Archives for posts with tag: 4-2-3-1

Transfer windows, I generally find, are pretty tiresome affairs. Their infuriating combination of semi-informed conjecture and outlandish rumour is enough to get under the skin of even the most placid of observers, a situation that isn’t helped by Sky Sports News cranking up the hype up to levels one might have associated with the Second Coming. There has, however, been one transfer in particular that has caught the eye this January, that being Ivan Rakitic’s move from Schalke 04 to Sevilla. Read the rest of this entry »

Villarreal may be a club beset by crippling financial troubles, but El Submarino Amarillo proved yesterday evening that they remain a competitive force on the field as they recorded a 4-0 win over Espanyol at El Madrigal.

One of La Liga’s most consistent over-achievers, Villarreal finished seventh last season having played their best football when using a 4-3-3 shape with Giuseppe Rossi, Nilmar and Joseba Llorente forming a potent attacking triumvirate.

However, with Llorente departing for Real Sociedad this summer, coach Juan Carlos Garrido was forced to re-think his team’s tactical approach and, on the evidence of yesterday’s performance, is approaching something resembling a balanced side.

Villarreal's 4-4-2

Having suffered an opening day defeat at the hands of Real Sociedad using a 4-2-3-1 shape, Garrido opted for a 4-4-2 against Espanyol as Nilmar was brought into the starting as a strike partner for Rossi – Cani being the player to miss out on selection.

Of the central midfield players Marcos Senna was predictably the deeper of the two, playing something approaching a holding role as Bruno adopted box-to-box duties.

Although Garrido’s team had a healthy balance about it, Villarreal started slowly and were fortunate not to concede early on as Pablo Osvaldo, Espanyol’s intelligent lone striker in their 4-2-3-1, tested Diego Lopez on several occasions. Once Nilmar had give the home side the lead against the run of play, however, Villarreal were able to assert themselves on the game and began to set its tempo.

As well as pressing from the front to good effect Garrido’s side played with an intense physicality one might not expect from what is a relatively small team, preventing Espanyol from establishing much in the way of a rhythm after taking the lead.

An injury to Osvaldo compounded the visitors’ problems and, by the time the mid-way break came around, looked thoroughly frustrated at the apparent futility of their efforts.

One of the key features behind the success of Villarreal’s play was the willingness of Rossi and Nilmar to peel out wide and link up with Santi Cazorla and Borja Valero on the flanks. This diversity of movement drew the Espanyol back four out of position and created space which was exploited to good effect , something which was particularly central to Rossi’s opening goal.

As soon as Villarreal had extended their lead through Valero, Espanyol were forced to throw more bodies forward in attack, an approach which saw their two defensive midfielders – Aldo Duscher and Javi Marquez – push higher up the field and leave acres of space between themselves and the defence.

As the game opened up the home side were able to finish the game as a contest with fifteen minutes still to play. Revelling in the space between Espanyol’s defence and midfield as well as getting in behind an increasingly offensive pair of fullbacks, substitutes Cani and Jefferson Montero combined excellently down the left side, eventually crossing for an unmarked Nilmar to tap home.

4-0 was not a wholly fair reflection on the level of Espanyol’s performance which, at times, was very impressive. However, the visitors allowed themselves to get frustrated by Villarreal’s physicality in defence while leaving space to be unlocked by El Submarino Amarillo‘s talented attacking unit.

The reputation of 4-4-2 may – justifiably in some cases – taken a battering of late, but Garrido last night showed how dynamic a system it can be with a few minor tweaks to a team’s game-plan.

Villarreal looked both compact and balanced yesterday and, with a potent blend of steel and skill, should be aiming for another European qualification this season.

In what was a predictably mellow summer transfer window, AC Milan bucked the general trend around Europe by making a number of high-profile acquisitions. The arrivals at the San Siro of Robinho and Zlatan Ibrahimovic from Manchester City and Barcelona respectively have provided Milan with what is, at least on paper, one of the finest attacking units on the continent.

Having begun the new Serie A season with a comfortable 4-0 victory over Lecce on Sunday, the Massimo Allegri era is off to a good start, but the new signings will pose the coach an interesting tactical conundrum. After deploying a 4-3-3 system last weekend, questions will be asked as to whether Allegri will continue with that formation for the forthcoming tie against Cesena or change to a different set-up entirely.

The 4-3-3 Allegri adopted last week involved a deep-lying central bank of three incorporating Massimo Ambrosini, Andrea Pirlo and Clarence Seedorf providing cover for the offensive line of Alexandre Pato, Marco Borriello and Ronaldinho. The plan appeared to work well against Lecce, whether such a system is sustainable for the length of the campaign or against Italy’s stronger sides is highly questionable.

The front three against Lecce was a collection of players bereft of anything resembling defensive nous and, with the departure of Borriello – arguably the most willing to track back of the three – to Roma, Allegri will likely have to rely very heavily on his central midfielders for insurance when without possession this season.

Indeed, the arrivals of Ibrahimovic and Robinho – two players hardly famed for their work ethic – could well necessitate the use of three defensive midfield players in order to simply give the team enough cover not to get annihilated on the counter attack. That said, the midfield three which started on Saturday have a combined age of 98 and will doubtless need regular rotation with the likes of Gennaro Gattuso, Mathieu Flamini and Kevin-Prince Boateng.

If Allegri does persist with the 4-3-3 then the most likely forward combination would probably be Pato and Robinho in the wide positions with Ibrahimovic as the team’s centre forward. Such a selection would leave Ronaldinho discarded to take his place on the San Siro bench, but Milan’s new coach may have his hand forced through the sheer weight of offensive resources available to him.

If the former Cagliari manager was feeling particularly brave there is scope for him to opt to use an ultra-attacking system and utilise the full quartet of world-class forwards (not to mention Filippo Inzaghi being available should he be required). Milan briefly experimented with a 4-2-1-3 formation under Leonardo last winter and, should Allegri feel compelled to do so, implementing the same system would give him the opportunity to field the majority of his attacking options.

Is 4-2-1-3 a possibility?

The 4-2-1-3 would likely see Pirlo and captain Ambrosini in the deeper holding roles with Ronaldinho as the playmaker behind that forward trio of Pato, Ibrahimovic and Robinho.

The system would undoubtedly prove devastating in attack, but whether Allegri would be able to convince the likes of Robinho and Ronaldinho to track back is another question altogether.

Such an offensive bias could prove effective against some of the division’s weaker teams (we may even see it against Cesena), but it would be extremely surprising if Allegri was to throw caution to the wind in such a radical fashion against any of Milan’s rivals towards the summit of Serie A.

A more sensible option for Allegri could be to adopt a more compact 4-2-3-1, perhaps with Ambrosini and Seedorf/Flamini/Gattuso holding and Pato, Pirlo and Robinho in the “three” behind Ibrahimovic. If the coach is able to instil in his players a greater level of defensive responsibility then the 4-2-3-1, a formation which can transform into the more cautious 4-5-1 relatively easily.

Milan in a 4-2-3-1

Indeed, simply bringing Boateng on for one of Pato or Robinho would significantly alter the team’s shape and ethos.

The 4-2-3-1 would appear to give Allegri the most flexibility, but whether he would be open to the possibility of consistently leaving Ronaldinho out of the side is not clear.

Although attacking selections will prove the most difficult balancing act for Milan’s experienced coach, he also has big decisions to make at the back. The centre-back partnership of Alessandro Nesta and Thiago Silva is (injury permitting) relatively clear-cut, but the full-back situation is far more convoluted.

With Ignazio Abate, Luca Antonini, Daniele Bonera and Gianluca Zambrotta all battling for two positions in what will almost certainly be a flat back four throughout the season, Allegri needs to settle on a favoured duo sooner rather than later.

While the 28 year-old Antonini appears to have emerged as the left-back of choice, the right-back berth is very much up for grabs. Daniele Bonera was selected against Lecce and did a tidy job despite not being under the greatest of pressure. Although Bonera did little to diminish his chances of a regular place in the starting eleven, Ignazio Abate is still thought to be the player most likely to make the right-back position his own.

Will Abate be a first choice?

Still just 23 and equally as comfortable on the right side of midfield, Abate would arguably provide a more dynamic threat in attack as well as being an accomplished defender. However, it is still possible that Allegri will be swayed by the greater experience and defensive discipline offered by the veteran Zambrotta.

Whichever system(s) Allegri chooses to use this season, Milan will undoubtedly be one of the most exciting teams Europe has to offer. The key for the San Siro outfit is not to get carried away with the wealth of attacking riches at their disposal and to striker the right balance between defensive intelligence and attacking flair.

If the coach gets it right then Milan have every chance of achieving great things this season. If not, then there could be seeing an awful lot of defensive ineptitude and internal turmoil in Italy’s second city this season. Keep you eyes on the Rossoneri, it could be fascinating.

Manchester City are without doubt English football’s most rapidly rising force, but Roberto Mancini’s team of supremely gifted guns for hire are struggling to find a collective identity.

In many ways this situation is not surprising, most of the players have only known one another for a matter of days, but it was a problem that also seemed to afflict the Eastlands outfit last season and has come, unfortunately, to be a defining feature of the Mancini era.

City clearly have the talent and resources required to challenge for the title on a regular basis, but first their Italian coach must overcome what seems to be some tactical confusion surrounding his approach. It’s all too easy to criticise coaches with the benefit of hindsight, something I try to avoid most of the time, but Mancini’s game plan this afternoon was inefficient and patently failed to place the Tottenham defence under anything approaching sustained pressure.

Attempting to play a 4-3-3/4-2-3-1, Mancini started with Carlos Tevez as the lone striker, the Argentinian supported from wide by David Silva and Shaun Wright-Phillips. Tevez obviously has many great qualities, but playing in the target man role is not one of them.

Tevez: Not cut out to be a lone striker

At times, such is Tevez’s natural inclination to drop deep to look for the ball and Yaya Touré’s lack of willing to consistently burst forward as his role required, City looked striker-less, as if they were playing with a flat and deep 4-6-0 formation. Indeed, Emmanuel Adebayor (who began today’s game amongst the substitutes) is arguably the only true aerial threat the team possesses going forward.

Perhaps inevitably, Mancini’s team resemble a collection of individuals unsure of the strengths of their fellow players, something which resulted in a degree of midfield congestion and a lack of penetrating runs into the Spurs box. Defensive communication was also hard to come by, Aaron Lennon and Gareth Bale being allowed to run riot as a result of some patchy pressing. Had it not been for the excellent Joe Hart, The Blues could have been on the end of a fairly comprehensive defeat.

City will undoubtedly improve as the season goes on, but this was not an encouraging start to the campaign for the country’s wealthiest club. Money can buy talent, but it doesn’t automatically generate spirit. Mancini will need to utilise every last drop of his managerial experience to fine-tune this team (which has all the potential in the world) into a cohesive unit capable of dining at the top table.

Brazil began the Mano Menezes era in New Jersey last night with a performance of great assurance and élan as they consigned the United States to a 2-0 defeat at the Meadowlands Stadium with goals from Neymar and Alexandre Pato.

There may have been an element of tokenism about Menezes’ selections, but the Seleção’s wonderful display could not have contrasted any more with the stubbornness and negative pragmatism that was perceived to have characterised the team under Dunga.

Menezes' 4-2-3-1

Brazil adopted a 4-2-3-1 shape that was similar to, if a little more clear-cut than, the 4-2-3-1/lopsided 4-4-2 diamond that we saw during the World Cup.

However, the way in which the system was interpreted by the relatively young side was far more offensive, fluent and adventurous than the style we witnessed in South Africa.

Gone was the robust defending and counter-attacking football of June and July, that much-maligned approach being supplanted by a classy and patient possession game, the Brazilians probing for weaknesses in the American defences and, when they arose, efficiently exploiting them with some beautifully flowing moves.

Of course, this was “only” a friendly, a game stripped of any semblance of pressure, and many of the players were looking to impress their new manager with performances of flair and ingenuity, but you couldn’t help but be exhilarated by the fluidity of Brazil’s play.

Menezes introduced several of the players that Dunga had been criticised for omitting from his World Cup squad – Neymar, Paulo Ganso and Alexandre Pato all being included in the starting line-up – and was rewarded with some sparkling performances. Cutting in from the left flank, the 18 year-old Neymar showed incredible intuition in his ability to create space and continually linked up well with Ganso, his Santos team-mate, who looked more than comfortable in the playmaker role and was afforded plenty of time on the ball thanks to the hard work of Lucas and Ramires in their deeper central midfield berths.

Ganso impressed on debut

Indeed, the whole of the front four looked remarkably well-balanced, Robinho providing lively runs down the right side and producing a relatively good standard of service for the lithe and alert Pato who spent the evening thoroughly outwitting Omar Gonzalez and Carlos Bocanegra. With Menezes only having been in his new job a matter of weeks it is hard to say just how much this was “his” style of play, but his players are clearly relishing the renewed freedoms his leadership is affording them.

Although they were not put under a great deal of pressure, Menezes’ defence also looked coherent and seemed to communicate well. Daniel Alves and Andre Santos were predictably excellent at full-back and Thiago Silva and David Luiz looked very comfortable for a centre-half pairing that had just eight caps between them. Clearly, with Lucio, Juan, Michel Bastos and Maicon all rested, this was not a first-choice back four, but Menezes will take heart from the competence shown by his “second string”.

It would be premature to say that the careers of Felipe Melo, Kaka, Elano and Luis Fabiano are over at international level, but this was certainly a fleeting glimpse of the bright future that could well await this new generation of Brazilian players. Menezes may not have been the CBF’s favoured choice for the job, but he’s certainly doing something right.

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