Premier League: Tactical analysis on the match between Man United vs Arsenal and “What went wrong for Man United?” as they lost 0-1 to Arsenal.
Manchester United lost at home to Arsenal in a hard fought 0-1 win by Arsenal. Despite dominating most of the game, Man United were still unable to capitalize. Lets take a look at some of their problems.
Here is the team lined up for Kick off. Now, this is almost never an issue except that our midfield is actually interesting Fred is deeper than the others despite it not being a position he is well-suited to. This caused a continuous problem which will be clarified
Here, Scott comes deeper to make himself an option for de Gea. This could be forgiven except that he does it again when Lindelöf has the ball. Scott should’ve been further to the right but his natural inclination was to come deeper, where he should’ve started In my opinion, Ole was wrong to play Fred in the deeper role. Firstly, Scott is more inclined to sit so a DM role, positioning wise, suits his archetype. Secondly, Fred’s strengths lie in having positional freedom and catching players by surprise. Neither is possible now.
I assume the reason Solskjær wanted Fred to play deeper is because he gave away too many right-footed passes when he played as a RCM vs Leipzig. So, Ole could have played him deeper so that he doesn’t give those passes away. The problem? It’s not about positioning with Fred.
The reason Fred gives away easier-to-make passes is because he is a bit technically erratic. This means we’ll see him complete harder-to-make passes whilst turning the ball over with easier ones. Playing him deeper just meant there were less players to recover.
Pogba – Target Man. This is a tactic used by Solskjær and Mourinho before him (with Fellaini). Both Pogba and Fellaini, due to size, become targets for the long ball Here, Pogba goes out to the Left Wing to receive the long ball from de Gea which ended up being inaccurate.
Fred – not a DM.
The term ‘showing yourself’ means “making yourself an option for a pass”. Here, Fred who is the deepest midfielder runs forward out of position to do so Now, he does retain possession. However, the decision after that was still wrong; because he constantly moved out of position.
Counterpress – Poor Here.
Mason sees Aubameyang collect the pass but instead of blocking off the direct route – what he should’ve done, he tries to anticipate Aubayang moving back to go. The result? Aubameyang turns him and Scott ends up out of position.
Short Passing – Poor This was a common occurrence. Mason makes this pass almost every single time. He had two passing paths – one directly to Rashford and another that lets him turn. Instead, he passes it nearly straight forward and it results in a turnover.
Individual Pressing – No
People praise individual pressing because it shows effort. Rather, in the majority of cases it’s not intelligent. Here, Bruno presses individually when he should be following Elneny. The result? Bruno ends up out of position and Elneny gets the ball.
Fred – Nice here
Here, Fred drops into his pressing stance – knees bent, hands tucked – and he anticipates movement perfectly, winning possession as a result. This is Fred’s strength and he needs positional freedom to do it,
Scott or Fred?
This is yet another example of both Fred (correctly) and Scott (incorrectly) showing themselves for Lindelöf.
Scott was not playing at DM. He was playing as a RCM. Yet, he kept on drifting there in the first minutes and he should’ve been told immediately.
Mason Greenwood – Turnovers
Mason did not start well at all. This is his third turnover already and this one was the worst. He is looking for Shaw who is out of frame but just at the top. Pogba has made a run which pulled Arsenal back. This is should be an easy pass for him.
However, he ends up hitting the Arsenal player closest to him and it results in Willian recovering possession and driving at United’s defence. Both Shaw and Pogba were out of possession and Shaw had to make a recovery run to stop Arsenal’s high transition.
Bruno and Mason
Arsenal transitioned quickly but Lindelöf held up Aubameyang and he played it back. Bruno should be covering space but Mason still hasn’t tracked back. So, Bruno has to leave his space and close down a player. He tells Mason this afterwards.
Rashford – First Touch
Here, Rashford receives a pass from Fernandes. However, his first touch isn’t as clean as it could be. The CB comes around him and tackles him well as a result. Generally speaking, the first touch is harder to master when holding the ball up.
Rashford was hit hard during the tackle. So, Mason pulls across into his position and Bruno covers Mason. It ends up in a 1-2-2 set-up. This is fine in this situation and whilst it could’ve been better (1-3-1) it showed adaptation which is good.
Lindelöf – Foul
This is more of a general analytical point: these fouls shirt grabbing occurs A LOT in football. However, the majority of them either aren’t seen (like this) or go unpunished. Offensive players often have to exaggerate to win fouls.
De Gea-Lesser Command in his box nowadays.
Arteta and his coaching staff clearly think de Gea’s command of the box is still an issue it isn’t his strongest aspect.
Counting the number of players around David in such a situation tells much too. In a zonal marking perspective, De gea shouldn’t be surrounded by more than 1 player in his area, on a pitch with Pogba, Maguire and McTominay? It is unacceptable.
Maguire – Aerial Ability
Maguire is one of the best CBs in the world aerially. He reads flight incredibly well and is strong enough to constantly win duels. His win % is usually in the 76-82% range which is amongst the best in the world. He has been United’s main thread all season from dead balls. A commander in the air who deserves the accolades for.
Holding and Referee Decision– Poor.
This was poor from Holding and the referee. Rashford is clearly away on a transition and Holding tactically fouls him to prevent that. He has no intention in getting the ball because the ball isn’t even there anymore. Yet, there was no yellow card here.
Scott McTominay – Positioning
He did this throughout the game. He is a RCM who is constantly showing himself as a DM. It resulted in a lack of balance.
This should’ve been corrected immediately but it wasn’t. It was just 7:37 minutes gone and it’s happened almost every time United built.
Scott McTominay – Positioning II
This happens straight after. He is tucked in again but let’s say it’s OK for the sake of argument.
Here, he should be showing himself into that space to receive a pass. Instead, he’s hidden. McTominay and Fred should’ve swapped by now.
Here, the diamond shape is nice. There isn’t an inherent problem with it though it could be better. However, notice Scott and Bruno. This happens quite a bit with Bruno in that he drifts. Scott covered his position higher up. This shouldn’t happen and shows impatience.
Fernandes often drops into these positions and then tries to either play deeper incisive passes over the top or he just recycles and moves up. Essentially, he makes the game a route-one game and it prevents build-up. It has its benefits but it usually ends in wasteful turnovers.
Good Defensive Shape with the diamond
United’s diamond looks really good here. Bruno is higher up which lets Rashford and Mason split. Their shape remained good up until Willian tried to find space individually which resulted in a turnover. Good stuff.
Bruno Fernandes – Poor
A few tweets back I said Bruno usually tries big passes from here. Mason knows that so he makes a run.
Bruno tells him to hold his position. Mason listens and pulls back to the left. Bruno then tries a very difficult pass and turns it over. Bad decision.
Bruno – Poor
there were situations were Mason was making an amazing run and Bruno is still looking at Rashford. Mason’s run is great and it’s a very easy pass. However, Bruno has tunnel vision for Rashford and he delays the pass to Mason which results in Mason being offside.
Pressing – Poor
Here United are in a 5-man press. There’s nothing wrong here especially since the ball is going backwards.
However, if you look at the second image you’ll see how Rashford, Pogba and Bruno all have three players to guard – a poor press and Arsenal beat it easily.
Pressing – Poor II
You can see Rashford (right) questioning the others. Even though he has a point he should’ve been closing down Holding to make it harder for him.
Instead, he stops the press, something that should never occur when you are so high up the pitch.
Here, Scott wins the ball after Saka tries a badly-timed flick. Then, he drives to the box and wants to find Rashford at the back post. However, Scott doesn’t clear the first man and Rashford never made the run. It lacked a lot of chemistry.
Fred – Poor Pass
in many situations, Fred collects the ball and just stands on it. He waits and waits. Then, he slowly turns towards Pogba, completely projecting his intentions, and it results in a turnover. We had 4(!) players ahead of the ball here. It was such a poor sequence.
Fred – Poor Decision
Fred is the deepest midfielder. When you are transitioning defensively you never dive into challenges as if you don’t win the ball you’re out of position and you’re the last line of the midfield. Fred dives in and Partey flicks it through his legs.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka – Wow
It is stunning from a physical perspective. Tierney is not only fast but he has excellent acceleration. On top of that, AWB is wrong-footed and has all his weight on his left foot…..but he still gets the ball.
Pogba and Bruno – Communication
In one situation, Pogba tracks Partey. Partey drops back and Pogba tells Bruno to switch. This is good as Pogba shouldn’t be dragged out of a defensive set whilst Bruno is a free man. Bruno doesn’t switch and gets drawn to the ball. The result? Partey is free.
Bruno and Pogba as DMs
The result of Man United’d inability to build is that both Bruno and Pogba came shorter to collect the ball off the defence
So, United ended up with less potency in the higher parts of midfield. Matic was on the bench (a rule he plays best).
De Gea – Risky
I never noticed this the first time but this was quite a risky first-time pass from David. He completes the pass and it’s a decent one but his body position could’ve been more protective there.
Summary: Almost every player on the pitch was bad. Lindelöf, Maguire and Shaw played well. AWB was decent. The rest were bad.