Monday, 10 November 2008

United 1-2 Arsenal: Report and Ratings

I don't agree with Arsene Wenger very often, and still less often when he's assessing games between us. But he summed Saturday's game up pretty well when he said the difference between the sides was that Arsenal took their chances and we missed ours. I mean it when I say that a fair score would have been 4-4.

I would also add that I had a sense from pretty early on that it just wasn't going to be our day - deflected first goal, the Clichy header which missed by nothing, blatant penalty turned just had all the hallmarks of a bad day at the office.

Still, one point from our three away games against the Big Four isn't great. On the plus side, we get to play those games at home after Christmas, and that'll give us the chance we need to dent the big gap that has opened up above us.


EVDS - 4 -
it's a real shame to see such a good keeper struggling so badly - he was, and is, a shadow of his former self. What worries me most is that he seems to be aiming for competence, for an acceptable level, as though getting through a game without making a horrible mistake will be good enough. That weak punch was an obvious error, although he got away with it. But more than that, he was nowhere near saving either of the goals. You may think this harsh, because both were hit hard, one deflected and one right in the corner - but a really, really top keeper would save both of those about 10-15% of the time. The first isn't that far away from him even after the deflection, but the arm he waves at it is pretty half-hearted; for the second, if you watch closely he commits himself the wrong way, and a full-length dive to his right might have been good enough. Forgive the long diatribe on this subject, but as a former keeper myself I feel I have something to add to this debate and it is something close to my heart. In any case, I'm looking forward to seeing Foster play more and more games.

Evra - 7.5 - a very strong defensive display, keeping a firm lid on the potentially dangerous combo of Walcott and Sagna, neither of whom really got a look in. Sagna wasn't so effective against Evra going the other way, as Evra constantly made runs for the bye-line and drew a number of rash tackles. I've been a bit critical of him earlier in the season for neglecting his defensive duties, but he got the balance spot on here.

Vidic - 8 - he was absolutely everywhere defensively, and was definitely the senior partner on a day when Rio was slightly off in dreamland. Crunching tackles on the floor, commanding headers, intercepting crosses and closing down space - nobody got any change from him. Also, he can't be blamed for allowing Nasri the space for his second goal, he has to track Walcott's run and dare Nasri to beat EVDS from 20 yards knowing Evra is coming across.

Rio - 5 - currently is just not quite operating at his best, although I'm not sure why. He is giving the ball away more often than usual (i.e. it never usually happens at all) when passing out of defence and his anticipation seems slightly off. This seems to have affected his own sense of authority, and he isn't chivvying those around him in the way he was when he was playing at his peak - he seems to have introverted to sort his own game out before worrying about others. I just wonder if this is a knock-on from the right-back merry-go-round - Rio plays on the right of the pair, and has to play a very different game depending on which of the three is next to him.

Neville - 3 -
given an absolutely torrid time by Nasri and Clichy, who passed and crossed around him time and again. He has no answer, and could offer nothing going forward since he doesn't have the pace to get back again. Like Giggs, Neville is a useful player to have in the squad and will contribute a lot against lesser teams, but his time is past now as a top defender it seems.

Park - 7 - slippery and inventive going forward (that dummy showed an awareness I never thought him capable of), he always looked to turn his man and often succeeded. When in space he used the ball intelligently, and put a goal on a plate for Ronaldo (who missed). Supported Evra capably at the other end of the pitch, and was generally well worth his place. Still, he never ever looks like scoring and that is a big problem for a winger.

Carrick - 6.5 - did what was expected of him, although not much more. He screened intelligently and used the ball well, and he is certainly a good fit with Anderson. Shame that shot early on didn't creep in. We look a classier team for his presence. And that booking was laughable.

Anderson - 7 - one of his best performances this season for us. Having Carrick alongside him rather than the more energetic but less predictable Fletcher seemed to release his energy, and he charged around the pitch. For long periods of the first half, he single-handedly neutralised Arsenal's three man central midfield, to Fabregas' obvious annoyance. I'm concerned though that the lack of a goal is becoming a real mental block for him, as his shooting is getting more frequent and more erratic by the game.

Ronaldo - 5.5 - his least effective performance for a long time. Like being back in 2005, he had lots of the ball and showed lots of moments of skill, but there was very little end product. His miss just after Arsenal's second was a shocker, not only because it was a very good chance but also because it would have got us right back in the game and knocked a fragile Arsenal sideways mentally - I'd have backed us to get something from the game if we'd scored that. It wasn't all bad, though - he put a goal on a plate for Rooney, and on another day his free-kick from the left would have forced an own goal from Clichy.

Rooney - 5 - a bit of a mixed bag, he did most things right outside the final third, where he just lost it. He had one golden opportunity and two or three other good chances, and didn't even hit the target with any of them. On a day where we matched Arsenal blow-for-blow but only managed a single goal, that was unforgiveable.

Berbatov - 5 - never really got into the game. A player like Berba will always look ineffectual when his flicks and little runs aren't coming off, but he just floated on the surface and never looked up with the pace. Shame, because this type of game should have suited him very well.

Rafael (sub) - 9 - some great challenges and a driving attacking force, to say nothing of a goal that any player in the world would have been proud of. Who said full-backs can't be impact subs? Still, don't get carried away - he'd have been in just as much trouble as Neville against Clichy and Nasri for 90 minutes, but he thrived in the "playground" football at the end.

Tevez (sub) - 6 - didn't make an impact, and the worrying dip in form and confidence continues.

Giggs (sub) - 6 - played as an auxiliary striker in the end, and was involved in some good moves, but didn't deliver from a couple of useful crossing positions at the end.

What did you make of the game? Do you agree with my ratings?


Sam said...

I think you got the ratings fairly well spot on im my opion. Maybe Ronaldo a 6 as he tried hard, it just wasn't his day at all and the support offered upfront was abysmal and clichy is as quick as any LB in the world making life difficult for him. In saying that he certainly did have room to move though as Nasri pushed a long way up the field and was slow tracking back.

I stand by my inital thought that half time should have been when SAF changed Neville for Rafael. He was clearly getting exposed for pace and the young Brazilian is certainly qucik. Maybe this might have altered the games dimension in the second half, maybe not.

On another train of thought, do we need to make some changes in the centre of the park (sales and buys) or is it just that we lack cohesion at the moment. For me our CM is our weakest postion by far. We don't have a world class CM. Carrick can hold the ball and play simple passes and every now and then play a nice through ball but a majority of his passes are sideways or backwards. For me, which I know alot of people disagree with, he is not starting 11 material. He is a definite squad player, and can be used to slow down games but he is not an attacking dangerous weapon that we need in the centre. His passing range doesn't come close to someone like Cesc. OH is injured, Anderson is still raw, though does shut down the other teams midfield. I think we need a new attacking CM player, maybe someone like Diego (Weder Bremen). Though I could be wrong.

If we lineup in a 4 4 2, then I think a diamond formation is the strongest structure. this allows either Anderson, or OH to be deployed in that DCM role (depending on either injuries or oppostition) and a Scholes like player who can spread our play from the fornt of the diamond to our wingers and forwards. For me Carrick just isn't our man. I look at Deco and think what might have been, especially at his cut rate price. But with Werder not really performing well at the moment and maybe with no CL football to look forward to then we could tempt both Diego and Bremen despite his contract till 2011.?.

Penguinissimo said...

Sam - I'm afraid to say I disagree with you entirely on Carrick, although I appreciate that you have backed up your statement with your reasoning, and I really like that. Even though yours is a really well-written comment, I couldn't disagree with you more. Forgive me for fisking:

On another train of thought, do we need to make some changes in the centre of the park (sales and buys) or is it just that we lack cohesion at the moment.

The key here is "at the moment". The reason we lack cohesion at the moment is because the injuries concentrated in that position have stopped us fielding the same centre mid pairing two games in a row all season. Giggs has played a number of games here, even O'Shea has been roped into service, and the only constant has been Fletcher (who is now injured).

For me our CM is our weakest postion by far. We don't have a world class CM.

Well, I think Carrick may be recognised as such in a couple of years. Hargreaves, when fit, is one of the best DCMs around. Anderson has the potential to be unbelievably good, and Scholes can still be so in short bursts. Although I would agree that at the moment none of our guys would get into a Premiership all-star team.

Carrick can hold the ball and play simple passes and every now and then play a nice through ball but a majority of his passes are sideways or backwards.

I don't like to be this brutal, but you're just wrong. Carrick's first instinct is to pass forward - watch him, he always looks up as he receives the ball for a quick pass to a more advanced colleague, and only goes across or back if that pass isn't on. And choosing ball retention over a 10%-success eye of the needle pass is just good football (Stevie G, take note).

For me, which I know alot of people disagree with, he is not starting 11 material. He is a definite squad player, and can be used to slow down games but he is not an attacking dangerous weapon that we need in the centre.

You're right, I really disagree with you. People have been complaining so far this season that our midfield lacks craft and guile, and an eye for the killer ball - Carrick gives us all these things.

Andrew, Esq. said...

I agree fully with the ratings, and I had made notes during the match of several things you've mentioned. VDS definitely isn't showing confidence in the box - no command at all. Neville, as much as I love him, is not a starter any more. Anderson's best of the season, but when oh when will that boy learn to keep his shot on the ground??! Every shot he takes is skied into the stands.

I also think Carrick is a wonderful CM. I'd put him in the starting XI every game. We really missed Fletcher, but Carrick, even on his off days, is better than most. He always moves forward and his intelligent passing is something we don't quite see from Anderson yet.

Chafe89 said...

Fuck me, we need Hargreaves... really badly.

Chafe89 said...

And I still say Rafael will end up as a winger. Completely took the stuff about Evra and the Brazilian style into account, but remember Evra was just a bit crap when he first came to Man Utd, he had got to a Champion's League final playing at left back for Monaco, so he was experienced in the that position. So he was no stranger to the position. Is Fabio injured by the way?

Bornred2512 said...

Great thoughts again. Good to have you back on line. Agree with all your ratings - maybe Ronaldo's rating a bit harsh. Most worrying aspect of Saturday for me was the continuing slackness of our game defensively. Leaving the fact that Neville is done at the highest level aside, we should never have let that game get as loose. I think we are missing Tevez's industry harrying defenders upfront - Berba's complete lack of industry can only be ignored when he is on his game. Other worry is Rio's current form but think you are right that it is related to RB mess. Can't afford too many more slip ups now!

Sam said...

I think we will definitely have to agree to disagree. Carrick is now 27, he should have been capped for England 40 odd times and a real stand out performer in his prime if he was world class, another 2 years and hes nearing 30 and he will be slowing his running and movement. Instead he has 15 odd caps and can't control the midfield week in-week out. I look at the other big teams: Chelsea(take your pick), Arsenal(Cesc), Liverpool(Gerrard) and would kill for any of their central players. He doesn't pull the strings like he should, with the quality infornt of him he should be much more involved in our attacking play rather than his sideways movement. That flick Scholes did to Rooney against AC 2 years ago is something we just will never see from Carrick and that is what we need from our CM.

Yes I agree that OH is world class (he is by far my favourite United player) but his lack of playing time is a real concern. Anderson could be, but his potential needs to be fulfilled and unfortunately at a club like United it's really hard for players to develop as fans (like me) really crave continued success. I do agree that the lack of playing time and rotations with regards to injuries etc is hurting our fluid movement in the centre, but it's also just brinigning back my long standing belief that Carrick is not our man.

In my eyes Carrick offers about as much craft and guile as Mourinho is humble. Me and my mates have a joke when watching him play that we count how many of his passes are backwards or sideways in a row. Once he hits double digits we have to drink. Needless to say not much study gets done the next day. He isn't a quick mover of the baller, it's never one touch football. He slows our game down as far as Im concerned.

He isn't a real hard worker on the field like a box to box player (someone like Essien or keane), hes not an enforcer (like Keane or OH) and he doens't have loads of natural ability like Scholes. He just doesn't have a set of qualities that defines him as a specific type of midfielder or a midfielder that United needs. Instead he keeps the ball but doesn't place it in the right areas. This team is/should be built around speed of movement. We have so much pace in this team that Usain Bolt would struggle to get a game but instead of playing the ball for players to run on to, he puts it behind players, or tries to give it to feet not allowing for the movement of the player. Unacceptable at this level.

Imagine if we did get Diego, then with Anderson we would probably have the Brazilian CM combination for the next 5-7yrs. It would offer strong defense(Anderson) and Diego is renowned for his tackling. Offensively both have the ability and belief to take players on, something Carrick does not.

Chafe89: Fabio is injured, and out of the 2 I feel he is the more likely to end up as a winger, simply as Evra is to much of a roadblock to his development as a LB.

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