Average position charts from ESPN. Things to note:
Looks like the team’s going for a sort of old school imbalanced back four. This is not uncommon in football’s history, and attacking full-backs are an important part of the game now. At Barcelona they have a system in which Dani Alves storms forward, whereas the left back is less progressive and Sergio Busquets drops back while Alves raids. Riise is clearly going to play a very aggressive role on the left, so I can see how – for now – the three centre-backs will shuffle over to cover for this. You can see how much more advanced Riise was than Hughes.
Also interesting are the relative positions of Murphy and Etuhu. The annoying Murphy/legs gone platitudes we see on message boards were missing Murphy’s fine contribution to the team, but it’s also true that Murphy is at an age where footballers typically lose something. He had played a more defensive role under Hughes, a sort of Pirlo job that maximised his attacking and defensive talents, while Etuhu was off the leash a bit more, and Sidwell was much more box-to-box. This time Etuhu seems to have sat deep and Murphy played ahead of him. I didn’t see the game – at a wedding – but interesting to see how this shapes up.
We seemed to be challenging the Villa inside right channel with Duff, Zamora and AJ all prominent in that area. This would fit with the Riise thing earlier – overload the right with attacking players where Hughes isn’t going to do too much, create space on the left for Riise. It should be a productive tactic, especially with Dempsey cutting inside. Opposing teams will have to respect him, which really should give Riise a lot of fun this season. Worth keeping an eye on.