Sorry, it's been a while. My brother is visiting from Calgary and there's been a whirlwind of activity since.
Do you know why Herrera didn't play against Villa? Was the even on the bench? He needs to be playing every match, and it's frustrating whenever he isn't involved.
Evans... I just don't know anymore. He was so good last season and the season before, but now looks like our worst CB. Maybe it's the back 3 that's the problem, maybe he's just become really bad, it's hard to say. On form though he's the one we need to avoid playing. I'm not ready to give up on him completely, but for now he needs to spend some time on the bench.
We should have easily won even after their goal, but their keeper was having a great game. Young looked great at LWB, not so much at RWB. Falcao was having a good game too. The others looked decent but nobody really stood out to me (beside DDG of course).
For the first time, I think LvG got the substitutions all wrong. Wilson wasn't necessary with Falcao on the pitch. They both are hungry, tenacious strikers who chase down every opportunity with frightening pace, and we didn't both on at the same time. ADM wanted to shoot, and did so poorly, at every given opportunity and looked short of match fitness. We didn't need a player like that in a match we're chasing (in terms of winning). Had we been up 2-1, sure why not, but at 1-1 looking to win the game (and clearly already in charge of the match) I thought we should have stuck with who we had, considering what the bench options were.
The only substitution I thought was decent was bringing on Blackett, which allowed Carrick to shift into midfield. I don't know why we stuck with 3-5-2 when we were chasing the game, instead of, say, switching to 4-4-2 diamond, but if we were to stick to the 3-5-2 then having Carrick in midfield rather than at CB was the right call IMO.
At this point I think LvG might prefer Young at LWB/LB to Shaw actually. He's been performing consistently well in the position, and he is a more experienced player to Shaw. Plus it would take Shaw out of the spotlight a bit and allow him to continue developing behind the scenes. In another season, maybe even 2 if he develops a bit more slowly, then he could take over, but for now he is just a teenager and we need to protect him both physically and mentally.
I think Fellaini's presence was missed, and it's hard to look past the fact that our win streak was broken when he wasn't playing.
Hopefully both he and Herrera are available for the next match. We need to keep winning and keeping up with City and Chelsea, because I feel they will slip up at one point, providing us the opportunity to pass them. We need to be right on their tails to make that happen.
How do you feel about being linked to Hummels? At this point I don't really want him. He's one of the best CBs when he's at the top of his game, but his inconsistency is just unreal. I'd prefer Sokratis from BVB or Hoewedes over him.
Let's all bow our heads and pray to our deity, David De Gea. What a SAVE!!!!
I would also take Fellaini off for Herrera, though to be fair he has responded very well to his yellow. Still, Herrera makes more sense.
RvP has also looked hesitant to play Wilson in again. Not sure if I'm really seeing it or just imagining that I'm seeing it, but if it's real he needs to change that attitude.
Also, what's up with Martin Atkinson? F***ing closet Liverpool fan or what?
I don't know what LvG's issue is with Herrera. Why does he drop him at every given opportunity? How is it possible to not like a player like Herrera? Arrrgghhh it's frustrating!
Well played by both our WBs back. Young has actually looked a menace in the attack recently, and if Valencia can keep playing a bit more dynamic like he's doing this match then he would really raise his game.
I did do well, thanks.
We do have a pretty good starting 11 right now, but I'm just not sure if Fellaini is the right player against Liverpool. It's not so much that I think he should lose his place, it just doesn't make sense to me to play him for this match because we've seen him struggle against pressing, and Liverpool will surely do that. We can't have him passing the ball straight to them like he did against Southampton. That's really my only concern here, but if he could somehow guarantee it wouldn't happen I'd be happy to have him start.
I also like the idea of Rooney playing deeper rather than Mata, and perhaps when everyone is fully fit it's what LvG will do. He has paired Rooney and Fellaini before so it's not completely out of the blue. To be fair to Mata he hasn't done poorly in the role, but I think he will never excel there. If Rooney is supposed to end up as a midfielder anyway, and since he's our captain he's somewhat guaranteed to play until he really screws up, then I would just work on the conversion process now. We have forwards and CAMs, but we could use him there.
Yeah it really is nice to have some respect again from our competition. If we keep up these performances we'll also get our fear factor back, and that will guarantee points in and of itself.
I already mentioned why I don't think Fellaini is particularly suited to this match (other than if we use him as a wrecking ball CAM or FW) so I'll just hop right into how I'd do it instead.
Rafael Evans Rojo Young
This is my ideal setup. With Wilson up front we can afford to have the comparatively less mobile Mata at CAM because Wilson will be the one pressing and hunting loose balls. Having Herrera and Rooney paired at CM will give us a pair of highly mobile and energetic shuttlers who can both be dogged defensively and skillful offensively. The balance between them would be very good IMO. With Carrick as the base they will be somewhat free to make their presence felt all over the pitch, and both have shown good interplay with Mata, so he could be something of an attacking fulcrum everyone plays off of.
I doubt LvG would do this though as he hasn't really shown an inclination to play things this way. I think the lineup you laid out is very realistic and I could certainly see it playing out that way. I feel like LvG though still wants to keep Rooney in a more forward position for now, so maybe the Herrera and Rooney swap would happen. I'm not sure which way I prefer it TBH as they both present some problems. With Rooney deeper we lack some creativity in bringing the ball forward from the back, but with Rooney at CAM we lack a true playmaker up front.
Maybe the best way to handle it, if Fellaini is to play, is to just keep it the same as it's been lately. Fellaini+Mata in the middle, Herrera at CAM and R&R up front. I'm not a fan of the lack of pace up front and in the midfield, but ultimately it's a proven setup. There would be a lot of pressure on Rafael and Young to inject some pace into our attack, but I think they can handle it. Having Herrera between the relatively slow CM and FW lines lets him support both as needed with his greater pace (comparatively). What do you think?
First of all, good luck with your exams. I just finished, and am feeling rather elated.
Agreed on Rojo and his defensive lapses. He seems to have cut down on them, but he still needs to cut them out if he hopes to be anywhere near first choice IMO.
I can also agree with you said about Fellaini. Against Stoke, solid defensively but a bit lacking in an attacking sense in the general build-up play (though to be fair he did get a goal and had a solid chance at getting 1-2 more, depending on if I'm remembering the right match). Against Southampton though he was just terrible until later on in the second half when everybody picked their game up a bit. Not to say he was good at all during that time, but he wasn't completely detrimental to our play. I'm very displeased to have seen this from him, but at the end of the day it was just 1 downright poor performance within a string of good to great ones, so I'm not ready to toss him out just yet, but he needs to do a complete 180 against whichever team he faces next (probably Liverpool).
Trey Tak actually brought up an interesting idea about the whole Mata/Herrera positional issue. He said that maybe LvG wants Herrera at CAM because he's better at pressing and he's more mobile, which actually makes quite a bit of sense if he wants to press from the front. Do I necessarily agree with the idea? Not really because the way Mata is playing at CM he will be enough of a defensive and mobile presence at CAM while Herrera is just much better suited to CM. But, now at least I can understand why LvG might be doing it.
We definitely need that anchor in the midfield with the way we're trying to play, completely agreed there. Herrera and Mata like to bounce around all over the pitch, and Fellaini isn't a good enough distributor of the ball (and he also likes to make his forward) to be guy starting plays from deep. It's telling that in the matches we play without a proper anchor our midfielders look a bit lost and isolated.
I think right now everyone is starting to take notice of us as the dark horse for the title. People are realizing that we've been massacred by injuries, we aren't playing particularly well, but we're still 3rd and only 8 points off the top spot. The season City first won the title they were 8 points up on us in January, then we were 8 points up in March, and then they still ended up winning the title, so everything is up for grabs still. The belief is suddenly back in me that we really can go all the way this season. The spotlight right now is still firmly on City and Chelsea, and they have all the pressure on them of both winning the league and competing in the CL. We, meanwhile, have no pressure to win the league and no European football to drain our players and congest our schedule, and ultimately those 2 factors could decide things in our favour. I'm getting more and more excited with each passing game now in terms of our chances of winning, unfortunately though we need our performances to start matching our points.
Against Liverpool I want to see a return to a more proactive style, because sitting back and waiting for the counter doesn't play to our strengths one bit. Without Suarez Liverpool aren't that dangerous on the attack, so I'm not that worried about going out and playing to dominate the match. Our midfield should be able to outplay theirs, provided we use the right players. Carrick, Herrera and Mata should do the trick here, with Rooney ahead of them (though personally I would swap Mata and Rooney, but LvG most likely won't do that) and Wilson and RvP up front.
The back line will be a bit of an issue because of not knowing who's match fit and who isn't. If Rafael is okay to play I would use him over Valencia, with Rojo and Young. Those 2 have shown good qualities these past few games and I think they deserve another start. The other CB slot will be a tossup between Evans, Jones, Blackett and McNair, though I don't see the youngsters having too great a shot if the other 2 are fit. Evans seems the best bet to do it, but he's been so shaky this season. I hope he can find good form again because he's my favourite CB of the bunch, and when he was playing well the past 2 seasons he was often our most solid defender.
How would you do it?
I'll wait for you to get back to me first so I don't pile too much on your plate. Needless to say though, the match today was terrible. Thank the lucky stars for RvP catching fire and scoring the goals we needed, and for Young and DDG bailing us out of trouble with their defensive contributions (again). Everyone else was either meh or terrible.
Meant to get back to you sooner, but I'm in the middle of my final exam period.
I'm not overflowing with free time at the moment, so I'll just copy/paste what I said to K L and add a few things on at the end to reply to your previous comment.
As for the match, I'm happy with the win but not too much with the performances.
DDG only had a couple contributions to make, but he made them count. MotM contender, but he doesn't get it for me because he just didn't have enough to do.
The defense kind of crumbled late on, but otherwise looked pretty solid. Rojo has looked a lot better since coming back from injury. Young had an astounding goal line clearance (I honestly thought they scored there) and exhibited good movement, intelligence and dribbling, yet his final ball was just not there. I think whoever is on his side should be drifting wide and he should probably aim to cut into the central areas more with his runs, where he won't be at such a disadvantage by having his weaker foot opposite the goal. Anyway, he was also a MotM contender for his clearance and greater impact on the match, but his final ball was lacking too much for me to give it to him.
Carrick performed very well again. Not much to say, very solid performance and I can't remember anything he did wrong. Fellaini had a good goal but could have had more, which is a bit of a problem. His finish was weak for his tap-in, though Begovic did very well to save it. He should have also done better with his header off Young's cross. Defensively he was strong once again but his passing was a bit off at times, and he lost the ball a bit too much for my liking.
I thought Mata did very well again, but he wasn't as involved as he was against Hull, though I could be wrong in that regard. It just didn't seem so to me. It could just be that his involvement wasn't as impactful as it was last time.
I think that Herrera had some positives to take from this performance, but there were more negatives (which I guess makes a statement about how highly I think of him). He was good at keeping the ball moving and getting into good areas, but I found his passing to be a bit wayward at times, his defensive bite wasn't quite as strong, and his decision making wasn't at it's best. He should have had a goal had it not been for his poor finish, and perhaps should have had at least a good shot on target when he was freed up towards the right corner of the penalty box. All in all though it was still a good performance from him and I hope he keeps his place in the side.
The formational oddity of playing Mata deeper and Herrera as the 10 continued. I'm not sure what the reasoning is for it, but surely it'd be better to switch them around?
Wilson looked very, very promising. His tenacity and persistence was incredible, as was his pace and energy. His decision making needs some work, as he pretty much denied RvP a goal, but the signs are looking really good.
RvP for me was MotM. He really didn't do anything wrong as far as I remember, and on a different day would have come out of this match with a goal and assist to his name. I'm not sure how Herrera missed his chance or why Wilson would decide not to pass the ball to RvP, but either way those things are out his hands. He did what was expected of him in both situations, and did them very well. I was hugely impressed with how he's pulled himself out of his slump, because this was the RvP of old. Very solid performance from him all around, and I hope to see more of it.
In terms of our formation, aside from the Mata/Herrera swap, I want to see greater balance in terms of our sides. The left side is very creative with Mata, and has a more dynamic FB in Young compared to Valencia. Also, Rooney would normally play on that side, and has been good in getting involved with the buildup play. On the right we have Fellaini, Valencia, and RvP. RvP is the only player there that you can say is creative, and he just pulled himself out of a slump. Herrera also seems to favour the left side where he can link up with Mata. It's just a bit, but to me it seems the preference is there. All our attacks down the right looked fairly stale in comparison to the attacks down the left, and I'd like that to improve. The first step would be having Rafael back, as he's superior to Valencia in just about everything. Beyond that it's hard to say what should be done though, as we still have no idea what LvG's first choice 11 even is. As it stands though just having Rafael back would probably make a huge difference on it's own, provided RvP can maintain his good form.
The point about Fellaini and the rest of the players getting used to the quicker style is a fair one. Rafael should be good at it when he's back, I have a lot of confidence in him. As you said, Januzaj and Fellaini are the ones who look to have a real shot at starting frequently, and it's imperative for them to kick it up a gear here.
When I first looked at the 9 and a 1/2 bit I thought "no", but then I considered it more. The 9 and a 1/2 roles were basically two strikers alternating between CF/CAM and ST, and that really was the case. It's less so CF/CAM and more of a free role for the second forward, but they did alternate between those roles so it does apply. I'm not convinced it's the best description of how they operate, as it just seems to me to be more about the whole team just being very fluid, but when you look at just the two of them it fits.
As for Fellaini and the midfield box, yes and no again for me. It certainly took that shape at times, but Mata started from the left and Fellaini from the right, with both ahead of Carrick. What I've decided to go with is Fellaini is the defensive box-to-box player (he still finds himself up front regularly) and Mata is the attacking box-to-box player (never thought I'd say that about him TBH). As I just looked back at your comment I realized that you only said it was a square at times, so then disregard the no and I just agree lol.
One thing I did want to touch upon, and I brought it up in my match summary, is that the left side of our team is just a lot more creative, and that was more so the case against Hull when we had Rooney as our LF. Mata, Rooney and Young is a much better combination then Valencia, Fellaini and an out of form RvP, so I'm not surprised that we struggled to build attacks down our right flank.
The Fellaini passing map was interesting. I would think that his movement and passing being pretty much solely on the right is a result of his defensive responsibilities. He's not the quickest fella, so when he needs to defend he has to be in his area. Mata on the other hand doesn't seem to have the same defensive expectations, and Carrick often covers his side, making it even more important for Fellaini to be in his area. And that pretty much describes the midfield square you brought up lol.
I do agree that it could be improved, and I mentioned it above so I'll just leave it there. Like I said, time is not something I have an abundance of him, so when you get back to me it may take a few days to get my response in. Let's hope this form keeps up though, and if it does we may even find ourselves contending for the title come the tail end of the season.
I'm with you, this was my favourite match we played all season. We were utterly dominant from beginning to end. It was, in a word, a masterclass.
My take on the formation, which I just posted to K L, is this:
One thing I noticed about the FBs that I found interesting was that Valencia was our attacking FB while Young was primarily our defensive FB until late in the match. My reasoning for it is that Valencia has more experience and familiarity with the role, while it's new to Young, so he was given license to attack since he better understood the balance. I noticed many times though, especially early on, that Young stayed back and was pretty much level with the CBs, and in fact I don't actually remember him being involved in the attacking play for the first 20-30 minutes or so. When he did get the ball, he tried to play a long forward pass so that he wouldn't have to leave his area, but later on he got himself forward more and got more involved. It was interesting to take note of, and I think in future appearances at LB he would show a better balance of attacking and defending.
Herrera MOTM, hands down. He is exactly what we need in the middle. What I enjoyed most of all though (even more than his insane linkup with Mata) was the balance in midfield between him, Mata, Fellaini and Carrick. They were an unstoppable and impassable unit. That was the defining aspect of this match for me. Our midfield, for the first time all season, looked absolutely right to me, a perfect balance. This has to be our starting midfield from now on.
When I saw the team sheet at the beginning of the match, I actually thought to myself 3-5-2? Naa that looks wrong. I figured it'd be a diamond, though slightly different than how it turned out. I thought we would line up like this:
Valencia Smalling Rojo Young
because Mata is an archetypal #10 while ADM was played as a forward last time and he looked great at it. Back when he played at CM, LvG complained about a lack of balance in the side and I think ADM's lack of defensive effort is the reason for that, which is why he hasn't played there again. Rooney had been partnering Fellaini lately (except for the last match) so I thought he'd probably start there.
What actually happened with the formation (to my understanding at least) was this:
Valencia Smalling Rojo Young
at the beginning. LvG pretty much confirmed this when he said that RvP played as both a 10 and a 9 throughout the match. Our diamond has a habit of taking this shape:
LB CB CB RB
LF CAM RF
and RvP was the middle man, and he frequently positioned himself further back than Rooney and ADM. The idea here, I bet, was to try and recreate the ADM/Rooney partnership because they were really clicking.
After ADM went off though the players swapped around a bit so that it became like this (MF forward):
There was a lot of positional fluidity, and Mata and Herrera often swapped places, but this is what I think the basic shape was supposed to be. Like in our diamond before with Herrera and ADM at CM, our CMs often tried to provide width so Fellaini would find himself supporting Valencia at wide right and Mata at wide left, which distorted the shape at times. Herrera often found himself level with and between RvP and Rooney, giving it a narrow 4-3-3 look (which was mostly when we were defending, so that our wide areas wouldn't be so barren I'm guessing). These were all things though that we did before when we played the diamond too, so I don't think it was too different from before, it's just that the players we used were better suited to it IMO.
Long copy paste, too much to type twice lol. Let me know what you think.
Agreed on Rooney and RvP.
Am I regaining confidence in LvG? Well, let's wait and see how he lines us up next time before I commit to something. This was a very good sign and it was the perfect balance, now it's up to him whether or not he recognizes why it was the perfect balance. IMO it was the 4 midfielders we used more than anything. If he can sustain this style, fluidity and balance then I'll be sorry I ever doubted him.
Sorry, was going to get back to you yesterday but I had a bad headache.
This game though is going extremely well, aside from ADM's injury. Herrera is back and he's making his mark. Mata is playing in a more energetic way than I've seen before. Rooney has been on fire. Not everything is coming off for RvP, but there's more effort and positivity in his play which is a good start.
Fellaini is still killing it defensively. Carrick is somehow playing with more energy than ever before, which at his age is nothing short of remarkable.
Most of all though, what demon has possessed Smalling? This is not the same player we saw a few weeks ago. Right now, in this form (the best of his career), he's easily our best CB. I can't believe my eyes!