Don't want to add too much to what you have to reply to, but I'll throw in some quick thoughts about the match yesterday.
The formation was pretty bad. I think the idea might have been a 4-3-3 but in practice it looked too often like a 4-5-1 with a completely stagnant attack or a 4-1-4-1 that was too full of holes in the middle.
Mata's role didn't suit him at all. I don't know why we didn't just play a 4-2-3-1 with these players, as it would have suited us much better. I don't like how Mata is practically being misused, as he is a fantastic player, and he could be one of our best players if we play to his strengths.
Herrera was pretty awful. There were many times I noticed that he was way too far up leaving Blind pretty much isolated. The first goal comes to mind as Herrera should have been covering that area. Instead Shaw got pulled forward and the space was there for the WBA player to run into behind him.
Rojo and Jones didn't look comfortable together. They are both similar types of CBs, and perhaps it would be better to pair them with a player more like McNair or Evans, though there wasn't really much choice here. Hopefully they can form a better partnership if they keep playing together.
I didn't like how far wide and back the wingers were. They were occupying the space that the FBs would normally charge into, and that left the FBs confused over where to be. They often drifted inwards looking for space, when really the wingers we have would have been far better suited to that task. On the right especially this was a problem because Rafael has been in outstanding form and his deliveries have been a real problem for opposing defences, yet with Januzaj effectively blocking him off we lacked that threat.
Shaw was disappointing.
Januzaj looked terrible as well. I hope he picks it up again soon. He is slowing the play down far too often as he thinks about what to do. At the times he did move the ball quickly though he looked good.
Falcao should be starting over RvP, he's just amazing. His movement and tenacity is unmatched.
Fellaini looked really good today. A needless foul here and there, but altogether a much cleaner performance than what we're used to, plus he played his role very well. He was back to defend (same ratio of interceptions and tackles per minute as Blind), he cut off aerial balls into the midfield, he made good late runs, and he scored an excellent goal. Very impressed with what he showed yesterday and I hope he continues it. He really should have started over Herrera since fitness seemed to be a real issue for him, though that only looks like a good idea in hindsight I guess lol.
ADM didn't look 100% match fit. With the formation we played I would have liked to see him on the right where he can be more of a goal threat by cutting in on his left foot, especially since we didn't have any real heading threat until Fellaini came on.
Young looked decent in his short time on the pitch. I like it when he plays a quick 1-2 with the FB and releases him. It's a specialty of his and he immediately put it on show with Shaw. I didn't see him doing anything particularly wrong, but also nothing standout.
Blind was really good, but he was left exposed too often. He had next to no support from Mata and Herrera, and not enough later from Fellaini, and it showed. Still, I really like what I see from him.
Anyway, 6/10 performance for me. We need to clean things up for the Chelsea match or we'll get beaten quite easily I think. This ended up going longer than I intended lol.
Coincidentally, I just finished my project last night :D I feel amazing!
Dortmund is doing terribly in the Bundesliga! It's insane how poor they are ATM domestically, while crushing both CL games so far. Defensively they've been really bad lately, with their defenders making comical errors. On the brighter side of things, Guendogan and Reus are now back. They just lost again today, but hopefully with these 2 back they'll get back into their groove. The Bundesliga is actually quite a competitive league though, aside from Bayern sitting comfortable at the top (a point which irks me even as a Bayern fan), with the discrepancy in quality from top to bottom not being that great, so it isn't too strange for a team to suddenly do poorly if they aren't playing at their best since most teams play for the win. It's similar to the match against Leicester; you take your foot off the pedal and the game is completely up for grabs. Leverkusen just did it today and ended up getting a draw after leading 3-0 at halftime.
Anyway, they definitely shouldn't be struggling this much. Fitness is an issue though because they play more often than other BuLi teams, but they should be used to it by now since they've been in the CL for 4 seasons in a row now I believe.
I'm glad our injury situation seems to be improving. Herrera being back is definitely great news, and I can't wait to see him in action again. If Mou lets us have the midfield then he's playing a very dangerous game. We have the creative quality now to break open any side, and his best option will be to keep us from being able to break out of our half with a strong defensive midfield and keep our back line under constant pressure, like you said. I think he's too smart to just sit back against us, and I think he'll try to handle us like he handled City last season.
LvG will have something to say about it as well. Both LvG and Mou are masterminds of the game and will have several plans in play, and I'm really excited to see how it'll play out.
I agree with your lineup. It's pretty much our first-choice 11 at this point, and it's hard to argue against it. I would also like to see Fletcher play, but LvG used Valencia last time and may value his greater energy and pace in the role, as well as his ability to shift into a wing position. I could see it going either way.
Anyway, I can't wait for the match. I hate international breaks, but at least it meant one less distraction while I hammered away on my keyboard finishing up my project. I've spent almost all my time on it these past few weeks and now I need to relapse on life lol.
I'm not that big on MMO's or RTS games. I play quite a bit of Heroes of Newerth (basically DOTA) which was of course born from RTS games though. I also play DOTA 2 a bit, but not nearly as much. Mostly I play console games. Love JRPGS more than anything.
LOL on DDG wanting the late game heroics.
Yeah hopefully Mata finds his feet and Di Maria stops taking absurd long shots. Maybe he's trying a bit too hard to be the #7 Ronaldo was? I dunno, just a thought.
Yeah I agree that Fellaini really wouldn't replace Blind regularly, but with his superior size and strength I'm sure certain matches would be more suitable for his qualities than the rather small Blind. He needs a lot of work though to make that happen, but I like him and want him to succeed so hope he can become a good squad option for us.
Completely forgot Shaw gave away the penalty XD Sleep-deprivation at it's finest, since I can't remember how we conceded the penalty at all lol.
BTW did you see Dortmund's last CL game? Kagawa's passing was orgasm inducing. The chipped pass should have been framed and sold as art.
I'm also really glad for Welbeck that he's scoring at Arsenal. Hopefully he ends up scoring around 18 goals by the end of the season at least, because I really want him to succeed despite him being sold. I wouldn't mind if he came back in a few seasons when we need a new striker if he's made a real name for himself with Arsenal.
Hey, taking a break from the project since the match was today. First off, "gg no re" gamer lingo lol. What do you play? Secondly, it was at 7AM here and I found that tidbit of information out at 3AM, so as I watched in a sleep-deprived state I surely missed quite a few of the intricacies of the match.
DDG was on fire. The penalty save was good, but the saves at the end were world class. Hopefully he won't be tempted away to another club because we'll have one of the best keepers in the world in him for another 10 years minimum.
Mata was unimpressive for me. He looked confused as to whether he was a forward, 10 or a CM and didn't transition between roles well. When he dropped back he didn't get forward after, when he went forward he stayed there, etc. I expected more from him, but I could well have missed something due to the lack of sleep lol.
ADM had his moments, but he was also sloppy at times. Can't fault a guy who was directly involved in both our goals too much, but I do want to see him clean his game up a bit.
Falcao was likewise sloppy, but his movement and tenacity in front of net is unreal. Once he gets going in terms of scoring goals, it will be very hard to justify dropping him to the bench in favour of either Rooney or RvP, not that it really seems an issue in the first place since we've been using all 3 when available.
Valencia in CM was a smart move on paper, but I didn't feel it came off all that well. He wasn't enough of a presence in either the midfield or the wing, and a lot of what he tried didn't really come off.
Fellaini was pretty useless in his time on the pitch, and he seemed a bit confused over his role. He was physical without breaking the laws though, which is a good sign. Hopefully it isn't a one-off. Anyway, he's just coming back from injury so I'll need to see him a few more times before I judge how he fits. He surely wouldn't delegate either of ADM or Herrera (or Rooney) to the bench though, so his only realistic option is displacing Blind, which will be hard for him. If he can provide a strong defensive, physical presence without committing an inhumane number of fouls though he could be a good alternative to Blind when the situation calls for it. Maybe he could even be moulded into a CB, though I'm not sure he has the discipline for it.
The back line has looked pretty good for the most part, all things considered. Rafael was, IMO, our best player after DDG this match, and I'm loving that we're seeing the Rafael of 2 seasons ago rather than the one from the Moyes year. If he keeps this form up he will definitely be among the best RBs in the world in a couple seasons. Much, much more of a threat down the right than Valencia.
Rojo has impressed me at CB in both games, as has McNair. Rojo and Jones should be, on current form, our first choice partnership, though I haven't given up on Evans breaking that up. McNair and Blackett are both looking good, with McNair probably even more impressive so far. In a couple seasons we should have a very dominant group of CBs provided that they all stay and keep improving. They aren't top class just yet, but I see great potential in them.
Shaw has likewise impressed me. I like that he can get physical with attackers and isn't afraid to give them a shove. He has been outshone by Rafael so far, but impressive nonetheless.
Next game I want to see Blind given more support from his CMs, though there's been an improvement there as well.
All in all I've been very happy with the performance today, and also the last match aside from Rooney's bizarre "miskick". Looking at it strictly objectively I think we looked more fluid, weirdly enough, with Rooney on instead of Mata. I'm hoping Mata can get his head wrapped around his role better and rectify that, because I value his qualities more than Rooney's and I think that if he can nail down his role and perform it well we'd be a better unit for it.
Oh, and Herrera is also becoming a favourite of mine rather quickly too, as are ADM, Blind and Falcao.
Sorry I've been, and will continue to be for a while, incredibly busy. I have a major school project to do as a culmination of my college program which is basically devouring all my spare time.
I'll get back to you in full, hopefully soon too, but for now I just want want to say that I agree on the 4-2-3-1 idea. I also think it will fit us better as a unit, plus it plays to the strengths of Fletcher and Blind. I'm just not sure if LvG will want to drop one of his strikers, he seems intent on fitting all of them in.
F*CK Rooney. No way should he still be captain after that. Unbelievable.
Agreed we didn't look solid in the back even with Evans in the back. At least he can say he played no part in the capitulation, though to be fair he was front and center in our collapse vs MK Dons, so I doubt he'd have stemmed the tide. I agree that Blackett could use a spell on the sidelines. For a new player he's been playing far too much recently in a team struggling for form and solidity.
My main problem with Rooney wasn't so much his performance per se but rather the decision to play him at CAM, which upset the attacking balance. Because there was no real playmaker up front Herrera and Di Maria had to be more attacking to make up for it, leaving Blind isolated in the defensive midfield most of the time. I'd be happy with Di Maria and Rooney swapping places, but I'd be even happier if we switched to 4-3-3. I hate having more than a single striker.
By the "league" in regards to Dortmund, did you mean the CL or the BuLi? I don't think they can win the Bundesliga because Bayern's squad is made for winning domestic leagues, but in the CL they've shown they can beat anyone.
Rojo was indeed very poor. "Played the Rooney role quite well" LOL that really made me laugh. 100% true though.
What I didn't like from Rooney, aside from the decision to play him there which wasn't his fault, was that as the captain with the score at 3-2 and the momentum in Leicester's favour, he should have gotten his team to kill off the game by dominating possession and taking all the pace out of the match. He should have instructed his team to pull a Chelsea at that point; maintain a strong defensive shape, keep hold of the ball when possible, don't overcommit, and hit the opposing team on a counter if the opportunity is there to be had. I realize that LvG should have been the one to tell them this, but in his absence from the touchline Rooney should have taken responsibility at that point. Maybe he wouldn't get them to play the Chelsea game perfectly, but he could have gotten the team to hold their defensive shape and kill off the game with endless passing. That was the least I expected from him.
Instead though he lead the charge forward to try and burn Leicester with even more goals, overpowering them with attacking play. It was too risky with so much time on the clock and all the momentum in their favour, and a terrible decision IMO. It's part of what makes him the player he is, but also the same part that makes him a poor captain to me. He's too hotheaded on the pitch and isn't rational enough when it comes down to the wire.
Anyway, the game really was a game of two halves. We looked really good as an attacking unit up to the penalty. Falcao was impressive, and he showed much more versatility than the impression I've gotten from the way people have described him. If plays like the cross he gave are the norm for him then I'm really excited to see what he can do.
As a player I wasn't unimpressed in Rooney, so I didn't communicate that well enough in my previous post. My main problems where with Rooney as a captain. He's no CAM, but he did reasonably well there. I prefer a true CAM like Mata (Kagawa!) but the alternative to him at this point seems to be Januzaj or Rooney, and there's no way I'd put Januzaj there.
I have to agree the goals from midfield are a huge positive, and I'm really buzzing about it, and with ADM and Herrera (or hopefully Rooney and Herrera, and Mata) those goals should continue to come, though perhaps not in the same volume. It makes you wonder though, why do we need so many top-tier strikers? Hopefully one of Rooney/RvP get's sold or Falcao doesn't sign permanently, because I don't like how it upsets the balance of the squad.
Agreed that we look fantastic going forward, and we have real purpose and a plan. I will say that we do seem a bit over-reliant on ADM, but just a bit. It'll be interesting to see how we do in a match when he's not playing.
I checked out the squawka map for the passes, and it makes it abundantly clear that our left side was terrible defensively. Rojo and ADM had no control of the area outside the box, and it makes your case for Rooney and ADM swapping places even stronger. Hopefully Shaw is back in our next game, as a natural FB it should be much easier for him to play the role.
Rooney missing 7 passes in our own half is unacceptable, captain or no. What's worse is that 5 of them are short passes to a target within our half and not a long pass forward, and I'd be surprised if none of those lead to a good Leicester opportunity. He needs to clean that up immediately.
Good to know that Rooney at least did well earlier on. I have to be honest, I missed most of the first half because my stream wasn't working well. Maybe I'll have to rewatch it to get a better idea of how we looked when things went well. That also explains the complete pessimism about the match, because when my stream started working well we were 2-1 up I believe, and I'd missed all the goals, though I did see their highlights.
Looking at the goals on squawka now, it looks like we were very prone to getting caught up in the heat of the moment. The first goal came right after we scored, and the next 4 came in pairs, one pair 2 minutes apart and the other 4. I think that strengthens my argument that Rooney wasn't so great as a captain because it's his responsibility to make sure the team keeps their collective heads in the game, and for us to be hit by Leicester immediately after scoring/conceding 3 times in a row shows the situation got the better of us. LvG should have mad some defensive substitutions to help too. Both of them are at fault IMO.
Normally I would blame the back line like crazy too, but Blackett is a youngster, Rojo is new and both have very little experience in playing together with their new teammates. Smalling is just returning from injury (right?) and he's no leader anyway, and Rafael did pretty well defensively aside from the first goal. In no way do I blame the penalty on him because Vardy dropped himself like a rock with minimal contact. If anything that should have been a yellow for diving.
Anyway, let's hope it goes better on Saturday(?).
Looks like momentum either wasn't what was needed, or it wasn't what they had. I can't remember too well now, but how many did we concede before and after Evans went out with an injury *again*. Our luck with injuries is terrible to say the least.
Yeah it could be that Januzaj is trying to impress the manager. I just noticed towards the tail end of last season already that he was playing a bit more selfish, which is why I mentioned fame. Patience and good judgement, perfectly said. It's exactly what he needs to show.
Today we got a glimpse of Rooney the captain. He huffed, he puffed, he shouted, and he motivated a grand total of nobody. Herrera is a bit rough around the edges still and a tad young, but he does look like a good captain for the future. he always gives his all, looks motivated, and could probably lead by example. Blind is the same in that he isn't yelling all over the place but he could lead by example as well. As the defensive leader it could actually work, and I'd like to see that once.
Bayern have reverted back to the 3-4-3 shape a bit more in their last 2 games, which is a bit of a shame. Pep has replaced his love of midfielders with a love of FBs for some reason. Bernat, Lahm, Alaba, Rafinha are all pretty much starters these days... They do look much better than last season though, style wise, and I can't wait to see how the complete picture looks with all their players back.
Dortmund though, I have to disagree. They could have easily had 5 goals had Miki not been totally impotent in front of net. He had great opportunities spread across the 90 minutes and consistently finished poorly or made poor decisions. BVB have a knack for taking their game to the next level against the big teams too, so I'm feeling good about their chances.
Didn't get back in time for a lineup but I expected it to stay the same. Can't see the sense in benching Mata for Falcao and playing Rooney at CAM, it was a bad call IMO. Mata was central to our attacking play by operating a bit like a pivot around which our attack rotated. Rooney doesn't really provide that with his roaming and positional-indiscipline.
Anyway, today's game... I don't even know what to say. Everything looked so good, until that absolutely BULLSHIT penalty. It's unacceptable for that to have turned the tide so much, but it really should never have happened in the first place. Defensive horror-show from Rafael at times, brilliant at other times. His inconsistency is astounding throughout 90 minutes. Blackett showed his inexperience, but I can't blame him too much because he's young. Rojo was pretty bad too from what I remember.
The worst part of all though was that everyone just kind of gave up. A big part of that problem has to be credited to our captain. Just... sigh....
Agreed on the need for a defensive leader. It's becoming more and more apparent with each passing game. We have players who are of a good enough quality to start on their good days, however they aren't capable of picking themselves up and getting back into the game on a bad day. We need to have someone who can do that for them, but with the transfer window closed we're in a tough spot. We'll need to get on a good run of form and results to give our back line the momentum it needs to keep the good performances coming I think.
Yeah Januzaj has definitely been rather selfish recently. It's not a good sign that he seems to be regressing in terms of maturity, perhaps it's a sign that the fame and expectation is getting to him a little? I think he might just need a good hairdryer session or two to get his head right though. I really like what he offers in terms of interchangeability, pace and interplay, as well as his rather dynamic set of qualities. To me, he's capable of filling that second ST/FW role because I feel if you already have one true 9 then it's a bit of a waste to play another. Januzaj has always given me the impression that he'd make a good F-9 and this formation opens the door for him to show whether or not he actually can, while still offering him the fallback option of reverting to more of a typical RW position if it's not working so well. It would also make the transition and fluidity more seamless because he is a more dynamic player than RvP.
Though you're right that ATM RvP is head-and-shoulders above Januzaj as a player, so maybe I'm getting ahead of myself a little. Still, RvP won't play every game this season so there should be a chance or two to try it out, and I hope to see it at some point.
Rooney did look a bit sharper against QPR, I agree. He looked a bit more interested in the team and excited as a whole I felt, whereas so far this season I've felt that he may have been a bit frustrated at times. He seems to be enjoying himself and his new teammates more, and I think that it provides the extra incentive he needs to pick his game up a little. What do you think?
Also, did you watch any UCL games? My pick to win the whole thing this season is BVB. They finally have the depth and quality on the bench needed to compete on multiple fronts. They've shown in past seasons they can hang with and beat the best, and this season I think they will go all the way, but only if their perpetual injury crisis lets up a little and they get some of their players back for the long term.
From the other contenders, PSG I don't take seriously as a true CL winning calibre team (semi's at the very most), RM and Barca both need to prove their defensive mettle to me, Bayern is in a bit of an identity crisis in terms of what players to use and lack a true CAM other than Goetze (who Guardiola uses predominantly on the wing), and anyone else I haven't mentioned isn't a true contender IMO aside from Chelsea, who are probably second favourites to me. They have a complete team and a strong bench, but that being said they have their own set of issues to deal with, like only having one striker who seems able to score and having a really rigorous domestic campaign to deal with.
Evans looked better again today, so hopefully he'll prove me right. He looked much more assured defensively. Apparently he gave the ball away a few times too many, which I can't remember happening too much but someone I trust said so. He needs to work on it but hopefully he's putting the horror show of his first 2 performances behind him now.
Wow DDG really scared me today! He showed more of what I wanted to see in terms of being a sweeper-keeper, but he needs to get wayyyy better at it if he wants to keep it up. Stylistically though I'm glad to see it, it's a good omen for the future that he's trying to sweep up behind the defense. On that note, I just wanted to say that most keepers in the BuLi now are trying to imitate what Neuer does. Leno just last Friday for Leverkusen came out all the way to the halfway line! He's really revolutionized the GK game.
Good summary of LvG's plans, I can agree with what you said there about the Total Football approach and being a machine, as well as creating a solid platform from which a new, lasting identity can be built.
Well ADM was used in a hybrid CM-LW role today, but we didn't play a 3-5-2. It might be dead for us now anyway so we can revisit ADM as a WB if we go back to 3-5-2 and if it happens that LvG plays him there.
I think you were happy with the variety of ways we played the ball out of the back today. Sometimes we played a short passing game, sometimes a long ball, and sometimes a CB carried it forward. It was good to see.
Lol it does seem that we think the final image will be something very similar, but I have a weird way of saying things and I'm not always clear on my points so we're kind of going back and forth saying the same thing in different words.
On the game:
Fantastic! This is exactly what I wanted to see in terms of performance, and nearly what I wanted formation wise.
First of all, everyone is saying the formation was a midfield diamond, but I disagree to an extent. It's not that I think it wasn't a diamond, but rather that it was more than a diamond. It was a very free-form formation, none of the attacking players really had a set position. The starting shell looked to me like a really compact 4-3-3 like this:
Which can take both the diamond shape when Di Maria stays back and Rooney and RvP move forward, and also a more standard 4-3-3 shape when Di Maria moves up the left wing and Rooney/RvP move forward. Mata is a bit of an attacking pivot in that the attackers sort of flow around him in a predominantly central position. I absolutely loved the free-flowing nature of our shape and how players kept swapping places and positions, and moving into space as necessary.
The only area where this wasn't on display too often was on our right. With the more mobile (than RvP) Rooney on the left, as well as Di Maria moving into the LW area, we had a more natural 4-3-3 type shape on the left for large portions of the match, but neither RvP nor Herrera can replicate that on the right. Mata, when ADM was in a more central role, could have shifted to the right and linked up with Herrera out wide to create some of that width and dynamic play on that side too. Or we could swap RvP with Januzaj.
Thoughts on all that?
In terms of individual players, Di Maria obviously was on fire today. What a performance from our #7! He is quickly becoming a favourite of mine.
Rojo linked up well with him down the left-hand side, but from the 4 signings that started today he was the most average. Still, good showing from him and I hope he keeps it up and keeps improving.
Blind was fantastic. Great distribution and good defensive cover. The only concern I have is that he is a bit lightweight and may need to add on a few pounds of muscle to withstand the physicality and wear-and-tear of the PL, but otherwise I was highly impressed by him.
Herrera showed his LA Galaxy side again. Hopefully this time it's here to stay, but I really like what I see in him. He thrives in a quick-moving style of play, and if we build around that then we can hopefully be a bit similar to how BVB in terms of their breakneck speed of attack.
It's too bad we let go of Kagawa though, because he would have really thrived in that kind of a system (as is evident by him bossing things for BVB immediately upon returning). He may have been our second best player after ADM in this kind of setup, and it's sad that he was shipped out before he had the opportunity to prove his worth in a style that suits him. Oh well, BVB are a great team and I'm glad they're getting quality players back in.
Defensively we looked pretty solid for the most part. Not elite, and we'll probably need a bigger name or two for next season, but we should be good enough for a PL level if Evans regains his good form, Rafael stays in good form and Rojo keeps it up. Jones has been spectacular so far, Blackett has been a solid squad-role type player, and Shaw looked really good before succumbing to injury.
All in all I was really impressed by the performance. There are a few kinks that need to be worked out, and RvP and Rooney didn't look like they were meshing too well, but hopefully those things improve in the coming weeks. If we keep this up we will make top 4, no doubt in my mind, so hopefully we don't regress now or later and only keep improving.