Football scouting blog
Watching the match against PSV, I noticed something alarming which I had noticed for months now – but it became really apparent last match. There seem to be a problem with Manchester United forwards getting shots on goal and I believe this all stems from Van Gaal’s need for his players to be too precise in their finishing. As a manager, Louis Van Gaal prefers it when a player is about to shoot, to first foremost, get a touch to control the ball and then look at the keepers positioning to see where he is in relation to the goal. Then place it either side of the keeper were he can’t reach it. So for example, if you as a striker gets a chance in the box and the keeper comes rushing out leaving a small gap on his left side that is where you place it. As he explains in the video below:
You probably wondering how can being more precise with your finishing in any way a bad thing. Surely, more precision would mean more shots on target? And that is true, when it works the players do produce better more accurate shots on goal as Van Gaal advised Herrera to do last year;
“He has a very good kicking technique and he should be more composed,’ Van Gaal said to MUTV. ‘I said to him ‘you have to control the ball before you shoot’.
‘I said that to him again in yesterday’s training session, and then I kissed him at half-time because he had controlled the ball for the first time in his life and then he shot.”
And he said this enthusiastically during a press conference after Ander Herrera had scored a goal that follows the principles he stated above. Below is a clip of that goal;
However, although precision is good it does take a split second longer to execute than just shooting from instinct. This can give the defender a chance to recover or most likely the player will lose concentration because they are caught in two minds of the natural urge to just swing a foot at the incoming ball in the direction of the goal and also thinking about the consequences of not taking a touch. As the stats from last night game showed Manchester United had 17 shots but only 5 on target which is 29% of their shots on target in that game which was slightly below their current average of 31%. This is pretty good in terms of the overall team’s conversion rate because rarely do they exceed 40% during the course of a season. But what was alarming was the amount of times in the final third Manchester United players were dispossessed trying to be too precise in their finishing. Most notably Mata’s chance vs PSV. As the Telegraph’s Alan Tyers states;
“Mata! Should have scored. Schweinsteiger chips the ball into the area, totally opening up the Dutch defence. Mata is onto it at the far post, surely he should just volley this in from four yards. But he tries to take a touch…”
From the four forward players (Memphis Depay, Anthony Martial, Young and Mata) only Memphis Depay was not dispossessed in the 6 yard box. From Man Utd’s 17 shots against PSV, a majority (11) of them were in the 6 yard box and from those only 4 got past the defender to test the keeper. If you take into account that Manchester United completely dominated the game with an astonishing 67% possession but only had 4 shots for the keeper to deal with; shows that possibly precision when shooting is not always ideal. And maybe a flaw in the philosophy?