Midfield band-aid idea: Wan-Bissaka as a defensive inverted fullback

deleon

Full Member
Joined
May 16, 2008
Messages
732
TL;DR:



In the time-honoured tradition of armchair tacticians with fanciful ideas, here is mine. There is no easy solution to our midfield problems, but I think they can be mitigated in the short term.

(Spoilers are added for readability if you just want to get the gist, not because they contain any footballing secrets. In fact some of the arguments are trite.)

The why:

- Our players often forms two separated and incoherent blocks.
- The defensive half (including the midfield pair) struggle to get the ball forward.
- The attacking half struggle to contribute defensively and during the build up.
- This is not inherently bad if a team can be balanced in other ways, but we field too many attackers for this to be feasible.
- We are not good at linking the two blocks by physically occupying the space in-between, either through a midfielder advancing forward or an attacker dropping deep.
- We are also not good at advancing the ball by working the space with purpose and patience.
- So we resort to probing passes from deep, which require technique, imagination and a forgiving opposition.
- Pogba has the technical abilities for the third option, but he is also a liability in a double-pivot.
- Fred is a direct and risk-tolerant passer: the deeper whence he operates, the more wasteful his playmaking becomes; however, he can quicken the tempo if allowed to interplay more closely with forwards.
- Aimlessly keeping the ball is obviously not ideal, but sometimes we cannot even do that when we need to assert control.
- Our midfielders struggle when they are pressed.
- Whether we dominate possession or not often feels like a tactical decision by the opposition.
- The most frustrating games this season have not been those when we could not break down the defence, but those in which we are neither proactive in the attack nor reactive on the counter, and thus never even beginning to test the defence.
- We have been more vulnerable on the counter this season.
- The weakness has been the porous central midfield.
- This was understandable when we were experimenting with personnel, but even with Fred and McTominay, we still get overrun on the break.
- This is possibly a sign of tactical adaptation, but it remains to be seen.
- There is not much to say here: Fred and McTominay, once in position, are still reliable defensively compared to the alternatives.
- The pair only needs help during defensive transitions.
- Pogba and Van de Beek both struggle to protect the defence; fielding either would require additional cover.

The how:

- When defending, plays his normal role at right-back;
- Does not join the attack, either through overlap on the wing or underlap in the middle;
- Instead, runs in-field and acts as an auxiliary ball-winning midfielder;
- If on the ball, recycle possession with quick, unambitious passes;
- If off the ball, avail as a safe passing option;
- During defensive transitions, prioritise stopping the counter through the middle;
- If we are chasing a goal, attempt to win the ball back;
- If we are not chasing a goal, delay play until the midfielders are back in position, and then return to right-back.
- When defending, plays his normal role as one of two central midfielders;
- During attacking transitions (assuming no countering opportunity), focus on recycling possession until Wan-Bissaka arrives in midfield;
- Once numerical advantage is present, physically occupy the space between the two blocks, where he can afford to be more dynamic and robust;
- If the left forward is Pogba, then position more widely to avoid occupying the same space;
- During defensive transitions, press if we are chasing a goal; recover if we are not.
- When defending, plays his normal role as a central midfielder - his vulnerabilities here means this should be used sparingly;
- During attacking transitions, focus on directing the ball forward (if the opposition is already defensively organised, recycle possession until numerical advantage is present);
- In attack, has freedom to orchestrate play from deep or roam forward, similar to his role at Juventus and, occasionally, for France;
- During defensive transitions, press if we are chasing a goal; recover if we are not - this is the part he struggles with the most, so having an auxiliary defensive midfielder for this would yield the most benefit.
- This is slightly misleading, as he would still play his normal role;
- But he is drifting wide more frequently this season, so instead of both flanks, he would restrict his lateral movements to the right side only to make up for the loss of combination play;
- Does not have to provide Wan-Bissaka's overlaps;
- Does not have to do Wan-Bissaka's defending, but if he happens to be in the area...
- In general, the objective is to make Fernandes the extra man when playing against a three-men midfield.

The benefits:

- The no. 8 role (central midfielder with rear support) is more natural for both Fred and Pogba; this would allow either to play parts of the match in that role.
- Although still risky, this is the only way playing Pogba in a double-pivot is justifiable.
- Van de Beek's positioning and Matic's immobility would be less exposed if either player needs to fill in one of the midfield slots.
- Wan-Bissaka's pace and tackling often bail him out of trouble; they can be used more often in this hybrid role and somewhat compensate for his lack of experience there.
- Wan-Bissaka has good close control and rarely loses the ball when challenged; however, he does need space ahead of him which somewhat mitigates this point.
- The right-back area would no longer be a "kill-zone" for oppositions to initiate pressing.
- Out-numbering opponents in midfield can be a "cheat" to make us more press-resistant.
- Overloading might be the lowest form of creativity, but at least it is a form of creativity.
- If the midfielders cannot move the ball forward, we can at least move the midfield forward.
- The numerical advantage encourages rudimentary counter-pressing, so sustained spells of control will be easier to maintain.
- No attacking slot is sacrificed, so we can continue to field a top-heavy team in the short term.

The drawbacks:

- Wan-Bissaka's build-up play has improved this season; although it is still one of the more dispensable aspects of our attack, this would be unfair on the player.
- The lack of overlapping option makes it harder to field Greenwood, an inside-forward, on the right over a natural right-footer.
- The loss of width, though a conscious sacrifice, would make it harder to stretch play; whether we are currently doing that to any success is a different matter.
- Even if Wan-Bissaka tracks back as diligently as he does when he plays as an orthodox fullback, oppositions will target the area during transitions; whether that is necessarily a drawback is debatable.
- Defensive positioning is not Wan-Bissaka's strong suit, although it is not as bad as we sometimes exaggerate; he is not being asked to protect the defence in this role so that helps, although he will still be tested.
- A lot will be asked of Varane (and indirectly, Maguire), both mentally and physically during defensive transitions; he is probably the most suitable defender in the world for this, but it will be too much at times.
- This only makes some aspects of the team better some of the time; it is not a permanent solution, which can only be actual improvement of the midfield.

The alternatives:

A. Wan-Bissaka as an auxiliary centre-back: He stays back at all times and tucks in when we have the ball; one of Maguire or Varane steps up as the fourth midfielder; they are both competent passers of the ball but the exposure is riskier and more exploitable.
B. Shaw as the inverted fullback: He arguably already does a lot of underlapping when going forward; he actually can play penetrating passes and is good on the ball; however, with him in this role we lose his attacking play and width which are crucial at the moment.
 

Deery

Full Member
Joined
May 21, 2019
Messages
11,047
It would allow Barnes the run of the left wing can’t see it working against Leicester.
 

roonster09

Hercule Poirot of the scouting world
Scout
Joined
May 10, 2009
Messages
30,367
CM role needs lot of attributes than just running around and tackling players.
 

amolbhatia50k

Sneaky bum time - Vaccination status: dozed off
Joined
Nov 8, 2002
Messages
82,153
Location
india
The whole point of inverted fullbacks is to bring out the passing abilities of said fullback. AWB on the the hand...
 

villain

Hates Beyoncé
Joined
Apr 22, 2014
Messages
13,757
I actually think it would work but it still requires a CDM next to him who will do the majority of passing.
 

Wednesday at Stoke

Full Member
Joined
Feb 11, 2014
Messages
18,545
Location
København
Supports
Time Travel
This is one of the more obvious things that hasn't been tried yet. Him not overlapping can be compensated by Fernandes as usual roaming over the right wing.
 

Deery

Full Member
Joined
May 21, 2019
Messages
11,047
This is one of the more obvious things that hasn't been tried yet. Him not overlapping can be compensated by Fernandes as usual roaming over the right wing.
I don’t see how it’s obvious as Greenwood doesn’t track back and Wan Bissaka being in the middle would leave our left side completely open to the opposition, we would get slaughtered.
 

2 man midfield

Incestuous Modern Woman (Dumper!)
Joined
Sep 4, 2012
Messages
36,622
Location
?
We can barely get him to stand where he’s supposed to when playing right back. I don’t know if he’d be able to do the same thing twice.
 

Desert Eagle

Punjabi Dude
Joined
Sep 25, 2006
Messages
12,041
Appreciate the time you put into the post OP. It's an interesting idea that I can't really see it in practice. You list plenty of drawbacks yourself. I think his lack of intelligent positioning and below average passing will be a deal breaker.
 

Trequarista10

Full Member
Joined
Nov 27, 2020
Messages
767
I do quite like the idea and have had the same thought myself. AWB somehow offers nothing offensively, yet plays so high up that we get exposed on the counter regularly.

As mentioned though, his passing isn't really up to scratch. I don't think you need an inverted full back to be Pirlo, Kyle Walker has played the role pretty well despite previously being a bit of a kick and run merchant, but my instinct is that AWB wouldn't be able to adapt. Lindelof might be better suited. Another problems is you would need a right winger who keeps the width, which isn't Greenwood or Sancho's strong point.
 

Wednesday at Stoke

Full Member
Joined
Feb 11, 2014
Messages
18,545
Location
København
Supports
Time Travel
I don’t see how it’s obvious as Greenwood doesn’t track back and Wan Bissaka being in the middle would leave our left side completely open to the opposition, we would get slaughtered.
Wan Bissaka only has to tuck into midfield when the team is attacking and Pogba is pushing forward, if there's a counter, he's either already in the middle adding numbers or back in formation on the right side when defending.
 

Deery

Full Member
Joined
May 21, 2019
Messages
11,047
Wan Bissaka only has to tuck into midfield when the team is attacking and Pogba is pushing forward, if there's a counter, he's either already in the middle adding numbers or back in formation on the right side when defending.
Wasn’t there a game in the CL were Wan Bissaka tried to tuck in and was horribly exposed costing us a goal can’t remember who it was against.
 

harms

Shining Star of Paektu Mountain
Staff
Joined
Apr 8, 2014
Messages
23,765
Location
Moscow
To be fair I didn't expect Walker to develop into Pep's versatile sergeant... but even with that in mind, no. Currently we only have Shaw who can in theory play in that role, but we're too reliant on his overlaps as it is.
 

hobbers

Full Member
Joined
Jun 24, 2013
Messages
12,957
To be fair anything that gets him away from the right wing when we're on the ball is probably a good thing, the amount of attacks he ruins and the momentum he kills.

On the other hand, part of the reason I think we're so awful at conceding goals from our own set pieces is because the two players we keep back are AWB and Fred. AWB in particular has no positional sense and no composure when pressed, and so is a complete liability in the middle of the pitch.
 

Andersonson

Full Member
Joined
Jan 12, 2013
Messages
1,861
Location
Trondheim
This reeks football manager....

I genuinly belive that people think they are tacticans on a high level because they win at that football game.
 

Oranges038

Full Member
Joined
Oct 19, 2020
Messages
2,535
A band aid for a new midfielder would be a far better idea. Just need a song to go along with it.

Something along the lines of "Feed Ronnie's Goals .... let him something something something"

What's Sir Bob at these days?
 

Artimities

New Member
Newbie
Joined
Jul 13, 2015
Messages
521
Location
United States
I like his defense but he gets too far up the pitch and that’s a no no for us. The counter attack kills us.
 

DWelbz19

Correctly predicted Portugal to win Euro 2016
Joined
Oct 31, 2012
Messages
25,537
His positioning is probably his worst trait, and you want him to play in the one area where said trait is probably most important?

And that's without considering the other major weaknesses to his game.

Why are fans so obsessed with moving players totally out of position?
 

The Urban Goose

Full Member
Joined
Apr 19, 2019
Messages
626
We'd be better off getting Bob Geldof to host a Band Aid to raise funds to buy an actual midfielder.
 

Zen86

Full Member
Joined
Jul 1, 2007
Messages
11,088
Location
Sunny Manc
Wan Bissaka would shit the bed if he had the ball at his feet in the middle, with the opposition around him.
 

Abraxas

Full Member
Joined
Mar 6, 2021
Messages
1,083
I prefer it to the Lindelof idea as at least he has the legs to get near people in our defensive third which has been a problem in our play when defending opposition counters. If you basically accepted that he can only take the ball in some circumstances and allowed him to play this role it could be okay.

The problem is you then need a couple of exceptional players in the buildup to compensate which we already have a problem with, which this exacerbates. So I don't think it works as a solution to a problem, it might be something Fergie could pull off in an otherwise good team as a niche attempt.
 

Ish

Lights on for Luke
Joined
Mar 10, 2010
Messages
27,385
Location
Where fans' expectations are too high
Thanks for the effort and detail in the OP. Not sure why some are replying with snotty comments and remarks. It is, IMO, at least something some thought and effort was put into compared to some of the other shite posted on here.

On topic, yeah I think it leaves us too exposed on the right side. This is only worsened by AWB’s passing ability and positioning.
 

Andrew7582

New Member
Newbie
Joined
May 29, 2021
Messages
188
We don't keep the ball well enough to get away with that, City can do so because they are miles better at it than us.
 

SirAF

Ageist
Joined
Sep 28, 2003
Messages
35,303
Location
Thanks for the effort and detail in the OP. Not sure why some are replying with snotty comments and remarks. It is, IMO, at least something some thought and effort was put into compared to some of the other shite posted on here.

On topic, yeah I think it leaves us too exposed on the right side. This is only worsened by AWB’s passing ability and positioning.
Totally agree.

It has its obvious flaws, as has been pointed out - however, it was a pretty neat and creative idea.
 

Ish

Lights on for Luke
Joined
Mar 10, 2010
Messages
27,385
Location
Where fans' expectations are too high
Totally agree.

It has its obvious flaws, as has been pointed out - however, it was a pretty neat and creative idea.
How’ve you been bud? Hope all is well. Geez thinking back now, when was our actual last decent midfield pairing? During SAF’s days of Carrick and Scholes? :lol:

Considering the amount of managers appointed since, and the money spent, that’s quite staggering. Fellaini, Schneiderlin, BFS, Herrera, Matic, Pogba, Fred, DvB. That’s just off the top of my head. I’m sure I’m missing a couple more signed.
 
Joined
Jul 13, 2002
Messages
49,748
Location
Founder of IhateMakeleles.org and Gourcufffanboysa
Id have sworn he already plays that way ala Wes Brown in 2008. Because it is known he isn't one to over lap effectively. Id still say though the easiest solutions to our midfield issues lie in a settle starting pair. Plus the more defensive of the pivot being put on a programme coaching them how to defend the 80 yards square in front of the center halves and new the center circle. Without being drawn to the ball
 

dal

Full Member
Joined
Sep 20, 2013
Messages
1,395
Southgate probably has a better starting 11 than Pep.