Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Formation Change?

First off, congratulations to France and all French fans and supporters on the World Cup win. With the World Cup now over, everyone is looking ahead to the new club season. However, the World Cup always has an impact on the new season. The performance of players causes a lot of movement in the transfer market with clubs keen to steal away the best performers. The World Cup also gave us a good taste of VAR (video-assistant-referee) which will be in full effect this new season, hopefully with a few kinks worked out. However, the World Cup is also a lesson in tactics and formations, and that's what I want to speak about today.

I read an article on Superdeporte that suggested that Wass was being experimented by Marcelino as part of a double pivot. I didn't think much of it at the time but while watching the World Cup, I realized that many of the top teams, all use a variation of a formation with double pivots: 3-4-2-1, 4-2-3-1 or a 3-5-2. The champions France played a counter-attacking style as we do, but the core of their success is the double pivot of Kante and Matuidi. No doubt many coaches looked at the tactics used in the World cup either to emulate them or at least to figure out how to stop them, and Marcelino would have been no exception. 

So why change the 4-4-2, which has worked well for us this far? Well, my guess is that Marcelino only opted for this formation since it was simple and effective. Given the time and resources he had, this made sense. But a coach has to adapt to the times and this could be a reason to change. 

It struck me as odd that Marcelino would invest in yet another CDM and another CB. This leaves us with 3 CDMs (Kondogbia, Coquelin, Racic) and 6 CBs (Garay, Murillo, Paulista, Vezo, Diakhaby, and Jimenez). On top of that, there were rumors that Valencia were going to use Nani as a bargaining chip with Sporting CP to facilitate the signing of another CDM, William Carvalho. This didn't materialize. That would've left us with 4 CDMs. Now, this could be for a few reasons. It could be the club is anticipating Kondogbia will be sought after by bigger clubs soon and have already planned his future replacement. Racic could also be a temporary cover for Coquelin whose injury might make him miss some of the next season. As for the CBs, many have speculated that Garay would be on his way out since he has one of the highest salaries and could fetch the biggest price out of the players. However, it could also be in anticipation of a formation change. 

In a formation with 3 CBs, having 5 or 6 CBs doesn't seem so strange anymore. Similarly, a squad with 3 or 4 CDMs, in a formation with double pivots, is not strange either. This, at first sight suggests that we would play a 3-4-2-1 or a 3-5-2. This could looks something like this:

      Rodrigo/Mina
Guedes?/Ferran                 Parejo/Soler
Gaya/Lato    Kondogbia/Coquelin    Wass/Racic    Montoya?/?
Murillo/Jimenez      Garay/Paulista      Diakhaby/Vezo
Neto/Jaume

This is very similar to the way to the way Belgium would play, 3 CBs with wingbacks on either side of the double pivot. In front of them, two mobile and/or creative players with a central striker. Now, if one of the center-backs leaves on loan or is sold, this could be adapted to a lineup similar to France's 4-2-3-1 as follows:

      Rodrigo/Mina
Guedes?/Ferran                Parejo/?                      Soler/?
    Kondogbia/Coquelin    Wass/Racic    
Gaya/Lato     Murillo/Jimenez       Diakhaby/Paulista      Montoya?/Vezo
Neto/Jaume

***Note, I didn't include Zaza in these, as he seems to be getting pushed out. However, he could very well fit in as the central striker in these formations, with Rodrigo playing just behind. Guedes remains a maybe so I kept him but I'm hearing names like T.Hazard, Malcolm and Kostic to replace him. Maksimovic was signed by Getafe, so he wasn't included.

Both formations have been effective in the World Cup especially conducive for counter-attacking football. Of course, this is just pure speculation from my end based on our transfer-activity, some news and my analysis of the World Cup but we'll see what happens in the preseason friendlies and the next month and a half of the transfer window. A lot of the time, there is a cascading effect with transfers where as soon as a club gets their player, the selling club will buy to replace and then that selling club will also do the same and so on, unlocking the deadlock.

As usual, please share your thoughts with everyone in the comments below. Is it safer to stick with the 4-4-2? Or would you like to see a formation change? Which one? Which transfer targets would make it work? How should we lineup? 



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