Rorschach Tactical Anaysis: Manchester United v. Liverpool

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I still remember the days of the anti-intellectual era, so I’m pretty happy to see tactics-speak take a place in our collective chit-chat about soccer. But, at some point, tactics-speak must go beyond tactics-speak. Eventually, all discourses can become a closed system, an algebraic formula with a predetermined end that ceases to illuminate. You saw the United-Liverpool game. You read the match recaps. You saw the heat maps. You glanced at the passing stats. You even perused the chalkboards. But one question remains, and it just may be the most important one, at least from a Freudian Psycho-analytic perspective.

Just how guilty do you feel for sustaining an erection while being held by your mother as a three year old child? Let’s find out together.

First, let’s take a look at this image. I want you to really focus on this image and then create a mental note of the thoughts that popped into your head.

Did you see a hastily sketched MS Paint starting lineup chart? Did you dare to glare at two 4-5-1′s lined up against one another? Did you see Park on one side of the midfield and Kuyt on the other and think – sigh, another midfield slug fest with, yawn, few clear-cut chances? Did you find it odd that Sir Alex would play Park for fear of the overlapping threat of Luis Enrique, or equally odd that King Kenny would deploy Kuyt to stifle the aging Evra? Did Liverpool have a bit of a logjam on the right side with no clear winger?

Maybe. But you just failed to articulate what you really saw, didn’t you. You truly saw a lot of blue and red dots on a green block. These dots are really the manifestation of your inner id, of long-suppressed childhood feelings of shame and guilt. That’s right – these circles are not a a players’ location on the field, they are your mother’s breasts. As a young child, you suckled upon them but soon began to teeth. Despite this pain you inflicted upon your mother, you continued to yearn for milk.

And you have never recovered. And now it clouds even the most simple of life’s pleasures, like watching a soccer game or reading a blog post about said game. I suggest either Paxil or Zoloft. Only once a day.

Now, let’s take a peek and reflect upon this image. Take a deep breath and focus on the image. Do not force your subconscious to speak, but open your eyes, heart, and mind to what your id is truly trying to say.

Do you see a poorly done MS Paint arrow movement map for the first half of the United and Liverpool game? Are you sure? Are you sure that you’re sure? Did you think you saw Downing and Luis Enrique get a bit of joy down the left flank early on and late in the game? Did Evra occasionally burst forward, and plant a decent early cross on Jones’ head? Did Ashley Young start out brightly but fade near the end?

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. I believe you saw the faint outlines of a hexagon. You did, didn’t you? Well, I hate to break it to you, but a hexagon is kind of a red flag for serious clinical depression brought on by both suppressed id desires and negated childhood shame from suckling upon your mothers’ breasts as a child and on occassion sustaining an erection. Have you apologized to your mother for these actions? Have you even considered it? Or were you just gonna go through your entire life watching EPL games early on Saturday morning, and then sleeping away the afternoon and not even bothering to call home?

I suggest you take Prozac at least twice a day. But remember, I am not a Doctor, just an armchair Psychoanalyst.

Now, stare and ponder at this image. For this image, you must really focus on yourself and open up your mind a bit. It is essential that you attempt to break down any internal filters to suppressed childhood memories.

Did you see a very basic passing map for the first half of United vs. Liverpool? Did you see lots of horizontal action from United? Did you see perhaps a bit too direct of play from Liverpool? Yet, eerily, did you think you saw that both teams experienced the same basic failure to provide service to either Wellbeck or Suarez? Did they predictably lack support?

Wrong again. However, I just hope you didn’t see an inverted red pentagon and/or a blue parallelogram. These geometric shapes you allegedly see are really kinda creepy and hint at much much deeper and disturbing childhood issues which cannot be fully addressed in a single blogpost. Instead, I suggest you hire me as your full-time shrink for only $250 per hour. Your desire to project order upon the chaotic shadows over the internal chaos that dictates your own life and feelings. Please consider my offer as you look at the remaining images.

Stare at this image for a few minutes, and do not make any superficial judgments or skip ahead. I repeat, do not skip ahead.

Did you see an MS Paint goalmouth action chart for the first half of United vs. Liverpool? But where are the lines? Where are the other dots? Where are the shots? Where’s the passing? Did the first half of this game leave your eyes hurting? Did you regret setting your alarm last night? I think, based so far on this analysis, regret plays a larger role in your life than you’d like to admit.

Obviously, what you see in this goalmouth action chart is not a boring first half, but rather your own childhood insecurities and reactions to guilt. You felt guilty for suckling upon your mothers’ breasts while teething and occasionally sustaining an erection, therefore you began to separate from her to avoid these feelings. Did you start to make friends at the age of four? Did you start to play with these friends rather than suckling upon your mother’s teet and/or sustaining an erection? I thought so. That’s pretty cowardly of your four year old self, don’t you think?

Yes, Kuyt could have pushed forward a bit more to support Luis. And Giggs could have done the same for Wellbeck. But you need to stop using soccer, charts, and players to hide from the real underlying issues. What you need are some selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. None of those tricyclics that leave you up but you cant take a shit for days (which is another issue, ahem). And stop blaming a “lack of support” for your own inability to address these issues.

Now, view this image and try to place it temporally. Yes, you can try to place it within the context of the United-Liverpool game, but only as a first step towards examining your own much larger issues.

Do you see an MS Paint rendition of the clusterfuck that was the last twenty minutes of this game? Did Sir Alex really play three forwards plus Nanni? Did King Kenny really take off Leiva for a second-striker-esque player in Henderson? When Gerrard scored off a free kick, did your heart skip a beat? When Chicharito scored a classic poacher deflected goal off a corner, were you really all that surprised?

You’re inability to make any sort of tactical shape out of these players is intriguing and very problematic. Sir Alex and King Kenny did not just toss on offensive players and hope for a goal. They would never do that. Not even in a Champions League final against Bayern Munich. From a tactical standpoint, King Kenny obviously opted for a 4-1-1-1-1-1-1, with Adam shielding the backline, Gerrard slightly advanced and to the right, Kuyt slightly more advanced and to the right, Henderson slightly more advanced and to the left, and Suarez slightly more advanced ant central. It’s clear as day.

What’s not clear, though, is why you are still in denial about your childhood issues. How much longer can you go about like this, watching EPL games while the guilt, shame, and loneliness eat away at you? Until you take all the above medications, hire me as a shrink, and apologize to your mother for suckling at her teeth while teething and/or sustaining an erection, I’m afraid the answer is…indefinitely.

This post was conceived and created in close collaboration with the wonderfully talented Andy of Toblerone Jones. If you liked this, then you should also check out theShortFuse’s answer to Arsenal’s right back dilemma. And, of course, you can find real and insightful tactical analysis from Michael Cox at the excellent Zonal Marking.

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