David Moyes’ Tactical Switch Allows Danny Welbeck to Shine

While more often than not this season, David Moyes has gotten his tactics all wrong in big matches, yesterday against Bayern Munich at Old Trafford he got his team sheet spot on. Moyes received praise for his use of Danny Welbeck in the 1-1 Champions League quarterfinal first leg draw but to me it is a sign of what Moyes was missing during the season and the problems created by the forced inclusion of the expensive and volatile Robin van Persie.

For an English attacking player, Welbeck is a rarity — technically gifted, tactically savvy, and tireless in his work on and off the ball. Following an outstanding 2011-12 season, the Manchester United forward found himself somewhat unexpectedly in Roy Hodgson’s plans for the Euro 2012 finals. In that tournament, Welbeck showcased all his assets and was arguably the Three Lions best attacking player.

It is understandable why Sir Alex Ferguson spent big money that same summer on Van Persie. The reigning Premier League player of the year, the Arsenal man provided instant dividends for Ferguson in his last season as a professional manager. But the signing no doubt set Welbeck’s development back.

While it allowed United to claim the 2012-13 Premier League title (ironically on the same points total that they accumulated finishing second a year earlier), the place in the side Welbeck had claimed the previous season was lost. Throughout much of the season, he was limited to mop-up duty or cup matches. Like many other young English players in recent years, Welbeck seemed to be stagnating or even regressing just as he hit 22.

This season Van Persie has been often injured and when he’s fit, prone to sulking. The Red Devils are struggling to even qualify for Europa League soccer and are having their worst league season since before the Premier League era began.

From a tactical perspective, having a forward who runs as much as Welbeck does, can push wide, is comfortable on the ball and tracks back is a dream. Yesterday, Moyes set up his team in what looked to be a 4-5-1 formation, which allowed Welbeck to drift more into the wide areas and link up with the midfield more comfortably. He also played brilliantly off of Wayne Rooney.

This sort of formation suits Welbeck’s talents.  He is tactically astute yet needs an open style of play to excel. With Moyes finally showing the willingness to experiment tactically to accommodate the talent at his disposal perhaps thanks to yet another Van Persie injury, Welbeck could be headed for an elongated run in the side as the Red Devils wind down a disappointing season.

Along with the emerging Adnan Januzaj, Welbeck represents a potentially bright future of players that have come through United’s much maligned youth system. Along with Wayne Rooney and David DeGea, they could represent the building blocks for a Red Devils revival in years to come.

8 thoughts on “David Moyes’ Tactical Switch Allows Danny Welbeck to Shine”

  1. The one thing wellbeck lacks is composure in front of goal. Too often his final ball is poor or when the pressure is on to score he screws it up.

    Unfortunately that’s something you can’t practice in training during the week because you can’t replicate the pressure of a match situation.

    1. Nail on head. He scores clever back heels relying on instincts and quick reactions. When he has time to think he always screws it up. Had the potential to be an English Thierry Henry but will come up short unless he becomes more clinical in front of goal.

  2. I really like Welbeck in that role. You could tell that he was just about 20 times the athlete that Martinez was, faster, bigger, stronger. Any time you can isolate big/fast/strong against small/slow/weak you should do it.

  3. Welbeck comes across as a bit of an enigma to me. He isn’t a “real” striker with a clinical eye and deadly finishing and he really doesn’t seem to fit as a good support player just behind the fwd line.

    Reminds me a bit of Heskey.

    1. Not only is Welbeck better than Heskey was, But for Heskey to be thrown around like some kind of insult makes me wonder whether people really did watch Heskey play when he was younger or they just gobble up talking points form the english media the past few yrs.

      1. I watched a young Heskey play for Leicester. Is that good enough? After Liverpool he faded into middling teams.

        The point I’m trying to make is a young Wellbeck is more like the older Heskey where he doesn’t seem to have a natural position.

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