It has often been stated that if things aren’t working on the pitch you have to dare to experiment and change your set-up in order to see if this helps to surprise the opposition and to get back to winning ways. This approach is practically the complete opposite to the “never-change-a-winning-team”-philosophy and something I more often than not agree with ,especially if results are anything like ours during recent weeks.
The first “suggestion” of change in most cases involves the manager, who in that case would then be the ex-manager. When one does not think that the sacking of the manager would be the right decision to make or it becomes apparent that it simply isn’t an option either way, attention turns to the squad. Who has not performed? Which players aren’t living up to their potential? Who could come into the team in their place? Why have certain players not featured over a longer period? There are a lot of questions that can, and will, be asked if results don’t meet expectations. Between transfer periods changes to the overall squad are not something one should commit too much to but instead the aim should be to find out how to use those available in the best possible way. It is up to the manager to come up with the right game-plan. Judging purely by results, Lambert’s game-plan lately has not been very productive and, while each of the results might be a down to different factors, the overall outcome has been far from satisfactory. As said before, the manager has the option of making changes within the squad and this can happen in two different ways:
1. shake-up the selection of the match-day squad;
2. change the formation.
These are the two ways that can help us, in the short run, to revitalise the team and to try to improve results. Yet, if one has a closer look at the first option it is not very hard to spot that, as injuries accumulate once again, alternatives are rare and the overall match-day squad will not see any radical changes. Even though some players, namely Jores Okore and Leandro Bacuna, have not been given as much match time as I would have expected and would have liked to have seen, there aren’t too many possibilities allowing massive changes. That leaves us with only one realistic option that should not require too much input compared to the potential output (improved performances leading to more points) it could have: changing the formation.
Looking at the squad available as well as the tactical set-up used in recent weeks, which very often has been the 4-3-3, I think it is an absolute must to go with a different tactic, at least so we could observe the impact it would have. In a competitive environment like the Premier League an experiment is always a risk and sometimes it is wise not to change too much. However, I very much think that in some of our recent games using the current formation was more of a risk than a moderate change to the tactics could have been. It didn’t pay off and now, having stuck to the 4-3-3 for that long, I see no reason not to give something else a try. There simply isn’t too much more to lose yet a win is very tempting and, in my opinion, a new formation could see us move a bit closer to a run of positive results.
I would opt for a moderate change and that would be leaving the 4-3-3 behind for a while and using the 4-2-3-1. That formation is not unknown to our players and offers a lot more flexibility while having another big plus: its different positions correspond much better to the individual positions and strengths of our players. Far too often have we seen players fielded “out of position”, something that players have not responded well to, and it shows from time to time in their performance. The best example is Andreas Weimann, who stated himself that he would prefer to play through the middle. However, having been used on the right side of the pitch for a very long time, he has now been ordered to play down the left. A change to the 4-2-3-1 would give him the opportunity to play centrally, maybe not as the main striker but slightly behind him, as the attacking number ten that he is going by the printing on his back. This formation would also allow Joe Cole to have an effect, possibly as an impact sub. The current set-up simply doesn’t have a position for him. Instead, it provides room for three central midfielders, who in our case are very close to each other in terms of abilities, styles and tasks. The defence would stay unchanged so, instead of risking fielding too many players of the same kind in the middle of the park, we would have the option of presenting a more balanced midfield, that, while still being strong in numbers and supporting a single main striker, should allow the whole team to get forward more effectively, resulting in a greater goal threat. A whole team moving forward collectively, incorporating a broader variety of players, should also help us to move away from our tendency to rely on counter-attacking football, which would surely be another plus.
In theory I could see a 4-2-3-1 working very well, especially with our current squad. It should give us a lot more options compared to the 4-3-3 that is rather limited, even though it can be very effective if played correctly. It remains to be seen if what sounds very promising in theory also works on the pitch. Our manager is the one who could find out the answer for us and I would be very pleased if he did, as I could see it helping the Villans move up the table.