front line of attack. A main spice Monk has added to this system is to permit Sigurdsson to roam and often swap with Ayew, who then makes diagonal movements from the right into the ‘hole’ behind the striker (Gomis) to get on the end of sumptuous floated crosses into the box from Montero on the left. With sublime lateral movement, workrate, and creativity as well as a terrific long shot ability, Sigurdsson completes the midfield and adds that dynamism to the Swansea team.

Wingers

Montero and Ayew as aforementioned are on the flanks. This is where the bulk of chances created arises from, predominantly from crosses into the box; more below.

On the left flank, Montero’s duty is to stay wide on the left flank, pick up the ball from teammates (often Shelvey), beat his opposition marker(s) with sheer pace and acceleration rather than dribbling at him (‘knock ball past opponent’) and then finally crossing the ball into box almost immediately. Crosses into the box are normally floated to target the head of Gomis and then Ayew arriving late, for them to utilize their superb aerial ability to score.

Lately, with teams noticing that Swansea are a treat through Montero, opposition teams double up on him; frustrating his play with repeated niggling tackles and obstructions. Because his game is based around pace and acceleration he finds it difficult to wiggle is way past 2 markers (lack of dribbling quality). This has seen Swansea lose in some games mainly because Montero has being nullified.

On the right flank, unlike Montero, Ayew doesn’t stay wide; if anything he is stays narrow (in a halfspace) to the zone occupied by Sigurdsson. As stated above, this results in the two swapping positions (especially when have ball possession on the left flank) to allow Ayew to come infield to be the second striker, using Gomis as a decoy, to ghost past defenders to score (mostly headed goals); Lampard-esque, as seen in the equalizer against United in a 2-1 win (Sigurdsson assist), the 2nd goal against 10 man Newcastle and recently the opening goal against Spurs.

However when Ayew decides to be on the flank, he becomes an extra creative outlet; threading through balls into the path of Gomis. Ayew is Swansea’s star signing and adds that vital variety to a Plan A system.

Sometimes Ki plays this position. The South Korean lost his place in the squad after an injury early on in the season against Chelsea, and the form of Cork and Sigurdsson has limited his minutes on the pitch. Nonetheless Ki is a great addition to the Swansea side. As an energetic and tactically astute player, Ki can perform well in Central Midfield or on the right flank. In my view against bigger opponents Ki should start on the right because he allows Ayew to stay permanently in the CAM role, thereby providing a balance on both flanks.

Striker

Gomis starts up top always when fit. The French player brought in to backup Bony last season but after Bony left he became a starter and has done well so far. The role he plays is quite simple. He’s a target man who as the duties;

  1. Serve as a target for direct balls from defenders clearing their lines or bypassing the high press of the opposition;
  2. Hold up the ball, to allow players such as Montero to make their way up the field during a swift transition into attack;
  3. Serve as a target for crosses floated in from the flanks (especially left flank);
  4. Act as a decoy for the second striker Ayew, by using this physique to disrupt the opposition centrebacks.
  5. Finally make clever runs (off ball) behind defence to take advantage of any defender out of position, as seen in the winner against United where Gomis exploited a gap in the let cannel o the defence to get on the end of an outrageous assist by Ayew

This has been a detailed analysis of Swansea’s tactics under Gary Monk.