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The Tuesday Tantrum: A Fleecing of Fletcher

The tale of Fletcher’s ascent is best sung to the familiar tune of “zero to hero.” The young Scot, originally billed as the next Beckham, experienced a break-out season last term, making 26 Premier League appearances  for United. However, when I try to explain his rise, I find myself at a loss for words. What makes Fletcher so good?

As per usual, low expectations play a part. Sir Alex struggled to find the best role for Fletcher, and, when finally moved centrally, he languished in the shadow of Paul Scholes. Fans abused him mercilessly, decrying his game as boring and languid. But now the chorus has shifted tunes to shouts of “efficient” and “tidy.”

Still, he scored all of 3 goals in the League last season. Not impressive, especially when compared with Frank Lampard or Steven Gerrard. Granted, his first two goals were crucial for United: they assured 4 points that kept the Red Devils a half step behind Liverpool. But still, I contend that the goal/assist stats fail to capture Fletcher’s worth.

Rather, Fletcher plays a different role from Lampard or Gerrard: he is a Makelele-clone, a horizontal passing park ranger, rarely getting his knees dirty because of his excellent defensive positional-sense. Surely his passing statistics would reflect a high completion rate?

Alas, the EPL does not care for such statistics. Your height, goals, and cards matter, but not your ability to complete a pass. This is a stark contrast to the Fifa stats for the 2009 Confederations Cup. But isn’t completing a pass the basic element of football? And nobody can deny that Fletcher’s consistency and range of passing have both improved considerably. Or can they?

Given the dearth of EPL provided stats, I put pen to paper this Saturday and carefully followed Fletcher’s touches during the 5-0 rout of Wigan. I focused heavily on passing, and categorized passes as a) backwards, b) forwards, and c) sideways. I anticipated a lot of sideways and backwards passes, and I was wrong.

Fletcher attempted 49 passes the entire match, of which he completed 43. His 87% completion percentage was very strong. But what surprised me most was that, of 49 passes, 22 advanced the ball vertically to a midfielder or a forward. He completed 18/22 such “forward passes.”

While Darren did not even attempt to switch fields — a cross field horizontal pass of 20 plus yards – it became apparent to me that he really keeps the offense ticking. Scholes provides some wonderful hailmary balls from time-to-time, but Fletcher provides a calming and consistent influence. A ying to the redhead’s yang.

Granted, Darren’s game still needs some work. He did flub a nice Nani sitter from 5 yards. And he only attempted two shots all game. But his steady barrage of ten foot passes set the rhythm for an impressive 5 goal second half, even if he stayed off the score sheet. He is the drummer, allowing Rooney and company to launch into wicked guitar solos.

That is why last season his tackle on Fabregas sent a chill up my spine — we sorely needed his influence in the Barcelona game. And we can only hope history does not repeat itself step-for-step.

Elliott is the editor of Futfanatico.com.

212 Comments

212 Comments

  1. Grognard

    26 August 2009 at 17:46

    @Karl: Valid criticisms on Fergie especially on the way he has used Anderson but seriously though, we have seen enough of Anderson and his limited skill set to not rate his attacking skills of that which he was billed with when he came over. Playing with 19 year olds is not the same thing and he will not be the first or the last player to excel at levels below 21 years of age but never make it at the level over.

    To blame his lack of ability and skill, his lack of thinking and lack of processing situations on the role he is being asked to play just doesn’t cut it for me. Yes it must create stress and some confusion for him but if he was really the cat’s meow, he would still make that killer pass or hit that killer shot and score when given the opportunity. He has been in the attacking end of the field enough times to prove to us that he belongs there. The problem is, he doesn’t. Quite frankly, he’s just not very good. He has balance and dribbling ability but that is it. Other than the occasional long trough ball he has nothing else in his personal arsenal to offer. He can’t hit the side of a barn from two feet and I still believe his free kick in pre season that scored went in because he miss hit it. 😀

    I’m sorry but when I see him play I am rarely if ever impressed. The bloody major point here is that Anderson is not United class. Let him go and stink it up for some other team. I personally believe we can do better than him. I much prefer Gibson to Anderson even though he has a lot to learn. The difference is he is improving by leaps and bounds and has a Scholes like ability to score goals and hit rockets from long distance where as Anderson is an excellent US football or rugby player hitting field goals into the 40th row.

    People need to wake up and realize this player sucks. It appears Fergie has. Sure he will play him until he finds a convenient taker who will be stupid enough to offer half of the 18 million we spent for him. Until then, Fergie will continue to tinker with him and give him the odd chance to prove himself. And he will continue to tease us with the odd good game while stinking up the pitch the majority of the time. In all my years of watching Manchester United I have never been so underwhelmed by a player’s lack of ability at this high level before. Frankly, after a couple starts, I think he would end up on the bench at Wigan or Wolves too if he were to play for them instead. 😀

  2. Grognard

    26 August 2009 at 17:49

    @Gabriel: Totally agree mate. Hard to impress when you have no finesse, no brains, no composure and no common sense. Add to that the finishing of crippled baboon and the coordination of a fat female librarian and you have a player that really should have taken up rugby. Everything about his skill set says rugby to me. 😀

  3. Craig Mc

    26 August 2009 at 19:03

    @Grognard: A bit harsh on crippled baboons and fat lady librarians I have to say Grog 😆 😆 .

  4. Grognard

    27 August 2009 at 00:28

    @Craig Mc: Yes I agree. Neither of them deserved to be compared with that walking talking septic tank. 😀

  5. Onkar

    27 August 2009 at 05:08

    @Grognard: I agree mate that we need a CM. But, what i am also trying to see that even though he is a winger we a additional winger as well. I mean look at the burnley game we did not have our regular wingers and due to lack of quality in back ups we struggle. So i think thats why i wanted him to be bought by us.

  6. Merlinus

    27 August 2009 at 06:24

    Oh for God’s sakes.. He’s 21 so give him a break.. Where was Ronaldinho when he was 21..? Will he have played a monster game in a champions league final, especially if you put him in midfield.. think about it guys..
    21 years old.. my word!

  7. Red Ranter

    27 August 2009 at 06:53

    @Merlinus: Where was Ronaldinho when he was 21

    When Ronaldinho was 19 he won the best player award for the Brazil senior team (not U19 or U21) in the 1999 Confed Cup. In 2000, when he was 20, he scored 9 goals in 7 games with the Brazil team – winning the Olympic gold.

    He was 22 in the World Cup, and it was obvious to everyone that he was special. Even in PSG he was tearing defenders apart but fell out with his coach. With Ronaldinho it was obvious to everyone at the time that he was special — and he proved it with Barcelona. I don’t see that spark with Anderson. If he turns out fantastic this season, then great. But I have my doubts about him. I am all for keeping faith in our players, but for Anderson to prove me wrong, he will need to drastically improve on several aspects of his game.

  8. Merlinus

    27 August 2009 at 07:18

    @Red Ranter: PSG… My point exactly.. He was in a team where he was considered as ‘the’ star.. There was no one around him who forced him into a Central midfielder role and asked him to take on a fabregas or a gerrard!.. Anderson is not a player to be kept on a leash or having defensive duties dictated out to him.. It sucks.. And RR, champions league final for a 20 yr old with a physically weak 35 yr old on one side and a slow carrick attempting hollywood passes on the other side is not exactly the kind of midfield partnership which will give him freedom and make him stand out.. omg.. Go get Sneijder and robben.. Pair anderson up with Sneijder.. you’ll see..

  9. Red Ranter

    27 August 2009 at 07:47

    @Merlinus: Basically what you’re saying is Anderson does not fit the current United setup — which begs the question, why play him? Also, Sneijder’s agreed a 5 year deal with Inter – so that’s not happening.

    When you’re good enough you are good enough. Despite constraints enforced upon him I haven’t seen the dynamism with the ball at his feet on a consistent basis. I feel he doesn’t seem to have the technique to strike the ball. It cannot be bad luck, if he hasn’t managed to score a goal from open play till now. So much for attacking prowess.

    My concern over him is not necessarily his talent — I think he is (or was) talented when he came over. He doesn’t seem to have the work ethic in training that Ronaldo had. From many accounts he seems to be a party boy, which explains a lot of inconsistency. I can’t fault a player for trying, what I would is a lack of focus. There are far too many reports/accounts I’ve read and heard to be worried about his attitude. I will support him, but if you honestly ask me what I think of him, I feel United is not the club for him, and he seems to have regressed. And you can’t pin all the blame on the manager either.

  10. Craig Mc

    27 August 2009 at 09:20

    @Merlinus: Errrr Merlinus, it was taking on the Gerrards, Fabregas, and Lampards that brought Fan popularity to Anderson, and the Anderson, son, son, United song chant. I would agree that Anderson is like Ronaldinho in one respect – night life and women etc etc etc. Andi is ruining his own career, because he is a LAZY GIT in training, and you cannot be the best and get into the United team if you don’t put in the hard graft required to be the best! Your point about SAF doesn’t hold true, because Anderson played CM and mastered Gerrard, Lamps etc in his first season. Nobody was saying that SAF was asking him to do other than he could then – were they? The problem with Andi is that he lacks the personal motivation and work ethic to be among the best, and yet he feels that he should be IN anyway – rubbish. Players who have the graft and motivation should be in before him. Live and learn Andi, live and learn!

  11. Merlinus

    27 August 2009 at 10:20

    sneijder is now a nerrazzuri 😥 😥 😥

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