Alan Pardew – Searching for The Right Formation
The past week gave us our first chance to see how new players Romain Amilfitano and Gael Bigirimana will fit into our team, with Bigirimana playing centrally and Amilfitano playing a game on each wing. Both players have done their chances of getting more game time no harm at all, impressing with their comfort on the ball and work ethic. Indeed, in recent interviews Bigirimana has talked of the honour of playing for Newcastle and seems to have really bought into the club’s workrate and spirit.
Amilfitano looked just as comfortable on the left as he did on the right, with a good passing range and ability from dead ball situations. However, it could be centrally where he really shows his worth.
With a few players being used in roles they may not consider their strongest, it led me to look at the formation Pardew has chosen to play in the friendlies. Now I am aware that there is the possibility of Pardew going with a solid 4-4-2 formation as he wants to get a good look at the new signings, as well as some younger players, and that playing the same formation in every friendly will give him the best chance of doing this.
If it is to be 4-4-2 which Pardew will use to kick off the new campaign, is this the best use of players we will have available?
Last season we began with a 4-4-2 which served us very well. Towards the end of the season Pardew switched to a 4-3-3 formation, with two deep lying defensive midfielders. Playing this way was particularly effective away from home, with memorable wins against Swansea and West Brom the highlights. This formation allowed us to get the best out of Hatem Ben Arfa, whose pace, agility and ball control gave opposition defenders something to worry about. Cabaye also seemed to enjoy being in a midfield three which allowed him to move forward with more ease, creating numerous chances for Papiss Cisse.
The possible addition of Cabaye and Ben Arfa’s international colleague, Mathieu Debuchy, would enhance the positive effect of this formation as his attacking runs seem to be just as good as his defensive capabilities. Debuchy in the right full back role would also add great balance to the side, with Davide Santon at left back showing very encouraging signs of being the player dubbed the ‘new Maldini’.
One player who suffered playing in this formation though was Demba Ba. Ba has made no secret of his wish to play through the middle, giving him the chance of scoring the goals the first half of last season proved he can.
Demba’s workrate and diligence meant that Pardew could trust the striker on the left wing last season but is unlikely to use him again in such a way, if indeed he is still here after the July deadline for his release clause. I feel that Demba played his best football when playing up front with another striker. A ‘target man’ playing alongside Demba allowed him to read flick-ons and pick off the scraps, which his footballing intelligence enabled him to do. Manchester United at home being one of Demba’s best games, when supported by Shola Ameobi. A combination of Andy Carroll and Ba up-front could terrorize defences next season, particuarly in the Europa League.
Playing 4-4-2 though brings back the problem of what to do with Ben Arfa. My feeling is that Pardew could employ a 4-2-1-2-1 system. If Debuchy is signed then the back four and goalkeeper pick themselves. The two defensive midfield players would be very important, as the overall look of this side would be an attacking one. Tiote would certainly be one of the two; the other could be one of Gutierrez, Bigirimana or Haris Vuckic. We know that Gutierrez would do the legwork and seems able to fit comfortably into a number of positions, so would not be a problem. Bigirimana; well time will tell and playing against teams like Fenerbache this weekend will show us how ready he is. I believe Vuckic has the potential to play this role, as he is strong, hard working, with good control and passing abilities.
Yohan Cabaye would play slightly more advanced, allowing him to create chances for Ba, Ben Arfa and Cisse. Cisse would play as the ‘point man’, with his brilliant off the ball runs creating chances for himself and space for Ba and Ben Arfa to move into. In this system these two would be playing more centrally, with Ben Arfa given an almost free role, to move where he can do the most damage. Being played off the front man would give Ba the chance to get himself in more goalscoring positions, as well as creating chances for Cisse.
Playing this formation would work in Europe too, with a lot of teams playing five in midfield on the continent. By introducing Amilfitano, Bigirimana, Gosling, Marvaeux, Obertan or Sammy Ameobi into the team for one or two of the front three would give the team a higher number of midfielders, therefore making the team appear more defensive, but with the pace to hit teams on the counter attack.
What formation do you think would give us the best use of our squad?
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