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Manchester United 4-1 Chelsea, Premier League: Tactical Analysis

You’re nothing special, we lose every week

Manchester United v Chelsea FC - Premier League
Many shades of grey
Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images

There are many shades of grey to this season - at times, our defense was the only thing holding us together. At times, Kepa Arrizabalaga was the only reason we weren’t conceding goals. In sparingly few times, we have played some decent-looking football. The only thing not ambiguous here is that, at all times, we cannot hit the broad side of a barn door - and that has made all the difference.

By only the penultimate match of the season, we have already hit historic lows. Lampard claims the players have to play for pride, but very few players seemed to have that pride. After the match he said that since they “have not got that base of things, then formations are not as important.” Inarguably that is true statement in a footballing sense, but surely, and particularly as a stopgap manager, Lampard’s sole priority should be to sort out those basics in training, right? He doesn’t seem to be getting it right.

Starting XIs

Manchester United were unchanged from their previous match, and similarly scored via an early goal through Casemiro, who is quickly becoming every Chelsea fan’s least favourite human after bagging the 90th minute equaliser in October. And so very typical things occurred: we conceded a set piece goal (11 now in the league alone) and again did not pick up points from a losing position, with our 7 in total the least of all in the Premier League. That hasn’t helped the mood.

A very atypical thing happened as well, as Wesley Fofana conceded a penalty that was our first of the season, and so the singular diligence we have provided in defense was lost, as was defending in general. To conceded 5.0 xG (or even higher on some sites) is inexcusable, and we were gifting glorious chance after glorious chance without making any attempt at marking. In fact, their goals scored were largely dependent on improper marking or tracking of runs, and even the community’s highest rated player (and all other outlets, for that matter) is at fault for it during what might have been the most crucial goal in the match, if only we could score ourselves.

Lewis Hall does not track Jadon Sancho

That said, Lewis Hall is hardly to blame for the result. This game was entirely open in the midfield, transitional, and essentially end to end in the first half. Unfortunately, much of Chelsea’s attack was predictably focused on the right side, and so while shoring up that side of defense and hitting on the counter, the bounty was secured by United by the end of the first half despite the better chances seemingly and xG going in our favour. There would be a sharp turnaround in the second half, and almost looks more absurd on an xG map than you could possibly fathom.

First half xG vs. second half xG

Lampard lambasted our inability to perform the basics, claiming that formations were irrelevant without them. He has a point, but with some tactical and formational tweaks, the result might have been even just less embarrassingly different. There is no point in reminiscing on it too deeply at this point, even a win would not have changed anything that matters.

Recognising that xG is exactly that, only what could be expected from us ardent fans, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. We have underperformed our xG by 9.39 according to Opta and our open play goals scored xG has us in 10th while actual open play goals scored drop us to 15th. All of those beneath us have significantly more set piece goals, where we sit, ironically and pathetically low at 15th in the league, and it is clear why we cannot score goals and cannot win games.

Christopher Nkunku did win the Kicker-Torjägerkanone in the Bundesliga this season, so we got that going for us, which is nice.

One more.


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