Our midfield....can it ever work?

bosnian_red

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Needs a defensive midfielder next to a playmaker/controller from deep. Would happily sell Pogba and sign Locatelli and Rice for the midfield duo behind Bruno, and make Fred and McTominay the depth players.
 

Walters_19_MuFc

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I agree we could do with a dictator in the middle. Someone to get on the ball and control the tempo.

That being said, our midfield dominated Villareal with a pivot of McTominay and Pogba - a possession-based side, who are 4th in La Liga with an average possession of 54.3% this season. Some might argue that they allowed us to have the ball as there have been quite a few games this season where we've struggled to break down low blocks.

Now, this is where our front four come into it. In a 4231, all you want is your pivot to recycle the ball and keep the ball moving, which I feel our midfielders do well. No great, but good enough, in my opinion. That being said, apart from Pogba, we lack someone who can switch play, which is massive when playing against compact teams.

Moving onto our front four, the wide areas consists of wingers such as Rashford, Greenwood, James, who can sometimes heavily rely on space behind, which we simply don't have against a team who plays a low block. Therefore, what we do need are wide playmakers - players who can drift into the half-spaces and look to create.

Actually, I felt we saw a difference when playing someone like Pogba on the left, as opposed to Rashford, especially against the defensive sides, where he could look to play those cute passes down the sides. Goals against Spurs and Roma spring to mind, where he was heavily involved. Don't get me wrong, Rashford has the ability to do this but he's much more dangerous when running in behind.

Going forward, if we're going to continue to play a 4231, which I think we should, we should be looking to purchase wide playmakers, as opposed to wingers. This is why I'd be very happy if we sign Sancho. Statistically, Sancho is 6th in Europe in terms of key passes (2.6). Along with that, he has the 10th most assists (11) - one behind our top creator Bruno, who played 1000 minutes more.

Don't want to make this into a Sancho post because I know we have a specific thread for that but going forward, those are the type of players we need, in my opinion. Having seen Amad a few times, I feel he will be one of those players, too.

In turn, this could potentially put less reliance on our midfielders to create and instead just play at a quick tempo.

I definitely agree we need a midfielder who can dictate, though. Knowing when to quicken up and slow down a game is massive and we currently don't have one of those players.
 

lefty_jakobz

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We need a midfielder who can dictate the play someone like Thiago who went to Liverpool, or a Kroos. Do we not have anyone in the under-21s who we could use?
 

Rozay

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On this can anyone remember a Wolves game where the midfield 3 was Matic, Pogba and Bruno? This game is a classic example of what is wrong with our midfield . We played Telles at LB and Matic was used to protect him a lot. Ended up playing most the night at LCB so this left Pogba and Bruno in midfield. The problem here was Bruno doesn’t play in midfield and instead played all night up front leaving Pogba alone in midfield with no one to pass to or work with and he was getting dominated. Now eventually Ole brought on Shaw and freed Matic which in turn turned the tide of the game for us.

Now we are all quick to blame Fred and McT who granted aren’t the best but it’s made doubly harder when there aren’t options infront of you to work with to create angles and opportunities other than Hollywood passes. The whole team needs to learn to play at a better tempo when moving the ball around which will be achieved by players being in positions to receive the ball. Also learning not every pass has to be a killer pass would help many of them.
It’s quite common for us to have just one player in central midfield, certainly was last season when we played Matic, Pogba and Bruno as you said.

We need a midfield 3 that is an engine, not there to be match winners. I think that is the psychology of our fans though. It used to be ‘team need the midfield to chip in with goals’ to midfielders being judged primarily on them. What ever happened to good old fashioned ‘midfielding’!
 

Rozay

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I agree we could do with a dictator in the middle. Someone to get on the ball and control the tempo.

That being said, our midfield dominated Villareal with a pivot of McTominay and Pogba - a possession-based side, who are 4th in La Liga with an average possession of 54.3% this season. Some might argue that they allowed us to have the ball as there have been quite a few games this season where we've struggled to break down low blocks.

Now, this is where our front four come into it. In a 4231, all you want is your pivot to recycle the ball and keep the ball moving, which I feel our midfielders do well. No great, but good enough, in my opinion. That being said, apart from Pogba, we lack someone who can switch play, which is massive when playing against compact teams.

Moving onto our front four, the wide areas consists of wingers such as Rashford, Greenwood, James, who can sometimes heavily rely on space behind, which we simply don't have against a team who plays a low block. Therefore, what we do need are wide playmakers - players who can drift into the half-spaces and look to create.

Actually, I felt we saw a difference when playing someone like Pogba on the left, as opposed to Rashford, especially against the defensive sides, where he could look to play those cute passes down the sides. Goals against Spurs and Roma spring to mind, where he was heavily involved. Don't get me wrong, Rashford has the ability to do this but he's much more dangerous when running in behind.

Going forward, if we're going to continue to play a 4231, which I think we should, we should be looking to purchase wide playmakers, as opposed to wingers. This is why I'd be very happy if we sign Sancho. Statistically, Sancho is 6th in Europe in terms of key passes (2.6). Along with that, he has the 10th most assists (11) - one behind our top creator Bruno, who played 1000 minutes more.

Don't want to make this into a Sancho post because I know we have a specific thread for that but going forward, those are the type of players we need, in my opinion. Having seen Amad a few times, I feel he will be one of those players, too.

In turn, this could potentially put less reliance on our midfielders to create and instead just play at a quick tempo.

I definitely agree we need a midfielder who can dictate, though. Knowing when to quicken up and slow down a game is massive and we currently don't have one of those players.
The problem is that as you say, we have a ‘front 4’ when it needs to be a ‘front 3’. A top level midfield in the current game needs at least 3 in there, and top managers are often trying to even increase that to 4. This creates passing options, which when done at speed, is very difficult to defend.
 

MadMike

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Needs a defensive midfielder next to a playmaker/controller from deep. Would happily sell Pogba and sign Locatelli and Rice for the midfield duo behind Bruno, and make Fred and McTominay the depth players.
I don't see the point of a sitting DM if you have a deep playmaker. For example the "DM" at Chelsea is Kante but he goes to press for the ball while Jorginho, the playmaker, sits deeper as last line. Rice is not a presser and I find hima bit limited on the ball.

If you go for Locatelli to playmake, might as well have a Fred or McTominay next to them. Or, if you want to updage on them, Kessie.
 

bosnian_red

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I don't see the point of a sitting DM if you have a deep playmaker. For example the "DM" at Chelsea is Kante but he goes to press for the ball while Jorginho, the playmaker, sits deeper as last line. Rice is not a presser and I find hima bit limited on the ball.

If you go for Locatelli to playmake, might as well have a Fred or McTominay next to them. Or, if you want to updage on them, Kessie.
I mean more a passer who is comfortable deeper. Someone who can dictate tempo of games. Basically like a Kroos/Modric and Casemiro midfield pairing. We need control and passing, Rice is solid and safe on the ball but not creative, whereas Locatelli can control and be a playmaker from the middle of the pitch and just be a roaming playmaker if you will. Pogba isn't good enough positionally or defensively to handle that role, so I don't think he'd even work next to someone like Rice in a midfield 2 (but there would be a chance tbf).

Basically, we need both defensively solidity and control/ball progression from our midfield two. Locatelli isn't good enough defensively or that type of player to hold the midfield, neither is Fred or McTominay. Locatelli next to Rice would get a very solid midfield base to cover for a very attacking front 3 and then Bruno who is a hard worker as a 10, while still having the playmaking and passing from deep. Keep in mind we'll likely play a lineup like:

Henderson
Wan Bissaka Maguire Torres? Shaw
??? ???
Sancho? Bruno Rashford
Cavani​

Or Greenwood ahead of Cavani as it's not instant anyway. But they are very advanced wide players so we need the midfield duo to be more positionally astute. Locatelli is much more adventurous/energetic than Jorginho, so it'd balance out a player like Rice just fine. Put Fred there and players would just waltz through our midfield with easy since neither Fred nor locatelli are very good at stopping runners, and McTominay isn't a holding midfielder so again, wouldn't be enough solidity overall.
 

MadMike

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@bosnian_red I just fundamentally disagree with your assertions.

Locatelli is fine defensively. He wouldn't be the ball winner, that would be Fred most likely or perhaps another highly dynamic ball-winner. Locatelli can be the Jorginho or Kroos, the deepest player who is a playmaker and keeps the shape. Neither of those is amazing defensively but does enough work from that position. Their defensive numbers are comparable and if anything Locatelli scores higher than Kroos on all defensive categories while being close to Jorginho. Look at their defensive stats of the first 3 players below...



Kante, Casemiro and Fred, the bottom 3, are very clearly the ball winners as reflected by the stats. They are people who are good for pressing though (check the pressures), they are wasted sitting. And all three offer more in the offensive phase and transition than Rice does.

I'm very against the signing of Rice who I don't rate highly enough as an all-round midfielder. We don't need a player that just sits and defends unless we play to play Pogba net to them. And then again, I would still prefer someone more comfortable with the ball than Rice. Not to mention he would cost and arm and a leg just because he's an an English international 22yo who plays for an EPL team.

If Pogba is ill-disciplined to play the deep playmaker, let's get one and the other CM should be pressing and chasing the ball.
 

Walters_19_MuFc

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The problem is that as you say, we have a ‘front 4’ when it needs to be a ‘front 3’. A top level midfield in the current game needs at least 3 in there, and top managers are often trying to even increase that to 4. This creates passing options, which when done at speed, is very difficult to defend.
When I said front four, I meant those who push on to attack.

I know you have your reservations about Bruno's possession play but he is very much a player who gets involved in the game. Could he look after the ball more? Yes, but I wouldn't say we struggle with passing options, especially not in our first or second phase, anyway. Actually, I'd say our approach play is ok. It could be better but we generally keep the ball well. Oftentimes, we struggle when we get into the final third. We fail to use overloads correctly, especially down the right, and because of that, we fail to get down the side of teams.

As for the bit where you mentioned, 'top managers increasing to four', this is why I feel we looked better with Pogba at the left attacking midfielder. This allowed us to create a midfield box if you want, thus having more control of the game. This is why I mentioned opting for wide playmakers, as opposed to wingers, or at the very least having one there.
 

Walters_19_MuFc

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@bosnian_red I just fundamentally disagree with your assertions.

Locatelli is fine defensively. He wouldn't be the ball winner, that would be Fred most likely or perhaps another highly dynamic ball-winner. Locatelli can be the Jorginho or Kroos, the deepest player who is a playmaker and keeps the shape. Neither of those is amazing defensively but does enough work from that position. Their defensive numbers are comparable and if anything Locatelli scores higher than Kroos on all defensive categories while being close to Jorginho. Look at their defensive stats of the first 3 players below...



Kante, Casemiro and Fred, the bottom 3, are very clearly the ball winners as reflected by the stats. They are people who are good for pressing though (check the pressures), they are wasted sitting. And all three offer more in the offensive phase and transition than Rice does.

I'm very against the signing of Rice who I don't rate highly enough as an all-round midfielder. We don't need a player that just sits and defends unless we play to play Pogba net to them. And then again, I would still prefer someone more comfortable with the ball than Rice. Not to mention he would cost and arm and a leg just because he's an an English international 22yo who plays for an EPL team.

If Pogba is ill-disciplined to play the deep playmaker, let's get one and the other CM should be pressing and chasing the ball.
Great post!
 

Rozay

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When I said front four, I meant those who push on to attack.

I know you have your reservations about Bruno's possession play but he is very much a player who gets involved in the game. Could he look after the ball more? Yes, but I wouldn't say we struggle with passing options, especially not in our first or second phase, anyway. Actually, I'd say our approach play is ok. It could be better but we generally keep the ball well. Oftentimes, we struggle when we get into the final third. We fail to use overloads correctly, especially down the right, and because of that, we fail to get down the side of teams.

As for the bit where you mentioned, 'top managers increasing to four', this is why I feel we looked better with Pogba at the left attacking midfielder. This allowed us to create a midfield box if you want, thus having more control of the game. This is why I mentioned opting for wide playmakers, as opposed to wingers, or at the very least having one there.
As much as Bruno’s possession play, I have issues with his positional play. Perhaps I’m old fashioned, but I see a 10 as creating the extra body in midfield. Credit to Bruno, he is certainly an extra body when we are out of possession, as he will do his bit to try and win it back, but when we have the ball - he is getting in position to be ‘found’. I remember during the EL final after about 15/20 mins the commentator said ‘look at how far he’s come back to get involved. He had to go looking for it’. To me, that’s the game. He should go looking for it. Always presenting a pass to the player on the ball, not a 20 yard pass, but a 5-7 yard one. I get that he wants to get the ball in the dangerous areas, but we need to work our way into those areas.

So before I really begin with usage of the ball, I just think he should be an extra body and get on it more in linking and building play. Waiting way ahead of the midfield in the hope that McFred can sort it all out behind you is asking for trouble.

Pogba playing from the left gave us something extra in the middle, but it also took something away elsewhere. Realistically, the 10 should be really in there making it a 3. I do like wide playmakers, but to me, they work best in a passing team. Such teams cannot get enough playmakers, to the extent where they’d often even sacrifice their 9 for an additional one. I don’t think that team is us, especially with McFred starting at the base, so us moving the 11 inside doesn’t really allow us to dominate possession against top sides anyway, as the rest of the box isn’t best suited to doing so.

I just don’t like the midfield area, and I couldn’t care less if both Pogba and Bruno left and we started again personally. Bit it seems Ole and I have different values regarding a top level midfield, so I don’t get the impression that he’s trying to build the sort of midfield that I would. Even though they may be seen as inferior players, for example, I’d take Kovacic and Saul over Bruno and Pogba in a 3 man midfield. Far less match winning contribution, but far more high level nuts and bolts ‘midfielding’. For me, unless we play a 433, I’m happy for Pogba to go, and if it would allow us to play something closer to a 433, I’m happy for Bruno to go.
 

UNITED ACADEMY

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Signing Varane or top CB could transform our current defense to the same level as the other top club and signing Sancho could transform our current attack to the same level as the other top club. I don’t see the available midfield option out there could transform our midfield to the same level as the other top club. This is probably why we are prioritising Sancho and top CB first and our playing style relies more on the quality of our ball playing CBs and front four.
 

bosnian_red

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@bosnian_red I just fundamentally disagree with your assertions.

Locatelli is fine defensively. He wouldn't be the ball winner, that would be Fred most likely or perhaps another highly dynamic ball-winner. Locatelli can be the Jorginho or Kroos, the deepest player who is a playmaker and keeps the shape. Neither of those is amazing defensively but does enough work from that position. Their defensive numbers are comparable and if anything Locatelli scores higher than Kroos on all defensive categories while being close to Jorginho. Look at their defensive stats of the first 3 players below...



Kante, Casemiro and Fred, the bottom 3, are very clearly the ball winners as reflected by the stats. They are people who are good for pressing though (check the pressures), they are wasted sitting. And all three offer more in the offensive phase and transition than Rice does.

I'm very against the signing of Rice who I don't rate highly enough as an all-round midfielder. We don't need a player that just sits and defends unless we play to play Pogba net to them. And then again, I would still prefer someone more comfortable with the ball than Rice. Not to mention he would cost and arm and a leg just because he's an an English international 22yo who plays for an EPL team.

If Pogba is ill-disciplined to play the deep playmaker, let's get one and the other CM should be pressing and chasing the ball.
I don't disagree with you on Locatelli at all, that's exactly how I see him being, a bit more of an all rounder but someone who can by the playmaker but also keep his shape and do his bit defensively while providing mainly on the ball. I disagree that Fred would be a good enough partner to him, as I think the midfield would get bypassed like nothing, but I also disagree that Casemiro would be all that different to Rice. You mention the pressures, well Rice ranks ahead of Casemiro in both pressures in the defensive 3rd and in the midfield 3rd of the pitch. Neither really do anything in the attacking 3rd with it (unlike Fred).

Here's a comparison with pretty much most relevant midfielding stats you could look at from FBref and how they stack up (Casemiro is past his best now, but going back to 17/18 and comparing only la liga midfielders, his strengths are just more pronounced like more pressing and better passing, but still not too dissimilar from Rice). Of course, it's very hard to compare a ball winner for West Ham and one for Real Madrid in terms of some stats, but all the same, the roles aren't too dissimilar. Rice provides a lot more of running with the ball and moving up the pitch with it than Casemiro does, though perhaps that's just because Casemiro lays it off to Kroos or Modric more and Rice drives forward with it decently well. Passing wise the difference between them statistically speaking is pretty negligible.

The playmaking or passing isn't necessarily a strength for either, but both are safe and smart on the ball and definitely pass the minimum level needed to make the midfield work, and otherwise are in there for the steel, the protection in midfield because otherwise, Kroos and Modric would get bypassed way too easily and the defence would just be vulnerable. It would be similar with Locatelli and Bruno, if not more so with Bruno being a pure 10. Add in that assuming we buy Sancho (or mainly anyone we put there), don't really offer all that much defensively, I think it's vital to have enough steel and protection to keep things balanced in midfield, and Rice definitely fits the bill. I don't think he's going to happen as the price would be ridiculous and they are in Europe now so he won't want to leave, but generally a defensive midfielder is just something that is absolutely vital for us IMO.
 

amolbhatia50k

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Our midfield won't work until it's got players in there who have both ability on and off the ball. Pogba and Bruno are both creative outlets but not midfielders and the ones who are - Fred, Mctominay and Matic - offer very little in terms of passing, playmaking and press resistance.

That's why I don't think we just need a destroyer to shield the defense considering there's such little quality passing happening in the buildup phase of our play. For me, the ability to pick the ball of the CBs and initiate an attack - that's even more lacking in this team than pure defensive nous.
 

roonster09

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When I said front four, I meant those who push on to attack.

I know you have your reservations about Bruno's possession play but he is very much a player who gets involved in the game. Could he look after the ball more? Yes, but I wouldn't say we struggle with passing options, especially not in our first or second phase, anyway. Actually, I'd say our approach play is ok. It could be better but we generally keep the ball well. Oftentimes, we struggle when we get into the final third. We fail to use overloads correctly, especially down the right, and because of that, we fail to get down the side of teams.

As for the bit where you mentioned, 'top managers increasing to four', this is why I feel we looked better with Pogba at the left attacking midfielder. This allowed us to create a midfield box if you want, thus having more control of the game. This is why I mentioned opting for wide playmakers, as opposed to wingers, or at the very least having one there.
Yeah, that's true. 'Bruno plays way ahead of the midfield' is exaggeration. He is involved in the build up play as much as any midfielder we have. Obviously he doesn't drop to build the play from CB position but he is available for pass more often than not.

Even going by average passes per 90 mins, there isn't much between him, Pogba and Fred.
 

UNITED ACADEMY

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It can work if we have someone who can play in that wide playmaker. That wide playmaker will provide extra player for passing option to help Bruno if he's being man marked.

If we sign either Sancho or Grealish to play in Pogba's role and shift Pogba to Fred's role, it has good potential.


On contrary, we didn't have that wide playmaker vs Villareal and vs Leeds. Our midfield became less effective. A ball playing centre back is also needed to play the progressive pass to our playmaker. Probably why we are focussing on Sancho and a new CB over midfielder.
 

UpWithRivers

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It can work if we have someone who can play in that wide playmaker. That wide playmaker will provide extra player for passing option to help Bruno if he's being man marked.

If we sign either Sancho or Grealish to play in Pogba's role and shift Pogba to Fred's role, it has good potential.


On contrary, we didn't have that wide playmaker vs Villareal and vs Leeds. Our midfield became less effective. A ball playing centre back is also needed to play the progressive pass to our playmaker. Probably why we are focussing on Sancho and a new CB over midfielder.
All I see is one of our midfielders surrounded by 4,5,6 of theirs. Its all well and good having an extra playmaker in attack but we have to get them the ball.
 

UNITED ACADEMY

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All I see is one of our midfielders surrounded by 4,5,6 of theirs. Its all well and good having an extra playmaker in attack but we have to get them the ball.
By having Bruno who often drop deep, a deep playmaker, and that wide playmaker to drift inside, we pretty much have 3 midfielders which neglect the worry of being surrounded by the opposition players. This is also why it's important to have very good ball playing centre back who can carry the ball, find players, and play the ball to the playmakers instead of being coward who waste their time passing the ball across the defense.

The Villarreal game was a prime example of how much we missed Maguire and how much we missed that wide playmaker. Maguire ability to be able to invite pressure will release one of their player to go at him and if they don't go at him then he can just dribble and carry the ball forward which often we see him does that.

That's why we are prioritising on Sancho and new ball playing CB.




 
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wolvored

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A tactical change to 4-1-4-1 with a DM anchor who can spray the passes to the upfield players would work well. We should look to spend big on this imo.
 

Rozay

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Signing Varane or top CB could transform our current defense to the same level as the other top club and signing Sancho could transform our current attack to the same level as the other top club. I don’t see the available midfield option out there could transform our midfield to the same level as the other top club. This is probably why we are prioritising Sancho and top CB first and our playing style relies more on the quality of our ball playing CBs and front four.
I think we need to stop looking for one-player transformations tbh. Of course, players improve us, but I’m not sure our current philosophy actually suits these hypothetical saviours.
 

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Garner and Jude Bellingham 12 months from now would be awesome. Or Carney Chukwuemeka instead of Bellingham but Villa would only sell for crazy money.

McT can come in when we need to go more defensive
 

Rozay

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Garner and Jude Bellingham 12 months from now would be awesome. Or Carney Chukwuemeka instead of Bellingham but Villa would only sell for crazy money.

McT can come in when we need to go more defensive
Hannibal is already here, and I think can be as good as Bellingham. Only we are bot Dortmund.
 

Adcuth

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The problem is that as you say, we have a ‘front 4’ when it needs to be a ‘front 3’. A top level midfield in the current game needs at least 3 in there, and top managers are often trying to even increase that to 4. This creates passing options, which when done at speed, is very difficult to defend.
This is why we should move to a 433. 1 DM and 2 8's. Depending on the opposition you can use multiple players in the 3 roles. Fred, mctominay, garner or any incoming signings as the DM. Bruno, pogba, Fred, mctominay, mejbri, donny as the 8's. So many variables. With sancho, greenwood, Rashford, Cavani and martial we have options for the front 3 too.
 

Rozay

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This is why we should move to a 433. 1 DM and 2 8's. Depending on the opposition you can use multiple players in the 3 roles. Fred, mctominay, garner or any incoming signings as the DM. Bruno, pogba, Fred, mctominay, mejbri, donny as the 8's. So many variables. With sancho, greenwood, Rashford, Cavani and martial we have options for the front 3 too.
I’m in agreement. I think the first step is to at least have 3 midfielders in close enough proximity to each other to work in unison both with and without the ball. Then we can start focusing on assembling midfielders who are actually good enough. But as a start, 3 midfielders in the actual midfield should give us the basis to control some football matches and build play.
 

Freeney

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Our midfield will never work with this 4231 formation we employ right now. Regardless If we buy a great number 6. The reason is that it’s to easy to man mark Bruno out of the game if he’s a number 10. And frankly he’s not a number 10, regardless of how many goals he has this season.
I’m astonished that Ole hasn’t tried the 433 yet.
 

UNITED ACADEMY

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I think we need to stop looking for one-player transformations tbh. Of course, players improve us, but I’m not sure our current philosophy actually suits these hypothetical saviours.
Of course it does. This is below how our current philosophy works. We tend to have one midfield to join as 3rd CB and one midfield plays as a deep playmaker. When both Bruno who often drop deep and that wide playmaker to drift inside, the purpose is to provide extra body in midfield and also a passing option. (When we played Matic, Pogba, and Bruno in 19/20, we used Martial to drop deep instead of wide playmaker but if we want our striker to get more involved in scoring goal then it’s necessary to have one of the wide player to drift inside to midfield as wide playmaker instead).

So shift Pogba to Fred’s role and buy Sancho or Grealish to play in Pogba’s role. And then buy a top ball playing centre back who can carry the ball and play the ball to the playmakers instead of being coward who waste their time passing the ball across the defense and can defend and win the ball back in one v one situation.

If you look at the Villareal, we are missing that wide playmaker to drift inside to provide more passing option in midfield and Maguire which a ball playing CB who can passing through the line, not afraid to carry/dribble forward the ball, and also ability to be able to invite pressure.

 

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I don't disagree with you on Locatelli at all, that's exactly how I see him being, a bit more of an all rounder but someone who can by the playmaker but also keep his shape and do his bit defensively while providing mainly on the ball. I disagree that Fred would be a good enough partner to him, as I think the midfield would get bypassed like nothing, but I also disagree that Casemiro would be all that different to Rice. You mention the pressures, well Rice ranks ahead of Casemiro in both pressures in the defensive 3rd and in the midfield 3rd of the pitch. Neither really do anything in the attacking 3rd with it (unlike Fred).
Again, we fundamentally disagree on some stuff. I'm not sure why you think a midfield with Fred and Locatelli would get bypassed like nothing. Fred has some of the best defensive stats for a midfielder like I posted. He's very hard to improve on from a defensive and ball-wining POV. We literally play with Fred and McTominay as our most defensive-minded midfield and we're never getting bypassed. Although we do have problems playing out of midfield sometimes, hence the suggestion for a playmaker. Locatelli isn't worse than McTominay at defending, not by any stretch (see table below). So again what makes you think that midfield is lightweight, what are you basing your assertion on?



Here's a comparison with pretty much most relevant midfielding stats you could look at from FBref and how they stack up (Casemiro is past his best now, but going back to 17/18 and comparing only la liga midfielders, his strengths are just more pronounced like more pressing and better passing, but still not too dissimilar from Rice). Of course, it's very hard to compare a ball winner for West Ham and one for Real Madrid in terms of some stats, but all the same, the roles aren't too dissimilar. Rice provides a lot more of running with the ball and moving up the pitch with it than Casemiro does, though perhaps that's just because Casemiro lays it off to Kroos or Modric more and Rice drives forward with it decently well. Passing wise the difference between them statistically speaking is pretty negligible.
I'm not impressed by the "carries the ball stat". I see that as a negative if anything, it carries the risk of being dispossessed like it happens with Pogba. Why would a ball winner need to carry the ball into the final 3rd especially when surrounded by playmakers Kroos and Modric. That would be bad coaching. West Ham play with two DMs in Rice and Soucek so they don't have a playmaker so maybe that explains Rice's runs. Casemiro however has significantly more impact in the final 3rd with his passing and the impressive amount of goals he notches for a DM. I wouldn't really see Rice as an all-rounder based on his carries stat.

I'm just more keen to pick a very decent ball player like Locatelli or Kessie to improve our circulation, than to pick an overpriced sitting DM like Rice. I don't really think planning to sign Rice to play him next to Pogba and Bruno is a good idea. Not least because there's huge uncertainties over Pogba staying, as well as his ability to play a disciplined CM game in tough fixtures against pressing opposition.
 
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bosnian_red

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Again, we fundamentally disagree on some stuff. I'm not sure why you think a midfield with Fred and Locatelli would get bypassed like nothing. Fred has some of the best defensive stats for a midfielder like I posted. He's very hard to improve on from a defensive and ball-wining POV. We literally play with Fred and McTominay as our most defensive-minded midfield and we're never getting bypassed. Although we do have problems playing out of midfield sometimes, hence the suggestion for a playmaker. Locatelli isn't worse than McTominay at defending, not by any stretch (see table below). So again what makes you think that midfield is lightweight, what are you basing your assertion on?



On the bolded steatement above...No he doesn't, not based on the stats you posted. Casemiro has literally double the pressures in the middle of the pitch. I wouldn't call anything in the defensive 3rd as "pressing" that's just defending to prevent shots on goal now. Plus Real Madrid will naturally control games more than West Ham, so there's be less opportunity to ramp defensive stats up on the defensive 3rd for Casemiro. You're literally making the exact opposite point in the next paragraph (see bolded below) saying how Casemiro is better at passing and pressing :lol:



I'm not impressed by the "carries the ball stat". I see that as a negative if anything, it carries the risk of being dispossessed like it happens with Pogba. Why would a ball winner need to carry the ball into the final 3rd especially when surrounded by playmakers Kroos and Modric. That would be bad coaching. West Ham play with two DMs in Rice and Soucek so they don't have a playmaker so maybe that explains Rice's runs. Casemiro however has significantly more impact in the final 3rd with his passing and the impressive amount of goals he notches for a DM. I wouldn't really see Rice as an all-rounder based on his carries stat.

I'm just more keen to pick a very decent ball player like Locatelli or Kessie to improve our circulation, than to pick an overpriced sitting DM like Rice. I don't really think planning to sign Rice to play him next to Pogba and Bruno is a good idea. Not least because there's huge uncertainties over Pogba staying, as well as his ability to play a disciplined CM game in tough fixtures against pressing opposition.
Fred is very good at front foot pressing in the attacking phase but really not when it comes to sitting and positionally organizing things. Locatelli is decent defensively, but like I said, a big problem for us right now is defensive solidity in the middle as well as the control and creativity. McTominay and Fred as a pair have left us short defensively pretty often, though it's better than Pogba in there, because neither are amazing defensively. Not sure what stats you're looking at for Fred, because he ranks in the 13th percentile for midfielders in Europe in terms of quantity of times he gets dribbled past. That's a big problem, and it's easy to notice that when we watch him. He gets stuck in and runs around a lot, but he vacated the middle of the pitch and gets blown past very easily.

Also you are misreading the stats. Rice is marginally ahead of Casemiro in both defensive 3rd pressures and midfield 3rd pressures. Casemiro is past his peak, so I mentioned as a comparison, Casemiro from 2017/18 in his peak had a similar graph to now, just with higher percentiles compared to himself now in terms of things like pressing and passing. None of it too dissimilar to Rice's profile, and no reason to believe he wouldn't follow a very similar growth playing with just better players and a more front foot system. And defensive pressing is important of course. We aren't signing a holding midfielder to press way high up the pitch. They should be there to keep everything organized and not make us so vulnerable to opposing attackers while giving us at least a solid base of passing and security from deep, which he is capable of. We need that extra defensive base because our wide players do pretty much feck all defensively, same with Sancho, so you ask a lot more from your midfielders defensively.

And you mention you don't like the carries with ball stat (fine), but Rice literally gets dispossessed less often than Casemiro per 90 minutes, so again, kind of not reading what the stats are saying in that Rice is decent enough on the ball and doesn't give it away cheaply. Fred for example ranks 27 and 29th percentile for miscontrols and being dispossessed for midfielders in Europe, while McTominay is 18th and 35th percentile. That amount of give aways is just not what you want from your 2 deepest midfielders.

I agree that Pogba isn't the future, but I just think Rice would be a brilliant long term signing for us and really sort out a long term need. You get that solidity in midfield by playing a quality true #8 who can control games and playmake from deep like Locatelli, and you partner him with a more solid holding midfielder to help balance the fact that any 2 of Rashford or Sancho or Greenwood or Amad or Martial will do pretty much feck all defensively. Rice balances that, while still being decent enough on the ball.

I also don't give a single feck about goalscoring/shooting stats from a defensive midfielder tbh. Nobody buys Kante for his goals or creativity. It's because he's a world class defensive box to box midfielder who breaks up the game amazingly, is impossible to dribble past and is safe and secure on the ball so he won't recklessly give it away. You sort out the holding midfielder properly like City had with Fernandinho, and you can automatically just attack a lot more consistently throughout a game as you win the ball back more frequently, you'll be less vulnerable to counters, and you're true difference makers in attack and focus more on what they're good at (while still doing their bit, just not harming the team because they aren't good defensively).
 

devilish

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I can't recall us having a weaker CM pair to McT and Fred. Combined they have as much talent as one of Paul Scholes's toes
 

Ander herrera the warrior

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I think once we buy a cb to partner maguire, we will see more of Donny and either one of Scott Mctominay/ Fred. I think the reason why we bought Donny is to play in that midfield 2 although he can play as a 10 as well. His passing is good and he would be able to transition the ball fast from our defence to the attackers.
 

devilish

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I think that our centre midfield is the result of two mistakes. First of all its the result of a weak defence which meant that we had to rely heavily on McFred to try and close the gaps. These two players are as average as can be but they do run and win the ball a lot. Secondly it was us signing Pogba. Pogba is a fantastic player but he doesn't score enough goals as a no 10 and the only way we can get the best out of him in a deeper role is to play him alongside a WC DM.