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Dusan Tadic scored the winner for Southampton over Manchester United on Sunday and ripped off his shirt in celebration. 5) CARLOS TEVEZ vs Tottenham: Premier League, 2007Tevez' first goal for West Ham, a stunning free-kick, is even more memorable for his shirtless celebration and dive into the crowd at Upton Park. 1) CRISTIANO RONALDO vs Atletico Madrid: Champions League 2014When Cristiano Ronaldo revealed his monstrous torso after scoring the fourth goal in Real Madrid's Champions League final victory last year, he wowed football fans around the world.
Top of the league, unbeaten and best goal difference – not much to worry about for Manchester United so far this season. A peculiarity in United’s season so far, however, is that they have conceded the joint-most shots of any club in the league, 97.
This may seem a statistical irrelevance, but the more you consider the type of clubs who concede a lot of shots, the more it seems bizarre. For a midtable club to be conceding the most shots would be interesting, for the best club in the league to be doing so is extremely odd, even given the relatively small sample size of seven games played. Below, we can also see that in three of their seven games, United have conceded more shots than they’ve attempted. Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic have both been injured, whilst Chris Smalling and then Antonio Valencia have been played out of position at right-back.
Cleverley is an altogether different player – more attack-minded than any of the players mentioned above, and the use of him and Anderson leaves too much of a gap between midfield and defence, with no-one screening.
As Stewart Robson recently mentioned, Rooney’s run of form as a true number ten has coincided with him running less without the ball. 90 Responses to “ Why are Manchester United allowing so many shots on their goal this season?
I saw Ferdinand come on as a sub for Anderson against Norwich, but admit I wasn’t paying enough attention to how that worked out formation wise.
It’s just a strange Man Utd team this season, completely changing their style of play in 1 summer break. I think Fergie’s just decided his side can stream-roller this league and outscore any team. It seems most coaches seemed to have seen Barcelona’s free-flowing attacking play and are trying to emulate this.
All-out attacks with counter-pressing (using the numerical advantage directly after losing the ball to prevent the opponent from passing to free space) as the defensive measure is just getting hip but needs a lot of balancing.
Also worth pointing out that the game where United conceded the least shots (Stoke), is the game that was arguably the toughest. Chelsea seem to be finding their form under AVB and really were the better team in their match up. Chelsea really are finding their form now, as you rightly point out, but United found theirs long ago, and are sitting on top of the league table with a very healthy goal difference and victories over Chelsea, Arsenal and Spurs already under their belts. I could be out to lunch, but I really believe this is all about Ferguson trying to find a way to improve in order to beat Barcelona. I agree with you, Ferguson knows he need to change United’s style of play, more fluidity, but not necessarily like Barcelona. Other teams have already shown that the way to beat Barcelona is to follow Inter’s example in the CL a few years back (See the ZM article on this game and the Hercules game that drew inspiration from Inter). Agreed that the Arsenal game was the only one where United dominated, but I think you are being a bit selective on your Chelsea points. Also, can you point to anybody anywhere that has said United have found the way to beat Barcelona and are now parading this plan to devastating effect in the premier league. To go back to the point about Vidic and Ferdinand being out, this may be a big part of the openness in midfield, because it necessitates using Jones at CB. This is admittedly very speculative, but given the way Barcelona press high when they lose possession, I wonder if there might be circumstances where releasing Jones through the middle could be a useful attacking option against them.
Shots from outside the area are very unlikely to score on average – so Utd would be happy to see that part of the stat. Rooney could be the key to this, he is playing very high up the pitch now adays, and though his pressing is very good, he doesnt track back, which means the CM’s need to push up and make up the space. Welbeck was picking up a big chunk of the pressing duties, especially in the early parts of games. The positive of this is that Rooney didn’t seem to burn himself out, and when it came time for him to press a bit and give Welbeck a breather, he did seem fresh. But I think it’s something to keep an eye on if Rooney and Welbeck pair up more upfront, and especially against teams where SAF feels the need to distrupt the opposing teams holders.
This will also be interesting long term as to how Hernandez will fit in relative to Welbeck. In reality though, I think the only holding players United have are Carrick and Phil Jones. Lucky is a very subjective word, I think the football pundits summed the Chelsea game up best when they described it as the game that could have been 6-6.
The fact that ManU had a run of 5 games where they conceded more shots on goal than the league average sounds like a juicy fact, but the correct way to evaluate the claim that it is significant that requires the use of SPC (statistical process control), which has many tools to transform data to reveal events that are highly unlikely to be the result of chance. If you care to make available the raw data, I’d be happy to run it through some of our applications to see if it supports your hypotheses. For all the millions and millions of pounds that have been spent, there have been a number of high profile signings arrive at Stamford Bridge.
The skilful Portuguese winger was someone who came with a lot of promise and potential in his younger days. Boulahrouz joined Chelsea in 2006 for a fee of ?8.5m from Hamburg as a versatile Dutch defender, who seemingly still has potential to be filled.
Torres would endure a tough start at Chelsea, he did not manage to score his first Chelsea goal until the 23rd April against West Ham.


The Ukrainian forward joined Chelsea in 2006 after being one of the most deadly strikers in European football during his time at AC Milan. Similarly to Fernando Torres, Shevchenko arrived in London with an air of expectancy surrounding him.
He claimed an FA Cup winner’s medal, a League Cup winner’s medal and a Community Shield during his three year stint in England.  In total Shevchenko scored twenty two goals over his three years in all competitions, which some-what tarnished his reputation as one of the best strikers in his generation. Adrian Mutu joined Chelsea from Parma in 2003, in what many expected to be a big transfer for the club for positive reasons. As a result of Chelsea releasing Mutu from his contract, the Blues have seen a number of legal cases between the player and his former clubs. The other side to have conceded 97 shots is Bolton Wanderers, currently bottom of the league having lost their last six games. Or, to rephrase the question with the evidence from above, why are United conceding so many shots from long range? Meanwhile, Opta put out a stat that suggested he had a poor record from long-range last year in La Liga. An interesting feature of United’s 4-4-2 last season was the use of one calm, intelligent passing player who would remain in front of the back four (Carrick or Paul Scholes) and a runner who would break forward (Darren Fletcher or Anderson). Carrick, whilst far from the tough tackler some still favour in that position, is very good at tracking and intercepting.
He worked extremely hard when fielded wide as United were dominated by Cristiano Ronaldo, and did the same when used as a lone forward.
De Gea’s reputation as being dodgy from long-range is clearly a contributing factor, but the combination of the final three points, which are all interlinked, is also worth consideration.
I assume that United didn’t play Jones, Evans, and Ferdinand as central defenders, so did one play as a holder? Does he play Gurpegui as the 3rd center half or does he replace De Marcos with a center half?
Maybe they’re also pressing a bit more this season, forcing their opponents to shoot from far? What they seem to forget is Barcelona work incredibly hard without the ball and defend from the front. A nice current example is the German champion Dortmund, they trained for one year, dominated the league the next year and now after Sahin left they are back trying to achieve the balance once more.
As you have said, the two CM’s are leaving a lot space in behind them, and i believe this is more andersons fault, as the more experienced player, he should be playing deeper and controlling that space.
Rooney is playing as the link between attack and midfield, which he does really well, but he is more a striker than midfielder, he does close down well still i think, but he natural movement means he doesnt drop as deep as needed sometimes (as a natural CM would).
Which is more 1+2, Man U are playing more of a 442 this season as both strikers are playing deepish (rooney more so) and there really is just 2 CM’s trying to control possession. United appeared to take their foot off the gas after they scored their third goal against Chelsea. I really don’t think he is going to try and emulate them, but I get the feeling that he thinks the team needs more creativity in order to break open Barcelona (and potentially Madrid). Top of the league having battered everyone but Stoke (who had a helping hand from Peter Walton.) Thank you again God! As noted by other people above, United also had a stack of chances and the game could of finished 6-5. Or at least something to consider that could add an element of caution to Barca’s play(or the decision to play a less skilled player like Keita, for example). No real change in total shots, but those inside the area have risen from the first game with WBA: 2, then 3, 6, 6, 12, 5 and 6 against Norwich. We retain possession, press high up the pitch, close down more (just look at how Nani now tracks back after losing the ball). The lack of a holding midfielder or two is a compelling explanation, but it could also result from a defence which either starts too deep or retreats too readily. Some relatively straightforward statistical analysis should clarify whether the difference between shots conceded this year versus rest of premiership average, and versus utd last year is statistically significant or the result of a small sample size.
The point about midfielders playing high up the pitch because of Rooney’s lack of defensive willingness in his current role is a very salient point. Rooney does cause man u some defensive difficulty, he avoids tracking runs, and doesnt drop deep enough to help keep possession with the other two CM’s.
For the most part, I see the CMs in 442s as consisting of a holding player with good defensive skills and a runner who can link up with the attack and has more offensive characteristics.
Chelsea could and indeed should have scored more at Old Trafford, but exactly the same can be said of United.
Some players will have left a legacy at Chelsea for many years to come, however some will want to be forget their time in London as soon as possible.
However Quaresma seemingly faded away in the shadows of Cristiano Ronaldo and will feel he never really reached his full potential as a player. Boulahrouz was originally brought to the club to provide back up and competition for places alongside John Terry and Ricardo Carvalho.
Boulahrouz started to fade out of favour at Chelsea, as well as this he suffered shoulder and knee injuries.
Fernando Torres joined from Liverpool in the January transfer window of 2011 for a massive ?50m.
Many believed that goal would be a spring board for Torres but the Spaniard never found consistency. Yes the Spaniard scored important goals, for example the Semi Final of the Champions League and the final of the Europa League. Many expected Shevchenko to be a major signing in Chelsea’s charge towards the coveted Champions League trophy.


Shevchenko was another big money signing that failed to find consistency, despite showing glimpses of why the Blues spent the money they did. Not many expected the drama that would unfold for many years to come off the back of this move. The game against Stoke is the only game where United haven’t allowed more shots than the average.
From outside the area, however, the figure is 18 times, much higher than the average of 11.5. Ferdinand and Vidic had that art perfected, although United have learnt to cope without the former. United might well be a better side overall without him, but defensively they’re not as solid.
If Rooney doesn’t close down, then Cleverley and Anderson will surely be exposed by top-level opponents at some stage.
Or even giving the opponent space in front of the box knowing the true capability of De Gea on long shots? I remember reading an article quoting one of the Barca midfield which was something along the lines of, we never pass the ball more than 10m so if we lose the ball we never have to chase for more than 10m.
This is why I still see carrick and Fletcher as the better CM partnership, they control the game more. However, throughout the game,Jones and Evans, though they looked nervy managed to handle Chelsea despite being under relentless pressure. Maybe that just suggests Fletcher coming in and playing his way back into fitness is affecting the team. Tho he is all important to Man U’s offense, maybe doing this would harm Manchester United more than help. Both however, MUST be able to distribute the ball well and have good creativity in passing. Also note that Carrick played in both games may be he is going to be favoured for Euro games. The winger picked up a reputation for being selfish and a ‘flop’, the trend continued at Chelsea and the Blue’s did not make a move for a permanent transfer. He spent a season on loan at Sevilla but was later sold to VfB Stuggart in 2008 for around ?5m.
Torres joined with massive expectations and pressure on his shoulders before a ball had even been kicked. After all of that, you have to question whether his contribution was worth ?50m, defiantly not. The striker’s time at Chelsea was plagued with injuries which saw him fall in and out the side.
More importantly, in September of 2004 Mutu failed a drugs test and showed positive for cocaine. Opponents are particularly keen on testing United from long-range (compared to other sides) – the position of the shots displayed below illustrates a further breakdown. As a result, the midfielders have to do more work higher up the pitch, and leave gaps in behind.
As a result, they’re more likely to put together great attacking combinations, but also more likely to be opened up by opponents in midfield.
Fair to say the notion of effective holding midfield play has always eluded Ferguson (perhaps deliberately)? With teams like Spurs who counter attack extremely quickly, or Stoke or Bolton who play the ball long you have to work extremely hard to get back and defend and it becomes near impossible to defend from the front. They don’t have a great holding player and there is no real creativity in there as well. It is clear he has been working it through and trying to figure out a way to break them down, and I think this new found fluidity is a part of it. Have watched the Chelsea game If not Torres wasted one or two opportunities Man U would not play an easy game as it was shown by the score line.
It was noted for its sheer openness and was in line with the perceived new style of play that United are employing this season.
I hope Cleverly gets back into the 1st team though, the partnership with Anderson seemed to play to both their strengths.
I believe that such a differing style to the functional pedestrian play preceding our current style will take some time to sit comfortably with everyone.
On the back of enduring tough spells at Porto and Inter Milan, where he was managed by current boss Chelsea Jose Mourinho, the winger joined Chelsea during the January transfer window. I think many of the points you raise are valid, and they will certainly have to work on their defense as they go forward, but I do think he is pleased with how much energy the team now have. Smalling’s goal, though it was a close call was due to poor marking, if you looked at the analysis by John Dykes and his team of pundits(are they the pundits for Sky too?
I think this is why players like Welbeck, Cleverley and Jones were drafted into the first team. I think that energy and unpredictability is important if they hope to beat a Spanish giant. So while many think this team could win the league but not CL, I think he is making his changes more so for the CL (since the EPL is easier to win for him anyway).



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