Lying deep and free, Scholes will play an important part this season

Paul Scholes

Zinedine Zidane once described Paul Scholes as “undoubtedly the best midfielder of his generation”. A fine compliment indeed for a player who has seen it all, and done it all. Having mustered 643 appearances in his Manchester United career so far, it is no wonder Paul Scholes is regarded as highly as he is. And as far as deep-lying playmakers go, Scholes is one of the best to grace the modern game.

Quietly and sensibly, Scholes gets on about his work. There are very few who can spread and dictate play from a withdrawn position as effectively as Scholes, and with as much success. Much is spoken of his tackling ability, or the lack of it, but the role of deep-lying playmaker is not primarily the defensive duties, rather the main function of the role being able to create from the deep position.

An essential attribute is vision and creativity in passes, meaning spotting openings and creating chances. This role is made to look easy by Scholes, and such is the perfection in manner in which he executes this, that he is sure to play an important part this coming season. He’s been doing this for a while now, but it was last season where he exhibited the fine artistry of creating from this deeper position. That is enough reason to feel excited as the new season draws near, with Rooney and new signing Javier Hernandez particularly expected to thrive from this.

Indeed, the success of the previous campaign is summed up well by statistics. According to OPTA, of Scholes’s 1,497 passes last season, 89.58% reached their target. That made him the Premier League’s most accurate passer last season. Proof, in any were needed, that Scholes only means business when on the pitch. And his age shouldn’t come into question either, if at 34, he is statistically the best passer in the country, then any retirement plans should be shelved for the time being.

Certainly, there is no greater passer of the ball in the English game currently than Scholes and, showing little signs of ageing, he will surely continue to so in that Scholes-like manner this coming season. It is wise not to underestimate just how important Scholes’ is to the cause. If he’s on top of his game, expect Manchester United to be also.

Above is an example of a near-flawless display against Birmingham City on the opening day of last season. 100 passes. 97 successful. 3 unsuccessful. 97% completion rate. This diagram perfectly sums up what Scholes brings to the team, a faultless display with an array of quality and accurate passing. From Guardian Chalkboards

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8 responses to “Lying deep and free, Scholes will play an important part this season”

  1. mhihrh says :

    I agree but when games come thick and fast in the 2nd half of the season Scholesy wont be able to perform at a high level when playing 3 games a week. We will need to rotate the squad then. Still a class act though. Also was great to see him score so many goals last season. Some very vital ones too against Besiktas, Wolves, Milan and of course City.

  2. Tom says :

    Agreed, Scholes will play an important role this season but Fergie will pick and choose the games he plays carefully. It makes sense that he will sit deeper as the years go by as he doesn’t have the legs to be a box to box midfielder these days. However, he could have just as much influence sitting deep. Nice point about Hernandez thriving from this as he will clearly play on the last shoulder, constantly looking to make runs and Scholes is the man to find him. He has such a varied range of passing. Nice post

  3. ScoWes says :

    Scholes has morphed into a classic ‘holding’ midfielder over the last number of seasons.

    He lies in front of the back four, and instead of disrupting attacks with tackles, which are always dicey with him, simple positioning disfuses the opposition. Zonal Marking had a nice breakdown of this role!

    Carrick fills this role VERY well for United too. Unfortunately for Carrick he’s not as appreciated as Scholesy because he doesn’t push forward enough, and score those spectacular volleys and 20+ yard blasts!

    Yet if Capello had placed Barry & Carrick/Scholes as deep lying holding midfielders – we’re talking different results for England.

  4. RFR says :

    Nice article on one of my favourite players! Scholesy’s ability to spray 40/50 yard passers any which way you’d want is legendary. Unfortunately his legs aren’t what they used to be and as mhirh mentioned he won’t be able to play Sat-Wed-Sat etc..

    Unfortunately there are two facets of Scholesy’s gamewhich he has lost, which is 1) he used to skip away from players closing him down and then dribble with the ball to bring it further up the pitch. Now he shields the ball and then passes it to the next team mate. This is not intrinsically bed – he just know what he capable of at his age, but it is something we lack. Darron Gibson is one player who doesn’t mind being more direct throuh the middle, but he’s very far behind Scholes in terms of ability.
    2) his goals have dried up. Scholesy playing deeper down the pitch has meant that he doesn’t get into goal-scoring opportunities as often as he used to. it’s a shame really. When he does score intends to be spectecular. The goal against City last season was magical.

    I’m hoping Cleverley can learn from playing and training with Scholesy. Unlike Carrick, Cleverley has a lot of fire in his belly and constantly shows great desire and determination. I that that in terms of character, Cleverley is the midfield player most similar to Scholes and we need that kind of fight, determination, belief and composure in the centre of the park. Until Cleverley can mature and improve though, I’m sure glad Scholesy hung up his boots yet.

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