After an intriguing fortnight of international football, we once again return to the intense challenges of the Premier League.
While much has been written concerning the dire situation in relation to our club’s current crisis, this article looks at solutions that may help turn around our fortunes.
Accordingly, it is imperative that we address the on-going lack of goals. Aside from Michail Antonio, who isn’t even a striker, none of our nominated strikers have been able to find the net after 11 league games.
Once again, I have looked towards a 3-5-2 formation, with the hope that we may look to a more dynamic team display, typified by better running, both on and off the ball. In some of our games we have been reduced to static play with too much direct L-shaped vertical/horizontal passing.
Furthermore, we seemed to have lost the ability to craft out angled cross-passes to fellow players who should be running into vacant holes. Let’s hope that Slav has recognised some of these deficiencies during the international break.
The 3-5-2 formation presented here differs somewhat from traditional 3-5-2 set-ups; there are three players form the base of the midfield structure, with two attacking midfielders at the top of the pentagon. I feel that formations are only a guide, and should allow some degree of structural modification.
Clearly Dimi Payet should be lurking close behind the two strikers in a typical deep-lying No10 position. He is an attacking playmaker, par excellence and should not exert himself by having to track back to the centre of the pitch in order to start a new attack. Hence the midfield structure may resemble a pyramid.
This week, we welcome back Diafra Sakho, arguably our best striker. I suggest that he begins the match in order to maximise our chances of scoring the all-important early goals. I have paired him up with Michail Antonio, with the hope that a Sakho-Antonio combination will have the combined pace and strength to break the drought of ‘ducks’ in scoring.
Allowances have been made to allow the introduction of Andrew Ayew or Ashley Fletcher if Sakho shows signs of tiring. Likewise, if the Sakho-Antonio combination does not work out, Ayew could replace Antonio, allowing Antonio to be employed elsewhere, either in a wide midfield position or as an over-lapping wing-back.
Payet has been placed at the tip of the mid-field five, and depending on his movement during the game, the formation may closely resemble a 3-4-3 formation. Over the next four to five weeks, if necessary, Bilic must experiment with numerous options for someone to effectively link up with Sakho.
The midfield structure is designed to combine solidity together with the responsibility of igniting attacks. Cresswell and Obiang/Fernandes more or less pick themselves as left and right-wing backs, respectively. I’d would prefer to see Fernandes employed as an attacking mid-fielder in place of the suspended Mark Noble, where he looks very stylish and comfortable.
In the absence of a specialised right back and while Winston Reid is side-lined, our defence will remain somewhat fragile. Ideally the back three should be acting as last-line of sweepers.
From time to time, Kouyate will naturally move into a more attacking position. When Cheikh is on song, he can rip through the opposing mid-field and quickly link up with the attacking players.
If this should occur, Ogbonna and Collins should move closer to each other, while at the same time, Cresswell and Obiang must track back to support the two centre-backs, in the case of an uninvited counter-attack.
The back three choice is some-what limited, and in order to maximise their collective functionality, I have suggested using Collins to start, but allowing Alvaro Arbeloa to replace Ginge if he should tire.
In the best of times, it would be great to see us use a 4-3-3 starting formation, but recent experience has shown that the 3-5-2 is our best option for the present time. The custom-made 3-5-2 presented here has the advantage of creating triangular inter-passing and forward movement as a three-man structure.
All starting formations’ have inherent weaknesses upon closer scrutiny. This pyramid-like midfield five may leave a central midfield hole if our attack breaks down. Hence it is imperative that Bilic gives specific advice to all ten field players, as well as some collective team instructions to help boost our low team-morale.