(Analysis) Michael Carrick v Marseille: Effective from the deep
Michael Carrick isn’t Mr Popular any more – but his performance for Manchester United in their 2-1 victory over Marseille on Tuesday night was more than encouraging. Below is a breakdown of his 90 minutes; looking at his passing distribution, his positional discipline and another asset of his game that goes largely unnoticed – the distances he can cover.
1. Passing remains the key asset of his game
<Figure 1> Manchester United did struggle in parts at Old Trafford but, at times, their midfield was excellent with the ball. Wayne Rooney was instrumental, and was complimented well by the two central midfielders, Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick. Carrick’s chalkboard on the left is impressive; what you can immediately interpret is his willingness to release the wingers, as shown by the many diagonal arrows to the side of the pitch.
<Figure 2> Much has been spoken of how Carrick is suited to the three-man midfield; but with Fletcher absent, his only central partner was Paul Scholes. He thrived alongside him, as shown by the passing distribution (the highest in the match) between the two above. Carrick also linked up well with Chris Smalling.
2. The Short, Back and Sides Myth
The Carrick ‘only passes short, backwards and sidewards’ criticisms are simply inconclusive and rather narrow-minded. First of all, it is absolutely necessary in the modern game that a team has possession – passing the ball back to defenders and making short passes to your team mate is crucial in order to start moves. And, judging by the chalkboard at the very above, he does in the forward direction several times.
<Figure 3> As for those arguing that he only makes short passes, they can be proved wrong by this table. Carrick made four successful ‘long’ passes (out of seven) and 30 successful ‘medium’ range (by uefa.com definition) passes here at Old Trafford.
Medium-range Passing statistics courtesy of uefa.com
3. Disciplined in the Deep
<Figure 4> Another thing that Michael Carrick offers is that he is more tactically and defensively disciplined than, say, Darren Fletcher or Darron Gibson. As you can see from the diagram, he (no.16) and Scholes (18) were in very holding similar positions allowing Wayne Rooney to play with much success as a trequartista.
<Figure 5> Above shows Carrick’s positional discipline again, showing many of his touches of the ball in a deep position and his new roe as a deep-lying playmaker.
‘Heat Map’ and ‘Average Positions’ via ESPN GameCast
4. Covering large distances
<Figure 6> It is pleasing to see Michael Carrick, despite playing so deep, covering such vast distances on the pitch. In this game, we saw Carrick acting as cover for either Paul Scholes or one of the defenders. This isn’t a contradiction of the last point, either. He did stay deep but drifted whenever needed. This was, not just by observation, one of Michael Carrick’s best performances this season.
Distance Covered statistics courtesy of uefa.com