What's the difference?
As the debate rumbles on about whether or not to play a 4-4-2 system or stick with 4-5-1 (or whatever variation you want to conjure up, one question has been haunting me throughout - What is the difference in modern day football?
The 4-4-2 formation has almost become a taboo in football. Why on earth play such an archaic formation which isn't even thought of amongst the elite clubs in the world and is scoffed at by anyone with any kind of tactical nous. While it's true that a standard looking 4-4-2 isn't regularly seen in modern day football, I'm wondering whether most are kidding themselves that there's a difference between playing two strikers compared to playing someone 'just off the front man'.
A 4-5-1 by definition should make the midfield more compact when defending and will allow support to a front man when in possession - but really is that the case? In the last couple of seasons we've tried and tested a 4-5-1 with van der Vaart, Sigurdsson and Dempsey all having a stab and I have to question what any of them have brought to the table in terms of being a midfielder. Answer? Very little.
I then have to question why we would play someone 'off the lone striker' who isn't as comfortable scoring a hatful of goals as, say, a striker, but also isn't really (either) capable nor willing to put the work in defensively to see the benefit. Against Maribor and yes, I will use them as an example, Defoe and Adebayor looked as promising a partnership as any other combination we've tested. We simply didn't look any different. When one went forward, the other tracked back. Adebayor especially looked very capable at dropping deep and spreading the play, working channels etc and his unselfish and mature display that night led to a Defoe hat-trick.
I feel, of course, there are times and places to play a midfield trio, in games where we're scrapping for a point or hoping to nick all three, but it seems like we're playing with one striker just because it's more fashionable, rather than more effective. Obviously I'm willing as ever to debate and take other opinions on board, but my personal opinion is that playing one up front, while it can work, simply isn't this season and no player we've had to my knowledge has played the suspiciously ambiguous 'erm, not quite midfield, not quite striker' role effectively enough.
Written by Bernio Villas-Spuras
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