For quite a few seasons now, Manchester United have lacked depth in wingers. Once flying wingers, both Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young are two of United’s first choice full-backs, and though both are attack-minded and reliable, both are ageing and have at times lacked the necessary intensity in attacking situations, in my opinion. To add, neither Valencia nor Young are full-backs by trade.
Unai Emery endured opening weekend defeat to champions Manchester City in his first Premier League game as manager of Arsenal. But, Emery’s new(ish)-look Arsenal, though naive, side showed signs of promise in defeat which should not be used to criticise his appointment too soon.
Having mainly been positioned on either the right or left-wing while being expected to hug the touch-line and on the odd occasion cut inside to shoot and track back – wingers have very straightforward requirements at Crystal Palace, Wilfred Zaha has since began to flourish even more so in a free *and* central role following the arrival of manager Roy Hodgson at Crystal Palace.
Manchester United’s opening fixture, a 2-1 victory against Leicester City, oversaw Jose Mourinho deploy Andreas Periera as a no.6 in United’s 4-3-3 formation. Periera, in his first Premier League start for United, proved instrumental in much of the good that came out of United’s performance, which though enough to secure the first three points of the new season, was second best to Claude Puel’s Leicester City.
Following what was a fantastic World Cup, the English Premier League is once again the focus of the football mindsets of many. Though the World Cup, and new transfer regulations have somewhat restricted teams particularly bigger teams opportunities to bolster their respective sides (Though, sides outside of the top 6 have made some big signings.), I am firmly convinced that this upcoming season is to be one of the finest Premier League seasons yet.
In what was England’s first World Cup semi-final for 28-years, the optimism exerted by fans around the team, some of who felt Gareth Southgate’s side were overachiever’s, was palpable. The hopes of a nation fell upon an inexperienced yet confident team that faced a Croatia side who were aiming to reach their first ever World Cup final. The aura that has surrounded the Three Lions throughout the whole tournament prior to the match only continued to grow, as wing-back Kieran Trippier scored what was a sensational free-kick. But, the game turned sour for the English thereafter and particularly so during the second-half, as the match, which resulted in an untimely 2-1 defeat for England, presented tactical issues that need to be revisited, but should these issues be used to undermine how much Gareth Southgate and the players have perhaps achieved at this World Cup?
France’s exciting World Cup second-round encounter against Argentina met expectations in that it was a very open and attack-minded game. France started the match with a 4-4-2 shape that also resembled a 4-3-3 depending on the movement of both Kylian Mbappe, who was more-so a wide-forward than a winger, particularly when France were in possession, and Blaise Matuidi, who would from the left-side of midfield, tuck inside to support the midfield pivot of Paul Pogba and Ngolo Kante when France were without possession.
To add, France’s approach can be considered somewhat pragmatic and this is shown through the deployment of Matuidi – a holding-midfielder and clear favourite of coach Didier Deschamps as a left-sided player to add necessary discipline, but this use of Matuidi, as well as the general approach when opposition teams attack, adds organisation to a side that boasts a huge amount of attacking talent.
Argentina made a very significant change to their starting XI from their previous group stage games, in that coach Jorge Sampaoli decided not to start an out-and-out centre-forward. Instead, Lionel Messi occupied a central false 9 role, with Cristian Pavon and Angel Di Maria deployed on the right and left-wings respectively, which offered both pros and cons. Midfield playmaker Ever Banega retained his starting place following an excellent performance against Nigeria. Argentina’s intent from the outset, as it had been throughout the group stages, was to play high up the pitch and to dominate the oppositions half.