Posts Tagged ‘4-2-1-3’
The Premier League season is less than two weeks old, but a look at how the top sides lined up in their opening matches provides an interesting indication of how they plan to approach the season from a tactical perspective.
The diagrams below, screenshots from the ESPN Soccernet website, show the average positions adopted by the players from Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal, Tottenham, Manchester City and Liverpool in their teams’ opening home games of the season. (Data is taken only from home games because ESPN’s average position diagrams inexplicably go a bit haywire for away teams.)
Average position diagrams do not give a water-tight representation of a team’s formation – which is necessarily in a constant state of flux – but they do offer useful insights into basic shape.
In the 6-0 victory over West Bromwich Albion on the season’s opening day, Chelsea lined up in the same loose 4-3-3 formation that they adopted during last season’s title run-in, but with Florent Malouda playing on the left of the front three, rather than the midfield three. Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka both drop deep to get fully involved in the team’s build-up play and Malouda has become wonderfully adept at exploiting the space they vacate – as he did when he scored the sixth goal against West Brom from Anelka’s lofted pass.
[Squad numbers: 1. Petr Čech; 19. Paulo Ferreira, 33. Alex, 26. John Terry, 3. Ashley Cole; 5. Michael Essien, 12. John Mikel Obi, 8. Frank Lampard; 39. Nicolas Anelka, 11. Didier Drogba, 15. Florent Malouda; Substitutes: 2. Branislav Ivanović, 10. Yossi Benayoun, 21. Salomon Kalou]
When Roberto Martínez arrived at Wigan Athletic in the summer of 2009, he made it clear from the outset that he wanted to do things his way. “We’ve introduced a completely different style of play to the team,” he said in August. “We’re allowing the players to think more about their own decisions during the game.”
Martínez joined Wigan from Swansea City, where he had built a side whose flowing football garnered plenty of plaudits. His challenge was to bring style and success to the DW Stadium and from the very start his tactical plan revolved around a 4-2-3-1 shape that accommodated a two-man midfield platform and skillful passers in advanced positions. In the 2-0 pre-season defeat to Romanian side FC Timişoara in late July, and the 4-1 victory over Preston North End that followed a few days later, Wigan started with Lee Cattermole and Hendry Thomas in central midfield and three attacking midfielders in support of a lone striker, Hugo Rodallega.
Wigan lost Cattermole to Sunderland but his place was taken by Michael Brown (now at Portsmouth) for the first Premier League match under Martínez, an unexpected 2-0 victory at Aston Villa on the season’s opening day that attracted much praise for the quality of Wigan’s play. Their starting XI that day featured left-footed winger Charles N’Zogbia on the right flank and a pair of composed playmakers in Jordi Gómez, who followed Martínez from Swansea, and Jason Koumas.
“It’s a completely different way of playing to last season and if you ask every player it’s much more enjoyable to play in,” said Koumas. “The new manager wants us to attack from the first minute and I think we can hurt a lot of teams this season.”
The 2009-10 Serie A campaign was all set to be the season of the trequartista. Juventus’s major pre-season signing was Brazilian playmaker Diego from Werder Bremen, Milan were so keen to get the best out of Ronaldinho that club owner Silvio Berlusconi made him stand on a table at a pre-season training camp and promise to stay out of trouble and Jose Mourinho, who has as much romance in his soul as the Terminator, was happy for Internazionale to shell out €15 million on the sublimely gifted Dutchman Wesley Sneijder.
Four months into the season, things have not gone strictly according to plan for Serie A’s most alluring talents. Diego is being booed off the pitch by his own fans, Ronaldinho’s ineffectiveness in a central role has seen him restored to the left-wing role synonymous with his Barcelona pomp and Sneijder has started just four of Inter’s last 10 league games due to a combination of injury and suspension.
Sneijder’s situation is the least troubling of the three. When fit he is usually assured of a starting role and, in any case, he is not a true trequartista. But what about Diego and Ronaldinho? How is it that two of the world’s most talented playmakers have failed to shine in a central playmaking role at two of the world’s most well-resourced clubs?