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Wouldn't say we were terrible in general, but our finishing was. Unlike against Chelsea and Everton we did create some decent chances, and enough of them to put away a team that parks the bus, but we didn't put those chances away.
Some noteworthy points from the game:
Rooney once again sucked it up in midfield, constantly playing the slowest ball imaginable wide to Valencia, most of which were promptly intercepted.
Young was doing very well again with Blind supporting him. When he plays with Shaw he takes on the supporting role, but Blind supports him instead and let's him be the "main" man on the wing. Probably our most dangerous player.
We had a lot more movement than in previous games. LvG seems to be working out a way to successfully break open a parked bus with a solid team effort rather than an x-factor player like Messi or Robben to do the hard part for you. The movement and quick passes were great for creating space, and lead to several decent chances where our shooting let us down.
Another tactic he tried, which didn't go across so well with others (though I really liked it myself) was to play Fellaini as the lone striker and have RvP and Rooney playing as attacking midfielders behind him. The execution needed a bit of work, but if I understand what he was attempting it was theoretically a great way to break open the bus. My understanding of the tactic was that Fellaini was meant to be a striker playing almost purely with his back to the net, serving as a conduit for our deeper players to bounce the ball off of. He kept the CBs occupied and used his strength and height to push them off, affording him an opportunity to then play the ball into the path of an onrushing Rooney/RvP or out wide to Mata/Young. It caused A LOT of panic in the WBA box and surrounding areas. midfielders were trying to track the runs of RvP (Rooney didn't really seem to understand the plan) while the defenders tried to surge forward to cut off his potential shooting space, or to block the shot itself. It worked because RvP and Rooney are both players who can score from further out and demand that respect from the opposing team. With the defense then panicking to cut them off they had opened space for others to exploit. LvG started this tactic in the second half and we had a great spell of dangerous play before WBA got their lucky goal off an unnecessary foul.
Di Maria was dreadful. He misplaced practically every pass, often making wild decisions. He had one dangerous long range shot at the end, but I suspect it may have been a mishit cross.
Herrera did well in the Carrick role again, and this time managed to get forward a bit more.
All in all it was a disappointing game in terms of the outcome, but I saw quite a few things that make me optimistic about the future.
Credit to Everton, they played very well, especially James McCarthy who must have had something like 9 blocks. Still, we were pretty terrible. Top 4 is looking a bit uncertain at the moment.
TBH I think Guendogan could play the Carrick role. Since he's come back from injury he's been sitting a bit deeper in midfield, playing a somewhat similar role to what Carrick does. He still ventures forward, no doubt about that, but he's been decidedly more reserved in his approach to the game, perhaps only due to injury.
I think it could go 2 ways with him in the squad. The first is for him to take over Carrick's role as the deepest midfielder, with the role evolving somewhat into a more CM role than a holding one. It would be tough to say whether it'd be defensive-minded enough to have a midfield trio of he, Herrera and Fellaini, but if all 3 are mindful of their duties then we could potentially have a very mobile, fluid midfield threesome who rotate and cause havoc. It would, in essence, be something akin to a double-pivot of Guendogan and Herrera, but with Fellaini also putting in a very active defensive shift as the more advanced midfielder.
The other I see this going is for him to be Fellaini's long term replacement in the 11, leaving us with the long term midfield trio of Blind, Herrera and Guendogan. I won't lie, the thought of the interplay possible between Herrera/Guendogan/Mata is mouth-watering to say the least, but the lack of height and physicality is a bit worrisome in this trio.
I think that the most likely scenario is that it will be a combination of the 2 possibilities, with LvG using either-or as he sees fit. BTW I guess Klopp to United is kind of dead now that he's pretty much guaranteed that Giggs will in fact be the next manager lol. I really hope he doesn't end up at Citeh though.
We're getting Guendogan according to Sky. Klopp to United?
Hmmm Carrick replacements. I can only think of 2 that appeal to me off the top of my head, Schneiderlin and Witsel. I haven't watched enough of either player recently, but from when I have seen them they've both been highly impressive to me.
I know Schneiderlin more on reputation than from actually having seen him play. By all accounts he's an upgrade on Carrick in terms of being the total package though, and any time I've watched him play that idea has only been reinforced. There are very few players who can read the game like Carrick, and I doubt Schneiderlin is one of those, but Carrick is a more senior player with a vast wealth of experience, so I don't think it's a fair comparison.
Witsel is a player I've had my eye on for a while. I don't watch Zenit (that is his club right?), but for Belgium the guy was a monster at the WC. Every loose ball seemed to find it's way to his feet in the midfield. Like Schneiderlin, he's more physical than Carrick, and as an additional positive he knows Fellaini well. Plus, he's already expressed interest in joining us.
Judging off Whoscored Schneiderlin is the superior player, especially defensively, but Witsel is more dynamic. Another difference is that Witsel has played primarily as a defensive midfielder while Schneiderlin has been used mostly as a central midfielder. Under strengths and weaknesses it shows Witsel as being weak in tackling, which a significant negative, but Scheiderlin likes to foul, which is just about the complete opposite of Carrick.
All in all I think I would prefer Witsel TBH. There's nothing really tangible there to explain, but I just have a good feeling about him. Either player would do just fine though IMO.
Another player that could fill the DM void, but in a pretty different way, is Johannes Geis from Mainz. I know Trey Tak is very impressed with him and he watches him often. From what I gather he's a more mobile, more direct kind of player compared to the others. His defensive stats sit somewhere between the 2, and physically he is similar. At 21 he's much younger than the others with great room to grow while being comparatively effective already. He tries an insane number of long balls per game, which isn't my style at all, but he is listed as being "very strong" at direct freekicks and set pieces.
The only, glaring problem I have with him is that Thomas Tuchel, the former Mainz manager, is now the BVB manager, and the path is pretty much clear for Geis to join him there. If we can get him though he'd probably be the better option compared to the others.
Depay is apparently in England now, and I feel very confident we'll get him due to the LvG link. Depay seems to trust LvG to a great extent, and he will know that he now needs to take his potential and great season, and turn that into a world class, consistent player. We are in a great position as a club, and LvG is the Guardiola to his Thiago, so I'm fairly sure he will pick us.
I feel a little foolish now for what I said about Herrera. He did reasonably well but made too many mistakes. I got caught up in the moment of the game (was about 20-30 mins in when I wrote that) and completely forgot Blind lol
Forget transfer fees and reputations and history, Herrera is our best player. If he can play like this we have our new Carrick right there.
Rooney needs to stop going long at every opportunity though.
When I woke this morning I couldn't believe my eyes. With all those players out our defensive core is completely broken.
Valencia Smalling McNair Shaw
Mata Herrera Fellaini Young
That's probably how I would handle it. If RvP is fit enough I'd consider starting him over Wilson because he is capable of producing magic moments, which might be just what we need.
The other way I can see this going would be something like this:
Valencia Smalling McNair Young
Mata Herrera Fellaini ADM
I don't prefer this one, but I could potentially see LvG going this way. Shaw doesn't seem trusted at LB while Young has done well there. Di Maria has been his first choice substitute so it only makes sense that he comes back into the team. Falcao is fit so he'd probably start.
LvG already said that Rooney will probably play DM so I think that's pretty much a certainty. Herrera and Fellaini are a must in midfield with him (and not Di Maria) because they've proven they'll track back and help out, which Rooney will need. If he can keep his passing tidy and his head on right, this might actually work out pretty well (or really just not a complete disaster). He's far more mobile than Carrick or Blind, and while he isn't as good at reading the game he is far more combative and aggressive. It could work, but I'm really worried about this game now and I'm glad we have the 4 point cushion on City.
TBH I don't see it happening that Klopp joins City or Real. He seems the type to prefer a trusted and close relationship with the upper management, whereas the managers of those clubs are pretty much always in the hot seat following a bad result. United, Arsenal, Liverpool, these are the clubs that make more sense to me.
I could actually see us making a move for him now as well. LvG is doing great ATM, but he's always been a short term solution. Klopp is available now, and who knows when he'll be available again. Bayern fired Heynckes after winning the treble to make room for Guardiola as a long term option, and I could see something similar happening with us. The better solution would probably be to get him to take a one year break and take over from LvG then, but I have a strange feeling that Klopp will be at United. Just a gut feeling, but it's one I'm struggling to shake. Arsenal would have been a good fit for him too but they seem to be sticking with Wenger.
Oh okay, that makes more sense. I would say that judging from what I've seen of Chelsea lately we're favourites to win that match. Like I said, with the way we're playing right now I don't think anyone in the league can beat us.
Perhaps Di Maria will fit into our style eventually, but like you said he would need to change his game up a bit. He could probably do it though, so perhaps I was a bit quick to write him off. I wouldn't play him through the middle though, the Fellaini-Herrera pairing ahead of Carrick is extremely well balanced and effective. In fact, I'd keep them together to see how they fair in the CL next season because I do think they can do it. Fellaini is an ever-present figure in the Belgian team and Herrera is Spanish, so I don't think they'd struggle at all to do well against European teams.
I think that's the first time someone's said to me I look like a prophet lol. I'm just glad he's managed to turn things around, and even if he does leave now it'll be on good terms. The amount of abuse Young's gotten in recent years leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
It does seem like Depay signing for us has a sense of inevitability to it, doesn't it? He looks like he has the perfect build and style for the BPL, so I'm kind of excited to see what he can do. If LvG can get him to "play with his head", then he certainly has the capability of being something similar to Robben, who despite pissing me off frequently is an extremely effective player. Hopefully Depay won't be so selfish lol.
With Carrick out I see LvG playing Blind at DM and Rojo at LB. Shaw doesn't seem trusted at this point, and Rojo has filled in at LB once when Blind wasn't available (after Blind nailed that role down for himself) if I'm remembering things right. I don't think LvG will want to tamper with the Young-Fellaini-Herrera-Mata connection by playing Young further back and introducing Di Maria into the mix.
I'm a big fan of Chicharito and would elect to keep him. In terms of his temperament and character he really seems a lot like Mata, and those types of guys are just the best to have at the club. I would really like to see him be our second choice striker, with Falcao and unfortunately RvP being sold.
At the same time though, you make a good point about needing someone who can hold up play as well. Chicharito, for all his likeability, offers very similar skills to Rooney and Wilson, with very few of his own that the others can't imitate (Wilson especially). Perhaps it would be best for everyone then that he goes to a decent club where he can play regularly, and we sign a very different type of striker to be second choice to Rooney. Someone like, as you said, Lacazette.
If De Gea leaves this summer we're screwed. The only keeper in the world right now who is semi-available and who could realistically fill that void of both current ability and future potential is probably Leno from Leverkusen. He still needs to do some developing, but on his day he's an absolute beast of a keeper. Basically a young Neuer. We need to do everything in our power to keep De Gea though, I don't care if it means making him top earner at the club. I'm hoping that his apparent friendship with Herrera and Mata helps him decide to stay.