Monday, September 8, 2014

Central Midfield Options: Scarcity or Abundance

LvG's Engine Room Dilema 

Carrick, Herrera, Fletcher, Fellaini, Anderson,  Blind, Rooney, Jones

The options available to the new manager for the upcoming game against QPR, with Carrick injured and unavailable, Ander Herrera returning from a small ankle/foot injury and with Daley Blind yet to make his debut, the options remaining to the manager  are neither convincing nor appealing.
LvG's central midfield selection is of vital importance in what should be an easy win, although the side did not look strong and didn't get the desired results in the first trio of games, the next set of fixtures should provide LvG's men the opportunity to pick up points before a tough run of fixtures against last season's top performing sides. 

With the addition of Herrera and Blind to the squad, it would be relatively safe to imagine that Louis will use them often this season, but whether he sees Blind as a left sided midfielder or a wing back/ defender remains to be see. With Carrick out until the start of October,  and Herrera and Fellaini out until the middle of September, how Louis uses Fletcher, Anderson and the other midfield options is to me the most interesting thing about the next few games, more so than who he selects up front out of Falcao, Rooney and Van Persie, whether he plays 3 or 4 at the back in front of De Gea or who he picks out of Di Maria, Mata, Januzaj, Young and Valencia and how he fits them into the side.  
Hopefully he can recapture some of the form of
his debut and 2nd season at the club.

Central midfield is the heart of the side and the root of the sides attacking and defensive problems. Inability to keep the ball is hurting us defensively  and the inability to find attacking players, either strikers or attacking midfielders/wingers with penetrative passes early enough to catch opposition midfielders or defenders by surprise and on the back foot. The one paced nature of the passing in the the middle third of the pitch hinders our ability to accelerate towards goal, which is imperative if we are to press/swarm/flood forward to create chances to score. 

Another situation hurting our chances is the selection of too many attacking players who seem to be getting in each others way, resulting in the shirking of shooting responsibilities, the search for the perfect goal from under 12 yards, effectively trying to walk the ball into the net. Playing Mata, Rooney, RvP, Valencia, Januzaj, Young and Herrera in the early fixtures seemed to overload the side, with too many options and became counter productive, reducing the space in the opposition penalty box, making it easier for defenders to defend the space and to close down shots. 

With the departure of Tom Cleverley to Villa on a season long loan, the departure of Davide Petrucci to CFR Cluj, the lack of incoming players to add much needed depth in the position, and the number of central midfielders currently injured means that the options available to LvG for the upcoming match are quite low.

The much derided Anderson might actually be needed to put in a longer than cameo appearance given the lack of squad depth.  I'd go so far as to say I'd like to see what a combination of Anderson, Di Maria and Jones can do in a midfield 3 with  a back for (Blind, Rojo, Evans and Valencia) behind them.  Playing Phil Jones as a defensive midfielder might not be where England fans want to see him deployed but he's actually a good CDM and Anderson and Di Maria should be able to have a strong influence on the game safe in the knowledge that Jones is keeping the centre of midfield relatively secure behind them.  With no international football for him at the moment, I think deploying Anderson might be the best option, especially when compared to the less imaginative Fletcher and the positionally in-disciplined Rooney.
Had a poor game v MK Dons, but will need to have a good game v QPR if he's given the chance.

Whether LvG decides to go for a 3-5-2, 4-3-3 (my preferred formation) or some other option, his choice of central midfielders is critical to the potential success of the side.