g = window.googletag || {}; googletag.cmd = googletag.cmd || []; window.googletag = googletag; googletag.cmd.push(function() { var interstitialSlot = googletag.defineOutOfPageSlot('/17085479/redcafe_gam_interstitial', googletag.enums.OutOfPageFormat.INTERSTITIAL); if (interstitialSlot) { interstitialSlot.addService(googletag.pubads()); } });

In Defence of Our Defence: Defending the Indefensible?

tomaldinho1

Full Member
Joined
Nov 26, 2015
Messages
18,118
It feels like a piece written for the sake of being written (the one on The Athletic, not the OP).

It's (kind of) baffling that we're still discussing the overall effectiveness of just trying to soak up pressure in a low block in 2024 at the highest level of club football. Teams, on average, have become too good for that to work. Doesn't matter where you have to defend, you have to put pressure on the ball.

It's like Maguire praising himself earlier in the season. You may feel comfortable and be a bit more efficient performing your designated role in a way that comes more natural to you, but you're not the answer to any question.
Doesn't that apply to any article ever written?

I guess the tldr is simply, we can see we've been rubbish but it's likely the best chance we have of clinging onto the faint hope of a CL place with the squad we have. The question Ineos are asking is how much better could/should we be with another coach because there's a very real possibility you could hire someone else, we could aesthetically play a lot better but then have less points.
 

Red Regista

New Member
Newbie
Joined
Dec 25, 2023
Messages
159
Our defence has two faces, one with Licha nd one without him.
It's not perfect with Licha, but 20 times better than without him.
He really is a fine player and leader with bigger cojones than Lindelöf/ Varane and Shaw combined.
Our best CB this season has been 36 year old Jonny Evans, says it all really.

We can only hope that Licha can finally stay healthy next season, if not we're in big trouble.
Can't buy another £80m CB as Varane and Harry Mag's have broken our account.

In an ideal world we would sell Maguire, Varane and Lindelöf.
Licha stays fit, Evans stays another year as a gap filler, Kambwala takes the next step and becomes a squad player and we buy a world class partner for Licha, like Bastoni or Rüdiger.
Won't happen though.
 

Lyng

Full Member
Joined
Jun 1, 2012
Messages
5,238
Location
Denmark
Our defence is not really the issue or why we conceide a shot every 1 minute on average. The issue is our midfield being an open field mostly. Bruno for example is the most dribbled past player in the league.
 

bosnian_red

Worst scout to ever exist
Joined
Aug 13, 2011
Messages
58,167
Location
Canada
If we funnel chances into low xG shots then it’s not an issue if you have an at least league average GK. Ours is well above that so we’re not really in any serious threat regularly and most of our xG against is cumulative from low quality hit and hopes.

The team is not set up to play a high line with no LB and Evans/Maguire in rotation at LCB.

Wanting to pursue a high line defence with those players is suicidal.

As for the bolded this is the season so far:

It’s clearly not horrible but a sign of the quality of the league that teams are able to score against anyone really.
It's not just pot shots though... If it was, then our total xG conceded would be far lower. We concede plenty of good chances as well as the shots from range. The xG/shot stat really is not that relevant. If you look at the total xg conceded or the xG per game, we are still in 13th or whatever. That is telling that, even if the xG per shot is "lower" (it's not actually a big difference to others for context), we still concede a ton of good chances to add up to that. You even look game by game and we regularly concede more shots in the box than we create ourselves. The only good thing about our defending (and I do mean the only good thing) is that Varane is still world class at defending in his box. Other than that, it's a mess.

We also have the biggest variance between our goals conceded and our xG conceded in the league this season. It's obviously something that isn't sustainable (and it was something we couldn't keep up in our CL games). So again... Quite simply it is a very big problem that needs solving, but I don't think ten hag is out there intending for us to concede 20 shots per game or a ton of xG every game and relying on big misses and Onana saves or Varane last ditch blocks. It is something that needs solving
 
Last edited:

padzilla

Hipster
Joined
Oct 31, 2005
Messages
3,437
Isn't part of the issue our back four is constantly in flux with injuries? Jonny Evans was expected to make a handful of appearances as back up, instead he's starting week in, week out because one or two of Varane, Maguire and Martinez are always injured.
 

bosnian_red

Worst scout to ever exist
Joined
Aug 13, 2011
Messages
58,167
Location
Canada
Doesn't that apply to any article ever written?

I guess the tldr is simply, we can see we've been rubbish but it's likely the best chance we have of clinging onto the faint hope of a CL place with the squad we have. The question Ineos are asking is how much better could/should we be with another coach because there's a very real possibility you could hire someone else, we could aesthetically play a lot better but then have less points.
It is a weird article though. Anka has multiple times on their podcast voiced his displeasure at how Ten Hags system is working, the set up, the lack of connection between the attack and defence, trying to do 2 opposing defensive ideologies at the same time, and basically has specifically blamed Ten Hag for setting us up poorly, repeatedly. The article is basically just saying, yeah we're shit at defending as a team but have some good box defenders so we are getting away with it a bit, I don't really think it's trying to say it's a good tactic but it definitely reads like he was asked to write about why we have a big discrepancy between our goals conceded (top 4) and our shots conceded (bottom 4). The answer being a mix of last ditch blocks, not being bottom 4 in total xG, variance and luck still isn't exactly saying that the defence is fine, but more just .. it's not relegation standard as the total output. Which is still a bit shit.
 

Leftback99

Might have a bedwetting fetish.
Joined
Jan 11, 2015
Messages
14,623
Our defence has two faces, one with Licha nd one without him.
It's not perfect with Licha, but 20 times better than without him.
He really is a fine player and leader with bigger cojones than Lindelöf/ Varane and Shaw combined.
Our best CB this season has been 36 year old Jonny Evans, says it all really.

We can only hope that Licha can finally stay healthy next season, if not we're in big trouble.
Can't buy another £80m CB as Varane and Harry Mag's have broken our account.

In an ideal world we would sell Maguire, Varane and Lindelöf.
Licha stays fit, Evans stays another year as a gap filler, Kambwala takes the next step and becomes a squad player and we buy a world class partner for Licha, like Bastoni or Rüdiger.
Won't happen though.
This is a myth. We still conceded loads of chances in games he was available.
 

tomaldinho1

Full Member
Joined
Nov 26, 2015
Messages
18,118
It is a weird article though. Anka has multiple times on their podcast voiced his displeasure at how Ten Hags system is working, the set up, the lack of connection between the attack and defence, trying to do 2 opposing defensive ideologies at the same time, and basically has specifically blamed Ten Hag for setting us up poorly, repeatedly. The article is basically just saying, yeah we're shit at defending as a team but have some good box defenders so we are getting away with it a bit, I don't really think it's trying to say it's a good tactic but it definitely reads like he was asked to write about why we have a big discrepancy between our goals conceded (top 4) and our shots conceded (bottom 4). The answer being a mix of last ditch blocks, not being bottom 4 in total xG, variance and luck still isn't exactly saying that the defence is fine, but more just .. it's not relegation standard as the total output. Which is still a bit shit.
It's quite relevant because the media love that 'shots against' metric recently with us but as many on here pointed out, it doesn't really mean that much in isolation. I think all fans aren't happy with the midfield setup which is the main issue but the question is how much of what ETH is doing is pure damage limitation/this is his vision and he's accepted this is our best bet for the season or is he trying to coach something else and it's not working?
 

Grande

Full Member
Joined
Jun 22, 2007
Messages
6,477
Location
The Land of Do-What-You-Will
I’ve read the article now. It’s nowhere near as positive as you seem to think. The tl;dr version is our front three are crap at pressing, our midfield is crap at midfielding; and our back four are only capable of defending deep. And this is one of the most expensive squads in Europe.

I mean, it’s not news, but it also gives absolutely no reason to be hopeful about the future under ETH. Not when he’s already invested so much money in our broken attack, midfield and defence; on players who have made the situation worse, if anything.
Tbf I find it a bit tedious how much people just hone in on the pro/con-manager aspect of things.

The OP has some interesting points that go beyond the ‘is it Erik’s fault?’ question. Wether intentionally or not.

I don’t think it’s as simple as ‘is this good or bad defending’ that some make it. Rather, it is interesting to me how the ways of defending and issues in defence seem to have changed during last season, and also during this season. To take the last first: Shots against after new year are higher than earlier in the season, abnormally high, while results have been much better. Yet even in that period we have changed from being pourous for goals (Newport, Wolves) to generally keeping it cleaner. For a while after new year, we were pressing better, but defending set pieces awfully. Now we have fewer collapses leading to 4v4 and unpressures shots, but a lot more shots from loose balls around the box. In september/octobre we looked like defending in a 3-2-5 high up the pitch, getting caught out a lot. Around christmas we looked more like defending in a 5-0-5 leaving huge holes in midfield. Lately, we are seeing more of a low 4-5-1, relatively. These changes of course correspond withforced rotations a lot, and also look like reactions to huge issues in defending. When the front six high press works, it’s a good strategy that lets the defenders climb high, when it doesn’t work at all it’s suicidal and musn’t be done in half measures. But when we are constantly in between, maybe two or three games away from setting a good front six high press, but it depends on first choices being available and getting a run of games together, it’s hard to know wether to botch the strategy for next season, or to remain adamant and back players to do it whole-heartedly in spite of a few break downs.

I think it’s an accurate point that we currently seem to be offering up a lot of space in front of a low midfield, to remedy a period of offering too much space in behind a high/split midfield. But we still see both, for phases of the game. Looking at the teams sheets, it makes sense. Defending with Højlund, Martinez and Shaw is a completely different prospect than defending with Rashford, Evans and Amrabat. Defending collectively high or collectively compressed is a totally different prospect with a tigh-knit first eleven and a mishmash of different combos. You might not like that we’re in that situation and want primarily to find who to blame for that, which is an interesting discussion in it’s own right. But it’s not the same discussion as how to make sense of the way we are conceding shots and winning games these last two months.
 

bosnian_red

Worst scout to ever exist
Joined
Aug 13, 2011
Messages
58,167
Location
Canada
It's quite relevant because the media love that 'shots against' metric recently with us but as many on here pointed out, it doesn't really mean that much in isolation. I think all fans aren't happy with the midfield setup which is the main issue but the question is how much of what ETH is doing is pure damage limitation/this is his vision and he's accepted this is our best bet for the season or is he trying to coach something else and it's not working?
Really it's just a mix of all the factors. Flawed system in the first place, some bits of either players not buying into what he's trying to implement or him not coaching it properly, lack of quality to execute it, injuries effecting it and putting him in some "try and make it work" system (but doing that poorly).

When there's a failure like our club has been this season, the blame always has to be shared but also the ultimate responsibility rests with the manager and they should be doing better in some way. He got dealt a bad hand, but I'd he was doing his job better with coaching and implementing something that works in this league and is balanced, we'd be much better off.
 

Grande

Full Member
Joined
Jun 22, 2007
Messages
6,477
Location
The Land of Do-What-You-Will
The issue here is that it only takes one goal to lose a game, and we have lost far too many games this season to say that this risky defending strategy is paying off.
This is were I mean that you are talking about two separate issues, at least. Early in the season we had a risky defensive tactic of pressing high and quashing counters. When that didn’t gel and injuries undermined that strategy, we lost a lot of games due to sticking with that strategy. It didn’t pay off like it did most of last season.

Now we see more of another risky defensive strategy of more careful pressure, faster retreat to a low block, allowing more crosses and lower percentage shots. It’s a whole other case of risk management, but takes into accord that we never have the same back four and lack the right combination of tools in midfield, and for a couple of months now, it’s paying off.

If we get four or five games running with more or less the same eleven, I think we’re gonna see another change in strategies, and another kind of trade-off. Fingers crossed for that.
 

tomaldinho1

Full Member
Joined
Nov 26, 2015
Messages
18,118
Really it's just a mix of all the factors. Flawed system in the first place, some bits of either players not buying into what he's trying to implement or him not coaching it properly, lack of quality to execute it, injuries effecting it and putting him in some "try and make it work" system (but doing that poorly).

When there's a failure like our club has been this season, the blame always has to be shared but also the ultimate responsibility rests with the manager and they should be doing better in some way. He got dealt a bad hand, but I'd he was doing his job better with coaching and implementing something that works in this league and is balanced, we'd be much better off.
This is where I'm really not sure. I agree you could find a manager who would have us playing in a more 'pleasing' way but I'm not sure we'd have more points.
 

bosnian_red

Worst scout to ever exist
Joined
Aug 13, 2011
Messages
58,167
Location
Canada
This is where I'm really not sure. I agree you could find a manager who would have us playing in a more 'pleasing' way but I'm not sure we'd have more points.
TBF I'm not too critical of our points total, though for me I think we've gotten very lucky with how our games have panned out in terms of the actual results relative to performances. The way we play for me, is the quality of a mid table side. To be 6th is pretty good and means we've grinded out a fair bit of results (not praise worthy, given we are grinding results out for 6th place...). The critical point is needing to grind out a 6th place finish... It's the 0 goal difference, the hammerings that happen with some frequency under his tenure, the lack of competitiveness against top half teams away, the embarassing performance in the CL group, but most of the lack of any sign that "we will progress well". Any hope with Ten Hag, even if start signing players really well and they all get along with him, rests on him making serious changes to his system.

There are very few (or no) signs tactically after almost 2 seasons here that he is implementing something that will actually work for what we want to be. And that's my number 1 concern. If I saw tactically a team that can control games somewhat well but was always let down by brainfarts here or there, bad finishing, or just didn't have luck so we dropped down relative to performance levels, fine. But we see huge systemic issues on a weekly basis that opposing teams and managers take advantage of, and it has been the same issue since the first game of the season when we had a fully fit squad. It's also been the same concern that many analysts had about ten hag from his Ajax days.
 

tomaldinho1

Full Member
Joined
Nov 26, 2015
Messages
18,118
TBF I'm not too critical of our points total, though for me I think we've gotten very lucky with how our games have panned out in terms of the actual results relative to performances. The way we play for me, is the quality of a mid table side. To be 6th is pretty good and means we've grinded out a fair bit of results (not praise worthy, given we are grinding results out for 6th place...). The critical point is needing to grind out a 6th place finish... It's the 0 goal difference, the hammerings that happen with some frequency under his tenure, the lack of competitiveness against top half teams away, the embarassing performance in the CL group, but most of the lack of any sign that "we will progress well". Any hope with Ten Hag, even if start signing players really well and they all get along with him, rests on him making serious changes to his system.

There are very few (or no) signs tactically after almost 2 seasons here that he is implementing something that will actually work for what we want to be. And that's my number 1 concern. If I saw tactically a team that can control games somewhat well but was always let down by brainfarts here or there, bad finishing, or just didn't have luck so we dropped down relative to performance levels, fine. But we see huge systemic issues on a weekly basis that opposing teams and managers take advantage of, and it has been the same issue since the first game of the season when we had a fully fit squad. It's also been the same concern that many analysts had about ten hag from his Ajax days.
The 0 goal difference is not because of 'hammerings', I feel like you're mixing two seasons into one here, it's because until recently with Hojlund hitting some form we've had next to zero goal threat. Our worst loss this season was losing to Bmouth 3-0, we've conceded the same amount as Spurs and less than Villa (we're joint 4th) whereas our attack is 14th best in the league. Goals are the issue, not shots against and conceding.

Agree we as fans are fair to have expected more but I do think the injury crisis has been an actual crisis and really derailed our season. Somewhat relevant is that it was at this point in the 20/21 season, game week 27/28, that Pool had their run to recover from being 8th the season they had the back line injuries. They were on 43 points and then ended up 3rd albeit loads of teams dropped a lot of points to allow that. I'm not sure we have the offensive players to manage that but I think we will pick up form if the injury news about Martinez/Hojlund/Shaw is true.

Then I expect Ineos will move ETH on in the summer as we won't get CL places.
 

hobbers

Full Member
Joined
Jun 24, 2013
Messages
28,789
I think it’s interesting that we all agree we don’t like how we’re defending and I think we can all agree it’s not sustainable and where we want to be long term. But I have found it’s been surprisingly effective.
I dont know if effective is the right word. We do well at last ditch defending because Varane, Maguire and Evans, whatever their deficiencies elsewhere, are really good at getting blocks, intercepts, headers away around the 6 yard box. As you might expect from players who excelled at places like Hull and Leicester. Onana has also been very good in recent games at making saves from close range.

But it's not good team defending at all. It's the worst we've ever been in systematically keeping the ball outside of the box, and obviously keeping number of shots and chances down. We've gone from a team that relied on moments when attacking to one that relies on moments in defending as well.

We've also been ridiculously lucky in several wins. Some of the chances Villa missed in both of those games were insane, for example.
 

Oranges038

Full Member
Joined
Oct 19, 2020
Messages
12,402
100% the more I’m delving deeper the more I’m convinced we need better athleticism in our spine. Mainoo is a great potential player to offer this, Højlund too. But beyond that I think we’re struggling in our spine.
I've been thinking along these lines for a long time. More atheltic players in midfield and defence, but also players with a higher technical level. The reason why City/Liverpool don't get cut open so much on the break is down to pace in midfield and rest defence. But also because their technical ability is higher, they lose the ball less in dangerous areas which means those players have less recovery runs to make.

Utd need players with a higher technical level further up the pitch, to keep the ball better and rotate possession at a higher tempo. Everything is too slow, when they get up around the opposition box and the speed needs to increase the play gets sloppy and breaks down too quickly due to poor passing, poor first touch. Passes go behind, up at the knee, touch is taken the wrong side.

Watch City and how quickly they switch from almost walking pace to playing 1-2 touch at speed, the passing is crisp, weighted and to the right side of the receiver. Having players who can play quickly and accurately would solve alot of problems and stop play from breaking down higher up the pitch and reduce the frequency of counters just given to the opposition that leaves the lack of pace at the back exposed.
 

bosnian_red

Worst scout to ever exist
Joined
Aug 13, 2011
Messages
58,167
Location
Canada
The 0 goal difference is not because of 'hammerings', I feel like you're mixing two seasons into one here, it's because until recently with Hojlund hitting some form we've had next to zero goal threat. Our worst loss this season was losing to Bmouth 3-0, we've conceded the same amount as Spurs and less than Villa (we're joint 4th) whereas our attack is 14th best in the league. Goals are the issue, not shots against and conceding.

Agree we as fans are fair to have expected more but I do think the injury crisis has been an actual crisis and really derailed our season. Somewhat relevant is that it was at this point in the 20/21 season, game week 27/28, that Pool had their run to recover from being 8th the season they had the back line injuries. They were on 43 points and then ended up 3rd albeit loads of teams dropped a lot of points to allow that. I'm not sure we have the offensive players to manage that but I think we will pick up form if the injury news about Martinez/Hojlund/Shaw is true.

Then I expect Ineos will move ETH on in the summer as we won't get CL places.
Sorry to clarify, what I meant by "the critical points" are the points as to why I am criticizing Ten Hag. I'm not criticizing him about being 6th. I'm criticizing him because we do get battered (or fully outplayed even if the score doesn't always show it) on some frequency throughout his 2 years, because our goal difference is pathetic under him, and so on.

Shots against absolutely are an issue though, as I pointed out. We are about 13th or 14th in xG conceded this season. We concede about 1.5 goals per game across all competitions. Those are all bad stats and absolutely issues. Goals scored is also an issue. Unfortunately, the only way Ten Hag has shown he can address one is by compromising the other, and not finding a balance between the 2. Hence I am critical of him for that.
 

tomaldinho1

Full Member
Joined
Nov 26, 2015
Messages
18,118
Sorry to clarify, what I meant by "the critical points" are the points as to why I am criticizing Ten Hag. I'm not criticizing him about being 6th. I'm criticizing him because we do get battered (or fully outplayed even if the score doesn't always show it) on some frequency throughout his 2 years, because our goal difference is pathetic under him, and so on.

Shots against absolutely are an issue though, as I pointed out. We are about 13th or 14th in xG conceded this season. We concede about 1.5 goals per game across all competitions. Those are all bad stats and absolutely issues. Goals scored is also an issue. Unfortunately, the only way Ten Hag has shown he can address one is by compromising the other, and not finding a balance between the 2. Hence I am critical of him for that.
I feel like you're putting too much stock in xGA here. It's a very new metric and quite limited, for example Spurs and Villa are also doing awfully if you just go off that. We do get overrun in midfield and generally play frantic, unstructured football which is not great to watch and is not how a 'top' team should play but you can't say we will ride our luck for 38 games. Where we finish is where we'll deserve to finish.

I guess the question is let's say a new manager comes in, we start bossing possession and having almost complete control of games, do we score more? LVG had us playing exceptionally good positional football for the players we had but without any cutting edge. Do we have that now? We only scored 62 and 49 goals under him (albeit I think it's much easier to score now teams all try and play out and generally have higher lines) but that was too boring. Now we're too exciting for the wrong reasons.
 

bosnian_red

Worst scout to ever exist
Joined
Aug 13, 2011
Messages
58,167
Location
Canada
I feel like you're putting too much stock in xGA here. It's a very new metric and quite limited, for example Spurs and Villa are also doing awfully if you just go off that. We do get overrun in midfield and generally play frantic, unstructured football which is not great to watch and is not how a 'top' team should play but you can't say we will ride our luck for 38 games. Where we finish is where we'll deserve to finish.

I guess the question is let's say a new manager comes in, we start bossing possession and having almost complete control of games, do we score more? LVG had us playing exceptionally good positional football for the players we had but without any cutting edge. Do we have that now? We only scored 62 and 49 goals under him (albeit I think it's much easier to score now teams all try and play out and generally have higher lines) but that was too boring. Now we're too exciting for the wrong reasons.
It's not that new.. it's pretty simple and does say enough IMO. Just what you concede xG wise. Good teams should concede fewer chances, bad teams concede more chances. Villa and Spurs aren't doing well, I also wouldn't say they're amazing defensive sides? Spurs especially have been quite poor defensively on multiple occasions. They are both doing better than us defensively anyway from that perspective.

Teams do ride their luck for full seasons sometimes, luck doesn't necessarily balance out over a season.. but that's a separate discussion. If our goal difference is mid table, xG is bottom half, xG conceded is bottom half, xPts is bottom half, goals scored is bottom half, shots conceded is relegation standard, and so on... It probably reads that we are in fact playing like a mid table side. Some variance in points that swings our way and a 17/18 level of overperformance for xG to goals conceded is what has us 6th. That's not sustainable just like it wasn't then. And besides, there's a difference with the whole "luck/deserved" discussion when it comes to title winners and challengers, compared to the big mass of mid table teams.

We are a mid table team who is basically in the same bucket as like 7-8 other sides, where we've had more luck fall our way than against. That's about it. Yes, you can say we'll deserve to finish 6th rather than 9th, but the difference between those 2 is essentially pointless from an achievement perspective and performance wise, yes it's just who grinded out games a bit better. We play like shit due to tactics, but have better players than others, so we get over the line more often which is why we're 6th.

Also funny you mention Van Gaals time with goal scoring, yet we scored more under him than we have with Ten Hag... And it's not about bossing possession or being exciting or boring. We have to be competent. Whatever the manager does, it has to:
  1. Create more chances for us
  2. Concede fewer chances against us
That's it. Every coaching system is built towards that. Whether you're a defensive coach, attacking coach, possession coach or counter attacking coach, you still plan on simply finding ways to create more opportunities and limiting the opposition. Player quality dictates the rest and how well you execute that. We currently create fewer chances than we should, and concede more chances than we should, as shown with the underlying metrics. Both areas need big improvements.
 
Last edited:

tomaldinho1

Full Member
Joined
Nov 26, 2015
Messages
18,118
XG conceded is not that new.. it's pretty simple and does say enough IMO. Villa and Spurs aren't doing well, I also wouldn't say they're amazing defensive sides? Spurs especially have been quite poor defensively on multiple occasions. They are both doing better than us defensively anyway from that perspective.

Teams do ride their luck for full seasons sometimes, luck doesn't necessarily balance out over a season.. but that's a separate discussion. If our goal difference is mid table, xG is bottom half, xG conceded is bottom half, xPts is bottom half, goals scored is bottom half, shots conceded is relegation standard, and so on... It probably reads that we are in fact playing like a mid table side. Some variance in points that swings our way and a 17/18 level of overperformance for xG to goals conceded is what has us 6th. That's not sustainable just like it wasn't then. And besides, there's a difference with the whole "luck/deserved" discussion when it comes to title winners and challengers, compared to the big mass of mid table teams.

We are a mid table team who is basically in the same bucket as like 7-8 other sides, where we've had more luck fall our way than against. That's about it. Yes, you can say we'll deserve to finish 6th rather than 9th, but the difference between those 2 is essentially pointless from an achievement perspective and performance wise, yes it's just who grinded out games a bit better. We play like shit due to tactics, but have better players than others, so we get over the line more often which is why we're 6th.

Also funny you mention Van Gaals time with goal scoring, yet we scored more under him than we have with Ten Hag... And it's not about bossing possession or being exciting or boring. We have to be competent. Whatever the manager does, it has to:
  1. Create more chances for us
  2. Concede fewer chances against us
That's it. Every coaching system is built towards that. Whether you're a defensive coach, attacking coach, possession coach or counter attacking coach, you still plan on simply finding ways to create more opportunities and limiting the opposition. Player quality dictates the rest and how well you execute that. We currently create fewer chances than we should, and concede more chances than we should, as shown with the underlying metrics. Both areas need big improvements.
Isn't it fair to put us in with Spurs and Villa though in terms of the squad we have? Maybe if everyone is fit, we should be above them but realistically, both of those teams have better offensive players than us. I get we want to be back in the elite but we aren't, haven't been for some time and it's not particularly helpful to compare us to City, Pool or Arsenal these days. So you have 3 teams who are quite poor defensively (with us being the worst xGA but actually the joint best in real life with Spurs) but who have both scored 20 more goals than us. That's the unacceptable part of what's happening, not the defence.

I'm not sure re luck - surely we've had bad luck with injuries, some bad calls against us and also some good luck. City this season seem to be the main team getting silly calls in their favour (as much as like to think Pool get them all the time) with the whole Oliver/UAE thing and him saving a couple of times. We're not a mid table team (we're 6th), we're just not quite where we want to be. I share the frustration with how we play which I suspect is as much to do with Bruno as it is with ETH having no other options in the middle but I really don't know if we can still go through the United team and compare it to those around us and say these players are 'better'. We've bought old players who aren't as good as they once were, a number of average players, and there are very few who would start for any of the teams around us.

Not sure re your point on LVG, I brought him up for that reason? I just don't know if we have the players to control games and pick up enough points. Although I suspect we'll end up with this team bettering his 2nd season teams goals for (we need to score 10 goals in 10 games) not that that is something to boast about and, again, brings me back to the clear issue in my mind which is goals being our greatest weakness.
 

Teja

Full Member
Joined
Aug 17, 2014
Messages
5,951
I feel like you're putting too much stock in xGA here. It's a very new metric and quite limited, for example Spurs and Villa are also doing awfully if you just go off that. We do get overrun in midfield and generally play frantic, unstructured football which is not great to watch and is not how a 'top' team should play but you can't say we will ride our luck for 38 games. Where we finish is where we'll deserve to finish.
Disagree hard there. xGA is quite valuable and basically is just inverted xg (xGs of all the opposition teams added up) so fairly well established. xGD/90 is the single most important metric one can look at when evaluating a side's performance.

Spurs have been quite vulnerable to the counter as Ange's tactics are getting digested more and more and that's what this is flagging. Villa I'm not sure, don't follow them enough.
 

tomaldinho1

Full Member
Joined
Nov 26, 2015
Messages
18,118
Disagree hard there. xGA is quite valuable and basically is just inverted xg (xGs of all the opposition teams added up) so fairly well established. xGD/90 is the single most important metric one can look at when evaluating a side's performance.

Spurs have been quite vulnerable to the counter as Ange's tactics are getting digested more and more and that's what this is flagging. Villa I'm not sure, don't follow them enough.
I'm a fan of stats including xG and xGA but they are demonstrably removed from reality in isolation. It also depends on the model you refer to as they all calculate chances slightly differently. Spurs have ridden their luck from day one, there's no 'digesting' going on, their keeper has been playing out of his skin and they've had a lot of late wins just like us from early in the season. They just have a proven goalscorer to bail them out.

Just go onto understat and filter the tables by xG and xGA, there's clearly a lot of learning for them to do because the table is wildly off in both cases. xG only came into existence with opta about 10 years ago and only gained lots of traction the last few seasons as a stat we all referenced, it's super young in it's existence. A very useful/interesting stat and one that will continuously improve but the data set is not big enough yet in my opinion.
 

bosnian_red

Worst scout to ever exist
Joined
Aug 13, 2011
Messages
58,167
Location
Canada
Isn't it fair to put us in with Spurs and Villa though in terms of the squad we have? Maybe if everyone is fit, we should be above them but realistically, both of those teams have better offensive players than us. I get we want to be back in the elite but we aren't, haven't been for some time and it's not particularly helpful to compare us to City, Pool or Arsenal these days. So you have 3 teams who are quite poor defensively (with us being the worst xGA but actually the joint best in real life with Spurs) but who have both scored 20 more goals than us. That's the unacceptable part of what's happening, not the defence.

I'm not sure re luck - surely we've had bad luck with injuries, some bad calls against us and also some good luck. City this season seem to be the main team getting silly calls in their favour (as much as like to think Pool get them all the time) with the whole Oliver/UAE thing and him saving a couple of times. We're not a mid table team (we're 6th), we're just not quite where we want to be. I share the frustration with how we play which I suspect is as much to do with Bruno as it is with ETH having no other options in the middle but I really don't know if we can still go through the United team and compare it to those around us and say these players are 'better'. We've bought old players who aren't as good as they once were, a number of average players, and there are very few who would start for any of the teams around us.

Not sure re your point on LVG, I brought him up for that reason? I just don't know if we have the players to control games and pick up enough points. Although I suspect we'll end up with this team bettering his 2nd season teams goals for (we need to score 10 goals in 10 games) not that that is something to boast about and, again, brings me back to the clear issue in my mind which is goals being our greatest weakness.
Basically my assessment of villa and Spurs is, Spurs is year 1 with Ange and have had a lot of really shit games where they've been a bit of a mess but also on the other hand they've had some very competent performances where it clicks. That part is key, you need those performances where things click to keep faith, for fans to have belief that you are building towards something, but you just don't have consistency to do it weekly. Villa on the other hand is a decent but smaller side who are punching above their weight this season similar to how Newcastle did last season. They have had some excellent performances, and some shit ones as well. Which again .... Points to a good team who don't have enough quality to be consistent to the degree that you'd need. But it's important to do it more than 1 season anyway, and building off of initial good work is vital. Loads of managers can have an initial impact, what matters is finding a way to keep it going.

Ten Hag has been here for almost 2 seasons. It's hard to give him any slack here, when we are both conceding more chances than them, more xG than them, and creating significantly fewer chances than them. The teams that are somewhere around us for all of xG, xG conceded, xPoints, shots conceded, goals scored are Bournemouth, west ham, wolves.. actual goals conceded we are there with Villa, Spurs and Everton. No amount of injuries at this club should have so many metrics at a similar level to what are basically bottom half clubs.
 

Gordon's Hill

New Member
Newbie
Joined
Oct 4, 2013
Messages
39
I'm a fan of stats including xG and xGA but they are demonstrably removed from reality in isolation. It also depends on the model you refer to as they all calculate chances slightly differently. Spurs have ridden their luck from day one, there's no 'digesting' going on, their keeper has been playing out of his skin and they've had a lot of late wins just like us from early in the season. They just have a proven goalscorer to bail them out.

Just go onto understat and filter the tables by xG and xGA, there's clearly a lot of learning for them to do because the table is wildly off in both cases. xG only came into existence with opta about 10 years ago and only gained lots of traction the last few seasons as a stat we all referenced, it's super young in it's existence. A very useful/interesting stat and one that will continuously improve but the data set is not big enough yet in my opinion.
I disagree that Spurs have 'ridden their look'. A few games I watched them where they dominated the opposition but couldn't take their chances, one good example was Villa pre Xmas. Spurs were 1-0 up and really should have been 5-0 by half time, there was a period of about 10 minutes where Villa didn't have the ball and I had to remind myself it wasn't Burnley they were playing. Villa then scored a goal on half time on the break in one of their only chances, then nicked another second half. Strange to say they have a proven goal scorer to bail them out, when he was absent for a chunk of the season and they sold by their best goal scorer last summer. So Ange leaves them vulnerable on the break but I dont see a lucky team, far from it.
 

tomaldinho1

Full Member
Joined
Nov 26, 2015
Messages
18,118
Basically my assessment of villa and Spurs is, Spurs is year 1 with Ange and have had a lot of really shit games where they've been a bit of a mess but also on the other hand they've had some very competent performances where it clicks. That part is key, you need those performances where things click to keep faith, for fans to have belief that you are building towards something, but you just don't have consistency to do it weekly. Villa on the other hand is a decent but smaller side who are punching above their weight this season similar to how Newcastle did last season. They have had some excellent performances, and some shit ones as well. Which again .... Points to a good team who don't have enough quality to be consistent to the degree that you'd need. But it's important to do it more than 1 season anyway, and building off of initial good work is vital. Loads of managers can have an initial impact, what matters is finding a way to keep it going.

Ten Hag has been here for almost 2 seasons. It's hard to give him any slack here, when we are both conceding more chances than them, more xG than them, and creating significantly fewer chances than them. The teams that are somewhere around us for all of xG, xG conceded, xPoints, shots conceded, goals scored are Bournemouth, west ham, wolves.. actual goals conceded we are there with Villa, Spurs and Everton. No amount of injuries at this club should have so many metrics at a similar level to what are basically bottom half clubs.
I'd say Villa have a really distinct style with their uber high line and are a breath of fresh air, Ange is basically Bielsa in my opinion and they'll tank at some point. Both teams are scoring goals though so it masks their defensive issues.

I'm not necessarily defending ETH, I think there are areas we should be a lot better - to be honest, as I write, it's just the midfield setup being so crap that I really hate - but then we have had major injuries and we've seen how badly that affected Pool (who were just off winning the PL and then the CL the season before) and they had less injuries. it's about who the injuries are to and the positions, so when we lose effectively all our CBs and LBs, it kind of makes sense we would look crap. I just don't know if ETH can do more than we're seeing, I'd hope he can, but then we know this group of players is a bloody difficult group and they very much seem to have a core that he is trying to dismantle to take control (which needs to be done) whilst also getting results with all the injuries. As said, I think he will be moved on come summer but I do have sympathy for him whereas many fans seem to be of the mindset that all this off the field stuff and the injuries don't make that much difference (which is mental when you think how terrible City were as soon as they lost Rodri, Spurs tanked with a few key injuries, Newcastle, Brighton as well, it's just the norm).
 

tomaldinho1

Full Member
Joined
Nov 26, 2015
Messages
18,118
I disagree that Spurs have 'ridden their look'. A few games I watched them where they dominated the opposition but couldn't take their chances, one good example was Villa pre Xmas. Spurs were 1-0 up and really should have been 5-0 by half time, there was a period of about 10 minutes where Villa didn't have the ball and I had to remind myself it wasn't Burnley they were playing. Villa then scored a goal on half time on the break in one of their only chances, then nicked another second half. Strange to say they have a proven goal scorer to bail them out, when he was absent for a chunk of the season and they sold by their best goal scorer last summer. So Ange leaves them vulnerable on the break but I dont see a lucky team, far from it.
2 goals into stoppage time to beat Sheffield United, own goal in stoppage time to beat 10 man Pool with VAR error to disallow Pool opening goal, last minute goal to draw vs City and VAR mistake to not let Grealish have the one on one, stoppage time goal to beat Brighton. That’s not even going into xG (Everton games, Forest, Arsenal, Brentford) all games they were lucky.

What are you talking about? Son hasn’t been injured, he went national team for three games and Chelsea was postponed (they only won one of the games he was for FYI) Hes their top scorer and clearly has consistently been a goal scorer for them. How can you argue different? He’s basically always in double figures for goals even when he was a wide man. Obviously they’ve lost Kane’s goal but they don’t play with 10 men! There’s so much more pace up top for them now which is key.

Scored both vs Ars, scored vs Pool, scored and assisted v City, scored 1 and assisted 2 vs Newcastle and just scored 1 and assisted 2 vs Villa…
 

BenitoSTARR

One Minute Man
Scout
Joined
Sep 1, 2015
Messages
13,960
Tbf I find it a bit tedious how much people just hone in on the pro/con-manager aspect of things.

The OP has some interesting points that go beyond the ‘is it Erik’s fault?’ question. Wether intentionally or not.

I don’t think it’s as simple as ‘is this good or bad defending’ that some make it. Rather, it is interesting to me how the ways of defending and issues in defence seem to have changed during last season, and also during this season. To take the last first: Shots against after new year are higher than earlier in the season, abnormally high, while results have been much better. Yet even in that period we have changed from being pourous for goals (Newport, Wolves) to generally keeping it cleaner. For a while after new year, we were pressing better, but defending set pieces awfully. Now we have fewer collapses leading to 4v4 and unpressures shots, but a lot more shots from loose balls around the box. In september/octobre we looked like defending in a 3-2-5 high up the pitch, getting caught out a lot. Around christmas we looked more like defending in a 5-0-5 leaving huge holes in midfield. Lately, we are seeing more of a low 4-5-1, relatively. These changes of course correspond withforced rotations a lot, and also look like reactions to huge issues in defending. When the front six high press works, it’s a good strategy that lets the defenders climb high, when it doesn’t work at all it’s suicidal and musn’t be done in half measures. But when we are constantly in between, maybe two or three games away from setting a good front six high press, but it depends on first choices being available and getting a run of games together, it’s hard to know wether to botch the strategy for next season, or to remain adamant and back players to do it whole-heartedly in spite of a few break downs.

I think it’s an accurate point that we currently seem to be offering up a lot of space in front of a low midfield, to remedy a period of offering too much space in behind a high/split midfield. But we still see both, for phases of the game. Looking at the teams sheets, it makes sense. Defending with Højlund, Martinez and Shaw is a completely different prospect than defending with Rashford, Evans and Amrabat. Defending collectively high or collectively compressed is a totally different prospect with a tigh-knit first eleven and a mishmash of different combos. You might not like that we’re in that situation and want primarily to find who to blame for that, which is an interesting discussion in it’s own right. But it’s not the same discussion as how to make sense of the way we are conceding shots and winning games these last two months.
It’s nice to be understood somewhat. I feel like you’ve got what I’m trying to discuss here.

The indefensible is that nobody wants to see this kind of defending, but I’m happy to defend it to a degree because well I look at the personnel, I look at the experimentation and I can see Ten Hag recognising that his fit and more available defenders are good box defenders. So he’s willing to let them box defend more now.
This is were I mean that you are talking about two separate issues, at least. Early in the season we had a risky defensive tactic of pressing high and quashing counters. When that didn’t gel and injuries undermined that strategy, we lost a lot of games due to sticking with that strategy. It didn’t pay off like it did most of last season.

Now we see more of another risky defensive strategy of more careful pressure, faster retreat to a low block, allowing more crosses and lower percentage shots. It’s a whole other case of risk management, but takes into accord that we never have the same back four and lack the right combination of tools in midfield, and for a couple of months now, it’s paying off.

If we get four or five games running with more or less the same eleven, I think we’re gonna see another change in strategies, and another kind of trade-off. Fingers crossed for that.
I think we’ll start to see a steady development of the defensive style and a major change next season. This season has very much felt like compromise.
I dont know if effective is the right word. We do well at last ditch defending because Varane, Maguire and Evans, whatever their deficiencies elsewhere, are really good at getting blocks, intercepts, headers away around the 6 yard box. As you might expect from players who excelled at places like Hull and Leicester. Onana has also been very good in recent games at making saves from close range.

But it's not good team defending at all. It's the worst we've ever been in systematically keeping the ball outside of the box, and obviously keeping number of shots and chances down. We've gone from a team that relied on moments when attacking to one that relies on moments in defending as well.

We've also been ridiculously lucky in several wins. Some of the chances Villa missed in both of those games were insane, for example.
So if you agree we do well at the last ditch stuff what is the issue given our injuries? It’s not like we are conceding 5 high value chances in fact in some games more recently we’re conceding less than 1 big chance per 90.

Can Evans, Lindelof and Maguire can successfully and consistently defend a large space in behind?
 

Cheimoon

Made of cheese
Scout
Joined
Jun 22, 2020
Messages
14,360
Location
Canada
Supports
no-one in particular
This is were I mean that you are talking about two separate issues, at least. Early in the season we had a risky defensive tactic of pressing high and quashing counters. When that didn’t gel and injuries undermined that strategy, we lost a lot of games due to sticking with that strategy. It didn’t pay off like it did most of last season.

Now we see more of another risky defensive strategy of more careful pressure, faster retreat to a low block, allowing more crosses and lower percentage shots. It’s a whole other case of risk management, but takes into accord that we never have the same back four and lack the right combination of tools in midfield, and for a couple of months now, it’s paying off.

If we get four or five games running with more or less the same eleven, I think we’re gonna see another change in strategies, and another kind of trade-off. Fingers crossed for that.
That's where I think the article is interesting: it makes insightful how United's tactics and continuous on-field issues (leaving gaps in various areas of the pitch, etc.) are the result of a trade-off between what Ten Hag seems to want (high press and high positioning with a quick push forward once possessions has been regained), what the main players are capable of (standouts for me are that forward whose pressing is found wanting (Rashford I suppose?) and Casemiro's unexpected lack of athleticism this season), and what further impact injuries have (it's big). As the article explains, Ten Hag is trying to compensate for these issues, but every solution he implements leaves a gap elsewhere that then needs fixing and creates another gap. It's basically a huge domino from Plan A to a Plan K that still has issues.

This does not exonorate Ten Hag (which you irritatingly seem to have to say everywhere now so people don't jump at you), who maybe shouldn't be trying to stick with any of his Plan A (as far off as United are now from that playstyle, some elements are still there, like the high press) and just fully embrace a low-block approach. And there may well have been other things he could have solved better and/or quicker, including the state of the squad (even if that shouldn't be his responsibility). But that in turn would not allow United to progress tactically at all, and the team would basically have to start from scratch again towards the proactive approach once the squad is in a better state.

(I'll also add that I think the article is not really positive about any aspect of United's play. The best you can say is that, apparently, some things are not as bad as they seem.)

It's a real mess, and that's why I said in my post on top of page 1 that the real issue here is United's squad. Whatever United do with the manager in the summer, if there isn't some real move towards a more coherent squad, next season's manager is not very likely to introduce a progressive, dominant style of play, or to return United to top dog status.
 
Last edited:

BenitoSTARR

One Minute Man
Scout
Joined
Sep 1, 2015
Messages
13,960
That's where I think the article is interesting: it makes insightful how United's tactics and continuous on-field issues (leaving gaps in various areas of the pitch, etc.) are the result of a trade-off between what Ten Hag seem to want (high press with a quick push forward once possessions has been regained), what the main players are capable of (standouts for me are that forward whose pressing is found wanting (Rashford I suppose?) and Casemiro's lack of athleticism this season), and what further impact injuries have (it's big). As the article explains, Ten Hag is trying to compensate for these issues, but every solution he implements leaves a gap elsewhere that then needs fixing and creates another gap. It's basically a huge domino from Plan A to a Plan K that still has issues.

This does not exonorate Ten Hag (which you irritatingly seem to have to say everywhere now so people don't jump at you), who maybe shouldn't be trying to stick with any of his Plan A (as far off as United are now from that playstyle, some elements are still there, like the high press) and just fully embrace a low-block approach. And there may well have been other things he could have solved better and/or quicker, including the state of the squad (even if that shouldn't be his responsibility). But that in turn would not allow United to progress tactically at all, and the team would basically have to start from scratch again towards the proactive approach once the squad is in a better state.

(I'll also add that I think the article is not really positive about any aspect of United's play. The best you can say is that, apparently, some things are not as bad as they seem.)

It's a real mess, and that's why I said in my post on top of page 1 that the real issue here is United's squad. Whatever United do with the manager in the summer, if there isn't some real move towards a more coherent squad, next season's manager is not very likely to bring United back to top dog status.
Agree with this to be fair.

I think there are positives to take from it (but generally speaking I have quite a positive outlook on life) but it recognises that it’s been really difficult to try and make progress with what we’ve had at the back.
 

Lentwood

Full Member
Joined
Jan 2, 2015
Messages
6,896
Location
West Didsbury, Manchester
It's funny that it's always a lack of pace at the back that's blamed for our low-block but that seems overly simplistic to me.

If Onana is willing to start high and be aggressive, and our defenders are willing to play on the front foot, then I don't think a lack of blistering pace has to hold us back.

Certainly not in home games or against teams who are looking to counter attack us. If they're looking to spring forward and play off a couple of forwards, it's very important that we're really aggressive in our defending.
 

Grande

Full Member
Joined
Jun 22, 2007
Messages
6,477
Location
The Land of Do-What-You-Will
That's where I think the article is interesting: it makes insightful how United's tactics and continuous on-field issues (leaving gaps in various areas of the pitch, etc.) are the result of a trade-off between what Ten Hag seems to want (high press and high positioning with a quick push forward once possessions has been regained), what the main players are capable of (standouts for me are that forward whose pressing is found wanting (Rashford I suppose?) and Casemiro's unexpected lack of athleticism this season), and what further impact injuries have (it's big). As the article explains, Ten Hag is trying to compensate for these issues, but every solution he implements leaves a gap elsewhere that then needs fixing and creates another gap. It's basically a huge domino from Plan A to a Plan K that still has issues.

This does not exonorate Ten Hag (which you irritatingly seem to have to say everywhere now so people don't jump at you), who maybe shouldn't be trying to stick with any of his Plan A (as far off as United are now from that playstyle, some elements are still there, like the high press) and just fully embrace a low-block approach. And there may well have been other things he could have solved better and/or quicker, including the state of the squad (even if that shouldn't be his responsibility). But that in turn would not allow United to progress tactically at all, and the team would basically have to start from scratch again towards the proactive approach once the squad is in a better state.

(I'll also add that I think the article is not really positive about any aspect of United's play. The best you can say is that, apparently, some things are not as bad as they seem.)

It's a real mess, and that's why I said in my post on top of page 1 that the real issue here is United's squad. Whatever United do with the manager in the summer, if there isn't some real move towards a more coherent squad, next season's manager is not very likely to introduce a progressive, dominant style of play, or to return United to top dog status.
Yea, those points echo what I think and what other thorough analysts have said.

The case for optimism/pessimism/realism is in the open a bit, but I I believe Raplh Rangnick wasn’t far off something when he mentioned open heart surgery, and not necessarily because one particular player is bad. I think he was presented with the case that really both Solskjær and likely Murtaugh wanted - making a first step towards a change to a more proactive, high pressing form of football (his expertise after all) that Solskjær with his team tried several times but couldn’t implement. Solskjær managed a second, a third, a final and some semi finals catering to the strengths of several of the players (he had success with two very different styles for Molde before and after the Cardiff mess), but couldn’t make them take the next step. There are good players there in that original squad, not lazy, capable of ok results, but faced with the particular football Rangnick and later Ten Hag would decree, the squad was all wrong.

The biggest problem with Rangnicks diagnosis and cure, is that making money on a heart of players decared as unfit for staying is very difficult, and if you need to change ten-twelve players under FFP, you either have to use five seasons buying two top level players for €100m each every year, stumbling around mid table in the process, or you have to spread the money thin on five mostly underqualified players for two seasons, hoping for the best. We chose a the latter with a few exeptions, meaning that quite a few of the Ten Hag-profiled players are simply not City quality, cause you don’t get that for the price of a Malacia, an Eriksen, a Wout, an Amrabat, a Reguilon, a 19 yo Garnacho, an 18 yo Mainoo.

Our big spends have been Onana, Martinez, Casemiro, Mount, Antony and Højlund, and without delving into who wanted them and who negotiated for them, I’d say Martinez has been a success when healthy, Onana and Højlund started slow but are now looking very good, Casemiro was brilliant last season until he more or leas collapsed, Mount hasn’t really played yet and Antony is the only real bad buy, not because he wasn’t useful last year in changing the style faster, but because he should have cost €35m as a stop gap transition until we could put Garnacho, Diallo, Pellistri and a rejuvenated Sancho (yea right) there as emerging competition, and maybe strengthen the position in a couple of years. Noene of these players are ready made De Bruyne’s, Haalands or Salah’s though. Bruno and Rashford were supposed to be our backbones and key players this year, as they were for most of last season. I still wonder what happened to them, even if Bruno is always useful.

As you say, there are many issues, and Ten Hag cannot be automatically exonerated from any of them, least of all the injuries or form losses. But the compromises make sense given the issues, and only a thorough in-house evaluation can really reveal if Ten Hag is the right man to fix them or not, not you and me. Fingers crossed!
 

Cheimoon

Made of cheese
Scout
Joined
Jun 22, 2020
Messages
14,360
Location
Canada
Supports
no-one in particular
Yea, those points echo what I think and what other thorough analysts have said.

The case for optimism/pessimism/realism is in the open a bit, but I I believe Raplh Rangnick wasn’t far off something when he mentioned open heart surgery, and not necessarily because one particular player is bad. I think he was presented with the case that really both Solskjær and likely Murtaugh wanted - making a first step towards a change to a more proactive, high pressing form of football (his expertise after all) that Solskjær with his team tried several times but couldn’t implement. Solskjær managed a second, a third, a final and some semi finals catering to the strengths of several of the players (he had success with two very different styles for Molde before and after the Cardiff mess), but couldn’t make them take the next step. There are good players there in that original squad, not lazy, capable of ok results, but faced with the particular football Rangnick and later Ten Hag would decree, the squad was all wrong.

The biggest problem with Rangnicks diagnosis and cure, is that making money on a heart of players decared as unfit for staying is very difficult, and if you need to change ten-twelve players under FFP, you either have to use five seasons buying two top level players for €100m each every year, stumbling around mid table in the process, or you have to spread the money thin on five mostly underqualified players for two seasons, hoping for the best. We chose a the latter with a few exeptions, meaning that quite a few of the Ten Hag-profiled players are simply not City quality, cause you don’t get that for the price of a Malacia, an Eriksen, a Wout, an Amrabat, a Reguilon, a 19 yo Garnacho, an 18 yo Mainoo.

Our big spends have been Onana, Martinez, Casemiro, Mount, Antony and Højlund, and without delving into who wanted them and who negotiated for them, I’d say Martinez has been a success when healthy, Onana and Højlund started slow but are now looking very good, Casemiro was brilliant last season until he more or leas collapsed, Mount hasn’t really played yet and Antony is the only real bad buy, not because he wasn’t useful last year in changing the style faster, but because he should have cost €35m as a stop gap transition until we could put Garnacho, Diallo, Pellistri and a rejuvenated Sancho (yea right) there as emerging competition, and maybe strengthen the position in a couple of years. Noene of these players are ready made De Bruyne’s, Haalands or Salah’s though. Bruno and Rashford were supposed to be our backbones and key players this year, as they were for most of last season. I still wonder what happened to them, even if Bruno is always useful.

As you say, there are many issues, and Ten Hag cannot be automatically exonerated from any of them, least of all the injuries or form losses. But the compromises make sense given the issues, and only a thorough in-house evaluation can really reveal if Ten Hag is the right man to fix them or not, not you and me. Fingers crossed!
Yeah, I agree with all that. Good analysis of the challenges United faces in its transfer dealings as well.
 
Joined
Jul 13, 2002
Messages
52,801
Location
Founder of IhateMakeleles.org and Gourcufffanboysa
https://theathletic.com/5328427/2024/03/13/man-utd-shots-faced/?source=user_shared_articleWhy Manchester United face so many shots – and why that isn’t all bad news - Source

I’ve long thought this was the case and now have the data to back this up. Manchester United are defending well. It’s not pretty, it’s not to everyone’s taste, but we’re doing an effective jon

Yes you heard me Manchester United are defending well. We have the 3rd best xG per shot against at 0.1 which basically means we’re on average reducing teams to taking speculative efforts against us. Only Everton and Arsenal are better with many considering Arsenal the best defensive side in the world right now and certainly in the PL.

We are absolutely conceding territory, and absolutely defending deeper now (due to the lack of pace and consistency in our back line) but we’re defending deep well more often than not.

We concede on average 16.7 shots per 90 but despite those headline stats seeming concerning (17th in the league) the data shows this isn’t an issue. The reason being we only concede an average of 5.2 shots on target.

So while I would love us to cage teams in their own half and suffocate them with relentless pressure the reality is we don’t have that set of players yet and so as boring as it may be, being effective is important and right now we’re not letting sides get good chances on average with these high volume shots.
I completely agree. The shots against argument is way over blown and exagerrated. It tends to be analysed way too simplisticly.
 
Joined
Jul 13, 2002
Messages
52,801
Location
Founder of IhateMakeleles.org and Gourcufffanboysa
I’d argue we’re defending deep though because of the personnel available. So box defending is what we’re best set up for with no proper LB and no Martinez.

I don’t think it’s down to luck I think everything is pointing towards it being the new plan while our back line is fecked. For example we are 2nd in the league for blocks (by 1 block) 385, but we don’t really tackle in our defensive 3rd (12th highest) middle (14th) but do in the final 3rd (6th best).

So for me it looks like the instructions and results are. Press high and tackle high and if you feck it up then drop deep get a block and counter until we can get further up the pitch to make those tackles again.

It’s not pretty but it’s actually ended up despite the injuries working for us as we have the 4th lowest goals conceded with the most rotations in any PL back line (24).

This is not top tier defending nor is it sustainable but in the context of our season it’s pretty remarkable.
Correct. We are defending like that due to what we have available. Who are mostly excellent box defenders forcing opponents constantly into pot shots that rarely truly trouble Onana. Let alone the goal. What I can't understand is why many a pundit pretend it's pure luck.
 

Cheimoon

Made of cheese
Scout
Joined
Jun 22, 2020
Messages
14,360
Location
Canada
Supports
no-one in particular
Correct. We are defending like that due to what we have available. Who are mostly excellent box defenders forcing opponents constantly into pot shots that rarely truly trouble Onana. Let alone the goal. What I can't understand is why many a pundit pretend it's pure luck.
The problem of course is that United allow too many of those potshots (because of issues elsewhere on the pitch). It's indeed well done to reduce opponents largely to pot shots, but 20 shots with an xG of 0.1 will still on average result in 2 goals against each game. That's unsustainable.

So both are true: opponents get way too much space and chances, and United are pretty good at largely reducing those chances to pot shots.
 

bosnian_red

Worst scout to ever exist
Joined
Aug 13, 2011
Messages
58,167
Location
Canada


The coaching is just painfully bad. We must be the worst coached side from a defensive POV.
 

BenitoSTARR

One Minute Man
Scout
Joined
Sep 1, 2015
Messages
13,960


The coaching is just painfully bad. We must be the worst coached side from a defensive POV.
I still disagree here.

We can’t employ the front press (which will be long term our plan) and cover that space with our personnel.

We’ve also got the likes of Varane, Lindelof, Maguire, Evans whose best traits from a defensive stand point are their blocking.

With these players I’d ask what do we expect them to do?

I’ve not seen a single person describing how to make this better.
 

AndySmith1990

Full Member
Joined
Oct 2, 2021
Messages
6,347
I still disagree here.

We can’t employ the front press (which will be long term our plan) and cover that space with our personnel.

We’ve also got the likes of Varane, Lindelof, Maguire, Evans whose best traits from a defensive stand point are their blocking.

With these players I’d ask what do we expect them to do?

I’ve not seen a single person describing how to make this better.
Why should we, unqualified people, have to explain how to make it better? The club employs a manager to figure that out.

Ten Hag has been given adequate resource to recruit personnel who are more suitable. Not to mention his job is to also coach players to learn to play whatever system he chooses to implement. No manager gets to bring in 25 players who perfectly suit his vision, so how do other teams manage to play good football?

It's lame excuse after lame excuse. We can all see through it