Predicting How David Moyes Will Use Shinji Kagawa Next Season
Jurgen Klopp's appraisal of Shinji Kagawa's first season at Manchester United was right on the money.
"Shinji Kagawa is one of the best players in the world and he now plays 20 minutes at Manchester United—on the left wing," he said.
"My heart breaks. Really, I have tears in my eyes. Central midfield is Shinji's best role. He's an offensive midfielder with one of the best noses for goal I ever saw."
Injuries may have stunted his role in the Red Devils' first team, but Sir Alex Ferguson's preference for Wayne Rooney in the central attacking midfield position often left Kagawa out in the cold.
His performances during the latter part of the campaign increased in effectiveness, but preseason expectations were still not met.
He is a world-class talent—one that United should adapt to rather than forcing him to play a different way, out of position.
Here are some thoughts on how David Moyes could/should use him next season:
Is Moyes the Right Manager for Kagawa?
David Moyes has not typically used a trequartista at Everton.
This has been because of personnel at Goodison Park, rather than the Scotsman being resistant to adapting the Toffees to the continental style.
There was Tim Cahill, and more recently Marouane Fellaini—physical second forwards charging into the opposing penalty area with reckless abandon.
Fellaini is naturally a box-to-box midfielder, but circumstances saw him deployed in an advanced position.
Luckily for Moyes, he is now at a club where there is a squad with such depth, there is no longer any need for anyone to play out of position.
The Champions League final between Dortmund and Bayern showed that the 4-2-3-1 is still the predominant formation in football.
Moyes is unlikely to complete revolutionise the Manchester United way of playing—he will still want to overload the flanks and create mismatches out wide.
He will need a central player to distribute possession to the wings—someone with the passing game to spot the marauding runs of Wilfried Zaha or Antonio Valencia.
Kagawa must be used in this way next term. The 4-2-3-1 remains.
An Efficient Passing Game
Some people have made the false assumption that Moyes' Everton were incapable of playing attractive attacking football.
This is a belief that has been fostered by some rather deceiving statistics.
Last season, Everton ranked only 11th in team pass-completion percentage per game (79.4) in the Premier League, and third in long balls attempted per game (64) (via WhoScored.com).
But the Toffees were a positive attacking team, fostered by the central passing games of Leon Osman and Darron Gibson.
Shinji Kagawa is the premier threat Moyes has in the United team for a quick ground game.
He operates best in congested areas of the final third. There are few better in Europe in opening up space with a first touch.
Moyes will use him to great effect, playing between the lines to link with those behind him and out wide.
Players like Michael Carrick and Tom Cleverley will not be able to average more than 20 long balls a game and function efficiently.
Another potential issue is that Robin van Persie is not the strongest forward in the air in Britain.
The Dutchman was raised in the Arsenal passing system—one that Kagawa would theoretically thrive in.
Moyes won't try and replicate the Gunners' style, but he must play to his two best attacking players' strengths.
The 2013/14 season could be Shinji Kagawa's breakthrough campaign.
He still misses his days playing for Dortmund, but could yet thrive under David Moyes.
The Red Devils' wingers will be the most excited by the arrival of the Scotsman who loves overloading the flanks.
But the Japanese playmaker will be integral to this style—he will be the architect in Moyes' masterplan.
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