During the pre-season the teams sign new players and sell others. Since some players take longer to adapt to a new reality, coaches need to know if the new players are prepared for the specific demands of their game model. Let’s look, for example, at Rashford and Lukaku from Manchester United: one had a great performance last season (Rashford) and the other has just joined the club (Lukaku). As they have different profiles, there are new possibilities for José Mourinho in regards to his game model. We have analysed their individual performance in 3 pre-season games (Real Madrid, Valerenga and Barcelona) and have registered all of their actions using Videobserver software.
Rashford vs Lukaku
As we can see, a more versatile player (like Rashford) moves between the opponents’ defensive and midfield sectors or in the side lanes, while a physically stronger player (like Lukaku) often remains in the central lane, going down on the field to get more involved in the build-up.
Let’s look at the crosses as an example. A more versatile player can coordinate with the wing-back and move to the side lanes, creating numerical superiority and unbalancing the opponents’ defense. When this happens, the center-backs lose a marking reference and a midfielder can take advantage of the space available and attack the cross. In opposition, a physically stronger striker stays next to the center-backs and prepares himself for a potential cross.
Lukaku´s aerial duels
Since a versatile player is usually shorter than a player who remains next to the center-backs, it is not convenient to use him as a target-man in a direct game style. On the other hand, if we often play long balls to the strikers, a physically stronger player is more appropriate as he is able to win more aerial duels (this will not be effective unless the midfielders move closer to the striker to win the 2nd ball).
We can see that this new signing will complement the offensive options Mourinho has at his disposal.
When playing against Real Madrid, United’s 1st pressing line behaved passively (executed by Rashford) and the center-midfielders were responsible for the pressure. In the image above Varane received the ball and had plenty of space and time to move into United’s midfield because Rashford did not applied pressure.
The presence of Lukaku changes United’s defensive approach because he actively presses the opponents’. In this image (against Valerenga) United lost the ball and Lukaku immediately reacted and moved closer to the ball.
In addition to what was mentioned above, he also chases the opponent in order to reduce his time and space to decide/execute well.
Lukaku was the only man upfront against Barcelona and Rashford played on the side. To prevent the opponent from unbalancing United’s defensive structure, Lukaku moved to the central lane and Rashford’s mission was to prevent the wingback from providing offensive depth to his team.
After that, Rashford allowed Jordi Alba to penetrate in United’s midfield and that created some instability for the English team.
So, what can we conclude? Putting aside the different characteristics and qualities of the opponents’ and only comparing their performance, United’s 1st pressing line was more active when Lukaku was playing upfront, and when it was Rashford, the team was more down on the field.
The player and the game model
The current analysis can be used to evaluate if a player fits in a specific game model. For example, if our strikers constantly attack the spaces behind the defensive line we will have more success using a versatile striker like Rashford. However, if we rather have our strikers going down on the field to help in the build-up, a player like Lukaku will be more effective.
Do you know your team?
To succeed, we have to know our team’ strengths and weaknesses (and also the opponents’) but to do so we need both qualitative and quantitative information, which allows us to better guide our players.
Having this in mind, can you guarantee that your new signing is playing accordingly to your game model? Are there enough players to successfully execute your build-up? Are your wingers providing enough width? Are your players considering the contention distance regarding the proximity to the goal? With Videobserver software you can identify and analyze these and many other key aspects that will allow you to study your team and the opponent in order to improve your team performance. Try it today!