Our record with our 'strongest midfield'

MadDogg

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I started looking into this for a post in the Pogba thread, but the results were interesting enough that I wanted to post them here as their own discussion.

Many fans over the last few years have felt our midfield balance has been all wrong, and put forward a number of different 'solutions' to that. The most common criticism was that Pogba should not be playing in a midfield two, and instead should be pushed into more of a free role with two more defensive midfielders behind him. In the past the most common combination that people wanted to see was Pogba-Matic-Herrera. The only two times we ever saw that combination get a proper run of games was towards the end of 17/18 (although Fellaini was also in there sometimes instead of Matic or Herrera) and after Ole came in. We remember both as some of our best periods but I wasn't sure if that was accurate or just what we wanted to remember, so I started looking into the stats. I'm only going into the league games, partly because cup games are all over the place in terms of opposition strength and partly because I can't be bothered doubling the games I need to look into.

In the two years that we had all three of Pogba, Matic and Herrera in the team, they played just 15 league games together. 12 wins, 2 draws and just the one loss. What's more, the loss and one draw came in the first two games they ever played together, which means in the next 13 games we had 12 wins and a draw. Raises the question why the hell didn't we see it more? It's literally up there with the form that City and Liverpool have showed over the last few years.

Of course Herrera then left at the end of 18/19, and I think most people replaced him in their 'ideal midfield' with Fred (I could be wrong with that but I feel it was a bit more wanted than having McTominay in there). Fred is a similar type of all-action player, probably a bit more of a playmaker from deep and better at passing long, whereas Herrera is better at passing through the centre and making an impact around the opposition box. Similar enough that it's the obvious replacement though. Pogba-Matic-Fred played six times in 18/19 for 3 wins and 3 draws, but that was Fred's first season while he was struggling massively with the English game so I don't think it's particularly relevant to the discussion. He came back a completely different player the following season but we've never seen that combination step onto the field at the same time again since.

We then bought Bruno in January. With Pogba injured at the time, Bruno slotted into that role and we did actually see Bruno-Matic-Fred in four games. We won three and drew one*. Pogba then returned and Fred was dropped, and although we kept playing well for a few games and continued winning until the end of the season, our play definitely did start dropping off. How much of that was the Pogba-Fred switch and how much of that was just general tiredness with all the games in short succession after the lockdown, nobody knows.

*Edit: Actually, I just realised that the Everton draw had all three of Fred, Matic and McTominay playing. So Bruno-Matic-Fred was three wins in three games.

That's where we are today. If we take the two more defensive midfielders anchoring with one attacking midfielder with a free role (Pogba) or outright #10 (Bruno) as our preferred system, we've only played our strongest midfield 19 times over the course of three seasons. Literally 1/6th of the time. And in those 19 games we've won 15, drawn 3 and lost 1. If we maintained that over an entire season it's 96 points, right up there with the insane pace that City and Liverpool have been going at.

There's two big questions coming from these stats. One looking backwards at what has been, and one looking forward into the future.

Firstly, if this has worked so well in the past why haven't we played it more often? Partly injury of course as Pogba and to a lesser extent Matic have spent some time injured, but still. If us fans can see something should in theory be our best and the stats themselves show that it is our best, why have we wasted three seasons of trying other things, most notably Pogba in a midfield two next to a fairly slow and immobile Matic? Surely we should have tried to build on having those two more defensive midfielders providing the solid base and Pogba in a more free role, something that has proven to be our most successful tactic over that period of time? Or is it all just a coincidence that we've had so much success with it and I'm seeing too much into it?

Secondly, now that we've signed Bruno and he's done so well, how do we go forward in the future? Do we continue trying to fit both Pogba and Bruno in the same team as we have been doing? Maybe it'll come good, after all they did play well together when we first came back from lockdown last season. Do we continue trying to play them both together but change the system, perhaps to a diamond midfield so we can fit all four of Bruno, Pogba, Matic and Fred? Now that we've signed Telles maybe we can do that, although we'd still be struggling to get width on the right. Or do we cut our losses and let one of them go (almost certainly Pogba) and look to go back to that more solid base with the other in front of it? And of course we now have VDB in the reckoning. He seems to be another more attacking midfielder so it's difficult to see how he fits in as a starter, but he did play deeper earlier in his career with Ajax so maybe he can take one of those two roles?
 
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He'sRaldo

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It's all about balance. 1 defensive, 1 box to box, 1 attacking. The key mistake has been thinking that Pogba is box to box, when in reality he's attacking. Meaning that our midfield setup has usually included 1 defensive, 2 attacking, and still does currently. That's not to say such a setup can't work; with very high level of organization and the right player profiles it's possible to play 1 defensive mid with 2 attacking mids. But we don't see that level of organization very often.

It's ironic because part of the reason Ole got the job was him freeing Pogba in the honeymoon period, and moving away from Mourinho's blasted double pivot. Unfortunately Ole's ended up making the same mistake Mourinho did by playing a 4-2-3-1 with Pogba very deep.

I don't know why our managers thus far have been so enamoured with putting Pogba as one of the defensive mids in a double pivot, especially when he's done so well for them further forward. I suspect it's because Pogba is often a 'cheat' for the buildup play, as he has so many options to progress the play individually that the coach need not worry about going into minute detail with the buildup when Pogba is playing deeper.

Regarding the Bruno and Donny transfers, I did think at the time that they were the wrong profile of player to target. We still play without that top class Herrera replacement and the lack of balance shows. I can understand the Bruno signing since it was fairly successful, but then signing Donny afterwards made little sense.

Going forward I'd like to see how Bruno fares alongside Fred/Scott and Matic, with Pogba coming in for Bruno as competition. Although honestly I don't know how much difference it would make, since the shape of the midfield does matter a lot and Ole seems wed to his double pivot. A move to a 4-3-3 would benefit everyone involved but if Ole hasn't done that even with some of the very poor results we suffered last season, I don't see him doing it now.

As it was with Mourinho, it seems to be another case where we end up asking ourselves how the manager can't see something which seems to us to be blindingly obvious.
 

MadDogg

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Going forward I'd like to see how Bruno fares alongside Fred/Scott and Matic, with Pogba coming in for Bruno as competition. Although honestly I don't know how much difference it would make, since the shape of the midfield does matter a lot and Ole seems wed to his double pivot. A move to a 4-3-3 would benefit everyone involved but if Ole hasn't done that even with some of the very poor results we suffered last season, I don't see him doing it now.
I think 4231 is fine with the right players. It never made any sense previously because we didn't have anybody suited to the #10 role, so why we wasted so much time trying to play Lingard/Mata/Pereira in that position instead of playing Herrera/Fred as an extra midfielder (and therefore pushing Pogba into a more attacking role in a 433) I'll never know. The stats show we were far better with the latter option than the former.

Now that we've signed Bruno it makes more sense as he is a proper #10. It's just difficult to see how Bruno and Pogba play together. It might work - overall our record with them is still very good. It has been getting worse as time goes on, but to be fair there have been unusual circumstances. First lots of games without a break after lockdown, then barely any preseason combined with Pogba having Covid while we are playing teams who got a proper preseason. Those circumstances are almost certainly making it look worse than what it really is, so maybe it'll start working again once things settle down a bit. It's worrying though and I'd be lying if I said I was confident.

I should also note that Bruno did seem to be dropping deeper and helping the midfield out more when he first got here. As last season wore on he definitely started staying upfront more often and leaving the two midfielders by themselves. Don't know whether that was a tactical decision by the management or whether Bruno stopped doing it by himself (maybe tiredness, maybe confidence). Against Sevilla he dropped a bit deeper again and we looked much better as a result, even though we ended up losing that match. I can't say I've taken much notice of it this season so I'm not sure how he's going in that regard.
 

Web of Bissaka

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MBruno +W (%)D (%)L (%)GF+GA-GDGS/gamesGC/games
1.Matic-Pogba8 (67)2 (17)2 (17)2613132.171.08
2.Matic-Fred4 (67)1 (17)1 (17)9361.50.5
3.Fred-Pogba2 (67)01 (33)12-10.330.67
4.Pogba-McT1 (50)01 (50)23-111.5
5.Fred-McT*4 (80)1 (20)01521330.4
* = 2 cup games vs very weak teams where they hit 5 goals each


M1 definitely helps us score more (breaking down low blocks) but it also give us more risks in conceding goals (our defense becoming weaker). This midfield may be our best attacking midfield.
M2 is a lot more balance and arguably a lot more stable.
M3 lacks balance and control, it's a mess but we may not have enough games to judge it better. Possibly Ole tried this a lot in training and it was so bad, which may explained why they don't test it out more often in games.
M4 is also similarly so bad, and again Ole may have tested this out plenty in trainings, thus not many games.
M5 surprisingly have good stats, but two very easy games really helped boost its stats so it's difficult to know for sure, but the other 3 games we can see how balance it is.

Bruno
Fred -- McT​

Midfield 5 is the best?
The thing is with both Fred and McT doing the sweeping up of midfield and helping up the defenses, Bruno can focus more on attacking and creating so no need for him to drop back for far too much. Similarly our three forwards especially our two wingers don't need to drop back to help defense too much and instead can focus more on attacking and running into spaces. Overall, in theory it will lead to an improvement in our attacks. Our fragile defense can also have more composure with good supports from Fred and McTominay.

Interestingly Ole rarely try Matic + McTominay at all. I think only few mins in one game so far.

Conclusion?
Matic + Pogba = Best Attacking - Worse Defense
Matic + Fred = Best Balance
Fred + McTominay = Best Defense (+ Best Attacking? so similarly Best Balance?)

Pogba + Fred/McT = Rubbish

In the 4231 system, we should only play Pogba when we're breaking low blocks. Facing teams good in high press is a high risks. So a sub role for Pogba is perhaps best since we're insisting on using this system and obsess in putting him there. Against top teams, either one of Matic+Fred or Fred+McTominay is a more better stable midfield, thus more reliable.

We don't have one strongest midfield line-up.
 
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Falcow

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Great initial post and then reply.

Ultimately Pogba and Bruno are not working together and it has to be one of or the other. Personally I would like to see Fred, DVB and Bruno in a midfield three, this means Pogba would need to leave as he is clearly better than being a back up (wouldn't have a huge issue if Pogba played instead of Bruno but Bruno's output is very good even when playing poorly as he currently is). I think Fred/DVB/Bruno is a very dynamic/high energy midfield and is exactly what we are missing.

Defensive midfielder is over rated, Fergie claimed that there was no such thing. A midfielder needs a lot of qualities, not just an ability to sit in front of the back 4. Two box to box type midfielders are better than one in my view. I think Fred offers a lot defensively anyway.
 

sp_107

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Great initial post and then reply.

Ultimately Pogba and Bruno are not working together and it has to be one of or the other. Personally I would like to see Fred, DVB and Bruno in a midfield three, this means Pogba would need to leave as he is clearly better than being a back up (wouldn't have a huge issue if Pogba played instead of Bruno but Bruno's output is very good even when playing poorly as he currently is). I think Fred/DVB/Bruno is a very dynamic/high energy midfield and is exactly what we are missing.

Defensive midfielder is over rated, Fergie claimed that there was no such thing. A midfielder needs a lot of qualities, not just an ability to sit in front of the back 4. Two box to box type midfielders are better than one in my view. I think Fred offers a lot defensively anyway.

I tend to agree with this, Pogba is surprisingly became out problem for a longer period. Hope Ole sees it and get rid of him to restore the balance at club.,
 

Idxomer

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Pogba and Bruno could work together better if one of them on the left and the other on the right side of the midfield but they still would need to work as one unit with the 3rd midfielder and the rest of the team.

The shape of the midfield has been unbalanced and noted here for a while. Another problem is when we change personnel, we don't change the shape and the roles of every midfielder much. Look no further than the last few games of McTominay in the team and how he's expected to play the same role Matic does and of course the results haven't been very good. There seems to be a bit of misjudgement on the quality of the different players we have in this position. I'm expecting the same happening with van de Beek in the next few weeks.
 

Remember the geese

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Another opportunity for me to push the 'Bruno as a false nine' cause. It would allow Pogba to play as the advanced midfielder in a three, supported by Matic and Fred. It would also componsate for the lack of Sancho, by having one of Rashford, Martial or Greenwood as a bench option in addition to Cavani. We suddenly have depth. Magic.
 

dutchred

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Over the years we have never played with a pure defensive midfielder. This came in with Mourinho when he bought Matic. we have always had bre defnox to box midfielders who could defend .
Robson ( the best) Ince, Keane were never pure defensive midfielder but could defend when necessary. Our problem is the defense is so bad we need to protect it. I said when we tried to buy Maguire that he was a carthorse and nothing he has done has proved me wrong. We are now stuck with him. We should use Williams at right back and Telles at left back with Shaw alongside Maguire ( I would give it to Mengi, using Busby's old saying "if you are good enough you are old enough).
Personally I would like to see
Henderson ( eventually Kovac, as I think he is the best)
Williams (Laird if fit) Mengi Shaw Telles
Bruno Donnie (Fred) Paul
Mason( Facundo) Martial (Cavani) Marcus ( Elanga)
 

R77

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Good OP and consequent posts.

I'd like to see more of Fred and McT, particularly the latter, as I believe what they bring in terms of energy and balance more than makes up for what they lack. A big part of the reasoning I'll paste below from a post made yesterday in the AWB thread. I seem to be the only person that's mentioned or claimed to see this though, so I may well be wildly wrong, but will stick with it for now.

Issues created by trying to make him more attacking aside, I think teams have worked out how to get past him easily in our current set up. Aside from Greenwood (who also drifts inward) and AWB, most of our team naturally gravitate toward the left. Overload that side, and it frees up masses of space down the right. It often pulls him inside just enough so that one of his primary skills is largely negated. That is, using the line to isolate and block players, make tackles, etc... From memory, the first Brighton game being an example. Chance after chance in the same area.

One of the reasons an established player on the right flank was so important this window. The team is somewhat unbalanced.
Scott is not one of those players, and is very comfortable and at home on the right half of the pitch. His energy and tenacity is vital to holding down that side, and he would help AWB out a lot. What he's missing creatively can be covered by others. That left hand side is our both our biggest strength and weakness (we like to overload it too), players gets sucked over there far too easily and it's been ruthlessly exploited by the likes of Brighton and the Sith narc. VdB and McT need to play more on this basis alone, but unfortunately need a run of games to properly get going.

TL;DR; We're horrendously lop-sided, and I'd argue (not literally!) it's currently our biggest problem tactically.
 

Darlington Padgett

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It's all about balance. 1 defensive, 1 box to box, 1 attacking. The key mistake has been thinking that Pogba is box to box, when in reality he's attacking. Meaning that our midfield setup has usually included 1 defensive, 2 attacking, and still does currently. That's not to say such a setup can't work; with very high level of organization and the right player profiles it's possible to play 1 defensive mid with 2 attacking mids. But we don't see that level of organization very often.

It's ironic because part of the reason Ole got the job was him freeing Pogba in the honeymoon period, and moving away from Mourinho's blasted double pivot. Unfortunately Ole's ended up making the same mistake Mourinho did by playing a 4-2-3-1 with Pogba very deep.

I don't know why our managers thus far have been so enamoured with putting Pogba as one of the defensive mids in a double pivot, especially when he's done so well for them further forward. I suspect it's because Pogba is often a 'cheat' for the buildup play, as he has so many options to progress the play individually that the coach need not worry about going into minute detail with the buildup when Pogba is playing deeper.

Regarding the Bruno and Donny transfers, I did think at the time that they were the wrong profile of player to target. We still play without that top class Herrera replacement and the lack of balance shows. I can understand the Bruno signing since it was fairly successful, but then signing Donny afterwards made little sense.

Going forward I'd like to see how Bruno fares alongside Fred/Scott and Matic, with Pogba coming in for Bruno as competition. Although honestly I don't know how much difference it would make, since the shape of the midfield does matter a lot and Ole seems wed to his double pivot. A move to a 4-3-3 would benefit everyone involved but if Ole hasn't done that even with some of the very poor results we suffered last season, I don't see him doing it now.

As it was with Mourinho, it seems to be another case where we end up asking ourselves how the manager can't see something which seems to us to be blindingly obvious.
I see VDB having similar qualities to Herrera, he might be able to do that job and excel at it. Regarding Pogba and Bruno, I can't see both starting in a functional team, not with Matic given all the defensive responsibilities. A pressing system with those 3 doesn't seem to work either, but I can't see Ole trying something new given the position he might be in with the fixture list we have at the moment. Once again, we have an imbalanced squad that needs a few players in and out to work.
 

Bilbo

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Interesting thread, and perhaps one that confirms what we are all seeing ourselves at the moment - that having Pogba playing in this position is hurting us defensively. My recollection is still that the team have looked far more balanced overall with a Fred/McT combination, both before Bruno arrived and in the matches since.

Perhaps with Martial out and Cavani unavailable we might see some kind of experimental formation used this weekend. Perhaps a diamond or with Bruno pushed up further as a false 9.

I'm fascinated to see how they intend to use Donny in all of this. Surely he has more to offer the team than simply as backup to Bruno.
 

Greck

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To be honest there's a lot of selectiveness with that analysis. Like you took whatever midfield we had during our winstreaks, tagged it as being our best and correlated their presence with causing said wins
 

MadDogg

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To be honest there's a lot of selectiveness with that analysis. Like you took whatever midfield we had during our winstreaks, tagged it as being our best and correlated their presence with causing said wins
Not really. I definitely chose the two combinations first as it was originally in response to something in the Pogba thread, and then before I hit 'post reply' I thought I'd actually check the stats in case my feeling was wrong. Even I was surprised when I saw it was as big a difference as what it was.

There could be some debate for the Fred-Matic-Bruno part (as there's some debate whether McTominay should be ahead of either Fred of Matic), but that was only four games. In fact I might do another post after this where I check the stats with McTominay as well.

The majority of those stats came from the Pogba-Matic-Herrera combo, and that was the one that I would say that the majority of fans on this forum at least wanted to see far more often. We played it often enough to know it worked, stats showed that it worked very well, and yet we still only played it in 15 games out of the 76 matches we could have. Injuries played their part in that, but the majority of the time it was simply the manager played other options.
 

Lentwood

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Good OP and something I very much agree with. The central midfield position is much misunderstood by football fans in general. It's about having functional players in midfield, not players who showboat or dribble with the ball or who leave their position and wander around aimlessly. I would much rather we had two, disciplined workhorses starting every week and then one from Pogba, Bruno and van de Beek ahead of them...which is why I have also questioned the signing of van de Beek, regardless of the fact I think he is a good player.

This is also why Gerrard and Lampard never worked together for England...I would argue that neither played CM for their club! Lampard played as an AM ahead of two 'proper' CMs and was primarily in the team to score goals. Gerrard also played further forward and under Rafa was even moved out into a AMR position as Benitez preferred the security of Mascherano and Alonso.

In general we have a poor understanding of the CM position in the UK. Take a look at Liverpool's midfield. Who would have dreamed the world and European champions would have a midfield consisting of three from Henderson, Wijnaldum, Milner, Keita and Fabinho...you would have been locked up if you had suggested that four years ago! The fact is, they are all highly functional players.
 

RooneyLegend

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Good OP and something I very much agree with. The central midfield position is much misunderstood by football fans in general. It's about having functional players in midfield, not players who showboat or dribble with the ball or who leave their position and wander around aimlessly. I would much rather we had two, disciplined workhorses starting every week and then one from Pogba, Bruno and van de Beek ahead of them...which is why I have also questioned the signing of van de Beek, regardless of the fact I think he is a good player.

This is also why Gerrard and Lampard never worked together for England...I would argue that neither played CM for their club! Lampard played as an AM ahead of two 'proper' CMs and was primarily in the team to score goals. Gerrard also played further forward and under Rafa was even moved out into a AMR position as Benitez preferred the security of Mascherano and Alonso.

In general we have a poor understanding of the CM position in the UK. Take a look at Liverpool's midfield. Who would have dreamed the world and European champions would have a midfield consisting of three from Henderson, Wijnaldum, Milner, Keita and Fabinho...you would have been locked up if you had suggested that four years ago! The fact is, they are all highly functional players.
There's nothing, imposing or strong about pools midfield.
 

edcunited1878

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There's nothing, imposing or strong about pools midfield.
I'll agree and disagree with you there....Liverpool's midfield isn't imposing individually or on paper. But how they function as a unit for the greater good of the team makes them strong and imposing for most opponents. And it doesn't stop for 90 minutes. United's past midfields like a Carrick and Fletcher or even Carrick and Cleverley....not imposing or strong, but very functional and very useful for the greater good of the team.
 

MadDogg

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Since there's been a few mentions of Matic-McTominay or Fred-McTominay combinations, I thought I'd go through and check the stats for when they played together with either Pogba or Bruno alongside them. It's a fairly small sample size, but not particularly good. In total it's 10 games for 3 wins, 4 draws and 3 losses. These are only league games so maybe it'd look better if you start adding cup matches, but then again most of the cup matches are against lower level opposition.

Pogba-Matic-Mctominay stats:

Win - 2
Draw - 1
Loss - 2*

*I marked the wins against Crytal Palace and Newcastle as losses as we were losing both when McTominay went off at half time and we turned it around in the second half.

Bruno-Matic-McTominay combo never played together in the league.

Pogba-Fred-Mctominay stats:

Win - 1
Draw -
Loss - 1

Bruno-Fred-McTominay

Win -
Draw -
Loss - 1*

*We were losing against Spurs until Pogba replaced Fred and won us the penalty to draw that match.

Perhaps the most surprising thing is the last option, as people often talk about Bruno-Fred-McTominay as if we'd looked particularly good with it. At a very quick glance it did good work in the cups against the likes of Norwich, Derby, Club Brugge and LASK, but in the league they only played the one game which we were losing with that combo.
 
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MadDogg

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Another opportunity for me to push the 'Bruno as a false nine' cause. It would allow Pogba to play as the advanced midfielder in a three, supported by Matic and Fred. It would also componsate for the lack of Sancho, by having one of Rashford, Martial or Greenwood as a bench option in addition to Cavani. We suddenly have depth. Magic.
It's an interesting thought and I could see him having a Firminho style of play. I'm not sure how he'd go with his back to the central defenders and holding them off to win the ball, but then again I guess that's part of being a false nine that you try to minimise that and pull them out of position more often.
 

R77

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There's nothing, imposing or strong about pools midfield.
Their whole schtick only really works because of the midfield of cloggers. It's a vital component, so while you're kinda right, it's more or less the whole point.
 

RooneyLegend

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I'll agree and disagree with you there....Liverpool's midfield isn't imposing individually or on paper. But how they function as a unit for the greater good of the team makes them strong and imposing for most opponents. And it doesn't stop for 90 minutes. United's past midfields like a Carrick and Fletcher or even Carrick and Cleverley....not imposing or strong, but very functional and very useful for the greater good of the team.
There's a variety of ways to play the game and be successful, let's stop acting like the way Pool play is the only way to go about it. What makes pool imposing is their attack and it used to be their defence before Klopp started tinkering with his defensive line. That midfield is the weakest part of their team. They play pragmatic back to front football with loads of channel balls. None of that needs a great midfield.
 

edcunited1878

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There's a variety of ways to play the game and be successful, let's stop acting like the way Pool play is the only way to go about it. What makes pool imposing is their attack and it used to be their defence before Klopp started tinkering with his defensive line. That midfield is the weakest part of their team. They play pragmatic back to front football with loads of channel balls. None of that needs a great midfield.
Exactly...and United don't need big name players in midfield like a Pogba. It/He should help and kind of, usually does, but it's not necessary. What looks like you 'strongest midfield' on paper doesn't matter if they don't function in the middle of the pitch.

Liverpool's central midfield is the catalyst for their wingbacks to maraud forward and to provide some cover for their defensive line but also allow them to player higher up the pitch because they cover a large area of the pitch together and funnel the ball to areas that are prone to loss possessions. You don't need a great midfield, but you need a very functional midfield with players who are disciplined and active in their roles because they all compliment each other.

Now if Liverpool has tweaked tactically based on their first few PL matches, then okay, lets see them adjust and see how they net out...I think the same patience or time can be given to United, no?

Talent wise, their midfield is the weakest, but functionally it's still extremely important to the team and how they play.
 

He'sRaldo

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Since there's been a few mentions of Matic-McTominay or Fred-McTominay combinations, I thought I'd go through and check the stats for when they played together with either Pogba or Bruno alongside them. It's a fairly small sample size, but not particularly good. In total it's 10 games for 3 wins, 4 draws and 3 losses. These are only league games so maybe it'd look better if you start adding cup matches, but then again most of the cup matches are against lower level opposition.

Pogba-Matic-Mctominay stats:

Win - 2
Draw - 1
Loss - 2*

*I marked the wins against Crytal Palace and Newcastle as losses as we were losing both when McTominay went off at half time and we turned it around in the second half.

Bruno-Matic-McTominay

Win -
Draw - 1
Loss -

Pogba-Fred-Mctominay stats:

Win - 1
Draw -
Loss - 1

Bruno-Fred-McTominay

Win -
Draw - 2
Loss -

Perhaps the most surprising thing is the last option, as people often talk about Bruno-Fred-McTominay as if we'd looked particularly good with it. At a very quick glance it did good work in the cups against the likes of Norwich, Derby, Club Brugge and LASK, but in the league they combined for only two draws against Everton and Spurs.
Just as I suspected, Scott seems to be a weak link in the midfield.

But of course there might have been other mitigating factors for the less than ideal results with him in the team.
 

Marcus

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Replace Pogba with VDB and let"s see if out midfield works out better. If it does, then I think Pogba can only come to replace one of our attacking players (like Bruno) and not play as a pure CM as he provides no defensive cover. One other thing is that maybe we can pack our midfield more and sacrifice playing with 3 out and out attackers. We can't keep getting overrun whenever we lose the ball.
 

pocco

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Replace Pogba with VDB and let"s see if out midfield works out better. If it does, then I think Pogba can only come to replace one of our attacking players (like Bruno) and not play as a pure CM as he provides no defensive cover. One other thing is that maybe we can pack our midfield more and sacrifice playing with 3 out and out attackers. We can't keep getting overrun whenever we lose the ball.
Problem is, VDB is even less that type of player than Pogba. Maybe he'll surprise us but if you look at how he normally plays for us and Ajax/Netherlands, he's basically a SS/No 10, with comparisons to Muller looking apt.

Funnily enough, dropping Bruno back and pushing Pogba/VDB forward is something that may work. We've seen Bruno play the deeper role for Portugal and Sporting to good effect, though I expect it would impact his attacking output drastically, something we can't really afford.
 

Lentwood

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There's nothing, imposing or strong about pools midfield.
I don't really get why you have replied to my post with words I didn't use...I''ve just re-read it and I talk about 'work-rate' and Liverpool's midfield consisting of 'functional' players but I don't think I ever used the words 'strong' or 'imposing' so it's a strange response.

The point is, our midfield is not functional. It's so easy to play through us it's untrue. Maguire might be wildly out of form right now but most of our defensive woes can be traced back to us not defending effectively from the front
 

Adcuth

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Be Interesting to see how we played if we swapped pogba and Bruno around. To fit the right players in their better positions though we'd have to play a 321 and give up our wingers which wouldn't be an issue with the right wing backs

Martial​

Pogba Bruno​

Donny Matic Fred​
That'd work well as long as the wing backs added width and the defence was secure. Another issue we have
 

MadDogg

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I just realised some of the stats I had in here were a little off. I missed the fact that all three of Fred, Matic and McTominay played behind Bruno against Everton, so I had the same match in three different sections (Fred-Matic, Fred-McTominay and Matic-McTominay). I've edited the above posts to fix that up.

That means that the Fred-McTominay-Bruno combination had even less impact than I thought. They only played together once against Spurs, and we were actually losing that match until Pogba replaced Fred (another thing which I changed in the stats). Similar to the match yesterday against Newcastle where that combination was only drawing until Pogba replaced Fred again. I haven't added that match to the stats since I was posting about last season, but if we see those kinds of combinations keep happening I might keep this thread up to date every now and then.
 

ThreeCorners

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Great OP and analysis by Web of Bissaka.

I also wondered why Ole changed Pogba to a deep role. We looked good with Pogba in the number 10 role, and he was scoring and assisting regularly, if I am remembering correctly. Only thing I can think of is that Pogba himself said he didn't want to play there.

I'm all for Pogba and Bruno in the same midfield, provided they are in form, with either McTominay or Fred for the third slot. Would like to see them in a 4-3-3 instead. Might sacrifice some productivity from Bruno, but if it could get more out of Pogba, then it might be worth it.

Pogba, Matic and Maguire should never be in the same team again, especially for pacy teams that play on the counter.