“It was quite difficult because my team-mates are often in the area where I want to play. That’s why I have to change my tactics. Unfortunately, they are often in my area. It was much too slow today and we only had one shot on target in the whole match against Olympiakos, which is far too little. Everyone is very disappointed.”
Van Persie said after the 2-0 defeat to Olympiakos.
Couldn’t agree more with Van Persie; some of United’s players positional sense were poor. The introduction of Kagawa showed what is clearly lacking in some of United players, especially Rooney in the no.10 role. Kagawa clearly illustrated how modern football should be played.
This article is to illustrate the points I made in my last post on why Kagawa is the key for United with his understanding of the game and positional intelligence.
His positional intelligence – constant movement in relative to the ball,space, teammates & oppositions – is a sight to behold. His abilities to play in tight spaces and quick turn to change the direction of play is just pure elegant. His understanding of the game and decision making makes him one of the best modern breed of pure no.10 in European football.
Illustration 1- The Art of Movement.
Below is the sequences of Kagawa’s positioning in a buildup play. Pay attention to his positioning as he constantly moved around in relative to the space, ball, teammates and oppositions with a clear passing lane for the players on the ball so that they can feed him the ball.
1.) Ferdinand is on the ball to initiate a buildup play. Kagawa circled red was the only United player to have plenty of space with clear passing lane for Ferdinand to make a pass to him but unfortunately, Ferdinand was not confidence enough to make a forward pass to him.
3.)After a few simple passes with Ferdinand and Carrick, Kagawa is on the left, return a pass to Carrick. Watch the next snapshot on how he positioned himself in relative to the space, ball, teammates and oppositions.
4.) Kagawa dropped higher in between 2 Olympiakos players with a clear passing lane for Carrick to feed him the ball. His positioning enabled him to construct triangles with his teammates which provided him plenty of options for a combination play.
5.) Received the ball and made a quick turned and played a through pass to Evra. From buildup phase to penetration phase, he successfully made the transition play happened by connecting the midfield and forward.
Illustration 2 : Playing in tight spaces
In modern games where oppositions’s defence are more compact with higher density of defensive lines, hence, it is important for a modern player to be able to have good technical abilities to play in tight spaces.
4.)Great composure from Kagawa to release the ball to Rooney even though he was being surrounded by oppositions. Unfortunately, Rooney was too static and the opposition closed down the ball quicker than Rooney.
Illustration 3 : The Art of Building Up Play
One of the main reason United struggled in a lot of matches including the game against Olympiakos is the inability to buildup and progress the play to final third. United attack were disrupted even in the buildup phase especially when oppositions pressing high up the pitch. Kagawa should able to solve the disconnection between the midfielders and forwards with his positional intelligence and understanding of the game to progress the play from the back.
2.) This showed how intelligent Kagawa is. There was not much option for Kagawa to play the ball forward. There was only Evra on the left who was in space but instead of playing the ball directly to Evra, he slowly progressing the play forward, drawing the opposition toward him before releasing the ball to Evra so that he can surge forward with more space. The opposition in front of Kagawa was waiting for him to pass it to Evra then he will proceed to close down Evra but Kagawa never did, hence the opposition has not choice but to close down Kagawa.
3.)If Kagawa able to release to Evra, then the play will be successfully made the transition from buildup play into penetration in final third. Unfortunately, Kagawa did not make it but the idea was there.
Illustration 4 : The Art of Penetration through the Middle.
Final Illustration : The Art of Building Triangles & Positioning
The key in possession football is the structure of the team shape. By creating more triangles, web of passing angles will be created too to keep the game flows. In order to build all these triangles, a team must have a focal point connecting all the other players and Kagawa is very good in this regard.
If you are watching the match, pay attention to Kagawa on the how he moves so subtlety in relative to the ball, space, teammates and oppositions. Sadly, one of the main reason he is unable to showcase more of his talent is because his team-mates were unable to find him even though he has a lot of space & a clear passing lane for his teammate who is having the ball. Below is the illustration where Kagawa did not receive the ball when clearly, he was the best option for his teammates.
This is what Kagawa can do if other players able to find him.
Finally, Kagawa is the key if United want to play a more progressive type of football.
Moyes is looking outside for gold, not realising that he already has a true gem in his hands.