“Our midfield lacks bite”, “There is little creativity and once Scholes retires it’ll only get worse”, “Why didn’t we sign Van der Vaart/ Sneijder/Ozil?”
I’m sure at one point over the last 6-12 months you will have heard at least one of these comments or a comment very similar. The problem with our midfield has been quite obvious for a while and though good form from Darren Fletcher and Scholes continuing to defy Father Time helped mask it at times, slowly these won’t be things we can fall back on.
Scholes will sadly retire one day, it may be at the end of this season or next but it will happen eventually and whilst Fletcher is a hugely talented player, him playing out of his skin all the time was extremely unlikely. I always thought the ‘Big Game’ tag Fletch has was quite unfair, yes it is obvious he played well in big games, but I feel he was good in the smaller games too, perhaps it was the fact that in big games it is more noticeable when a man stands up to be counted. Now we face a dilemma, Fletcher has hit a rough patch and he isn’t Big Game Fletch neither is he small game Fletch either and he is just one of the problems we are facing in midfield.
The game against Spurs was a real eye opener, we went 4-4-2 (some say 4-4-1-1 but forget that nonsense) and our weakness in the middle of the park was clear for all to see. The pairing of Darren Fletcher and Michael Carrick is yet to win everyone over and yesterday was a prime example of why. Rae M touched on the feeble display from the two yesterday and the fact that Luka Modric, a player more known for what he brings to a game creatively, was able to complete more tackles and interceptions than both. To put it simply Modric had their number both defensively and offensively.
Yesterday wasn’t the first time our midfield has come up second best, on New Year’s day against West Brom we were forced to abandon the 4-4-2 after the mighty West Brom proved too stern a test and whilst we ended up taking the points from that game the fact we were forced to do so, was a damning indictment of the personnel on the field.
Whilst we can expect some creativity and much breaking up of play from Carrick and Fletcher if used as central midfield pairing, can we really expect much in support of attacking play? Whilst their performance against Spurs was disciplined and aided our defensive showing, it did little to help in an attacking sense. As Anderson came on for Nani there was an injection of energy, his running with the ball with always be a threat but with questions over his final ball still yet to be answered he may only be the answer for now until he can show consistency in the final third of the pitch.
It has been oft stated (esp by our reader Jonathan) that a pairing of Carrick and Anderson is a fruitful one and that the two compliment each other so perhaps that is the solution but then what is to become of Fletcher? I still feel he is our best central midfielder bar Scholes but his recent lack of quality whilst on the ball is becoming a worry.
In Carrick, Fletcher and Anderson we have 3 men who each have key components to make a midfield tick but none of the 3 at the moment for me scream of being totally competent individually. We have been blessed in the central midfield department recently and the options of Keane, a younger Scholes and Butt meant we were spoilt for choice thus the problem we face now is magnified times 10.
The obvious option is to just go with a 4-3-3 but I would like to think that as a club as big as ours we have the players to go with either formation but that’s me with rose tinted specs on, our midfield has and will be a problem and the injection of fresh blood maybe what we need. Of course we have to take into account poor form, nobody plays at 100% all the time as well as the fact that Anderson has a long way to go until he is the complete article so perhaps it isn’t all doom and gloom plus when Scholes returns it will alleviate the problem but for how long?