Sunday, 17 July 2011

The Scouting Report - United players vs NE Revolution

By Magnus Nordman

Manchester United got off to a fine start to the 2011-2012 pre-season, by winning 4-1 (0-0) against the New England Revolution in front of a packed Gillette Stadium.

Here we look at some of the players starting for United. Of special interest were Jonny Evans, Anderson, Ashley Young and Anders Lindegaard. The stats were collected by following the game itself, while the zones that I refer to on many occasions, are as follows:

Jonny Evans
Jonny spent much of last season looking at games from the bench or from the stands and was said to have lost a bit of confidence. Therefore it must have been really pleasing for him to start the game and get the chance to show the manager that he is one for the starting eleven. Evans played a total of 18 games from start last season, compared to 28 (2009-2010) and 29 (2008-2009). He played 90 minutes and gave a steady impression, hopefully earning some brownie points for possible future starts.
The full backs weren't pressured all that much, although NE were more active during first half. This can be seen in the efficiency of Jonny's passing. A total of 26 passes were between 0-10m, often the result of Vidic/Ferdinand/Evans switching the focus of play. Most of these passes were hit in zone 5. A total of 8 passes were between 10-20 metres, especially when playing the ball out wide to the wingers or fullbacks did he use longer passes. 

Jonny won 3/5 headers, 1/2 tackles and made 4 interceptions, many of which stealing the ball from in front of the attackers or in some cases even the midfielders.

Evans completed most of his passing in the 5-zone (68%) but also quite evenly in the 3, 4, 6 and
8 zones. The dominance of the 5-zone comes quite naturally as this is the zone where centre backs ply their trade. The reason for his many touches in the 4 and 6 was the fact that he started the match as centre back on the right side, while playing as CB left in the second half after Rio had been brought on. The one thing that you could possibly hold against Jonny is that he doesn't play many penetrative passes behind the midfield or defensive line.

The midfielder completed 75 minutes, and just like Jonny, was probably pleased to be getting the season under way. Anderson's previous seasons have almost all been hampered with different types of injuries and he has therefore never really cemented a place in the first eleven. Last year he started 22 games, 19 (2009-2010), 29 (2008-2009) and 25 (2007-2008). Still, for once having been an attacking midfielder without much defensive conscience, one must admit that he has the potential to be a fine all round midfielder.

Anderson completed a total of 58 passes, many of which were 0-10m passes. 14 passes were in the range of 10-20m and 3 passes 20m +. As there was quite a lot of room in the midfield, there wasn't a lot of tackles, headers or interceptions, still he managed two of them. One could also keep in mind that the midfield of NE played quite narrowly, making it hard for United's midfielders to hit penetrative passes to the third zone of attack (the zone between the opponents midfield and defence).

Anderson's passing is, as Evans's, focused on playing the safe sideways pass or dropping it back to a midfielder/defender with better positioning (facing the opposition's goal). As pre-season progresses being able to play the forward pass more often and more quickly Anderson will surely start producing more goals, chances and assists.

As noticeable from the chart below, Anderson's passing was pretty much focused on the fifth and eight areas. When playing the 4-4-2/4-2-3-1 systems there really isn't much room for midfielders to roam around because as soon as the team loses possession, both of the central midfielders need to be in the right area to stop opposition players from gaining a numerical advantage. As this was a pre-season game, Michael Carrick played with a lot more freedom than he normally does. Michael didn't score any goals last season, compared to him scoring 5 (2009-2010) 4 (2008-2009), 2 (2007-2008) and 6 (2007-2008. 

Ashley Young
Ashley played 67 minutes on the left wing and was quite active with a different types of passes. He did also manage one interception and 3 tackles.

Many of his passes were hit from the 4, 5, 8 and 10-zones. The biggest percentage of his passing happened in  zone 7, with him either dropping the ball back to Fabio/Anderson/Carrick/Evans, when hitting deeper passes to attackers running behind the defence or when playing a 1-2 combination with a midfielder or an attacker. It would certainly be interesting to compare these stats against the ones playing against a stronger team. One would assume that he wouldn't have as many touches so far up field than he did in this match.

As James wrote in his excellent post match thoughts, Young did a lot of crossing with his right foot while playing on the left side of midfield. As you can see from the chart below, Young crossed the ball a total of eight times, seven of these were with his right foot.

Jonathan Wilson wrote an excellent piece in 2010 on inverted wingers. Wilson argues that with a lone centre-forward there is a need for the advanced midfielders to provide goals,so that perhaps, to an extent, explains the modern directness. Still, it seems hard to explain the idea that the most lethal cross was a ball dragged back from the goal-line. It can be dangerous of couse, raising doubt in the goalkeeper's mind as to whether he should come to claim it or not. Still there seems no reason why it should be more threatening than an inswinger delivered at pace.

The fact that Young provided eight crosses tells us a bit about his game against the NE Revolution. He did often find himself one on one against the winger, and as he is accustomed to, did a lot of challenging. Many of these challenges resulted in him cutting in and providing the attackers with a cross towards the far post.

Anders Lindegaard
The final player that I wanted to analyze was the goalkeeper. Anders had a total of 28 passes, with only three of them ending up at the feet of the opponent. Many of his passes were drop-offs to the center backs or full backs but also a couple of really good passes to the left side winger in the fourth and fifth zones.
United's next game is against the Seattle Sounders on the 20.7.2011. Sir Alex is likely to make changes to the starting eleven and give some of the other players minutes. The competition in defence and midfield will be an interesting one to follow, with the likes of Evans, Anderson, Lindegaard and Young really wanting to impress the manager.

What are your thoughts on United's performance against the New England Revolution? What did you think about the players that were analyzed in this post? Please leave your comments below.

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