This is something I wrote whilst down in the Newbies and I'd be interested in what kind of reception it gets here. Any contrary opinions or beliefs I'd be happy to debate. ----------------------------------- Tactical Change For the past 2 seasons United, under the guidance of Sir Alex and his staff have played a variant of a fluid, attacking 4-2-3-1 formation or a slightly more reserved 4-3-3 variant. These formations saw the fluid interchange of Tevez, Rooney and Ronaldo at the head of the formation, with all 3 players being multi-functional attackers. However, with the loss of 2 of these fluid attacking players, the shift to a more conventional 4-4-2 would seem a more sensible option, not only based upon the loss of two of the players but also due to summer signings. Whilst it is possible to imagine Valencia possibly fitting into the previous tactical arrangement, one cannot imagine Owen or even at this moment in time, Macheda, fitting into this set up. What will this change to a more traditional set up entail I hear you cry? Well lets take a closer look. There is a brilliant article written by Jonathan Wilson of the Guardian on exactly this and I'll do my best to summarize its main points. Wilson argues that a more conventional 4-4-2 formation struggles against the now popular 4-3-3, which can be seen on the continent regularly on our escapades into Europe and has also been adopted by a number of Premier League clubs. Firstly, and perhaps most obviously, is the lack of equality in the midfield battle when a 4-4-2 goes up against a 4-3-3. The outnumbering of midfield means that possession becomes quickly surrendered. However, as Wilson correctly notes, the way in which Park was played during the Community Shield on Sunday suggests that his role is to counter this. He played a more narrow role on Sunday which meant that our midfield of Carrick and Fletcher were not entirely overwhelmed. How effective this proved to be is debatable, but it is also obvious to point out that a midfield that contains the likes of Lampard and Essien is always going to be a struggle to overcome. The other problem Wilson notes is that in modern football there has been a greater degree of acceptability in wingers having a greater amount of defensive duties. Therefore, in a conventional 4-3-3 the pushed up wingers would track back to cover for the fullbacks, as demonstrated brilliantly by Rooney against Aly Cissokho of Porto in the quarter finals of the CL this season. Rooney continually stifled Cissokho's marauding runs down the flank whilst still adding to the attacking threat. Wilson's logic applied to our new tactical set up this season would mean that we would be more subject to a greater pressure on the flanks if were to come up against a conventional 4-3-3, as is bound to happen in Europe. The reason is that due to the greater number of midfield players in a 4-3-3 that necessitates playing a "narrow wide player" such as Park to counter the midfield, we leave ourselves more exposed on the flank to runs from the opposing full-backs as they are provided with more space from which to run at. The new 4-4-2 system would be comfortably used against sides where we were confident of the lions share of possession. However, against the continental sides and better teams in the league it will be extremely tough to maintain possession for extended periods of time. Therefore, in the upcoming season it will be extremely interesting to watch how Sir Alex and United cope with the new system and whether or not it succeeds against the now popular 4-3-3. Summer Transfers There has obviously been major changes afoot in the team and with the loss of the European and World Footballer of the Year and Tevez we were always going to be hard placed to find adequate replacements for both. To describe our activity in the market this summer as underwhelming would not be entirely unjustified. However, there are a number of reasons as to why we should look forward to the season. Our major signing of the summer so far is Antonio Valencia. A pacy, direct and old-fashioned winger. He'll look to beat his man and whip a cross into the box for the strikers to get a head or foot onto. His signing perhaps was also an indication of our tactical change. With the introduction of Valencia it seems sensible to have 2 strikers permanently up front, to take advantage of his crossing ability. This is inevitably what occurs with a 4-4-2 formation. However, Valencia is not entirely limited to playing on the wing and has also been deployed as a more central attacking midfielder by Ecuador. The signing of Valencia is, I believe, an extremely exciting prospect as it has been quite a while since we've had an out and out winger in his mold. He has been likened to Kanchelskis and in many ways I agree with the comparison and look forward to seeing him in a United shirt. There has also been a number of other signings over the summer which I will address. The first one I'll take a look at is Michael Owen. The signing of Owen was met with a mixture of puzzlement by the media and derision from opposing fans. Understandably our own fans were and still are skeptical as to the impact a 29 year old with a history of severe injuries could have at the club. There are signs, however, that this could be just another stroke of genius pulled off by Sir Alex. Lets brake the Owen transfer down to its bare essentials. For absolutely nothing we're getting a striker with a prolific track record who is completely different to both our current main strikers. Neither are we paying him astronomical wages, with my understanding that in Owens' contract there are a number of performance based bonuses and that he'll only receive a relatively paltry sum of £30,000 a week. Owen is an entirely different species of a striker to Berbatov and Rooney. He'll always look to play off the shoulder of the last defender and work the channels, instead of dropping deep like our strikers regularly do. He consistently makes intelligent runs and has a great instinct inside the box and is also regarded as a great finisher. Another of the main benefits in signing Owen is that he is prepared to spend time sitting on the bench. If we had gone the way that most fans had wanted to and made a marquee striker signing then its entirely unlikely that they'll have been prepared to spend time sitting on the bench. Rooney is considered undroppable by Ferguson, justifiably, and with the emerging talents of Welbeck and Macheda it seems that Owens happiness to spend time on the bench and the invaluable experience he can give to what I believe are two of the brightest talents in England, if not the world, are also two of the major benefits of our capture of Owen. Given the right amount of time I believe that Owen can shine at United and while not being a fan favourite I'm sure he can win over the largely skeptical fan base. Another signing of the summer is a young French winger, Gabriel Obertan. Obertan is considered a hugely talented prospect and whilst not shining in Ligue 1 he has still had a number of extremely impressive performances on the international stage for France. I consider Obertan one for the future, with the raw ability to be crafted into an extremely effective attacking player. He's tall and rangy, whilst at the same time being fast and well balanced. He looks to have a number of tricks in his locker and also looks to be a competent dribbler and crosser of the ball. For the moment I don't believe we should expect great things from Obertan just yet. I am, however excited by the potential ability of the lad. The latest signing of the summer has been Mame Biram Diouf, from Norwegian club Molde FK. From having watched a number of videos of him and also from what a number of Norwegian based fans have said in the main forum I have gathered the impression that he is a tall, powerful striker with a good heading ability and hold up play. He looks raw at the moment, but under the tutelage of Solskjær and the rest of the back room staff it is entirely possible that we may have got ourselves a bargain. However, I am worried in one respect. I believe that at the moment our midfield is not entirely on par with the rest of the upper echelons of the football world. Fletcher has come on leaps and bounds and is at this moment in time in the form of his life. Carrick on his day is a beautiful user of the ball and these two form what I consider our first choice midfield partnership. However, any long term injures to either of these two would leave us in an extremely worrying position. Anderson at the moment is not consistent enough to warrant a first team place and although I'm confident the lad can come good there seems to be a worrying lack of depth to our midfield. Gibson is a reliable understudy to Fletcher and Carrick but is no where near good enough, as of yet, to maintain a regular place against top opposition. Owen Hargreaves is also a major problem within the midfield. It seems that at the moment no one is entirely sure as to when and if ever he can make a full recovery to the first team. What also has to be taken in to account is the fact that if he were to make a recovery, how much of a toll would the injuries have had on him? As mentioned previously, Anderson is no where near consistent enough and worryingly we have had to rely on a brilliant, rejuvenated Ryan Giggs and a increasingly tired Scholes. That we should have to rely on a 35 year old and a 34 year old so regularly is a worry and I would be entirely happy to see us spend some of the transfer money that we got for Ronaldo on reinforcing the midfield berth.