It gives me great pleasure to introduce everyone to the very first guest blog on Perennial Underachievers!
I hope to feature more of these whenever I can, and please do send me stuff if anyone out there wants to write tactical pieces, match reviews, player analysis or anything United related. This first guest article might inspire a few of you out there and I hope it does! I’m still planning on a monthly blog of my own, with the review for August due out on the 31st (it has been a pretty quiet few weeks so far…)
For this first guest piece, we have a tactical look back at the fantastic 1-0 win against Rangers last Sautrday. I was in a pub in Newcastle trying to watch the game, and to be honest I was a few pints deep so maybe missed some of the finer details. So, step forward @sdempseydoo (or B Baggio as he signs off this post).
Trepidation was the word that sprang to mind when the Good Guys line-up was posted on the club’s social media outlet. Lawrence Shankland was missing from the squad, which immediately felt like we had seen the last of Shanks in tangerine and black. The manager assured fans that it was a knock in training that saw the main man side-lined for this massive fixture.
The formation saw four at the back. A five man midfield and Nicky Clark the lone striker. At least, this is how I saw the line-up, as I expected United having to defend for the majority of the ninety minutes. Benji in between the sticks with Mulgrew and Edwards was a solid looking trio, on paper at least.
In the centre of the midfield Fuchs, Harkes and Butcher were the men who, I felt, would be stretched the most against the current SPFL champions. Flanking those three were Peter Pawlett on the right and Logan Chalmers on the left. Clark at the top end would complete the line-up.
The first half would see United play with plenty of endeavour. The first five minutes seemed to be played in front of the ET Stand, with The Rangers conceding a few corners, allowing Edwards and Mulgrew a chance to test the opponents defence, aerially at least. The home side’s formation would look more like four, three, three whilst attacking with Chalmers and
Pawlett causing Barisic and Tavenier problems with their ability to run with the ball and indeed link up with Clark. There were times when we would have four in and around goalkeeper Mcloughlin’s box, with Ian Harkes making good runs passed the forwards into the six yard area. Although the American couldn’t latch onto the passes into him, he was doing a great job of stretching The Rangers defensive setup. I’m putting this down as a four, two, three, one formation. Although we can also see a four, two, four.
The main tactic that Thomas Courts deployed to counter The Rangers threats was the one which seemed to nullify veteran midfielder Steven Davies. Nicky Clark would leave Hallander or Goldson on the ball, inside their half, whilst always covering the pass into Davies. If the striker had to cover or close down in another area, he would notify the closest midfielder to take over that role. Either Gerrard or Davies himself saw what United were doing. The Northern Irish internationalist started to wander. First, he would try going forward, but would always drop back because Butch and Jeando were effective at closing any space down. Davies then seemed to drop in between his centre halves to almost change the formation. This suited United as it meant a massive part of Steven Gerrard’s midfield playmaking options was gone. The ineffective Lundstram and composed Camara just don’t have the same quality as Davies does at starting The Rangers attacks.
Of course, The Rangers were always going to come out and push United back in the second half. The most notable change from the visitors was that the centre backs were being encouraged to take the ball forward more. Obviously this is a tactic designed to draw out the tangerine low block, in the hope of finding some space for Kent and Aribo to exploit. It didn’t particularly work like that and seemed to mean that even more players were occupying any space in the United half of the pitch.
United were forced to make two changes, with first Chalmers then Pawlett going off injured. It was a worrying sight to see the talented young Logan Chalmers hobbling off, but with Adrian Sporle replacing him, the change perhaps helped Dundee United tactically. The Argentine wide man is a bit of a maverick but has a tremendous work rate and it always seems like his opponents do not enjoy playing against him. He offered good cover for Jamie Robson on that left hand side, with the two players eventually combining for the winning goal. This was actually one of the few times that either full back burst passed the forwards. A pragmatic tactic, especially these days, is for a full back to be more defensive. To be honest I am all for it. No need for full backs to bomb on every single time we are in possession of the ball. Sporle’s energy saw him not only help out his left back but also, help the lone striker press the defenders too. He seemed to be everywhere. Academy graduate Watson also offered great energy and seemed to match Barisic on our right hand side. Im sure he would have hoped to have a run at the Croat, but needs must and the youngster worked away well in the last ten minutes.
A brilliant win for Dundee United was all the reward that we needed after a tireless display. But, it should be mentioned that Courts and his staff managed to come up with a way of setting up against a very strong team, whilst also having enough threat when in possession. The difference between, Micky Mellons high press at all cost tactics and the new managers approach was there for all to see in this fixture. Going from three at the back to four does seem to make a difference. It may have even caught the opposition manager and his staff by surprise. The game itself certainly took everyone by surprise.