MANCHESTER United have just announced the appointment of Dutchman Erik ten Hag as their new manager for next season.
Good news for United fans? Well, that remains to be seen.
The real question might be whether things can get any worse at Old Trafford.
But in truth the fuss over a Cristiano Ronaldo hat trick hardly glossed over the defensive disaster.
United then had to travel to Anfield, where they were, midweek taken apart by a Liverpool team that barely had to step out of third gear.
Next up for United is a trip to the Emirates this weekend arsenal.
The problem for United is that the Gunners could very well be one of the worst opponents for either side given the way things have gone over the past week.
United’s lack of structure
Ahead of the midweek game against Liverpool, Rangnick experienced something of a surprise in terms of team selection and form as United switched to a back three system.
Forgotten Man Phil Jones was back in the starting XI between Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof.
A back three could have worked against Liverpool’s powerful attack, but you need to have structure and organization to protect space and prevent the opposition from comfortably playing through you.
And, as we know, two things Liverpool really, really like is space to run in and space to pass the ball – Thiago, anyone?
In this case, the defensive line was shielded by a midfield two of Nemanja Matic and Paul Pogba, while the full-backs of Diogo Dalot and Aaron Wan-Bissaka were both actually right-backs.
This could still have worked if United had kept a tight structure and limited the space between the defensive line, midfield line and attacking line.
Instead, however, the spaces were stretched and Liverpool were able to play their way through the thirds and break through the bad United press again…and again…and again.
Then the ball came forward from Liverpool man united defender and Harry Maguire In particular, he became too aggressive when stepping out to squeeze the ball and gaps emerged for Liverpool to easily play through.
It’s not a huge leap to understand Maguire’s desire to step up and try to play offside – he looks like a player who’s shot with confidence and lacks the pace to chase Salah back for the umpteenth time in the game.
Arsenal are the kind of side that can play through this lack of press and poor structure at will.
Under Mikel Arteta, the north London side have developed a patient and effective style of play and they will look to retain possession to suck United out before breaking through and attacking a defensive line that is not adequately defended.
When Ralf Rangnick first came to United we were promised aggressive pressing football. Rock and roll and not a slow waltz, we’re told.
However, this play style proved impossible to implement properly with the current group of players.
Now we see United’s forwards still trying to move high like they’re pressing, relatively static and easy to get around – even when Ronaldo isn’t playing.
This stretches the entire team and gives the opponent space to take between the lines.
They like Martin Odegaard In particular, Arsenal will be a huge threat against this United team.
Even in the game against Norwich, where they played a regular back four with a defensive midfielder in front, we saw United struggle on the defensive with their formation and lack of organization.
Norwich have been consistently dangerous on the break and they fully deserved the two goals they scored to bounce back from 2-0 down – and that was Norwich, no other contenders for Champions League qualification.
Arsenal will again be able to capitalize on each of those moments with their movement and interaction in the last third.
It’s probably taken a little longer than many of us expected, but Arsenal have finally put in place a solid structure under Mikel Arteta, with a combination of structured build-up and youthful attacking exuberance.
With United’s forwards struggling to establish a consistent and effective press, we’re likely to see Arsenal finding comfortable ways to play through and around them.
Typically, we’ve seen Arsenal deploy a three in the center of midfield while the revived Granit Xhaka worked with Thomas Partey at base.
Norwegian star Odegaard has the freedom to drift and find space.
Even without Partey, we can expect Arsenal to try and keep Odegaard free to wreak havoc.
Whether United play two in midfield, as they did against Liverpool, or three, as they did against Norwich, their lack of aggression in that area will still mean they struggle to master the combination of passing, aggression and skill that the Arsenal midfield can effectively block boasting.
If Arsenal are able to pull opponents forward and towards the ball while patiently building up, they will look to find runners behind midfield.
Typically, players like Martin Odegaard or Bukayo Saka will be the players to perform these moves to get the ball between midfield and the opponent’s defence.
These are the key areas in this match.
If Arsenal can get into those areas behind the United space, we’ll see United defenders get nervous and make mistakes.
We have already seen in this piece that Harry Maguire in particular approaches the ball aggressively and this is not matched by his defensive partners.
If Arsenal can get United’s defenders to step out, they have the pace and movement in the wide areas to cause big problems.
One thing Arsenal will try to do as they build more patiently into the final third will be to overload one side of the pitch, squeezing players into tight spaces before playing a quick switch to the other side.
This is one of Arteta’s favorite attacking tricks.
This ability to switch plays in the last third poses a real threat to Arsenal as they are then able to double down on a defender who is isolated against the ball, at least initially.
What do we think will happen?
The only caveat to anything other than another humiliating defeat for United is Arsenal’s somewhat dodgy form recently – but which has vanished at Stamford Bridge.
Surely the other consideration is that United can’t be as bad again under Rangnick?
But all the evidence suggests Arsenal are back on the horse by beating Chelsea 4-2 and United have huge potential to be terrible again.
So don’t be surprised if we see yet another miserable post-game Rangnick presser after the final whistle.
For more tactical analysis, scouting, and stunning data visualizations, visit Total football analysis.
https://www.thesun.co.uk/sport/18332596/arsenal-manchester-united-tactics-press-formation-rangnick-arteta/ Why Man Utd have little hope against Arsenal as Odegaard can let off steam and Gunners Utd will take advantage of weak press