Tactical analysis of the weekend’s games and Premier League predictions!
In his latest Premier League tactical analysis blog, Alex Keble offers ‘four things we learnt’ from the action, including how Chelsea’s and Man Utd’s performances were affected by Pedro’s transfer decision…
1) Manchester United are lacking a Pedro
Manchester United 0-0 Newcastle
Another laboured Manchester United performance has highlighted the significance of Chelsea’s late swoop for Pedro; three matches in, and their stilted attacks have become a worrying pattern.
Newcastle, Aston Villa, and Tottenham all contained United’s attackers with relative ease thanks to the absence of runs in behind and high tempo movement off the ball. Wayne Rooney and Adnan Januzaj both like to receive the ball to feet, coming short and playing in front of the opposition back four.
This results in a lack of piercing runs and penetrative football, ensuring that opponents can simply hold a deep line, stay in regimented formation, and refuse to be pulled out of position by standing off. As the season develops this pattern of opposition tactics will only strengthen. A player like Pedro – a master of making late, diagonal runs in behind the back four – is desperately needed in the United attack.
Rooney rarely received the ball in dangerous areas, whilst Januzaj avoided the centre too much and was largely anonymous (34 touches).
Januzaj’s contribution was frustrating once again. Instinctively a winger, he drifts into wide positions far too often and fails to exploit the pockets of space behind or in front of Rooney; a see-saw relationship should develop between the striker and supporting playmaker, but Januzaj is not providing the close support or overlapping runs required.
With Pedro having escaped their clutches, United need a plan B.
Next match: Swansea (a) Garry Monk’s highly organised side should prevent United solving their goalscoring problems. Back under 2.5 goals at 5/8Add to betslip.
2) Chelsea were lacking a Pedro
WBA 2-3 Chelsea
There are several areas of the Chelsea squad in need of transfer market rejuvenation, but after the £23 million transfer of Juan Cuadrado in January, not many people believed signing a winger was a high priority. Pedro’s debut performance has silenced any doubters.
Industrious, intelligent, and a superbly delicate attacker, Pedro is the perfect Mourinho player. His directness and piercing dribbling (3 fouls against vs West Brom) helped Chelsea surge into the final third with greater purpose than in recent months – and provide much needed support to the often outflanked Branislav Ivanovic.
The purchase of Pedro will also help Willian, who looked far more comfortable in a central role. Another hard working player, the Brazilian’s decision making and quick tempo distribution on the counter are vital and underappreciated elements of this Chelsea team; plying his trade from the centre, he can drift across the breadth of the field and sow the seeds for the counter more frequently.
The addition of Pedro should add purpose to the Chelsea front line whilst repositioning Willian into a role better suited to his style.
Chelsea’ next match: Crystal Palace (h) Chelsea now have momentum, and should be able to defeat Crystal Palace with Pedro shining again. Back Pedro to score any time at 5/4Add to betslip.
3) Tactically intelligent Tom Cleverley continues to quietly impress
Everton 0-2 Man City
Roberto Martinez has utilised Tom Cleverley in the same complex right wing role the midfielder enjoyed at Villa Park, and has so far been rewarded with some quietly efficient performances that embody the Martinez philosophy.
Cleverley swings in an arc movement from central midfield to right wing, using his superb positioning skills and off the ball movement to alternate between drifting into the channels, darting infield to link the lines, and joining the forwards in a number ten role.
The intelligence of his interplay allows Seamus Coleman to maraud forward with greater urgency; against Man City, Cleverley often provided the through ball for Coleman from an inside position unfamiliar to most traditional wingers.
The former Man United player’s skillset is not flashy or particularly appealing to many, but his industry and tactical intelligence make him a quietly excellent footballer perfectly suited to the complexity of Martinez’s formations.
Everton’s next match: Tottenham (a) Everton are still looking defensively vulnerable whilst building attacks with greater urgency than last season – thanks in part to Cleverley’s input. Back both teams to score at 8/11Add to betslip.
4) Bilic’s defensive organisation needs work
West Ham 3-4 Bournemouth
Sam Allardyce’s comments on Match of the Day – that West Ham would never have defended so poorly during his tenure – were accurate. Disorganised pressing and individual calamity have now led West Ham to successive home defeats; their slide in form will likely accelerate unless Slaven Bilic implements some serious structural changes.
Frequently caught on the counter-attack, West Ham’s midfield seemed largely clueless for long periods of the match. The gap between the back four and central three was ominously large, with Mark Noble, Cheickhou Kouyate, and new signing Pedro Obiang frequently occupying the same areas and failing to communicate as a trio. Drew Surman and Matt Ritchie easily flourished in the spaces.
It was for this reason that Bournemouth excelled on the counter, as West Ham defenders were forced to move out of position and close down the spaces in front. With Aaron Creswell and Carl Jenkinson frequently caught too high up the pitch (having been tasked to provide the width in a narrow 4-3-2-1 formation), it led to chaos as Bournemouth’s front two poured forward.
Bilic must show far greater tactical discipline and pragmatic awareness if he is to be a success at West Ham. Against a ball playing team in an attack-minded 4-4-2, zig-zag defensive lines and midfield roaming will always be exposed in the Premier League.
West Ham’s next match: Liverpool (a) Away from the glare of the Upton Park crowd, West Ham can play with greater caution and Allardyce-esque tactics. Back the draw at 15/4Add to betslip.
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