Monday 25 January 2016

Three tactical issues the cause of attacking impotency (Part 2)

At the beginning of the season, United had a genuine claim to possessing the two best full-backs in the Premier League.
However, Luke Shaw's season-ending injury, in conjunction with Matteo Darmian's gradual but palpable decline in form, has forced Van Gaal to rotate full-back personnel.

Ashley Young's injury against Liverpool has only threatened to compound the problem.

One attacking advantage of Van Gaal's 4-2-3-1 is that the midfield double pivot, providing defensive cover, releases the full-backs to overlap the narrow, attacking midfield three and occupy wide, attacking positions when United are in possession.

The full-backs potential to stretch the opposition defence by providing width in wide areas which is crucial for the side to engineer space in which to move the ball.
It is noticeable that United's better attacking performances in the last few months- for example away to Watford in late November- have coincided with dynamic, effective attacking play from Young at right-back.

Since Shaw's injury, we've been unable to consistently maximise the attacking potential of Van Gaal's 4-2-3-1.
For several weeks, injuries and form have forced the Dutchman to field vastly inexperienced, defensive-minded or incompetent players at full-back.
Darmian's deployment at left-back- a position in which he frequently turns inside or back onto his stronger right foot- - has exacerbated United's attacking impotence.

Without consistent and dynamic overlapping attacking threats from both right and left-back, United's attacking play is therefore often narrow and predictable.
As a consequence, many teams have been to successfully nullify United by sitting deep and sliding in a narrow, forty-by-forty defensive square.

Van Gaal's 4-2-3-1 arguably requires the most mobile, dynamic and tactically-disciplined of all orthodox modern systems.
In the vast majority of our matches this season, Van Gaal has opted to field Rooney- rather than Anthony Martial- at number nine.
Rooney is arguably our best finisher, particularly from range, but his heavy first touch and inability to effectively hold the ball up has inhibited the speed and fluidity of our passing game.

Rooney's poor and undisciplined movement when running the channels has deprived United of an effective "release ball"  from full-back, as an alternative to short-passing build-up play through the defensive midfield axis.
In addition, Rooney's declining pace and ability to beat his man, evinced by Kolo Toure's straightforward marshalling of the skipper during our counter-attacking at Anfield, deprives United of an outlet to play quickly through opposing defences. 

Although the abysmal results appear to have abated in the last few weeks, uninspiring victories over Sheff Utd, Swansea and Liverpool, coupled  with Saturday's defeat to Southampton, indicate that United's endemic tactical shortcomings remain.

Although it is difficult to argue that the Van Gaal experiment has not worked- given the extent to which has renovated the squad and guided us to a top four finish last term- United fans should not hold their breath for the triumphant homecoming of fluid, high-tempo football whilst the Dutchman perseveres with the current system  

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