What Manchester United, (And The Rest), Need To Do Is What Manchester City Are Already Doing. Why Is That So Difficult?

Posted: November 7, 2017 in Arsenal, Chelsea, European Football, Football, Manchester City, Manchester United, Opinion, Premier League
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There is no big secret as to why Manchester City are top of the Premier League. There is also no big secret as to why they are unbeaten and have scored, by far, the most goals.

They may have some of the best players but, in general, their squad is no better than that of United or Chelsea.

So what is the difference?

The simple answer, as some may have already concluded, is Pep Guardiola. Yes, he is leading City to inevitable success in at least one competition this season, and maybe more. But is the way he is going about achieving that success really so revolutionary?

What is his footballing theory based on? For us simple souls here at WSA it seems quite elementary.

From his successful times at Barcelona through his sojourn into the Bundesliga culminating with his arrival in the Premier League, Pep has built his teams around one very obvious yet vitally important principle which is that possession is king.

Watching Manchester United in the days of LvG and now Mourinho, it is as though giving the ball away cheaply is an acceptable part of the game. The training ground is obviously never occupied by players practising keeping hold of the ball. Yet this is a vital part of the game so why is it such an overlooked art?

In these days of tactics, formations, more tactics and even more formations it seems as though managers have forgotten that football is, basically, a very simple game.

A good team with possession figures above 60% will win more games than they lose. Pep Guardiola does not want the opposition to have the ball. To this end he makes sure that his team is full of players who are comfortable with the ball at their feet. Right from the goalkeeper to the left winger they must be able to play football as it was intended to be played.

They must be able to play out from the back, not just senselessly hoof the ball upfield, a la Antonio Valencia, Ashley Young and a few other United players. All this achieves is to hand possession straight back to the enemy.

If Guardiola’s team loses the ball then the only aim for the next few seconds is to get it back. These methods worked at Barcelona, they worked at Bayern Münich and, now he has the players he wants, they are working at City.

This “possession football” also serves to tire out the opposition by making them spend the majority of the game chasing the ball.

Why is this such a difficult “tactic” for other managers to get their heads around?

If, for example, Manchester United spent some of their week at Carrington practising keeping possession, then carried this into their next game, maybe they would win tight games against the likes of Chelsea by the odd goal, instead of losing them.

Yes, Morata’s goal was a result of awful defending which saw him unmarked in the penalty area but, before the ball went anywhere near him, United had given possession back to Chelsea.

These are the kind of mistakes Guardiola does his utmost to eradicate from his teams games. Based on the theory that “if the other team doesn’t have the ball then they can’t score a goal” Manchester City’s possession statistics are phenomenal, particularly in away games.

Manchester United showed some Guardiola-type thinking in pressing the opposition high up the pitch, which was half the battle as they often forced errors or won the ball back. They then, usually, went on to undo all their good work by immediately giving the ball back to their opponents.

What is the point using a high press if you then can’t keep the possession you have worked hard to win?

So our humble suggestion to Manchester United and José Mourinho is to put some hours into retaining the ball. The players with the capability to do this are in the squad and just need some practise.

Having watched the two Manchester teams take on Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, we are even more convinced than ever that City have the right tactics, not just for this league, but for any league in the world, and that Manchester United, along with a few others, could do worse than to take a leaf out of Pep Guardiola’s, pretty simple, book of tactics.

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