Football

Man Utd: How Brentford can exploit Erik ten Hag’s side

13 Aug 2022 | 08:28

Alex Keble shines his tactical light on three things we learned from our Premier League opening series and what they mean as we head into the weekend.


Messy midfield for Man United

The focus of Manchester United lost to Brighton Last weekend was the striker situation.

Christian Eriksen was little given as the wrong number nine and Cristiano Ronaldo, a second-half substitute, stole too much focus; he was like a crumbling star, sucking everything towards him until United began to play along a super-frontal system that would undermine Erik ten Hag’s tactical ideas.

But the bigger flaw, and likely to lead to another bad result this weekend, is the configuration of their central midfield.

It’s amazing that Fred and Scott McTominay are United’s starting midfielders for another Premier League season.

Unless a United manager is deploying a low block – simplifying their role, ensuring a small distance between players as they move back and forth – no player has the tactical intelligence, agility or positional discipline to connect defenses and forwards together.

Familiar errors bode well for Brentford

That explains how Brighton overcame them so easily for both of Pascal Gross’s goals, something Thomas Frank would know exactly how to do with his 3-5-2 formation.

He made the mistake of abandoning the opener system at Leicester City but returned in the second half to inspire a 2-0 to 2-2 comeback, revealing a formation – very similar to style. Brighton way – will be back from start on Saturday.

The combination of their fierce contests in central midfield, neat triangles in the build-up phase and long passes leading to channels for Ivan Toney (who can build muscle for Lisandro Martinez is still adapting) is the kind of football that should expose ‘McFred’ once again.

As absurd as it may sound, if Ten Hag loses this and then the Liverpool derby next Monday, his project will likely be dead before it even begins.

Patience is not something the board, or the current group of players, will likely have for him.


Kulusevski key for Conte 3-4-3

Thomas Tuchel and Antonio Conte meet in the highlight of the weekend on Sunday. They are two coaches with more similarities than differences.

The Chelsea manager is from school in Germany and the Tottenham Hotspur manager is from Italy, but both count on a sharp vertical and play in transition; both prefer a middle ground with minimal pressure compared to their opponents; and both deployed a 3-4-2-1 formation.

As a result, Sunday’s match will be very tight. These are two teams happily plunging into each other, sitting back and waiting for the other to charge in while respecting their opponent’s counter-attack potential.

But if either manager has any hope of challenging Manchester City and Liverpool this season, they need three points to prove it. And commenting on the opening match of the weekend, it is the Tottenham team who is in front of a better opportunity.

Beautiful Dejan Kulusevski against Southampton. His technical ability is obvious, but what is particularly revealing when seeing him in the flesh is the tactical awareness he displays to spot Southampton’s weaknesses.

In the first half, when Ralph Hasenhuttl narrowly deployed a 5-3-2, he leaned over to the right to receive the ball in the Saints’ midfield. In the second, when the away manager sealed off the flanks by switching to a 5-4-1, Kulusevski dropped deep in to take control of the game.

His dazzling form shows why Spurs are ahead of Chelsea.

Tuchel lacks the right tools

For the Conte / Tuchel style to work, what is needed most are sharp strikers, ready to make runs past defenders, dribble past opponents and find direct passes.

Tuchel was well aware that his squad had too many nimble players wanting to play without the ball, so he bought Raheem Sterling. Conte, meanwhile, possesses the ideal trio Kulusevski, Heung-Min Son and Harry Kane.

Currently, Tuchel is lacking the tools to play the way he wants.

Haaland for Man City even more ownership control

Manchester City and Erling Haaland. It’s been summer talk and the subject of so many pre-season previews that we think every angle has been covered.

Everyone’s eye is on his suitability, adapting time and potential target stats for the season – but his brace last Sunday against West Ham United revealed just that. that no one can predict.

Either you think Haaland will clash with Pep Guardiola’s possession-focused football or by changing City’s approach he will make the team stronger.

But instead, after West Ham sat very deep in the first half before opening the scoring in the second, there was an argument that Haaland would, in fact, increase his possession and territory. Man City.

David Moyes’ side seemed to be terrified of Haaland’s pace at the back, so they coordinated deeply and City held the ball 86% before the opening goal.

Chasing an equalizer in the second half, the home team started to face Man City in the upper half, but this certainly left a large space in the field for Haaland’s devastating runs. – led directly to his second goal.

In other words, West Ham is deadlocked.

Pep was one step ahead

Other Premier League managers will take note, and the obvious conclusion – at least for now – is to sit a lot deeper to deny Haaland the space he needs, creating a cramped penalty area. to which the Norwegians may be closely restrained.

Therefore, Guardiola, who is obsessed with control and territory, may have intuitively found a way to achieve more by signing a striker who is in direct opposition to those principles.

It is a new theory that will be put to the test against Bournemouth on Saturday. Scott Parker’s side were bold and fierce against Aston Villa but will certainly be much more cautious this weekend.

Notice how deep they sit, and how does this help or hinder Guardiola in his pursuit of complete dominance.