West Ham vs Manchester United • Tactical Preview


WHU are one of the best counter-attacking sides in the PL so far this season, while MUN have looked vulnerable in the defensive transition phase.

In match-week 5, Manchester United travel to the London Stadium to face West Ham United. MUN sit atop of the league, while WHU are in 8th.

This thread will cover:
•WHU Counter-attacks
•MUN Defensive Transitions

As stated in the opening tweet, WHU are a dangerous counter-attacking side & MUN have struggled to deal with counter-attacking situations defensively. This is obviously not a good combination.
This season to date, WHU have scored 2 goals on the counter, more than any other team in the league. In fact, all other teams combined have only scored a total of 3 counter-attacking goals.
Only 2 teams in the PL are averaging more counter-attacks per match than WHU (4.75), with MUN actually leading the PL in counter-attacks per match with 5.5.
The bigger issue for MUN, is that they are also conceding the most counter-attacks against, with a total of 6 per match. In contrast, WHU concede half that amount with only 3 against per match.

WHU have been extremely dangerous during attacking transitions this season. Below I will show a few sequences from this season, highlighting some of their tendencies.
WHU do not typically press from a high-block, more often they utilise a mid (seen here) or low-block, which allows for them to have more space to attack once recovering possession.
Declan Rice is a huge part of their counter-attacking danger, covering spaces well in central areas, as well as being able to play quick & penetrative forward passes to get the attack started.
The ending of this particular counter resulted in one of their goals, and as seen here they get forward quickly with numbers and can be very direct.
What is interesting about this next situation, is the counter-attack develops for WHU because of the poor defensive transition principles of NEW, the same thing MUN struggle with - diving into challenges without winning the ball, and leaving loads of space to attack in behind.
A quick pass out of the pressure to the support, combined with runners into space and WHU are off to the races. There is no doubt they are looking for these spaces in when the opposition commits number forward, and will try to take advantage of it.
Speed on the break and directness puts them from a position where they are under pressure with back to goal, to almost instantly in a 2v2 towards goal.

It´s no secret that defensive transitions is a phase of the game MUN have struggled with this season. This could be partly due to the fact that 1 of their preferred pairings in the double pivot of Mctominay & Fred have not been able to play together.
If you pay close attention, this first situation is nearly the exact same as the first counter-attack I highlighted for WHU. MUN is facing a mid-block, & lose possession with an attempted line breaking pass.
The pass is cut out, and the opposition use one touch before playing a progressive pass and breaking MUN´s chances of a counter-press.
MUN´s backline does ok to deal with this particular situation as the cross is collected by De gea, but we can still see their vulnerabilities in these types of situations.
Another situation where MUN are counter-attacked, which looks quite similar to way WHU counter-attack in the 2nd situation highlighted above.
MUN lose the ball around the edge of the box, but both players in the pivot take steps forward and dive into the challenge. Not winning the ball or at least fouling, means Adama has nothing but space between him and the backline. A common occurrence for MUN this year.
Again, the threat of the counter is delayed by MUN´s backline and in the end nothing comes from it.
The final situation I will show for MUN here. What looks to be a relatively controlled situation, with MUNs shape balanced in a 2-3, turns into a dangerous counter for NEW.
The problem here becomes lack of reaction by both Matic & AWB, combined with Pogbas tendency to dive into a challenge. There is no issue with Pogba´s decision to counter-press, but that means that the space behind him MUST be compressed by the rest of the MF line.
The same screenshot as above, but this time I´ve added arrows to Matic & AWB. You can see by their body shape they have yet to react though the ball was lost 2 seconds ago. This is the instant movements they SHOULD have been making.
Pogba diving in, and poor reactions leaves MUN yet again in a 2v2 towards goal, where they backline once again delays the attack and nothing comes from it in the end.
In these transition moments, when MUN lose possession & WHU look to counter, it will be extremely important for MUN to manage their decision making as to not leave themselves to open. Balance with the pivot, & choosing whether to delay or counter-press will be the key.

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