In the summer of 2019, Solskjær’s Manchester United played six pre-season games and finished with a perfect 6-0 record (though the last game against AC Milan was won on penalties after a 2-2 draw). Despite that, United looked vastly more better than they had done in the latter stages of the 2018-19 campaign wherein they had only won three games from 12. Fans were given a lot of hope seeing United press high from the beginning, creating multiple chances from various angles and more.
However, the story in the Premier League as of now has been quite different. Manchester United have struggled to create meaningful chances despite maintaining possession up the pitch. Recently, I had written an in-depth article analysing United’s offensive structure this season and where certain problems have occurred. You can find this here.
Nevertheless, I have produced another graphic to highlight United’s chance creation so far this season and how it compares to the rest of the Premier League.
This graphic looks at the Premier League and chance creation in particular. On the X axis (horizontal) we can see the Quality of Chance Creation metric. This looks at the chance a team has of scoring per chance they create. On the Y axis (vertical) we can see the Chances Creation per 90 metric. Thus, teams situated on the lower left-hand corner are the worst teams in the Premier League in creating chances whilst team situated in the upper right-hand corner are the best teams in this regard.
It is highly unlikely that a team creates a plethora of chances per game with the majority of them being of high quality. This is why Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool are situated where they are in a more central fashion. When this particular metric considers players as opposed to teams, the likes of Lionel Messi and Neymar are both situated in the the middle of the Y axis – quantity – but furthest to the right on the X axis – quality.
Now, Manchester United are in and around the lower left-hand corner of the graphic. Pertaining to Chances Created per 90 (10.6) they rank 6th in the league after Manchester City (16.4), Liverpool (15.2), Chelsea (13.2), Watford (12.8) and Tottenham (11.2). However, in terms of Quality of Chance Creation (9.53%) they are second last with only Leicester City (9.51%) having a worse record.
This will be an extremely worrying thing for Solskjær. Whilst penalties have not been accounted for – they are not part of any chance creation metric – United cannot rely on winning penalties or as many as they have done this season. In 2018-19, United averaged a penalty shot every 3.17 games. In the season prior, this was 12.67 per game and in 2016-17 it was 9.50. This season, they have won a penalty every 1.25 games which is an anomaly. Last season’s average of 3.17 was far greater than most seasons in Premier League history let alone their rate this season. Solskjær will be aware of this.
Moving forward, Manchester United need to find ways to break down low defensive blocks in a bid to create better chances. Some fans may turn to signings and, perhaps, they have a point. However, coaching is about improving the players at one’s disposal, cultivating them to reach their maximum potential.