Why did Manchester United leave Declan Rice free?
September 09, 2023
September 9, 2023 — Why was Declan Rice so free on the back post against Manchester United? The better question is, ‘why didn’t Arsenal score more than one goal from a corner?’ because United left men free on the back post all match.
Manchester United used a mixture of zonal and man-marking, and they stuck to it.
- Five Manchester United players zonally mark in the penalty area.
- Christian Eriksen and the man on the back-post watch the three men free on the far side.
- The center-forward and the smaller center-back act as blockers to mark two Arsenal players running into the penalty area.
- The right-winger marks the man on the ball-side at the top of the box.
This leaves two Arsenal players free on the back-post and the top of the box. The players strictly followed these instructions, never deviating from them, even when it was obvious that a correction was needed.
Look how open Declan Rice is. Everyone is drawn into the center, ball-watching, and he holds his run.
Eriksen and Dalot don’t react to the movement. They wait until the ball is kicked to attack those who are free and moving.
This zonal marking heavily relies on quick reaction time, and I’m not sure why Manchester United needs that many men on the near post.
Eddie Nketiah should have taken the shot here. At this point, Manchester United needs to make an adjustment because Arsenal can’t be this open on the back post on every corner. Move one of the men zonally marking on the front post to man-mark at least one of the men on the back-post.
Every corner, the last man on the back post is open.
Still into the second half, United persists. They survived the first half, but once subs are made, the assignments change. It starts to get a bit confusing, and the gaps are larger.
Arsenal helps add further confusion by having Martin Ødegaard go short. This drew a defender to him, detracting resources from their rest attack, making one more man cover more ground on the counter, helping to tire them.
Finally, Arsenal scores from one of these corners. The definition of insanity is repeating the same thing over and over and expecting a different result, and the way United defended those corners was insane.
A goal was inevitable, like Declan Rice.