4-4-2 is becoming trendy again



…When Barcelona were Europe’s dominant force between 2009 and 2011, for example, it was extremely difficult to tell whether strategy would move in the first respect (further evolution) or the second respect (a shift toward an opposing style of play).

In the end, Bayern’s success last year probably represented a hybrid of the two: They could tiki-taka almost as expertly as Barcelona, but they destroyed Tito Vilanova’s club with power and counterattack.

One of those unpredictable concepts is the 4-4-2 formation. A couple of years ago, the shape appeared to have almost completely died out at the highest level, particularly in European and international competition, where the tempo of matches was slower and centered primarily around ball retention in midfield.

Whenever a 4-4-2 came up against a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-3-3, it faced an obvious problem with the lack of numbers in the centre of midfield, meaning it was unable to cope with opponents between the lines. The obvious solution was for one of the centre-forwards to drop deeper when out of possession and become, in effect, a third central midfielder. It meant the side essentially shifted to become a 4-4-1-1, or 4-2-3-1. Therefore, even when sides were attempting to play a 4-4-2, they ended up conforming to the obsession with the 4-2-3-1.

Paris Saint-Germain started the campaign playing both Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Edinson Cavani up front together, but that system’s lack of success has forced Laurent Blanc to consider other alternatives, generally with Cavani wide-right in a half-hearted 4-3-3.

Their main challengers in Ligue 1, Monaco, have also been playing something closely resembling a 4-4-2 at times. Joao Moutinho has occasionally been favoured in the position behind Radamel Falaco, but Moutinho’s free-kick goal against Reims last weekend was the first Monaco goal not scored by one of the two strikers, Falcao and Emmanuel Riviere.

The recent Manchester derby was a fine example of the 4-4-2 craze — Wayne Rooney was fielded in close support of Danny Welbeck, while Sergio Aguero supported Alvaro Negredo. A few years ago, Rooney and Aguero would have unquestionably dropped off into the midfield zone to support the two deeper-lying midfielders — but that didn’t remotely happen. If anything, Aguero’s sprints beyond his strike partner made him the more advanced forward. It was 4-4-2 versus 4-4-2.

Over in Madrid, last weekend’s derby saw something extremely similar. Carlo Ancelotti fielded Cristiano Ronaldo as a mobile but central forward, drifting either side of main striker Karim Benzema. Going the other way, Diego Simeone played Diego Costa and David Villa: both started in very deep, defensive-minded roles, before charging forward into attack.



Yet, while pure ball retention isn’t valued as greatly as two or three seasons ago — with a slightly more direct, purposeful playing style becoming more popular — it’s still slightly surprising to see the 4-4-2 return.

In modern football, the midfield battle remains the most important zone on the pitch. It’s not necessarily about getting the upper hand in terms of possession, but about controlling the tempo and feel of the contest.

The danger for some managers is that they’ve become forced to play 4-4-2 because of poor squad strengthening — often by sporting directors, keen to recruit big names rather than useful team players. Too many big sides are top-heavy, overloaded with forwards when the midfield zone needed addressing more seriously.

Robin van Persie has clearly been a great success at Manchester United, but he and Shinji Kagawa were superstars signed when United needed a reliable central midfielder more desperately. Similarly, City’s Negredo and Stevan Jovetic are fine forwards, but Jack Rodwell and Javi Garcia aren’t great options as City’s third-best central midfielder. Manuel Pellegrini could play only one forward, with David Silva or Yaya Toure behind, but that means three unhappy forwards sitting on the bench each week.

That is the key when playing two strikers: Managers can’t afford to let anyone shirk their responsibilities without the ball, and few top clubs are capable of playing two hardworking centre-forwards together. 4-4-2 is workable, but the forwards increasingly have to fulfill the tasks traditionally covered by midfielders. In that case, playing an extra midfielder remains the more logical option.

Source: ESPN

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4 Comments on “4-4-2 is becoming trendy again”

  1. fplaaron October 23, 2013 at 8:53 am #

    Nice piece, say would it be possible for you to link to my Blog?

    • Omer November 1, 2013 at 8:20 am #

      do you have any articles for GW 10 ?

      • fplaaron November 1, 2013 at 7:47 pm #

        Yes on fantasypremierleaguelad.blogspot.com

  2. fpllad November 7, 2013 at 9:57 am #

    I mean fantasypremierleaguelad.wordpress.com

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