So we ask the question: should Moyes find a role for Kagawa at United?
Where Does Kagawa Operate Most Effectively?
Kagawa was utilised mainly as a left midfielder last season. This is not really his best position though, especially in United's formation where they ask their midfielders to provide width and cross the ball into the box. Kagawa is best when he comes into central positions, operating as a No.10 behind the striker. As we can see below, Kagawa creates the lion's share of his chances from central positions, not from out wide:
With a high pass completion of 90% last season and the ability to take on players, he is a very technical attacking midfielder who is best playing centrally but moves wide to find space, rather than going inside to out.
Kagawa is creating chances in the area where we'd expect a No. 10 to play. However, the Japan international only played the full 90 minutes on five occasions last season - starting 17 games but being hauled off in the other 12 fixtures.
The reason for this is that there is an intense competition for places at United. Wayne Rooney is occupying the No. 10 role and despite some criticism of his form last season, he was a very influential figure playing behind Robin van Persie.
Had Rooney left the club then Kagawa would have been incredibly important. However, as things stand Kagawa is finding it tough to find a role with Rooney in front of him in the pecking order. Recently Danny Welbeck has also been used off Van Persie, further limiting opportunities for Kagawa.
David Moyes' Preferred Tactical Set-Up
Moyes has arguably altered Manchester United's tactics to more of a 4-4-2, a system that doesn't suit Kagawa. Against Swansea and Liverpool, Moyes used Danny Welbeck as more of a second striker, rather than a No. 10. For all of Kagawa's quality he is not suited to playing in a 4-4-2 system as a second striker, or as a winger. Which makes it difficult to find a role for him in Moyes's tactical set-up.
Against Liverpool, Welbeck only attempted 27 passes, which is very low for a No. 10 and confirms the view that he was playing in a more advanced area, as his action-areas graphic highlights:
If we compare this to Kagawa from the 4-0 win against Norwich we can see a slight difference:
The problem Kagawa is facing at United is that he is primarily a No. 10, while Moyes is using a 4-4-2 or 4-4-1-1 system which is not best suited to Kagawa, especially if Rooney is in the side. Rooney is the primary playmaker and if he doesn't start then Moyes has opted to select Welbeck as the second striker. Although Kagawa can play from the left he will not hold the width or cross the ball, but rather try to drift infield, something that isn't conducive to United's style of play. As a result, Kagawa might find opportunities limited this season, despite his obvious quality.
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