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Tactics Tuesday

In last Tuesday’s comments Moka brought up the following question/point:

"Well what other formation do you suggest he {Leo} use? 4-4-2 can’t work because we don’t have proper wingers and 4-3-2-1 receives a lot of criticism. 4-3-3, I believe, is ideal based on the players we have, not solely Dinho. If anyone can come up with other tactics that would work better I would love to hear it. Tactics should be based on the type of players you have."

Personally I couldn’t agree more but it got me to thinking, what are the fundamental needs to each formation?

We start with Leo’s preferred formation the 4-3-3. The fundamental pieces to the 4-3-3 are balance and versatility. Each line of players has to be capable of being able to defend and attack on all areas of the pitch, while it can be said that a CB is required to have more defensive talent and less offensive talent than the CF, each and every player needs to be able to operate efficiently on both sides of the ball. It also imperative that players employed in this formation have a high work rate because the gaps between the central player and the wing players will be exploited by the opponent, and in turn need to be closed up as quickly as possible. The prototype players for this type of formation: Tevez at the CF spot, Essien in the CM spot, and Puyol at the CB spot, the rest can fill in.

We can now move onto another Rossoneri favorite the 4-3-2-1 or the XMAS tree. For me the fundamental pieces here are the central midfielder in the 3 man mid line, and the attacking midfielders in the 2 man line. There are no better prototypes then Pirlo, Kaka and Clarence, and Carletto’s success with the formation and those players speaks for itself. It made Pirlo what he is today, turned Kaka into the World Player of the year, and made Seedorf a household name again, when many thought he was finished. The key to the formation though is not even the players mentioned, it is the width provided by the wingbacks, in an attempt to achieve the ideal passing combination: Pirlo, to a stretching wing back, who drops the ball back to Kaka or Clarence, and then they make magic. This passing combination creates a herky-jerky movement that dislodges defenders and opens up space for the striker or for the attacking midfielders. When the formation was firing on all cylinders it was poetry in motion, when it wasn’t it, well we all remember. If Milan were to ever return to that formation, GRossi in the CAM line and D’Agostino as the CM would be a good start.

My personal favorite the 4-4-2 diamond, which replaces a straight midfield line with a diamond, is contingent upon the dynamics of a CAM and CDM. This formation begs for the right personnel and if you don’t have that holding midfielder to act as a sweeper playing in front of the defense this formation can be problematic. It also helps to have a player capable of dictating the attack behind the two strikers. There is no better CAM at the moment in the World than Wesley Sneijder, and if I had my choice of all the DM’s in European football right now I have to go Song at Arsenal. Once that spine is well ordered and organized the rest of this formation can be very flexible and allow for pacey winged midfielders, a support striker and a poach type striker, or a more gritty lineup that has tacking mids on the flanks with the wingbacks providing the width. Easily one of the most versatile formations and also dynamic as it deviates from the standard English 4-4-2.

Finally the 4-2-3-1, this is a formation that everyone mistakenly believes is the way to go for teams’ who want to play with style and attack; it is also a formation attributed to Spalletti and Roma, which is only half true seeing that it was developed in Spain, where it is most often used. Not a preferred formation for many because of the space left behind the 3 man mid line because the DM’s can easily be caught out of position, but very matter of factly speaking it is a formation that you see attempted often but rarely used successfully. For me the key has to be the DM’s ability to work very hard laterally and close space behind the midfielders, but also the CAM’s ability to hold the ball up and wait for support. If that CAM continually turns and faces goal early, the team will be exposed to counters as the wing midfielders are bombing forward and our forced to change gears and recover back. Conventional wisdom says to stay away from this formation, but if you had the personnel this could be good stuff, and for me it all boils down to the midfield delta and the wing backs. Real Madrid was very close, had they kept Sneijder, and used two straight DM’s instead of Alonso! With those in place a real left back would have made that team unstoppable. To bad LB’s are few and far between, and Real Madrid is more keen on buying attackers instead of acquiring the personnel to fit their system. Better yet, imagine if Xavi was pulling the strings between CRON and Kaka?!?!?

Once you see the alternatives, I can’t help but feel the 4-3-3 is not all that bad, and if Leo does stay on board I hope he can procure the proper personnel and show how Milan could employ the formation successfully. It won’t be easy, but it starts from the first team down and changing the culture of what is expected from each and every player, HUSTLE, and maybe success is not that far off.