On a typical week night in Nottingham, I can normally be found engaged in one of two activities: binging or banging. Both by the way are solo pursuits which, before we get any deeper into innuendo that the writers of Mrs Brown’s Boys would deem too unsubtle, involve binging on episodes of testosterone-avalanche Sons of Anarchy and banging on the wall like Mr. Heckles in a desperate attempt to persuade the neighbours to turn that bloody rap music down.
However, the monotony of my Hollywood lifestyle can always be broken by some hot midweek football action. So imagine my disappointment when, after excitedly scanning the list of League Cup fixtures to find out who we would be subjecting to Falcao’s first hat trick, I noticed MK Dons were playing Bradford and realised to my acute embarrassment I had apparently chosen to forget the shellacking that the home side had given United a few weeks ago.
So no midweek preview then, but what I can do is pretend I belong within 100 yards of a discussion between Jonathan Wilson and Michael Cox by looking at our diamond midfield. The consensus from the Leicester game seemed to be that the diamond worked perfectly well against the abject QPR (I’m starting to run out of condescending adjectives for them), who gave Daley Blind the space to roam freely in the anchor position and control the game.
Against Leicester it didn’t work nearly as well. Cox noted how this was mainly because of the pressure that Nugent put on Blind and how Vardy, as Falcao did for us, stretched the full backs by drifting out wide. Both Rafael and Marcus Rojo were exposed, the former suffering at the hands of Vardy’s – as Cox put it – Championship-style physicality.
The situation Louis van Gaal faces this weekend against West Ham is likely be similar. Sam Allardyce used a diamond system against Liverpool on the weekend, with Stewart Downing pretty much running the show from the tip. Liverpool could never get going. Falcao and company are probably more dangerous than Fabio Borini and Mario Balotelli, but Leicester proved that we cannot just rely on our £150 million strikeforce and hope the defence doesn’t screw up.
Val Gaal may ask Angel Di Maria and Ander Herrera to provide more cover for their fullbacks, but this might cause some disjointedness at the other end; a conundrum which (and correctly me if I’m wrong in the comments) is the problem with the diamond. Rojo’s rampages up the left flank, for example, caused havoc – for himself.
Another question is whether Luke Shaw will be given a shot. Hysterical stories about how LVG doesn’t “rate” him seem odd considering how often we were told that he had approved Shaw’s move from Southampton. The most likely scenario is the one suggested by Dutch journalist Elko Born:
Whatever van Gaal’s thoughts on Shaw, you can be sure that his transfer fee will be irrelevant to the Dutchman, at least in terms of feeling any pressure to play him. When Shaw is fit enough and judged by van Gaal to be ready for his chance, he’ll get it.
‘Til tomorrow, when I’ll put something together on Rooney vs Mata in midfield. Comments below as always.