The up-coming game against Liverpool, s an ideal time for Slaven Bilic to implement some fine-tuning in formation and player positioning before the all-important four games which will take us up to the New Year.
While we have problems in both attack and defence, an improvement in goal scoring will most likely to improve team morale and confidence, and will win back the support of the fans.
For the Liverpool game, we should see the return of Aaron Cresswell, Cheikhou Kouyate and Michail Antonio. Ideally, this should add an extra dimension to our play, but only if these players and others are used optimally. In this article, I am focusing on some alternative formations in favour of the back-three formations, which had some early success, but have simply failed us in recent games.
In order to improve solidity in defence while improving the quality of our offensive play, I have chosen to move a number of critical players back into their best positions in the formations suggested here.
In addition to changes in formation, I have suggested that Kouyate, Antonio and Dimitri Payet be moved into positions of greater impact…
The 4-3-1-2 is a variation of the 4–3–3, wherein a striker gives way to a central attacking midfielder.
The formation focuses on the attacking midfielder moving play through the centre with the strikers on either side. It is a much narrower setup in comparison to the 4–3–3 and is usually dependent on the No.10 to create chances.
Examples of sides which won trophies using this formation were the 2002-03 UEFA Cup and 2003-4 UEFA Champions League winners, with José Mourinho’s Porto side; Carlo Ancelotti’s 2002-03 UEFA Champions League and 2003-4 Serie A Champions Milan and 2009-10 Premier League winners Chelsea. This formation was also adopted by Massimiliano Allegri for the 2010-11 Serie A title-winners, Milan.
For the Liverpool game (above), I suggest that we start the game with the more aggressive 4-3-1-2, with my usual predilection for gaining the early initiative, quality on the ball, quick accurate and well-timed passes.
This formation should Dimi Payet in the No.10 position. Ideally, he is the all important go-to man. Payet will be expected to adopt an attacking central position, just behind the two strikers. This is an ideal place for him to supply accurate, well-timed passes to strikers. In addition to providing a constant source of passes/assists, he is also ideally placed to make some decent strikes on goal.
If the strikers anticipate this tactic, and move laterally as soon as they have passed the ball back to Payet, then Payet should have sufficient time to make a quality strike. The other advantage of playing Payet in this central attacking position, is that it allows him to maintain creativity, but as opposed to being placed on the wing, he will not be required to beat several defenders before unloading a decent pass or providing himself with a shot on goal.
The other major changes in player position involves moving Kouyate and Antonio in to their more natural and useful positions. By restoring Kouyate to a holding, box-to-box midfielder, it may be an ideal rehearsal before we address the following four games, as well as the period when we will have hopefully found a specific right-back.
In the position which I have suggested, Kouyate will add more strength to the midfield engine room, while also being able to join in the occasional moves up field. By moving Antonio to the midfield position, he will have less overall running to do, and will allow him to concentrate on offensive play.
Until we find an experienced right back, this remains one of our major weakness. However, I am confident that Fernandes or Obiang will provide sufficient cover, until a replacement arrives in January.
From the 1990s through to the early 2000s, this was the most common formation in club and national football.
Put simply, the midfielders have to work hard in supporting the defence and attack. Typically, one of the central midfielders is expected to play up field, often in a supporting role behind the forwards; the other central midfielder, tends to take on a holding role, shielding the defence, but on occasions, pushing further up field.
The two wide midfielders have a dual role in moving along the flanks in attack, and also being able to shield the full-backs. Most recently, the 4-4-2 has undergone a renaissance of sorts. It is still regarded as one of the best formations to protect the whole width of the pitch, and provides a challenge for opposing teams to get through two banks of four.
It has been used with huge success with Diego Simeone’s, Atletico Madrid, Carlo Ancelotti’s Real Madrid and, most recently, Claudio Raineri’s, Leicester City.
For the Liverpool game (above), this formation could be used if we wish to provide greater central field occupation
The only minor difference from the 4-3-1-2, is that Payet would be bought back to a more centrally located position.
In addition there is a subtle difference in playing Lanzini and Antonio a little more wide in order to provide attacking options down the flanks.
This formation may be an ideal choice if we are able to gain the early lead and only involves a minor tweak to the existing formation.