Diamonds are a girls best friend apparently, but they could be the answer to all of Jose Mourinho’s prayers?
Ahead of Sunday’s top of the table clash against Chelsea, much of the talk in the build up to the game was about Paul Pogba, and the best way to get the most out of the £89 million midfielder.
The talk had centred on the 4-2-3-1 formation that Jose Mourinho has lined up with for the majority of the season, with Pogba playing in a deep lying midfield position. However, that formation means that the French midfielder has to take a increased responsibility in defence, something which of course restricts his attacking abilities.
Another problem has been how to fit the likes of Alexis Sanchez, Romelu Lukaku, Anthony Martial, Juan Mata, Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard into the starting lineup.
Well, for a start, it’s simply impossible to get them all in. With 4-2-3-1, you can get four of them in, but with Pogba compromised. So what is the solution?
Pogba reportedly wants to play on the left of a 4-3-3, which leaves only three spaces for attacking players.
When, the teamsheet went up on Sunday afternoon, it appeared that the midfielder had got his way, with Matic, McTominay and Pogba in a midfielder three with Romelu Lukaku supported by wide players Alexis Sanchez and Anthony Martial.
However, as the game went on, what became distinctly noticeable from the stands was that this was not your standard 4-3-3. In fact it wasn’t a 4-3-3 at all.
The first thing that what was noticeable was Alexis Sanchez was neither playing wide left or wide right. He was playing very central indeed. And this wasn’t drifting into the middle from the wing, it was central and staying central.
What was also noticeable was Anthony Martial wasn’t that wide either, and he was pushed up as high up the field as Romelu Lukaku. It got me wondering, is Jose playing with a midfield diamond?
As the game went on, the same pattern continued, with Lukaku and Martial drifting right and left respectively, with Sanchez both attacking and defending through the middle.
After the match I went home, and having watched the highlights, I decided to look at what the average player positions were for the game, and my suspicions were somewhat confirmed.
As you can see from the image below, United played with a kind of midfield diamond, although it was slightly offset, with McTominay playing as deep and Matic, and Pogba almost as far forward as Sanchez.
This allowed the midfielders to assist the two central defenders, while also giving full-backs Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young the license to get forward, with slightly less concern for their defensive responsibility.
The result, apart from the three points, was Pogba being able to play more advanced. Martial was able to operate on the left, while Sanchez able to create through the middle, and still with the defensive solidity that Mourinho craves.
Is the diamond Mourinho’s new best friend, and are diamonds forever? Time will yet tell, but it was certainly an effective shape against Chelsea and we shall have to watch out for it again in the upcoming fixtures.