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Carrick & Jones | Man Utd midfield solution?

The Man Utd midfield has been much talked about this season from the early praise of the Anderson/Cleverley partnership, to the lack of no summer signing and now back to some more praise on a new partnership. Phil Jones, seen by many as a future CB has been given a midfield role alongside Michael Carrick in Man Utd’s last two Premier League games and impressed. Ok it was only Aston Villa and Wolves but still, the way our season has been going we have every right to be happy at improvement.

Since ‘that’ result v City, it seems Sir Alex Ferguson has tried to secure up the team, settling for the 1-0 wins, this eventually (along with injuries) saw Carrick come back into the league starting team after not starting in any of the first 11 league games. One stat that has improved was the ‘Shots allowed per game’ as the graph below shows.

In the 11 games without Carrick starting, MUFC conceded on average 17.8 shots per game. In the 4 he has started MUFC have averaged only 9.5 shots against per game. I’m sure there are many factors they may have helped this number decrease, but as a Carrick fan, I do think his presence has defiantly helped.

His partnership with Phil Jones looks to have freed up Carrick to get forward a lot more than he has in the last few seasons where he was really used a shield in front of the back 4. As Phil Jones has similar defensive attributes in his game it allows Carrick be more box to box knowing his CM partner can cover. By the same token, it also allows Jones to burst forward and attack.

Looking at both their passing chalkboards in the game versus Wolves shows how they both seem to be box to box players making passes up and down the pitch.

Looking further into their passing stats shows that they were both very similar in where on the pitch their passes were made.

Of Carricks 73 attempted passes, 40 were in the attacking half and of Jones 48 attempted passes, 29 were in the Wolves half. The graphs below show how even spread their passes were and how it helps show that both players are able to play up and down the pitch.

Click to enlarge

Another point to make is that by having both central midfielders move forward it made the Wolves job harder to track them, this allowed the strikeforce of Welbeck and Rooney to drop deep and find freedom to pick up passes.

The following chalkboard is of Wayne Rooneys received passes in the game v Wolves. As you can see the majority of them are in that hole when he drops deep. I think that the uncertainty in the Wolves midfield caused by having to also track and mark both our CMs allowed Rooney to find time and space to get on the ball.

Defensively, both Carrick and Jones shared the work. Manchester United made a total of 17 interceptions versus Wolves with Carrick and Jones responsible for 47% of them. Jones made 3 and Carrick made 5, 3 of those coming in the Wolves half providing a great starting point for an attack.

Looking at the table above shows, again, how both Carrick and Jones are working well together and both playing all over the park. They both made a total of 4 possessions won in the middle of the park, 30% of Manchester United total. The rest was made up mainly be the defence which reflects on how much territory United had that our defenders were playing at half way.

Without insulting Wolves, it’s hard to really judge this CM partnership on this game, and whilst the duo displayed very similar stats in terms of both playing the same role against Aston Villa, they duo may need to perform in some tougher fixtures to give us a clear indication of how good they really are.

Are they the future of the Manchester United midfield? The return of Tom Cleverley and the fans pleas for a new CM signing on January suggest probably not, but until then they certainly give us a very balanced and hard working middle for our more creative players to build on and score goals.

I used the wonderful Guardian Chalkboards (here) and the 442 Statzone app (here) to help generate this article.

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