Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Wrong tactics cost Man Utd and Spurs

Of all the top 5 clubs (Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur), only Man Utd and Spurs fail to get 3 points in their opening games of the Barclays Premier League. Man Utd had to settle for a scoreless draw against Reading while Spurs were surprisingly beaten 1-0 by newcomers Sunderland. So what went wrong for these two clubs that are expected to challenge for honours this season? Tactics!

In the Man Utd - Reading game, Sir Alex Ferguson opted for Wayne Rooney and Ryan Giggs as their front two. Ryan Giggs isn't a striker, he is best playing on the left even at this late stage of his career. Throughout the game, Giggs tend to drift to the midfield quite a bit leaving Rooney alone upfront. Rooney isn't the classic centre forward. He is more of a playmaker forward in the Cantona mould. Playing him alone upfront is not a good choice tactically. And when Rooney went off injured, United basically had no natural strikers in the team. They had to call utility player John O'Shea to play upfront. I was watching him closely on TV when he was out of the dugout. He look shocked when he was told by the Man Utd bench to play up front. Don't get me wrong. United dominated Reading from the start of the whistle. I think they had more than 20 chances to score but fail to convert even one. I think the problem with the system that United is playing is that, they think even without a natural out and out striker, they are able to score goals by anyone in the team. Last season, they had Ronaldo in super human form scoring the bulk of the goals for them but you can't depend on a winger all the time to be your main scorer. I doubt Ronaldo can score 20 goals again this season. So you look at the rest of the United team and ask who else can score goals? Well they of course have plenty of attacking players but most of them are creative and flair midfielders/wingers. The likes of Nani, Anderson and Scholes will not get 20 goals a season. With Rooney now injured for 6 weeks, United will turn to new signing Tevez but he is very similar to how Rooney plays his game. Teves is not an out and out striker. Unless Man Utd get Saha fit, I think they will have a tough time scoring lots of goals but I still do think they are good enough to win the Premiership.

As for Spurs, oh boy here we go again. Everyone expects them to do well every year and they keep failing to reach people's expectations. I think they have a good squad this year and I am sticking to my prediction of a fourth place finish for them but they need to get their tactics right for the rest of the season. Against Sunderland, Spurs were lacking penetration down the wings and creativity in the centre of midfield. They had Steed Malbranque on wide left and Tainio on the right. Both of them are not wingers. Malbranque did play alright but playing on the left, he tended to drift in quite a bit while Tainio is more of a defensive midfielder. In the centre of midfield, Spurs had Zokora and Jenas. Jenas in my opinion, was awful. I just don't understand how Martin Jol can praise him all the time. He lost the ball so many times. His passing was awful. Basically he was just a spectator. Spurs need the width and creativity if they are to make full use of their awesome strikers like Berbatov, Keane, Defoe and Bent. Berbatov and Keane started the game at Sunderland. I do think that these two are the perfect striking combination at Spurs but we can't depend on them to deliver all the time if the rest of the team, especially in center of midfield and on the wings are not delivering. Spurs need to drop Jenas and put in Huddlestone. Move Malbranque to the right while Lennon is still out injured and bring in the young Adel Taarabt at left wing. These changes will make Spurs a more effective attacking team.

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