Having been a follower of football for many a year, I have seen all manner of formations tried and tested, not only by the Newcastle United coaching staff but clubs the world over.
Sweeper systems like that employed by the great Milan side with Franco Baresi, 4-4-2 which up until recently was the mainstay of the English game. 4-3-3, 4-2-4, 4-5-1 and 3-4-3 have all had their day one way or another but for the life of me I cannot comprehend the sudden obsession with the 4-2-3-1.
I understand that this has been key to the success of the likes of Barcelona, Chelsea and Bayern Munich…but their whole football philosophy is geared towards such a formation and clearly they have an abundance of talent, capable of carrying out the tactics of this formation to great success.
Newcastle, on the other hand, have nowhere near the talent or underlying philosophy to make it work at present. A team lacking direction, confidence and form, I am bemused at the stubbornness of the coaching staff, who seem to believe the 4-2-3-1 is the only way.
I like to think I have a little footballing knowledge and I’m not so blinkered that I can’t see what the club are trying to achieve.
Yes they bought Mitrovic to fill the all important lone striker role and I believe he will come good, as might the tactics and philosophy, but that is going to take time and further investment for sure.
However, when Mitrovic was not in the team we continued to play the same way, with Cisse taking on the role, yet he quite clearly isn’t cut out for it – it’s just not his game. Similarly, when Mitrovic is having an off day there is no one to step into his shoes, so to speak.
The 4-2-3-1 is supposed to add extra cover defensively with two holding midfielders. Again, we don’t have the personnel to fill both these roles and for a team that struggles defensively, as we have for so many years, it was imperative that these positions needed to be filled by quality experienced players. Not the likes of Vurnon Anita, an injury prone Tiote and others being played out of position such as Gouffran and Wijnaldum.
Newcastle bought three first team players in my eyes this summer; Mbemba, Wijnaldum and Mitrovic (Thauvin was a gamble made against the sale of Cabella which may yet pay off).
All three form part of a spine to Newcastle but we are yet to see the best of them. There have been flashes but Mbemba is left woefully exposed, Wijnaldum played out of position and Mitrovic given very little of the service a player of his ilk requires, the 4-2-3-1 obsession?
If the coaching staff feel this is the way forward for Newcastle then fine, but you need to play players in their best positions, and structure your team to get the best out of the players you are building your team around.
The 4-2-3-1 is not the only way, it might be our best way in a few transfer windows time should we invest accordingly, but how about playing with one holding midfielder who can drop in to create a solid back five when needed and who has no attacking responsibility.
Two wide midfielders to add width, Wijnaldum in his preferred No.10 position, with Mitrovic and one other up front who can also drop in to midfield to tighten things up.
Two defensive midfielders are not necessary, there is too great an emphasis in matching teams like for like and we are not ready to do that yet, not by a long way.
Dare I even mention reverting back to 442?
Two banks of four to make it difficult for opposing teams, width and an attacking intent when we have the ball. Doesn’t seem too bad an idea to me in the short-term.
The club may argue that they are trying to instil the 4-2-3-1 philsophy and have to play that way until the players get used to it and until it becomes the norm.
Yes, great in theory but that, like I say, requires the personnel to fill the roles. Isn’t it about time we played our best players, when fit, in their best positions regardless of formation in order to breed confidence, get positive results and climb the table. Then, and only then, should we be looking to slowly but surely impart the 4-2-3-1 philosophy if that indeed is the way we have decided to go.
I really believe it is too much of an obsession at present and too big a change in too short a time, for a club that doesn’t have the players, the infrastructure, points on the board or the confidence, desire and belief, to make it work.
I don’t think Newcastle are the only ones who have become obsessed by the 4-2-3-1 phenomenon, but we like many others are struggling to make it work, and have become followers of a fashion rather than trendsetters of our own.
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