A look at Ten Hag’s Genius Tactical Switch: Moving Striker to the False 9 role

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When Manchester United signed Wout Weghorst in January, everyone expected him to played as a traditional number 9. Standing at 6 feet 5 inches tall, Weghorst is a towering presence on the pitch and is known for his physicality and aerial ability. Weghorst is a traditional target man, who thrives on being the focal point of his team’s attack. He is a strong and powerful player who uses his size and strength to hold up the ball, bring his teammates into play, and win aerial duels. He is also a clinical finisher, with a keen eye for goal, and has an impressive scoring record throughout his career. Despite his imposing physical presence, Weghorst is also a hardworking player who is always willing to track back and contribute defensively. He has a good work rate and is often involved in pressing the opposition and winning back possession.

Against Leeds United in Manchester United’s previous Premier League game, ten Hag made a tactical switch by moving Weghorst to a number 10/false 9 role in the second half. This allowed United’s other attack minded players like Rashford, Sancho and Bruno Fernandes to attack the space vacated by Weghorst. This worked brilliantly as United won the game 2-0 even though Leeds had the upper hand during the game.

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Speaking to Manchester United’s official website, Weghorst talked about the switch.

“I think I was like 17 or 18 at the time, playing still as an amateur in the Netherlands but no, he mentioned it to me [at Leeds] at half-time that it could be an option to do some tactical switches,” said Weghorst of Ten Hag.

“It happened in the second half and it went good for myself. It was actually new and the first time I’d played there but I quite liked it.

“The most important thing for me is to help the team. It helped us to win the match over there, doing also my defensive work.

“I took it on and, especially for the first time, I think I can be happy with it.”

Against Barcelona in the Europa League tie, ten Hag opted to make this switch permanent as Weghorst played in a deeper role and was specially effective in stopping Frenkie de Jong’s playmaking who he was asked to man mark.

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Weghorst heatmap against Barcelona

 

Sancho & Rashford’s heatmap against Barcelona

Looking at the heatmaps it’s clear that Weghorst’s deeper role allows Sancho and Rashford to be more attacking and even Bruno Fernandes can join in the final third to support United’s attackers.This was a brilliant move by ten Hag which helped United in their last two games but against Leicester, ten Hag might revert to playing Weghorst as a normal traditional striker.

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