We need to talk about our defence...

andersj

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Or maybe we dont. But lets do so anyway.

Some facts;

- We have conceded 12 goals in 12 games. Only three teams have been better; Liverpool (10), Sheff Utd (9) and Leicester (8).

- No team in the PL have conceded fewer chances according to expected goal stats, 11,10 exga in 12 games. Liverpool are close with 11,74.

- We also give away relatively few few shots in our own box, 5,6 per game. Man City give aways 5,4 per game, Chelsea 5,5 per game, Liverpool 6,3 per game and Leicester 5,7 per game.

What is really worth noticing is the improvement from last year when we

- conceded 54 goals in 38 games, 1,42 goals per game, 42 % more than this year,
- had an expga of 52,30, 1,38 xga per game (a similar improvement in other words)
- gave away 7,5 shots in the box per game

We have done this;
- Without an experienced/established midfielder in our team for most of the twelve games.
- We have lacked a proper DM all season. Matic looks even slower when he plays than last year (a decline we have seen since he arrived) and we lost our best experienced defensive midfielder in Herrera.
- We have played Young and a rookie at left back

Some will argue that its down to style, but our last coach was not exactly gung-ho either.

It is also worth noting that while we did concede fewer goals in 17/18 (28) stats indicate that was more down to de Gea that season (who was not human). We had an xga of 1,15 and gave away 6,9 shots in our box that year. Despite having both Matic (who was better then) and Herrera available to us.

In fact, the only period I can think of where we have been stronger for a longer period of time was probably the spell where Mourinho appeared to make Jones/Rojo into a good defence in 16/17 (up until Rojos injury).

Plenty in here moan about Maguire and Lindelof. And I agree that Lindelof has not been very good this season. But I do believe that the two of them are underrated and that stats support it. Particularly by a couple of posters in here who made up their minds early, as they favoured someone else.

Can we keep it up? Improve upon it? Or did I just jinx it with McT out injured after the break?
 

Sandikan

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We've spent 130m but probably need to do the same to bring another quality centre back and left back in.

Then we'll be golden!
 

Judas

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Honestly think our attack is a bigger concern still. We don't create enough or score enough. Hopefully we can build on our recent form, but I'm sceptical.
 

Adam-Utd

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We’ve made horrendous individual errors that have conceded a big % of our goals.

the team defends well but let’s itself down with silly errors, and with our attack off form we couldn’t recover from it.

statistically we’ve not been bad this year.
 

manc4red

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12 in 12 while not super great isnt a disaster imo

16 goals for in 12 games is our problem considering 4 of those goals came in our first game. To win we need to score and hopefully our lads find their shooting boots soon
 

WR10

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" We have lacked a proper DM all season. Matic looks even slower when he plays than last year (a decline we have seen since he arrived) and we lost our best experienced defensive midfielder in Herrera."

What? Scott and Fred have been the equivalence of a 4 man wall in front of Maguire and Lindelof.

Regardless, it's no surprise that having a level headed leader that makes the right decisions in every single game = better defense (Maguire).

Imagine how Mourinho is feeling right now. Man was screaming for a CD signing when we already had 6
 

Mcking

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AWB is very good in defence, and we've benefitted from a consistent CB partnership. We are also very strong defending against through balls and counterattacks, and our midfielders and attackers work very hard off the ball. The defence still looks susceptible to the high ball, but there's obviously being a huge improvement. I can only remember De gea facing a single 1v1 this season.
 

meamth

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Maguire is the final piece of the puzzle.

His calmness is second to none.

Usually when you have someone like that, the whole defensive unit will have better confidence to defend.
 

mu4c_20le

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We need to talk about using commas in place of decimal points.
 

Mr.Ridiculous__

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Honestly think our attack is a bigger concern still. We don't create enough or score enough. Hopefully we can build on our recent form, but I'm sceptical.
Pretty sure, the OP is praising the defence and not expressing a concern.
 

Ace of Spades

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The attack and midfield a bigger issue for sure. The lack of dept there is a huge problem.

Anyway, the defence is good and we have some options there unlike in midfield and attack. The team are defending well, this is because we do press more as a team as well. The fact that Shaw has been injured for a large part of the season, and we still have Young playing LB and still doing well is a big positive. A lot of the goals have also come from individual mistakes, things that you hope the players sort out moving forward.
 

UNITED ACADEMY

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We've spent 130m but probably need to do the same to bring another quality centre back and left back in.

Then we'll be golden!
I don't think we need to do the same (by spending 130m). Tuanzebe is still young but he's talented and has potential to make it and be a top centre back. We also have Brandon Williams who looks promising. Even if those two & also including Bailly, Lindelof & Shaw don't make it, I don't think we need to spend another 130m for defenders at the moment.

The point of us spent 80m on Maguire to add experienced in the back four, bring a leadership & composure in there. The next step now is developing the less experience centre back that we have right now or sign a bargain or reasonable price of young talented centre back & develop him for future.
 

UpWithRivers

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It's an indication of a defensive team more than anything. Hence the attacking stats. We have two holding midfielders in front of them even when Pogba was playing he was very deep. We sit back and counter. A lot of times we basically park the bus against the top teams.
When we can be this good defensively while actually attacking then we can say we have a good defence.
 

wolvored

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We dont need any more additions in defence. Tuanzebe and Williams are both good enough to step up and play permanently there. We need a change of tactics in front of them. Play 4-1-4-1 with a ball winning decent passer dm and a b2b and am in front. 2 wide attackers/wingers and a quality finisher up front. We would win the ball further up the pitch instead of being one dimentional counter attacking. 4-1-4-1 could revert to 4-2-3-1 defending and 4-1-2-3 on the attack
 
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It's an indication of a defensive team more than anything. Hence the attacking stats. We have two holding midfielders in front of them even when Pogba was playing he was very deep. We sit back and counter. A lot of times we basically park the bus against the top teams.
When we can be this good defensively while actually attacking then we can say we have a good defence.
As the OP says, we had a defensive setup under Mourinho and weren’t this good at the back.
 

andersj

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As the OP says, we had a defensive setup under Mourinho and weren’t this good at the back.
And I would also argue McTominay and Fred have more freedom to go than they did last year. They are not that deep. An neither is an Ndidi or a Carrick. Its is not natural for them to sit deep and protect.
 

Red_Beans

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our defense has been good this year but that shouldn't be a surprise to anyone. The club spent 90% of our transfer budget on defenders. I am expecting us to improve defensively as the season progresses and partnerships strengthen.
Our problem very predictably is scoring goals
 

cyril C

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" We have lacked a proper DM all season. Matic looks even slower when he plays than last year (a decline we have seen since he arrived) and we lost our best experienced defensive midfielder in Herrera."

What? Scott and Fred have been the equivalence of a 4 man wall in front of Maguire and Lindelof.

Regardless, it's no surprise that having a level headed leader that makes the right decisions in every single game = better defense (Maguire).

Imagine how Mourinho is feeling right now. Man was screaming for a CD signing when we already had 6
I think the key is lacking quality pass from the flank. Our RB/LB have been poor for years, even Young has been poor in past 12 months on delivery.
 

Bestietom

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Bring in Nikola Milenkovic, and nothing gets by him and AWB. He is a beast in the tackle and can come out with the ball, and scores goals from set pieces also.
 

Falcow

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I think Fred's contribution to this has been very underrated this season, most recent game aside. He gets through a huge amount of work in each game that goes unnoticed. His passing however hasn't always been the best and this tends to take away from his overall contribution but he breaks up play and stops attacks more than what he is credited for.
 

Classical Mechanic

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@andersj

For emphasis: if you look at the xGA on Understat in 17/18 for United it’s 15.54 less than expected. This is the highest outperformance of xGA since they’ve been covering the PL (5 years). Funnily enough the next best performance was Burnley in the same season with 13.16. In 18/19 both sides reverted to close to the mean (United conceded 1.7 more than expected and Burnley 1.88 more than expected) and finished a lot further down the table.

I do think that Ole will retain the backing of the board because the underlying trend is showing a correction in a specific weakness and indicates a base being built.

edit: that xGA of 15.54 less than expected conceded by United in 17/18 is actually the highest across the top 5 European leagues in the last 5 years.
 
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The Irish Connection

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Nice to see positives. If we had a better attack and midfield the defence would look better again I think. Let’s hope we can bring in the right signings in those areas without dropping any further down the table.
 

Paul_Scholes18

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Part of the problem is that we do not get enough goals and have to chase games with the other teams defending deep.

I do think we are defending well as a team particular in the big games. Against Liverpool and Arsenal we probably deserved to win those games. In Europa league we have also conceded 0 goals which is great. Mctominay has been a giant for our defense so let's hope it do not get much worse with him out. James and Rashford also do a lot of work on the wings to help our defenders.
 

Aouer-United

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Judas

I don't think our attack is a big concern, it's just that we're so thin in attacking options and lacking quality. Our midfield is the biggest issues but when it get hard, they are not capable of bringing the ball to attack and put a chance on paste for them to finish chance (shot).
 

UpWithRivers

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As the OP says, we had a defensive setup under Mourinho and weren’t this good at the back.
Doesn't change the fact that we are a defensive team. I think the defense has been good. Wan B has been really good and the rest solid. But its hard to tell how good if we play that style of football. Against the big teams we park the bus then the lesser teams its easier to defend against. Even against Rochdale we played defensively. Friggin Rochdale! I really dont want to be negative Im just putting across a point.
 

DRM

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All stats point to an improved defense but I always feel we'll conceed a goal every game!
 

DoomSlayer

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We have definitely improved in this aspect. My main worry is we make some horrendous individual mistakes and De Gea is not the best GK in the world anymore, so we concede a lot of silly goals, which puts pressure on the whole team.
 

fps

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All stats that dont suit people usually do...
It's not that it doesn't suit me, I have no agenda, it just never seems to accurately reflect anything that happens in a useful way. I'd love to see evidence to the contrary.
 

Mcking

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It's not that it doesn't suit me, I have no agenda, it just never seems to accurately reflect anything that happens in a useful way. I'd love to see evidence to the contrary.
I'd say if there's any stat that accurately reflect what happens in a useful way, then it is xG.
 

andersj

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It's not that it doesn't suit me, I have no agenda, it just never seems to accurately reflect anything that happens in a useful way. I'd love to see evidence to the contrary.
I’m not quite sure what evidence you would expect. All I can say is that I disagree. I think the stats reflect what happens on the pitch in a very useful way. There is plenty of examples. One is the season @Classical Mechanic mention, 17/18. We did not concede many goals, but I always felt our defence was poor. The xga supports that.

Furthermore, it is interesting to note that some of the most successfull clubs in football rely heavy on it. This piece in NY Times contain a few examples on how Liverpool use it.
 

andersj

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I'd say if there's any stat that accurately reflect what happens in a useful way, then it is xG.
I agree. I do not intend to be disrespectful towards anyone, but if there is a huge gap between the story the stat tell and someones interpretation of a game, the stat is most surely not the problem...

But of course, all stats need to be used correctly.
 

devilish

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If Shaw wasn't English then he would have been on the hit list of most fans in here and beyond. We need a LB and possibly another CB. We can live without the latter but not the former.
 

andersj

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If Shaw wasn't English then he would have been on the hit list of most fans in here and beyond. We need a LB and possibly another CB. We can live without the latter but not the former.
I agree we need a new LB. A new LB and an improved midfield should get us below 30 goals conceded.

(If we want to see close to 20, we probably need a world class CB.)
 
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fps

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I’m not quite sure what evidence you would expect. All I can say is that I disagree. I think the stats reflect what happens on the pitch in a very useful way. There is plenty of examples. One is the season @Classical Mechanic mention, 17/18. We did not concede many goals, but I always felt our defence was poor. The xga supports that.

Furthermore, it is interesting to note that some of the most successfull clubs in football rely heavy on it. This piece in NY Times contain a few examples on how Liverpool use it.
Thanks for the info. What happened in the 17/18 season then? We're chalking it up to De Gea exceeding expectations?

Perhaps the clubs are using it, I'll definitely look at Liverpool using it. But that's very different for me from forumites using it as the only basis for anything they're saying versus watching the games, which I see happening quite a lot!
 

Fosu-Mens

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@andersj

For emphasis: if you look at the xGA on Understat in 17/18 for United it’s 15.54 less than expected. This is the highest outperformance of xGA since they’ve been covering the PL (5 years). Funnily enough the next best performance was Burnley in the same season with 13.16. In 18/19 both sides reverted to close to the mean (United conceded 1.7 more than expected and Burnley 1.88 more than expected) and finished a lot further down the table.

I do think that Ole will retain the backing of the board because the underlying trend is showing a correction in a specific weakness and indicates a base being built.

edit: that xGA of 15.54 less than expected conceded by United in 17/18 is actually the highest across the top 5 European leagues in the last 5 years.
I remember being ridiculed for saying that our 2nd place that season was a statistical anomaly. An anomaly that could be seen when watching the matches and looking at the underlying indicators...

This season when I watch the matches the underlying stats do not compare to my impression of the games we have played. According to the overall indicators, we should be 2nd/3rd with some margin down to 4th, while my personal impression is that we should be 3-4 points better off than we are. From the xG from open play we are at the mean and reflects our pts gathered this season, but from penalties, set pieces and direct freekick we are not productive at all. Set pieces, penalties etc will revert back to the mean over time, but we are really useless from open play.
 

Classical Mechanic

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Thanks for the info. What happened in the 17/18 season then? We're chalking it up to De Gea exceeding expectations?

Perhaps the clubs are using it, I'll definitely look at Liverpool using it. But that's very different for me from forumites using it as the only basis for anything they're saying versus watching the games, which I see happening quite a lot!
He actually was voted into the world team of the year in 2018 so he was doing some remarkable things in that season. It can also be a bit of luck in strikers having off days against you but it was mostly DDG.
 

Based Adnan

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We need a proper left back that can be relied upon. De Gea also needs to pull his finger out and start coming off his line. Aside from that our defence is fine this season, going forward is where we've let ourselves down. Hopefully Martial coming back changes that.