Are Formations Overrated or Not in Football
I think people make a big deal out of team shape in football, I mean formations. While it’s important, I think its really secondary in comparison to playing style.
You can play a 352, 433, 343 or 442, whatever, yet the formations may be different in and out of possession. For instance, a lot of sides can be 4-3-3 in possession, but 4-5-1 out of possession because the wingers are tracking back and essentially joining the midfield for defensive shape and to prevent overloads on their full backs.
After all of this shape shifting, playing style remains the most important. What is the identity of the team? Are you a pressing side when out of possession or do you fall back into shape? As you press, do you look to isolate and crowd out? What do your wingers do when out of possession?
When in possession, are you a breakaway side generally or a possession side or even a rough blend of both. Slow build up or quick transition. In the early days of Jose Mourinho for instance, he popularised the term “transition” in football, breaking the game into phases essentially. Does your team prefer to overload the flanks? Do the midfielders run beyond the centre forward into the box or hold their positions? How many men do you typically get into the box for an attack? These questions are essential because at the end of the day _Formation are numbers, movement is paramount_.
The question sometimes in today’s game can be narrowed down to “are you more a Pep side or a Klopp side?”. Testament to how big these juggernauts are today.
I’ve been studying the difference between Pep & Klopp’s team and they’re not that much. While Pep converts his fullbacks into inverted wingbacks, dropping into the midfield in an attack, Trent and Robertson joins from their flanks, with Firmino or Diogo Jota dropping into the midfield to serve as a link between his midfielders and Salah – Mane.
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Even in the attack, City’s 4-3-3 becomes a 2-3-5, with the midfielders pressing forward to join the wingers in stretching the opponent’s defense.
Klopp & Pep are just way ahead of many other managers at the moment. Tuchel comes close.
When you watch Chelsea, Liverpool or Man City play, you can see how hard the players work off the ball. In Man Utd’s case, everything is narrowed down to the midfield, the defensive midfield to be precise. It is why you see Man Utd fans often complaining for a good DM because they feel the “good” DM will do the marking and also take control of the midfield alone. The team reliies on the two DMs to do the all the “dirty job” which is next to impossible.
So, when people gave the impression that playing in the formation Tuchel’s Chelsea play in is necessarily defensive or makes it easier to defend in itself, I find it funny. I mean, in the end, it still boils down to how hard the players are working and how well they are interpreting the manager’s tactics.
On the last match day against Manchester City, United went with 3 at the back and two wing backs, they were even more open. In that first half, De Gea made 5 great saves and conceded two goals. Pep and Klopp on the other hand will almost always line up in some variation of a 4-3-3.
Some time in the first half of that game against United, there was a counter attack situation for United. Shaw looked to be free on the left around the halfway line, then I see a black player track him down to disposess. In my head, I say that’s Walker for you, the camera zooms in and I see thats actually Gabriel Jesus, one of the most underrated players around. The work people like Jesus, B. Silva and KDB put in is actually often understated.
The question then is whether these players are simply hardworking or whether it’s the manager. I saw United play against Liverpool, and their wingers in a 4 3 3 were not tracking back. Against Salah……That’s a travesty. Greenwood and whoever was on the other side were simply not working hard enough. Are they lazy? Or is it a failure of the manager, I can’t claim to know.
What I know is that last match day the commentator couldn’t stop talking about how much of a grifter B.Silva is, how hard he works so hard, yet has so much flair.
People talk a lot about Pep, a lot of rubbish is said, but there is something we see in his teams that we rarely see anywhere. In the 17/18 season when they hit the 100 point mark, they predominantly played a midfield of Fernandinho, KDB and D. Silva. I kept saying to people that if you handed this team over to another manager, one of D. Silva or KDB would be permanently shunted out wide, there’ll be talk of a need for one more defensive player to help Fernandinho in the modern game. Pep’s City cruised to 100 points.
At the time he started coaching Barca also,
Spain would play a midfield of Xavi, Alonso and Senna(later Busquests) often, with Iniesta leaning to the left. I reckon the point was for the midfield to be more solid. His Barca side often went with only Busquests behind the two magicians though. Often, not always of course, but definitely most times. They hunted the ball in packs when lost, committed his famous tactical fouls, kept all the possession and basically sucked the joy out of teams.
All I’m saying is that if it was simply a matter of shape to achieve defensive solidity, then we might as well all play in same formation. Even Rohr had the Eagles line up in a 3-5-2 in the last two games and produced some of the most Haram football ever seen. We are talking CIA most wanted terrorist level football.