Breaking Down The Breakdowns - How We Got To 4-3

Yup... it was about like that. - Clive Brunskill

We know the goals all happened, but let's take a look at how.

Yesterday's 4-3 loss to Manchester United is available on espn3.com to watch/re-watch if you are interested. Personally, I know I couldn't stand to sit through the whole thing again; there's to much to feel indignant about regarding certain behaviors by certain prominent figures in the match for all that! Instead, I did take a look back at just the Manchester United goals to see if we could see anything useful, post-mortemly speaking. Also because I wanted to make up a new adverb. Done and done. Carry on if you dare but fair warning, the outcome sucks (we still lose 4-3), the video captures are shoddy at best (espn3.com tends to ramp down the video quality the more you start and stop a stream... surely a coincidence) and the analysis is probably meh at best.

Goal 1 (24th minute, Jonny Evans)

Precipitating Factor: Phantom foul called on Davide Santon

Watching this goal back, it is clear as day that there was no foul suffered by Antonio Valencia at the hands of Davide Santon. I even had the OSotPgf watch the play (she is knowledgeable enough about soccer, but doesn't give a rip about Newcastle United... I know. I know.) to see if I was just seeing the play through black-and-white glasses and she saw no foul either. So there's that. At any rate, our unloved cousin Shambolic Box Defending visited us again, and this is what happened:

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  1. Chicharito is already free at point 1. He will get the initial shot that will come off of Tim Krul's backside and ultimately to Jonny Evans
  2. The aforementioned Jonny Evans is here with goalside position on Danny Simpson
  3. Demba Ba is here doing something - and also Mike Williamson is in this vicinity. He will peel off to chase Chicharito

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This capture is at the point that Chicharito is releasing the initial shot.

  1. Jonny Evans has split Demba Ba and Danny Simpson. I use the word split loosely as it implies an attempt by either player to prevent his progress.
  2. Danny Simpson is watching. Flat footed, his focus is directly on Chicharito who is surely going to score a goal or miss completely, right? No way this ball comes back in play. Pay special attention as the frames progress to how Jonny Evans (1) and Danny Simpson (2) play this out.
  3. Demba Ba is here doing something. Also it appears from this angle that Fabricio Coloccini is shielding the Manchester United attacker from following up any potential rebound from Chicharito's shot.

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The shot has bounced off of Tim Krul and headed back into play.

  1. Evans continues his motion to follow any potential rebound which has now become actuality. His motion is completely toward goal (his weight having been transferred in the previous frame).
  2. Danny Simpson is now starting to transfer his weight goalward, but starting from flat-footed still (see previous frame) he is always second favorite to get to the rebound.
  3. Ooop! Looka here! Demba Ba is here doing something (directing traffic?) although this angle now shows that he is closer to shielding the MUFC attacker from the rebound than Coloccini was. Colo is now in no-man's land in the center of the box.

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One last view here, from behind the goal.

  1. Flat. Footed.
  2. Demba Ba is here doing something. (singing?)
  3. Flat. Footed.
  4. Flat. Footed. This player (Marveaux?) is clearly too far from the action at this point to do anything, but had there been a reaction at the initial point of Chicharito breaking free, who knows?

And So...

The gap between Mike Williamson/Danny Simpson and the central defense was exploited not once, but twice; Mike Williamson's man (Chicharito) was first while Evans strolled on through second. I'm willing to wager you'll concede more than you don't when this occurs.

Goal 2 (58th minute, Patrice Evra)

Precipitating Factor: Sylvain Marveaux turnover near midfield leading to corner kick

Skipping ahead from our inability to clear our lines from the corner kick that set this up and ignoring the turnover midfield that led to said corner kick which we couldn't clear, we join our heroes at the most opportune of times, i.e. one of the only times I was able to capture a frame at decent video quality.

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  1. Tom Cleverly has by this point collected a poorly cleared ball and is putting a testing cross into the Newcastle area.
  2. Gael Bigirimana has taken up a position in the center of the field. He will remain stationary in this position for nearly this entire move.
  3. James Perch is doing what a good little defensive midfielder should do and reinforcing his central defenders.
  4. Demba Ba is here doing something. Ok- I know what he is doing this time. He's tracking back with the runner that has already beat Mike Williamson (the Toon player furthest to the top of the frame.)

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From behind the goal (clearly) we see something similar to what James Perch must've seen.

  1. Perch, positionally where he should have been, prepares to head the ball clear.
  2. Bigi is still in the same spot. He'll still not move for another couple of seconds.
  3. Sylvain Marveaux is strolling back toward the action.
  4. Demba Ba is still covering the man that beat Mike Williamson.
  5. Hey! Mike Williamson recovered! What you can not really see here (barely barely if you scan the edge of the frame outside the referee) is Patrice Evra, currently being studiously ignored by both Marveaux and Williamson, who has hustled back to cover the player already marked by Demba Ba.

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  1. Perch's header has gone astray, and instead of heading to safety is headed to danger. Sylvain Marveaux reacts (too late), breaking toward the ball that is running toward Evra.
  2. Bigi is still in the same spot.
  3. Demba Ba still has the Manchester United player (Chris Smalling) covered.
  4. Mike Williamson, who came in from the direction to cover the man that Demba Ba is covering now needs to return the direction he came from if he hopes to close down Patrice Evra, which it looks like he will do. Or will he?

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  1. Evra has easily slipped by late-arriving Marveaux.
  2. Bigi has finally taken a step! He's way out of this play, but he has made the proactive decision to start moving away from the turf he was guarding.
  3. Demba Ba has reacted to Evra passing Marveaux, leaving Chris Smalling (Mike Williamson's original man) to Williamson, ostensibly.
  4. But wait! Where are you going, Willo?! Smalling is to your left, Evra is in front of you, but you appear to be sprinting to the right!

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This is clearly a tick back in time, but it explains where Willo is going in the previous capture.

  1. This is Danny Simpson, Newcastle United right back. Recall that this particular move was resultant from a corner kick - and not a particularly quickly taken one at that. Surely even if he had tracked across in the run of play prior to the corner kick, he or a duly appointed representative could have perhaps taken up a right back position?
  2. The ManU player who would have been covered by a player positioned as a right back.
  3. Mike Williamson, who at this point has the following choices: a) cover Chris Smalling (still at this point covered by Demba Ba), b) close down Evra or c) close on the player on the left wing that a player positioned as a right back would have been covering.

From here, Demba Ba ends up closing down Evra, screening Tim Krul in attempt to block the shot. Tim sees the shot late and a somewhat soft goal results as Tim can only get enough hand on the shot to give it a little bounce as it crosses the line.

And so...

I'm not going to say specifically that there was not a reason for Danny Simpson to be completely on the outside left of our defensive "formation" in this situation. I am going to say that, had he returned or someone else noticed and taken up that spot, things may have turned out differently. I'm also not going to say that Mike Williamson would not have decided to track back and mark an already marked player. I am going to say that, had someone been at right back to prevent the concern of an open cross or advancement into the box from the left wing, Williamson would have been much more likely to step to Evra, potentially changing history.

Goal 3 (71st minute, Robin van Persie)

Precipitating factor: Williamson headed "clearance"/turnover around midfield

Every now and again a good goal is just a good goal.

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  1. This is the rebound from van Persie's initial shot. The rebound has come opposite of Williamson's trajectory. He tries to twist and clear, but fails to do so effectively.
  2. Santon has pinched in to cover the player at the near post.
  3. Simpson is held by the ManU player on the right of the screen.

If there is a blame here, it comes during the counter attack which led to the chance in the first place.

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  1. Fabricio Coloccini is not able to get back into position on this counter as he is caught out having tried to draw a foul for hand-to-face contact back toward midfield. Instead of pulling to van Persie (2) as he now tries to recover, he heads to the open area of the penalty box. I can see why, but maybe...
  2. Robin van Persie.
  3. Vurnon Anita, who also chose not to close to Robin van Persie. Call me crazy, but it may be an idea worth pursuing for at least one player to identify where the joint-leading scorer in the league is.

And so...

The issues on this one were established before the final move. Whether you think the hand to the face of Colo should have been called or not (to be fair, it was a HELL of a lot more of a foul than the call on Santon that set up the first goal...), the time he spent trying to sell it ultimately cost him the ability to read the attack with his back to goal. Also, Vurnon Anita should have been able to read van Persie as the attack was forming. At the end of it, Krul saved the better shot from van Persie, Carrick's touch on the rebound was critical, and Krul stood precious little chance on the second at that point.

Goal 4 (90th minute, Javier Hernandez)

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  1. Danny Simpson plays Chicharito onside. Subsequently, Every. Defender. STOPS. That's about all I can say about that.

And so...

Both sides exhibited very little desire to defend... but in the ultimate gesture of one-upsmanship, we just completely stopped playing period on this one. Embarassing.

Another week passes, another match for the loss column. The New Year starts soon, though, and we all get to start fresh (if you buy into that whole thing).

Oh! I nearly forgot. The third goal gave us this gem! Danny Simpson dancing!

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