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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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The journalist

Writer: Bernio Villas-Spuras Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Tuesday November 13 2012

Time: 9:00AM

Your Comments

We're not goog enough to scrap for a point or hold onto results, bit like kegans Newcastle if we are going to win we need to score more goals than the other team, probably 3 or 4.
The balance of the team is critical for the formation to work....ade dropping deep worked, Ade holding the line and wanting defoe to drop doesn't.....same players, same formation different result. It also depends on what the opposition is'll notice a lot of teams now trying 3 at the back....this worked years ago and then was discarded, it's back now that people are playing 1 up and flooding the mid....but guess what 2 up will work against 3 at the back and the roundabout continues....
i beleive modern day managers need to be able to adapt from game to game as well as being able to make changes during games for various reasons eg. tactics/formations of oppositions etc. So, far it seems like AVB is only using his one favoured formation. It worked in Portugal, but he has to realise that the premiership is different. He is a smart manager, but he needs to be able to react quicker and change things positively when things arent going right for us.
As you've said I thought we looked most potent with both Ade & Defoe on the pitch. Ade's work rate Thursday was more than a match for anything VDV has offered in previous seasons.
Zummerzet Spur
There are zero differences when you haven't a playmaker nothing more to say.
We should have play falque as an advanced playmaker or carroll as a deep lying one. However if AVB choosed to do that and didn't work out weel against $hity he would have been blame. Bring on the other lot ! COYS
Good article. Agree for the time being the way forwards is with Ade and Defoe!
El Jefe
I think the difficulty today is not about two strikers, but two strikers and two wingers. Can you play with both against the best opposition?
The game has evolved and is now possesion based, thats why elaborate formations are conjured up. 4-4-2 is the classic balanced formation equally strong in attack as it is defense, 5 in the middle is designed to control the flow of the game, restricting the opposition and maintaining possesion. I do not like this style of play as against strong opposition your forwards will be largely isolated, unless your midfield CAN hold posseion and build an attack. I want to see goals and passion not a keep the ball training session.
The article isnt actually comparing 4-4-2 with a 4-5-1, because the 4-4-2 has Ade basically playing in the hole, where his goal output will probably be effected. So the article is comparing a 4-5-1 with a 4-5-1. If it was a Harry Redknapp type 4-4-2 then of course there is a difference.
coys1717, West Ham, Real Madrid, Barca, Bayern, Stoke, Spurs all play different variations of a 4-5-1, all play differently. Real Madrid are much less possession obsessed than Barca for example.
Guyver, Real madrid (to me ) play a fluid 4-3-3/4-5-1 and they still largley dominate possesion but have a faster attack. Formations using 4-5-1 can be succesful if you have the players to do so. In your reference you use stoke, stocke are not easy to beat, but they will never be scoring 4-5 goals a game.
My point was simply that you can play 4-5-1 in many different ways. Real Madrid dominate possession because they have so many talented players, but their intention is to be much more direct than Barca. Even ourselves this season have been playing 4-2-3-1 looking to counter with Lennon, Bale and Dembele, rather than hold onto the ball as we often did last season, playing a similar formation. Stoke and West Ham play more defensively ect.
We cannot play a 451 with 2 DM's and 2 widemen and no playmaker it just does not work, Alf ramsey realsied this in 66 ffs. We need to play a narrow midfield, I think Gb could adapt to this but not sure about AL and Dempsey is a lost sole.
Horny Helen
and you lot said AVB was a tactical genius and all of us who said he was a clown should get lost. Hate to say i told ya so but ...........
What a fanny
T.H.F.Chris - Old Trafford.
We should play the formation that suits the opposition we are playing. People are banging on about the Maribor game as if it proves a point. We dominated them last week with 4-4-2 and we dominated them in the previous game with 4-5-1. Only difference was we took our chances in the second. 4-4-2 is suitable against lesser teams but the better teams will roll us over unless we have more bodies in the middle of the park.
Have a read... been thinking this for a while..most recently when AVB unfathomably took off Ade instead of Dempsey against City on Saturday. I know who i'd rather have in the whole...
Why Dempsey is on the pitch is beyond me. Ade when in form makes a huge difference but my concern is Ade is not that bothered about us. He can be lazy I really don't think he has that desire at times.

I really don't think AVB would want Ade, Dempsey, Hudd, Siggy, Dawson, Gallas, Cuducini, Gomes. I would bet he would prefer back up for Walker and BAE and and it wouldn't suprise me if he is that bothered about Parker and to some degree Dembele, Defoe and even Lloris and Freidal. I just don't think AVB would buy such players. He has inherited these players. I see AVB wanting players like Mountinho, skilful players and players that are mobile to play a high line and that would mean he likes Lennon and Bale and possibly Sandro.

AVB obviously wants to play the 4 4 1 and if he is given the time and cash that is the way we go but until he gets his own players then we will see patchy performances and probably go backwards before we progress.
The difference is midfield. AVB's 4-2-3-1 variant of 4-5-1 has 3 in central midfield. Harry's 4-4-1-1 variant has 2 in central midfield. The next difference is in the wingers. AVB wants to push both wingers up, thus pressing the opposition. Harry's was based on more traditional wing play, but effectively Lennon WAS pushed up in order to give others space to attack - and still be a threat himself.
Those wanting to change the formation should realise that the Spurs u-21s play 4-2-3-1 also. So it is our whole philosophy. It won't change.
We have conceded more goals and scored less goals playing 4-5-1
jordtheyid - yeah but different manager, different spine, no Parker, Modders. It is more to do with the manager's style of play as opposed to formation I feel
Tactically Challenge
The key problem here is we are having to play Huddlestone in midfield as we don't have Parker or Dembele to call upon. As soon as they are fit I'd expect to see a midfield three of Sandro Parker and Dembele and then we will see how good we are. AVB needs time to asemble the players he wants to fit the system and philosophy he wants to play. You can debate formations until you are blue in the face but the simple fact is whatever formation we choose a midfield reliant on players like Huddlestone dempsey and Livermore simply isn't good enough to challenge top 4.
MJBSpur, damn fine point Sir.
Tactically Challenge
One point to make, AVB wants us to play a rigid but attacking 4-3-3. Most of the players that are here now will not fit into that system very well. Sandro, Dembele, Lennon, Walker, Kaboul, Vert, Bale, Caulker, Naughton fit that model. But Sigg, Dempsey, Gallas, Dawson, BAE, Ade, Defoe, Hudd, Parker do not fit. We have a rather large re-building project on our hands...
Tactically Challenge
Tactically Challenge, I agree with part of what you are saying although "rigid" isn't the right word as it is well documented that AVB likes to have the midfield and attack filled with players that can interchange and swap positions and cover eachother with fluidity. I agree we have a bit of a rebuild project on our hands in order to assemble a squad of players to fit this but I also wouldn't be surprised to see a few of our youth players come through such as Falque and Carrol to fill some of the gaps. For the first time in a very long time we actually have a strategy in place that is being carried out from the ground up and the same philosophies are being taught to our youth sides as our senior squad. You only have to look at the recent successes of our U21/U19 sides to see we have a foundation of exciting quality to look forward to.
Is anyone else getting bored discussing which formation is the best, surely we need to set up different depending on the opposition? Away to Man City would be different to Home to Southampton or am I the only one who thinks like this?? Also there are no formations that supports Huddlestone, as every formation I know and understand involve moving!!!
yiddyboy - I would say that the personnel within the 4-2-3-1 should change depending on opposition and venue. This is because AVB does not want to vary formation. Managers such as Martinez alter formations - mid-game even, but AVB seems not to want that.
I understand that playing one system is easier for everyone to understand their role, but it doesn't work. That is why teams lose or draw games. Look at Barca vs Celtic, old fashioned 'let em know you're there' approach. Barca didn't want to mix it up, end up losing the game. There's no way in the world Celtic are better than Barca, only on the day Lennon and his men tactically outdone Barca. Thinking we are going to go to places like the Etihad with the players we have and then expect to control possession is just foolish. We were set up to defend for our lives and counter attack. It was working well for 60 minutes! Playing at home we should not have that approach, we should be taking the game to the opposition irrespective of WHO they are. We are at home and SHOULD have the full support of the fans!
MJBSpur - this is the problem with citing the injury excuse. How likely is it that we have Sandro AND Dembele AND Parker fit at the same time and throughout the season? They have all been injured this season, and Sandro even needs a rest because of the Olympics. Man U have been missing Fletcher, Arsenal have been missing Wilshere in long-term injuries. They still finished top four. AVB's tactics should not be so dependant on a certain set of 3 players. This is in fact the beauty of 4-4-2...admittedly becoming old-fashioned, but it handles injuries well. Everywhere on the pitch is a partnership. It is more likely that you can keep a partnership fit, than a 3. If someone is injured, you bring in your 3rd choice, and not your 4th/5th choice (Livermore, Carroll, Hudd). We have seen the players perform decently for 45 mins of a game, so nothing wrong with the players at disposal. It looks like the tactics are not working for an entire game. The opposition adjusts at half-time, and we are screwed. AVB makes his questionable subs, and we end up looking very average
With all due respect, all this formations stuff is a load of b*****. The reality is there all pretty much the same, with a slight adjustment here an there. A team's performance is made up of 95% player quality. Put Parker and Modric in place of Sandro and Hudd and just watch the difference in our midfields performance. Put VDV instead of Dempsey and see the difference. Put BAE at left back and Verts in his proper position alongside Kaboul. Its all about getting quality players signed in Jan/next summer and back from the treatment table. Everything else is just the usual AVB sniping on here from the usual suspects.
SRV - Well said, with you all the way.
At least Ade is getting there. Made a big difference on Sunday. He just needs a run of games now. Once Lloris is deemed ready, other key players back and maybe a Moutinho & a Llorente signed (here's hoping!) the team starts to look v.strong again. Just need to hold our nerve and not believe some of the knee-jerking crap that some write on here. If we are there or there abouts around Top 6 by the New Year i can see us having a good run-in. We also need to stay in Europe whilst going through this dodgy spell because come Spring we should be firing. If this time next year we have a full team like Lloris, BAE, Verts, Kaboul, Naughton, Parker, Moutinho, Dembele, Isco, Bale, Ade and we are STILL not clicking then you have to look at AVB. But until then lets give the man a chance.
TonyRich, heres the difference between a team like Arsenal and ourselves. They never have to bring on a player of Livermores standard. They have cover for both wings, Walcott, Podolski, Gervinho, Arshavin, Chamberlain. Carzola, Rosicky and Wilshere are all central attacking midfielders who can also play wide. We rely on Bale, Lennon, Dembele and Sandro staying fit and performing well, our squad cannot cope with injuries or poor form like the teams you mentioned. Im sure against Man City, AVB wanted to bring on Willian to replace Lennon the other day, but he only had Naughton on the bench.
StillRickyVilla bang on the money WELL SAID!
Anyone remember how important Carrick was to Jol's team? Carrick was the fulcrum, everyone else ran off him, he made the team tick. When we lost him we got Zokora! It took Jol half a season to sort that out. Full-backs would look up, play it into Zokora and the move would break down. Early that season we looked lost and unable to build an attack. I see similarities now with the loss of Modric. Its not easy. But we will get there. What amazes me is everything is so predictable given the circumstances. We are where i'd expect us to be. Yet fans expectations have not adjusted to those new set of circumstances. I think that's whats causing some of the angst. I'm afraid we have to be patient.
TonyRich - The quality of our back up players is hardly AVBs fault is it. Once he's had a chance to bring in the players he wants the back up available will suit the system and will cope with injuries better. Saying we have seen the players perform decently for 45 minutes does nothing to prove what you suggest, if anything it brings the players attitude, consistency and concentration into question especially against "lesser" opposition. AVB is everything that HR was not and that is a good thing. Its not as if conceding late goals and throwing away leads is a new trait that has come with AVBs appointment, it is something that we have been plagued with for years and AVB is still in the process of moulding the side and trying to iron out these problems. His substitutions are only questionable if you are unable to grasp the concept of tactics. Harry used to sit there and make no changes at all as if he was hoping something would happen and when he did make a sub it was always the same ones regardless of the situation. No tactics behind it a no clue. We have a better manager but unfortunately at present a weaker squad.
Well said again StillRickyVilla. People are are judging AVB and our performances against the the highlights of Harry's reign forgetting both the last 6 months under Harry and the fact that AVB doesn't have Modric or VDV at his disposal.
...i seemed to have come down with a stutter in that last post!
What's the difference? The third girl in is a x tennis player, Steffi Graf i think, Do I Win anything?
spu 4 life
Screw the formations, just go out there and Łuckin' well run around lads.
why do people keep banging on about avb bringing in 'his' players...he had a window, how do you know they aren't his? (pos exception Vert who looked to be already done) also he has no record of successfully buying players and building a team...blimey, there's liking the guy and giving him a chance and then there is blind faith...
Shedboy2, he came in with only a couple of weeks left in the transfer window. He has a good reputation from his time behind the scenes at both Porto and Chelsea of having a very good eye for talent and players he had recommended to said clubs later went on to have very large price tags. He brought in mata at Chelsea and wanted both willian and Moutinho for us so I have every confidence that give a full summers transfer window and reasonable backing he will get the right players in. No one has blind faith in him, some have just paid more attention to his background than others and are less influenced by gutter press.
MJB Old Trafford was definitely the exception that proves the rule, and you can't tell me you watched that thinking we were in control, no problems here - every Spurs fan I know was cacking themselves.
Well said MJB. If some people took their heads out of their arses for a bit and looked at the bigger picture they'd see the next couple of years is quite exciting.
And i wish we'd stop this tenuous cliche comparison with Ramos. Juande couldn't speak a word of English and made no effort to learn - i don't think he ever wanted to be here. AVB is different - better English than most of us, highly motivated to be here, has amazing passion & tenacity to make us successful, respects and loves the fans and the club and wants to lay proper foundations to take us to the top over many years. Lets give him more than a couple of months with a cobbled together team shall we before getting the knives out.
T.H.F.Chris, "the exception that proves the rule" other words you mean "yes you've got a point there but I'll choose to ignore it as it proves I'm being over dramatic". Nothing has changed in terms of our ability to see games out and not concede late goals, the ONLY difference in that respect so far is the fact that we won at OT for the first time in god know how many years. I've got no issue with people voicing frustration at results but its so ridiculous to be doing so while pointing the finger at AVB. Like StillRickyVilla said some people really need to get their heads out of their arses and see the bigger picture. We were ***** for the last 6 months under HR and AVB has not only inherited a team in that form but also had the best 2 players plucked out of it. Anyone coming in under those circumstances was going to take a bit of time to turn things around and the guy has only had 11 games. People need to stop dwelling on HRs period in charge because it was Gung Ho tacticless raw football and although entertaining at times he didn't for me make the most of the best squad of players I've ever seen at the club. Had he carried on this season without Modric, VDV and the injuries with had we'd be in a much worse possition. AVB will come good but he needs at least 6 months to a year to build his squad and style of play with out moron fans getting on his back a fueling the press which does nothing but heap pressure on him and the players.
I don't undertsand why you guys keep trying to distort the facts to bend to your opinion...AVB had almost two months of the transfer window...from 3rd July til 31st August....yes he had a good reputation from behind the scenes and he's basked in the reflective glory but he still has minimal experience in's a fact, one you perhaps don't like, but a fact none the less. I hope you're right and he'll become an outstanding manager but imo he is nowhere near there yet and making mistake after mistake....look at the way he speaks about Dechamps, total lack of respect and diplomacy- won't we feel good when Kaboul has to do a full 90mins in a meaningless friendly just before one of our big games? As for the big picture (or what you guess the big picture to be as you don't have all the facts and were not at all of the meetings) i get it, I think the strategy is flawed but that's another debate, what perhaps you don't get is AVB is just a cog in that big picture, the 1st team coach and if he proves to be the weak link he needs to go.
HR's Spurs to AVB's Spurs (minus Modric/VDV):

"Here's the keys to Lewis Hamiltons F1 don't forget how well Lewis did! we've taken the engine and the steering wheel out"
In 1 day of returning to this site I've remembered why I stopped visiting. Everything I hate about "fellow" spurs fans all in one place. With a few exceptions of course, though unfortunately morons seem to shout loudest.
shedboy2 the fact you just said he's been disrespectful to Dechamps says it all really.
ah, 17 competitive games and a few friendlies....
MJBSpur-yes I thought you had been shouting quite loudly....
"I hope you're right and he'll become an outstanding manager" Thats the sort of moronic statement that is doing my head in. If you don't see that by coming on sites like this, texting into SSN or calling up Talks Sport to moan, snipe and undermine him you are doing nothing but making his possition more and more pressurised and make his job more difficult. Why people can't just shut the F up for a few months and give the guy a chance without scrutinising every tiny descision and comment is beyond me. With every manager we've had I have always backed them and tried to see the reasoning in their decisions, even when they went wrong, for a fair period before making a solid judgment. Are the press all over Brendon Rogers? Inexplicable no, and thats partly because you don't hear Liverpool fans calling for his head after every point dropped.
MJB, it is difficult. There are large section of the Spurs support who never wanted AVB purely because of his media persona at Chelsea and it seems, like the media, have no patience whatsoever and cannot wait for him to fail. I really don't get it because that attitude creates a no-win situation. Deluded haters who think booing and whinging and sniping is actually going to help?! What a difference at the Maribor game when 1882 were there singing their hearts out before kick-off creating a great atmosphere which the players responded to from the off with a resounding start to the game. Was superb, and how a football club should be. I'm not talking about the away support by the way who have been absolutely fantastic all season.
that's what happens in the PL....everything gets put under the micro-scope....Liverpool were starting to come under pressure but Rogers has started to get them playing, they may not get the results but once fans can see the team is moving in the right direction then time for a new signing etc (in pool's case Strikers) becomes more acceptable.
I think the booing just sums it up unfortunately. Brainless people who actually think that is going to help matters. AVB is the manager now whether people wanted him or not and he's already shown more respect to Spurs fans than Harry every did (especially when they got on his back) and we shoud do the same. Back him 110% and give him and the players that extra lift.
I've been on this site for about 10 years on and off and anyone who's read my posts would know that I've never been involved in a long running spat. The only reason I keep coming back at you two is you keep attacking other Spurs fans for daring to speak, you make false assumptions, put words in their mouths, state untruths as Facts and generally act like doing so you bring much more attention to the very subject you would like to brush under the carpet for a year or so....
Lol bullies? Have you been on here 10 years or is that you age? What a joke. OK in that case you are bullying AVB. How pathetic.
One last thing, surely beating United was a glimps that we are heading in the right directing and how we have struggled since without Dembele only highlights our need to invest in a Moutinho or someone of that ilk so we aren't so reliant on one player. And Liverpool aren't even in the top half of the table. God knows what our fans would be like if that was us.
LOL Shedboy, i think your last post sums it up. Lets hope there are many thousands of un-registered readers who can see the bigger picture and realise that getting behind the team/manager is 1. A much more enjoyable experience and 2. Gives us much greater chance of success. Its a win-win. Constantly sniping/booing/whinging brings pressure and negativity into the public domain/media and ultimately that feeds back to the players. Before you know it the dressing-room has gone and we need ANOTHER change of manager. Its a vicious circle. Still, each to there own mate.
....not to mention that in games where on paper (with our absences) against Chelsea and City you'd be hard pushed to to expect us to get spanked we were bang in those games and unlucky not to take something from them. Its all interpritable in the way you want to see it an its a shame you want to see AVB fail rather than succeed.
'Still, each to there own mate.' that's more like it....there's been many a time when we have to agree to dis-agree on matters of opinion but just because they dis-agree you won't silence others for wanting AVB to fail, I don't! and I think highlighting what I think are his weaknesses in the media will allow him to learn and work on them whilst informing the Baord of the public mood....if everyone kept quiet and just clapped like seals he'd think he was doing a good job and we were just 'unlucky'....
Shed, but i don't think you are 'highlighting weaknesses'. You are just regurgitating and promoting the knee-jerk crap you listen to on Talksport or read in the Sun. This in the face of all the evidence to suggest that we need to give this pretty much brand new team firstly TIME + new signings and players back from injury. But i do agree with you that some people will never change their opinion! I'm not a happy clapper cheer-leader for AVB - i just want to give him a fair crack of the whip. As i said further up, if we are looking all dis-jointed and playing crap with a team of Lloris, BAE, Verts, Kaboul, Naughton, Parker, Moutinho, Willian, Bale, Isco, Ade then you have to start pointing the finger at AVB. We just simply are not there yet!
srv- I don't read the gutter press so if I'm regurgitating their stuff I can't be alone in my opinion (although not great company there admitted)...I'd like to see that team too but we need to be in a position to attract those see we already have Lloris, not a great advertisement it?...
"Highlighting Weaknesses" (nicely dressed up) and disagreeing with decisions is one thing but its the delivery that is the key issue. After the City game I thought he probably should have brought on Defoe for Dempsey rather than Ade, I'm not saying that definitely would have changed the result though and I'm not getting irrate about it and calling for his head and saying he isn't good enough. The pro Harry press have had it in for AVB from the day he took the job and all you are doing is providing fuel for the fire. Its not a matter of "clapping like seals" its a matter of giving him all our backing and support in these early stages and if in 6 to 12 months time you still think he's ***** then fill your boots. But the truth is you don't want AVB to succeed, you might say you do but if you really genuinely want someone to do well you overlook early hiccups and what you consider to be mistakes because you are SUPPORTING them, but it seems clear that you along with others had an opinion of him before he came and are more interested in knee-jerking on every little thing that you think proves you might be right.
Money doesn't come into it. If you think fans getting on players and managers backs doesn't have an effect on performance then you are sadly mistaken. You only have to look at our home form this season to see evidence of its effect. Our players clearly feel more comfortable and free to perform away from home this season and that is quite frankly an embarrassment. It doesn't matter what your job is or your wage if you have backing and support from those around you it makes a massive difference. Sure maybe you think calling for the managers head after every other loss is a helpful and productive way to support the club but 22 managers in 20 years suggests otherwise.
thanks BC...I think, some nobody though, a bit harsh...;) I don't earn anywhere near 3m but MJB's comments are water off a ducks back to me....he even decides what I'm thinking then tries to rubbish it! So fingers crossed AVB can come good...I'm not holding my breath though...
Shedboy2 - water off a ducks back so much so that you've responded to every one and resorted to calling myself and SRV bullies. Yep you're cool as a cucumber.

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