Saturday, June 26, 2010

Centre-Midfield Partnerships

Assuming that our 6 main central midfielders are the same as they were in season 2009/10, I feel that there are 3 main pairings for the 4-4-2 formation, as well as one trio for the 4-3-3, that should be used by Sir Alex next season, and each in different situations. Those 6 centre-midfielders are, of course: Paul Scholes, Anderson, Owen Hargreaves, Darren Fletcher, Michael Carrick, and Darron Gibson, whilst the likes of Antonio Valencia, Ryan Giggs and Park Ji-Sung are also able to play in the centre. Each of these players possess unique attributes, and are all at different stages of their careers. So the midfield combinations that I believe should be developed are as follows:

Darren Fletcher & Michael Carrick

The way in which this could successfully work is for Carrick to go forward and use his passing, which is by far his best attribute, while Fletcher assumes a slightly more defensive role. This should be our first choice partnership for Premier League and FA Cup matches when the 4-4-2 formation is used, as it allows for more flexibility in the midfield because both players are capable of both attacking and defending at different times, depending on the circumstances of the game.

Anderson & Owen Hargreaves

This partnership would be best suited as an alternative pairing to Fletcher & Carrick in both Premier League and FA Cup matches, and could be most effective when the holding midfield role is needed to shut down an opposing player, and a box-to-box player like Anderson is needed to provide attacking support for Rooney and Hernandez.

Paul Scholes & Darron Gibson

These two should be played in League Cup matches and against "minor" Premier League teams. This allows Gibson an extra season to build up some much needed consistency in his game, and playing alongside Scholesy wouldn't do him any harm in his development as a player. It would also help us prepare for life without Scholesy if he is playing less football, although he could still be used in bigger games if the experience is needed.

Darren Fletcher, Owen Hargreaves and Park Ji-Sung

I see this as our best option for a 3-man central midfield, because it gives us a strong defensive element to the midfield with the ability still to go forward. Obviously, when the 4-3-3 is used the main focus is neutralising the opposing midfield, and attacking on the counter using the pace of our wingers. This would certainly reduce the effectiveness of just about any midfield in the world, as all 3 players are very strong defensively and have a quality work ethic. The way in which this would work best is for Park to "tag" the opposing player who poses the biggest threat going forward, precisely what he did to shut down Andrea Pirlo against AC Milan, whilst Hargreaves plays the holding midfield role with the support of Fletcher, who can go forward when necessary.

Of course, these would not be the only combinations used, however I think it would work quite well if some of these partnerships were developed, as the rest of the team, and perhaps more importantly the players involved in these partnerships, would learn to structure their game around the way these different partnerships work, meaning that the team would be better organised and less confused if they are aware of how the midfield operates with different players.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

United's Best Formation

Debate continues to rage about what United's best formation is, wether it be the conventional flat 4-4-2, the more attacking and distributive 4-4-2 Diamond Variation, the all out, gung-ho 4-3-3 or any number of variances on the modern football team. Far be it from me to second guess the great Sir Alex Ferguson, but my job is to put forward my opinion on just about everything United, from transfers to team selections to formations and everything in between.

Personally, given United's recent history of being highly adept and clinical on the counter-attack, I'd prefer to see the team set up to continue this tradition, though not at the expense of creativity and fluid attacking football from the first minute to the 90th, another famous Manchester United trait. A variation on the 4-4-2, giving attacking license to both fullbacks is my preferred option. With a diamond shaping in the centre of midfield, allowing a central player like Anderson or even Michael Carrick to sit a little higher on the pitch and (hopefully) provide a few goals. This would be an ideal position for any number of players linked with United over the summer, but I think it would suit Luka Modric perfectly as he'd be able to distribute the ball out to Nani, Park Ji-Sung or Antonio Valencia on the flanks, play in balls to Wayne Rooney or Dimitar Berbatov or even make use of his highly skillful long range shooting ability.

As for the deeper lying midfielder on the back of the diamond, I do not intend for this position to purely be a defensive screening option for the back four, but to also be a presence in the oppostion box on attacking raids. Darren Fletcher would suit this role brilliantly, given his defensive capabilities, his ability to attack crosses and through balls as well as his fairly handy pace.

The back four, would of course be a standard flat back four, though as I said before, the fullbacks would be given the freedom to bombard forward and provide extra outlets for crosses and balls into the box. Patrice Evra is a no brainer on the left hand side, while similarly Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic are certain mainstays in the starting XI provided they remain fit and part of our club.

On the right, I'd opt for Rafael on a more constant basis, purely because while he is a more than competent defensive right back, he's also proven going forward that he poses a threat. Gary Neville would of course play some time on the right as well. Let me know what you think guys.