The Fluency of Formation

by Mystical Mike

Wednesday, August 5th, 2009

Formation is a subject where everyone has an opinion, and everyone has a bias, mainly because it’s so important. Every England debate since 66 has featured formation. Teams have one with diamonds, Christmas tree’s, MW’s, and all sorts, so we can understand that it is not the formation that wins trophies, but the teams adaptability and comfort with these tactics. You could have the worlds best players, but a formation that doesn’t work with the players will fail, equally you can have a team of average players, moulded just right, will be twice as strong.

A good example of this is Euro 2004, England had a pretty decent side, our team never really clicked, and once a couple of players were missing our game was lost. Greece went on to lift the cup with a team that would be relegated from the premiership, but their tactics were spot on.

So far we’re leading to believe that all you need to do is find the formation that works and you’re unstoppable, but as ever it’s not quite as easy as that. A full season consists of injuries, suspensions, different oppositions, and different standards of football, especially for those involved in Europe. In 50-60 games played, trying to sustain a team in a set-up they are comfortable in is a very challenging task.

Yet when we look at all the successful Premiership teams that’s exactly what happened, the managers may change personnel, and tweak a position to an individual characteristic, but the general formation is sustained. To do this when one day you have Blackburn at home, and the next when you have Liverpool away is tough, especially with the squad rotation that happens for all teams now.

In 1999 Utd won with 4-4-2. Whether Beckham and Giggs were injured, it remained, if Yorke and Cole were out, Sherringham and Solskar dropped in. The fluency was not disrupted and the team could gel much quicker.

In 2004 Arsenal went unbeaten, they adopted 4-4-2 but if Bergkamp wasn’t playing, then Wenger would rather have Pires play in his position than switch the entire team around.

In 2005 Mourinho’s 4-5-1 was always used, there was a backup for each position and even some great players were left on the bench if they didn’t fit the formation. It wasn’t until Roman started buying some strikers for his fun and Mourinho started experimenting with 4-4-2 that Chelsea’s standard dropped a bit, as their players suited the earlier formation.

My concentration now focuses on Arsenal. Inconsistency has plagued their seasons for a while now; they can beat anyone and lose to anyone. In this time, they have adopted 4-5-1 away from home in many of the tougher league games and Champions League matches. Sometimes this change has been successful, and other times not, but each season they have swapped continually from 4-4-2 to 4-5-1, due to injuries they have also had changes of personnel, the fluid play has been lost and it has cost them.

From pre-season it has been widely reported that Arsene is adopting a 4-3-3 strategy. From the players at Arsenal it would seem like a decent step, and would also offer them more strength centrally where they have lost out in the past. It would also mean that adopting a 4-5-1 for a more defensive game either against top opposition or mid game to protect a lead, would be a seemless transition without shuffling players around.

Arsene’s plan is to find this fluency in changing his players and his tactics over a full season.

We will see if it works over the coming year, yet when people are writing Arsenal off the year they have not looked this far into team aspects.

Liverpool have a similar side to last season, yet if they lose Alonso they made need to make a change if they cannot find a direct replacement.

Utd have lost Ronaldo and Tevez, meaning a change in tactics is a must, as Ronaldo cannot be replaced.

Chelsea are looking for a diamond formation to improve on last season, yet 4-5-1 has always worked for Terry, Lampard and Drogba.

Finally Man City’s formation is a huge puzzle. They could play 6 up front for all I know, but with a big squad it becomes even harder to find that balance.

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  • Darren

    England had this under glenn hoddle, we had a system, if a player was missing, another would slot in, to this day I still say he was the best manager since bobby robson.

    As for the league Chelsea look like a good bet as they are the only side not to lose key players

  • Michael Cheeseman

    Many people are tipping Chelsea, and i can’t blame them, but their system will be key to how well they do, and as its a new manager with new ideas i think it may take them time to settle into it.

    A diamond should would well for them, but i still think that they are light up top if injuries come calling. Drogba will be key to their season, as Kalou and Anelka can’t replace his ability to hold up the ball and win free kicks.

    I say ability when we all know i really want to say (cheating ****)

  • Darren

    Wenger is fan of kalou, god knows why, he’s average at best

  • Tef1on

    I’m tipping Chavski only because i feel utd have sold too big and not replaced and Liverpool only have 1 striker which isnt enough

  • dexylongshot

    You’ll get my gypsy ballesque opinions next Thusday & Friday with my Premiership Prediction special, shortly after my Hot Triple XXX Holland v Lions Preview & subsequent UKFF ontour video footage. You lot are so lucky to have me!!!!

    If anyone is heading over the Amsterdam for the game, send us a mail and you can have a staring rol in this hotly anticipated production. Ron Jeremy is in it!!!

  • Stevie

    Big ron, what a legend! Can’t wait

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