Hernández – a defensive forward

Surely Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernández, who has scored 17 goals in all competitions in his début Manchester United season, is not the Ji- Sung Park of strikers? After all, notwithstanding the Mexican’s above average workrate, he doesn’t ‘put himself about’ as much. One doesn’t often see Javier Hernández popping up at the back, for example. In fact, the 22-year-old striker is consistently glued to the shoulder of last defender.

Indeed, the Mexican’s attack-mindedness is what makes the youngster an excellent contributor to United’s defence. Hernández is extremely quick off the mark and by having such a pacey player staying up field, the opposition cannot drive the defensive line forward, lest a quick ball over the top catch the defence off guard. With the defence sapped, the opposition faces two undesirable options: first, commit only midfielders and forwards to the attack and have the team disjointed; or drop the team back a little to remain in contact with the defence. This, of course, relieves pressure on United.

Perhaps, this is why Hernández has been preferred to Dimitar Berbatov in recent games. Despite his languid style, Berbatov is not slow but the Bulgarian does like to drop deep and pick up the ball before launching into attack. Naturally, the opposition defence can safely form a high line. Sir Alex Ferguson tried to combat the problem by deploying Wayne Rooney, who is generally a more direct player than Berbatov, further up field than the thirty-year-old Bulgarian.

The solution didn’t quite work out for it put Berbatov in a completely unnatural position. In addition, Rooney is also a player who likes to drop deep and often United had two forwards in deep positions directly facing a line of defenders. Wingers could theoretically provide the thrust to drive back the opposition but defenders are much less wary of wingers for they are further away from goal than strikers. Also, to engage wingers, players of Paul Scholes’ calibre are need – the task requires accurate passing over long distance.

Not only does Hernández’ obsession with the offside trap help out defensively, but also it assists Rooney United’s midfielders. With Hernández stretching the play, Rooney has a nice pocket of space from which he can influence the play. Even in a nominal 4-4-2, Rooney plays deeper than a typical striker when partnering the Mexican, which results in a more 4-4-1-1/4-2-3-1 shape. The midfield becomes staggered and such shape is much easier to maintain possession – a triangle of players can always pass around a line of players.

This column has previously written on Park and argued that deploying a defensive winger necessitates a high line and high tempo game – something that perhaps is undesirable when one is actually trying to set up a defensive game. Hernández is a very good example of an attacking player who can be defensive just by the virtue of being attacking. Cristiano Ronaldo is another good example – it takes a gutsy fullback to bomb forward with Ronaldo lurking.

Pundits and fans alike often argue that Park and players of his ilk, such as Dirk Kuyt, ‘take one for the team’ and that they shouldn’t be criticised for their relative lack of attacking contribution. These pundits have a point but they are also missing the fact that attack often is the best form of defence.

OppositionCompetition
ChelseaCommunity Shield
West Bromwich AlbionPremier League
Wolverhampton WanderersCarling Cup
Stoke City (x2)Premier League
ValenciaChampions League
Wigan AthleticPremier League
West Bromwich AlbionPremier League
Stoke CityPremier League
BlackpoolPremier League
SouthamptonFA Cup
Wigan Athletic x2Premier League
LiverpoolPremier League
MarseilleChampions League
West Ham UnitedPremier League
Sharing is caring

Comments

  1. Alfonso BedoyaAlfonso Bedoya says

    Why is it that, when ever I read one of your articles, I feel like smashing the fuck out of my computer?

  2. Jay Shon says

    Well there’s always an option of not reading it – no need then to leave frankly pathetic and not-so-witty comments.

  3. RedScot says

    I had honestly never thought it through like the way you lay out Javiers role.When you think about it its clearly spot on.The oppositions defensive line have got to stay closer to the goalkeeper.As you describe because he plays right on the shoulder of the line,any huge space between the defence and goal, with Javiers electrifying speed leaves the defence almost flat footed.
    He clearly changed the game yesterday because of this and pushed the West Ham defence closer to Rob Green.To allow Rooney more space in the middle of the park where currently he is doing his best work.I think also bearing in mind the slowness of the Chelsea defence aka Terry.I hope Javier gets a start at the Bridge on Wedensday with the article in mind.
    Cheers great article.

  4. bman says

    Van der Sar — an offensive goalkeeper

    While Edwin Van der Sar justifiably gets the most praise for his defensive capabilities, pundits often overlook how much he contributes to United’s offensive capabilities. By lurking in United’s box, further back even than our preferred centre-back pairing of Vidic and Ferdinand, Van der Sar encourages the opposition team’s forwards to move toward the United goal in the hope of scoring. This stretches the field of play, opening up more space for the likes of Rooney, Nani, and Berbatov to advance and press our own attack. Van der Sar’s positioning also relieves our midfield of some of their defensive duties, and Scholes and Carrick in particular benefit from knowing that neither of them need to position themselves between the sticks. The challenge for the club this summer will be to find a replacement for Van der Sar who can replicate not only the Dutchman’s shot-stopping prowess, but also his natural preference for lurking threateningly in the vicinity of United’s goal.

  5. Jay Shon says

    Cute but it will be hard to replace VDS partly, if not mostly, because VDS indeed is an offensive goalkeeper. He often comes out of his area to sweep up the balls – not many keepers have the decision making ability to consistently do it without exposing the goal too mcuh

  6. Alfonso BedoyaAlfonso Bedoya says

    Blog Commenter said:
    Well there’s always an option of not reading it – no need then to leave frankly pathetic and not-so-witty comments.

    Good point for the future… but how do I know I’ve just wasted a few minutes reading your thesis on the fuckin obvious… until I’ve actually wasted a few minutes reading it?

    I suppose next you’ll write a thousand words on why, Smalling makes a great addition to our defence… cause he’s real tall.

  7. Alfonso BedoyaAlfonso Bedoya says

    Blog Commenter said:
    The saying too many Clowns not enough Circus’s springs to mind!

    Oh my… that’s pure class, that…

    I bet you’re a subscriber to the school of, “why say it in one sentence, when you can make a whole page of it”, as well?

    This isn’t some clever tactical analysis of how one formation fares against another… this is simply… “Chico is well fast, so he pins back defenders.”…

    FFS… come on…

    • RedScot says

      Equally as class as your opening gambit.Says it all really.You are just a sad cunt.That is looking for a Internet fight.Now fuck off.
      Try and comment on the article you Prick.

  8. Alfonso BedoyaAlfonso Bedoya says

    bman said:
    Van der Sar — an offensive goalkeeper

    While Edwin Van der Sar justifiably gets the most praise for his defensive capabilities, pundits often overlook how much he contributes to United’s offensive capabilities. By lurking in United’s box, further back even than our preferred centre-back pairing of Vidic and Ferdinand, Van der Sar encourages the opposition team’s forwards to move toward the United goal in the hope of scoring. This stretches the field of play, opening up more space for the likes of Rooney, Nani, and Berbatov to advance and press our own attack. Van der Sar’s positioning also relieves our midfield of some of their defensive duties, and Scholes and Carrick in particular benefit from knowing that neither of them need to position themselves between the sticks. The challenge for the club this summer will be to find a replacement for Van der Sar who can replicate not only the Dutchman’s shot-stopping prowess, but also his natural preference for lurking threateningly in the vicinity of United’s goal.

    Now that’s a brilliant tactical analysis…

  9. RedScot says

    As I always believe.Many great articles get ruined bye morons.Who have nothing to offer, other than score points of the back of others.Its a sad state of affairs.
    Keep up the good work United Rant, for those that are genuinely interested.
    Cheers Bonnuit.

  10. Alfonso BedoyaAlfonso Bedoya says

    “opening gambit”?… “Sad cunt”?… “fuck off”… “prick”?…

    Well I’ve really been told, haven’t I?… don’t stop now mate, you’re on a roll!

  11. Alfonso BedoyaAlfonso Bedoya says

    Oh, get off your pulpit, you self righteous twerp… trust me, you’re not impressing anyone here.

    There’s more to commenting on articles than just saying, “yeah, great man, that’s really swell.”… as far as I’m concerned, I made a legitimate comment…

    He hasn’t said anything that everyone doesn’t already know, he hasn’t asked any cutting questions… so what was the point?

    • says

      Alfonso – the “point” is a perfectly valid debate around how Hernandez has changed United’s tactical approach. This may be obvious to you but I’ve read comments on here that, to paraphrase, still think Berbatov’s position is a deep-lying one (it isn’t) and that Hernandez is the new Ole Solskjaer (he isn’t). i.e there’s plenty of room for debate and disagreement without valueless criticism. I just don’t think your opening comment added any value at all.

  12. Rod Castro says

    Great articule, Hernandez make some Important space for Rooney, Giggs, Nani , Valencia, thats what united need!:)

  13. bman says

    Blog Commenter said:
    Cute but it will be hard to replace VDS partly, if not mostly, because VDS indeed is an offensive goalkeeper. He often comes out of his area to sweep up the balls – not many keepers have the decision making ability to consistently do it without exposing the goal too mcuh

    Sorry mate, just having a laugh. I agree VDS does a lot more than stop shots, he bosses his box.

  14. eddieTheRed says

    I don’t get to go to OT as often as the rest of you but anytime I’ve been there I’ve been hugely impressed with Berbatov’s running off the ball; he may not have the pace of Hernandez but his running makes him difficult to mark and defenders are afraid to push up because they fear they will lose him; in these games I’ve seen a gap open up between the opposition defenders and their midfielders which gives United space to start attacks. Chicarito does in a different way, that’s all!

    For what it’s worth I would start Berbatov against Chelsea on Wednesday; David Luiz had a field day last time out, bullying the likes of Rooney and Chicarito but he won’t push Berbatov off the ball quite so easily!

  15. kramer says

    luiz can’t play in the champions’ league, he’s cup tied. i’d keep berba on the bench, start with 3 central midfielders, nani and valencia on the wings and rooney alone up top.

    • eddieTheRed says

      I didn’t realise that; even better; we can exploit the lack of pace in Terry and Ivanovic; I still think that we should start with Berba though, to wear them down; and when it hits 70 mins and they’re getting tired – wham! – we bring on Chicarito and finish them off!

  16. brianofnazarethbrianofnazareth says

    Blog Commenter said:
    We can all express disagreements but do not need to swear. C’mon we belong to the same camp.

    Fuck off cunt.

  17. triggs says

    The point of the article would perhaps have worked better if it was put into the context of the Chelsea game last month and the forthcoming game on Wednesday. First half last month United dominated the game as Luiz and Terry had to play deep to counter Chico’s pace. With Chelsea behind, they took a chance second half and played a high line, pressed the play and cynically ended promising counter attacks – which worked.
    However, Luiz could easily have been sent off for consistent fouling which stopped the counter attacks developing and United could easily have scored from at least one of the counters too. It will be interesting to see what happens this Wednesday. United have to maintain a constant threat of getting in behind – and thereby keeping Chelsea deeper – so for me Chico has to start with Rooney, especially without Luiz playing.

  18. brianofnazarethbrianofnazareth says

    Ed said:
    I just don’t think your opening comment added any value at all.

    To be fair Ed, if you look through all the 1000′s of Alf’s posts he’s been pretty consistent in that respect he’s up there with myself, Pikey’s and Caps’s contribution to footballing matters…. so don’t take it to heart.

  19. raj k says

    seeing hernandez start ahead of berbatov in our recent fixtures was quite puzzling. you have made a good point. certainly wasn’t obvious to me.

  20. says

    I suspect SAF picks Hernandez because he thinks that he is more likely to score, in any game, than Berba. Their other qualities cancel each other out. Hernandez, more pace. Berba, much better at holding the ball up & much more likely to play someone in. Rooney can play with both of them. Let’s look on the bright side & be thankful we have three such high class players. The Scholes pre-season comment, “He’ll score 25 goals for us” would not have made of Berba.

  21. Alfonso BedoyaAlfonso Bedoya says

    Ed said:
    Alfonso – the “point” is a perfectly valid debate around how Hernandez has changed United’s tactical approach. This may be obvious to you but I’ve read comments on here that, to paraphrase, still think Berbatov’s position is a deep-lying one (it isn’t) and that Hernandez is the new Ole Solskjaer (he isn’t). i.e there’s plenty of room for debate and disagreement without valueless criticism. I just don’t think your opening comment added any value at all.

    You’re right, and I apologise for my first comment… it was unneccessary… but I still think this guy talks shit…
    The thing that makes a good topic, a debatable topic, is posing a question or stating an even slightly controversial opinion.
    This article takes a long time to say, what really only needs one sentence, to basically say, what everyone already knew, and agrees with anyway…
    In my opinion that just makes it a fishing expedition for approval…
    And yes, I know… I’m a miserable, argumentative cunt… “sigh”…

    “Badges, to god-damned hell with badges! We have no badges. In fact, we don’t need badges. I don’t have to show you any stinking badges, you god-damned cabrón and ching’ tu madre! Come out from that shit-hole of yours. I have to speak to you.”

    • Jay Shon says

      I don’t think your first comment warrants an apology but apology accepted nonetheless.

      I assure you that I don’t write these articles for some desperate need for pats on the back – I am very busy with school and getting decent scores on my problem sets and tests is hell of a lot more productive way to achieve that particular goal.

  22. Stu says

    Good article jon!

    Don’t listen to the sad barstards comments made on here!

    I’m a 40 years plus united fan, and it disgusts me that all they can do is slag you off for a pefectly acceptable observation.

    C’mon united!!!!

  23. Ashish says

    “Surely Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernández, who has scored 17 goals in all competitions in his début Manchester United season, is not the Ji- Sung Park of strikers? After all, notwithstanding the Mexican’s above average workrate, he doesn’t ‘put himself about’ as much. One doesn’t often see Javier Hernández popping up at the back, for example. In fact, the 22-year-old striker is consistently glued to the shoulder of last defender.”

    People had criticized Ruud Van Nistelrooy and said the same thing especially in his final season when all the sympathy started drying up for him.

    The funny thing was that this argument started gaining pace only after it became evident that Ruud was going to leave United.Before that no one ever criticized him to such an extent.

    Frankly,I don’t mind whether Chico puts in any sort of defensive work or tracks back…….if he is comfortable playing off the last defender and that’s his style I don’t mind that all.

    And besides,we have people like Carrick and Fletcher to do the defensive work….if they can’t defend,why should Chico compensate for their incompetence?

  24. captainhormonecaptainhormone says

    Blog Commenter said:
    I don’t think your first comment warrants an apology but apology accepted nonetheless.

    I assure you that I don’t write these articles for some desperate need for pats on the back – I am very busy with school and getting decent scores on my problem sets and tests is hell of a lot more productive way to achieve that particular goal.

    concentrate on school mate…the same effort and more kudos

  25. says

    Ruud was a great player & a great goalscorer for us. No one ever asked him to defend or track back. The end, for me, was when he was made a sub; his body language was horrendous. He was saying “Fuck this. I want out”. There was no possible way back.
    As a matter of fact, Hernandez is NOT consistently glued to the last defender. He is no Ruud or young M.Owen; he puts in a shift.

  26. says

    You might get up some people’s noses Jay, but I for one appreciate that you are always looking for a different angle. I believe it’s called lateral thinking. Good on yer.

  27. captainhormonecaptainhormone says

    Blog Commenter said:
    You might get up some people’s noses Jay, but I for one appreciate that you are always looking for a different angle. I believe it’s called lateral thinking. Good on yer.

    either that or a load of bollocks…either way…kudos to him for making the effort

  28. captainhormonecaptainhormone says

    Blog Commenter said:
    Good article jon!

    Don’t listen to the sad barstards comments made on here!

    I’m a 40 years plus united fan, and it disgusts me that all they can do is slag you off for a pefectly acceptable observation.

    C’mon united!!!!

    tbf, that is pretty much all the comments on here

  29. Alfonso BedoyaAlfonso Bedoya says

    Blog Commenter said:
    Good article jon!

    Don’t listen to the sad barstards comments made on here!

    I’m a 40 years plus united fan, and it disgusts me that all they can do is slag you off for a pefectly acceptable observation.

    C’mon united!!!!

    You see what I mean?… I say that this article is a lesson in the bleeding obvious, and therefore rather pointless… and get told to shut the fuck up, if I’m not going to make a legitimate contribution to the debate…

    Well, what exacly have you contributed to this debate?

  30. brianofnazarethbrianofnazareth says

    Blog Commenter said:
    I’m a 40 years plus united fan

    tbf any sad wanker who throws that into an argument deserves to be pistol whipped with a tommy gun.. So I’m assuming your over 55 if you’re a 40 year + fan… tbf you should just find a nice legion an meet a few people your own age and leave this internet lark to us young spunkers

  31. bman says

    Blog Commenter said:
    I don’t think your first comment warrants an apology but apology accepted nonetheless.
    I assure you that I don’t write these articles for some desperate need for pats on the back – I am very busy with school and getting decent scores on my problem sets and tests is hell of a lot more productive way to achieve that particular goal.

    Yeah I don’t like to take potshots at somebody making an effort to say something constructive. But I thought your “NFL quarterback” comparison last time was pointless, and think the same about your emphasis on Hernandez as a “defensive” player. I’m not saying everything you’ve said is shite, and I agree with the basic analysis, just trying to give some constructive feedback
    Like this:
    “Hernández is a very good example of an attacking player who can be defensive just by the virtue of being attacking. Cristiano Ronaldo is another good example – it takes a gutsy fullback to bomb forward with Ronaldo lurking. Pundits and fans alike often argue that Park and players of his ilk, such as Dirk Kuyt, ‘take one for the team’ and that they shouldn’t be criticised for their relative lack of attacking contribution.”
    I mean, it’s a bit meaningless to say that Hernandez and Ronaldo are good defensive players because they are good offensive players. Every player is supposed to do some attacking and some defending depending on whether we actually have the ball or not, but I personally would argue that Hernandez and before him Ronaldo are by far the least defensively minded players we’ve had for a long time. Even Berba puts in much more of a defensive shift than Hernandez.
    Hernandez and Ronaldo are not the same as Park and Kuyt, who are noteworthy for often playing a primarily defensive function in a part of the pitch usually associated with primarily offensive players. We’ve often set up with our “creative” midfielder, Scholes or Carrick, sitting in front of the back four because they are so good at long passes (at least in theory, in Carrick’s case), and then we have the “defensive” midfielder, Park or Anderson, actually sat in front of them in a more advanced position. That’s why our most advanced midfielder often makes a lot more tackles than our most withdrawn ones: Ando and Park are often tasked with breaking up the opposition’s attacks before they even get started, and Scholes and Carrick’s defensive duties primarily involve interceptions instead of tackling. They get to clean up the mess when the opposition have had their attack fucked up by Ando and Park, and are resorting to improvised passing.
    I think this often makes our midfield look dull and pedestrian, by the way. I agree with everybody else that we need strengthening in central midfield, but I think our midfield works better than most people give credit for. In recent years Fergie seems to have opted for making central midfield a killing zone, and leaving most of the creativity and penetration to flanks. It’s not that pretty to look at, but it’s very effective — the CL final with Barca is one of the few times when we came up against a midfield talented enough to simply outplay this strategy.

  32. captainhormonecaptainhormone says

    yanks and proper football dont always mix….ffs they call it soccer

    however, some americans do understand the game…people like Alf

  33. Alfonso BedoyaAlfonso Bedoya says

    Fuck off, you cunt!

    Canucks feel the same about Americans… as “all you can eat” buffets, feel about fat cunts like YOU!

  34. captainhormonecaptainhormone says

    Alfonso Bedoya said:
    Fuck off, you cunt!

    Canucks feel the same about Americans… as “all you can eat” buffets, feel about fat cunts like YOU!

    **WHEELS HIM IN..(ALBEIT WITH A TUG BOAT OR 5) AND SHOUTS

    “WE GOT A BIG ONE HERE”

  35. Ted says

    It was an observation that i thought anyone with a brain and the prerequisite amount of oxygen would have already made. Well obviously not.

    The extremely long winded article should have just read……….”WE SHOULD PLAY 4-4-2 ALL THE FUCKIN TIME, ARE YOU LISTENING GIN SOAKED”

  36. brianofnazarethbrianofnazareth says

    captainhormone said:
    **WHEELS HIM IN..(ALBEIT WITH A TUG BOAT OR 5) AND SHOUTS

    “WE GOT A BIG ONE HERE”

    ** HELPS REEL IN STEEL NET **

Leave a Reply

Login with your Social ID

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *