February 14, 2011
Last week Chelsea v Liverpool became the biggest tactical talking point of the season. Liverpool revived the the 3 man defence that Kenny debuted against Stoke. While with the introduction of Torres for £50m Ancellotti was forced to crowbar in El Nino into the side and returned back to his 4-4-2 Diamond which seemed to define his time at AC Milan as well as the beginning of his Premier League tenure.
The revival of both systems especially the success that Kenny has seen, has caused many of Football Manager gamers to test out such systems within their own game. I have even started my own game with Udinese that has been in an attempt to test out Kenny’s system.
Now it must be said that I am a little cautious to say that this 3-2-4-1 will become the norm within the Premier League, Kenny Dalglish was lucky enough to face two teams in which this system would be useful and showing his skills at reacting to the opposition in order to gain the advantage.
Against Stoke, the 3 man defence was put in place to give the Liverpool squad height and strength, the main threat from Stoke coming from set pieces and crosses into a big front man. Against Carew we were able to put up Soto in to win balls in the air, while double up on the strong débutante and give mobility and cover from a faster and mobile Agger and Skertl, it was a finely balanced defence.
While against Chelsea the 3 at the back were playing against 2 strong attackers, the one man advantage in the middle meant that Liverpool could man mark two of the Chelsea strikers while having a spare man at the back to cover. Both occasions worked well and Chelsea failed to get any decent chance on goal. While Carew did as much as he could for Stoke winning challenges in the air, but was muscled out and isolated so much that he wasn’t able to play any knock downs and his shots were of little affect. Notably Stoke did not win a single corner in that game, which is a main part of their game plan.
But don’t be deceived by the use of 5 defenders at the back, this does not mean that Liverpool have to be defensive in implementation, in fact the two games showed how Liverpool could adapt the system from being strong at the back against Chelsea, while having great fluid movement and attacking intent against Stoke.
The most important aspect of the 3-5-2 is the wingbacks. Lacking of any wingers, they will be relied upon to get up and down pitch and give attacking width while in defensive positions able to create a 5 man defence becoming a wall difficult to breakdown.
Implementing it to Football Manager
This system is based as a pretty attacking intent, fluid movement and possession football. The 4 men in the centre of the field will make it hard for any team to play through the centre of the pitch. This is something of the downfall of the 4-4-2 diamond system. That too relied very much on its wingbacks to get forward. By cutting their effectiveness Liverpool forced Chelsea to try and play through the middle where Lucas, Gerrard and Merelies performed fantastically in battling the players they had to stop.
The close proximity of the middle 4, as well as the high defensive line makes it much easier to play shorter passes amongst the side and when needed throw it wide to the wings. The two MC positions though will need to also be good defensive shield, but not so much problem in protecting the three at the back, but moving wide and defending the space left when the wingbacks bomb forward.
Where my system differs from Liverpool’s tactics is in the final third. Giving the personnel Liverpool have had a fantastic attacking midfielder in the shape of Gerrard and Merelies, who at Stoke took their turns to go up and support Kuyt who would act as supporting target man looking to hold the ball up and waiting for others to help him out.
But given the personnel that I have at Udinese Antonio Di Natale with anticipation, speed is very flexible player to lead the front, either as an advanced forward, Trequistra or poacher. I have opted for the latter in this system, feeding off the advanced playmarker while Sanchez will run on from deep to help the lone striker.
The great thing about this tactic is it’s ability to become defensive so easily, change the roles of the Wingbacks and philosophy of your team and you quickly become a 5-4-1 playing for the draw. Something that North Korea tried doing effectively, against Brazil in the World Cup until Brazil broke through. But the 3 at the back system died it’s death in the Premier League due to the introduction of the lone striker, which meant club had two spare men in the middle, this prevented them having one extra attacker and therefore adapted with the flat back 4. This system in Football Manager would be best utilised to give defensive solid games or to combat 4-4-2 formations.
Much less focus has been on Chelsea’s new formation due to the lack of success. Chelsea had attempted it early on in the Ancellotti era, but with the lack of width on the right wing was a major problem and very static through the middle. But since Torres has signed, Ancellotti has been forced to think again about this new system.
Just like in the 3-2-4-1 system key to the success comes from the wingbacks. Though this has seen Chelsea in problem with their 4-3-3 too. Stop Ashley Cole and Boswinga and you severely affect Chelsea’s ability to attack. This is what happened at Liverpool new formation but the same problems. Kelly and Johnson were much better positioned to put pressure on the opposition wingbacks and hampered their ability to get forward. Chelsea therefore had to get forward through the middle of the park.
From Guardian Chalkboard
Nicholas Anelka was given a new role in the Chelsea side as a trequartista his passing ability and the areas in which he managed to get the ball shows against Sunderland he was apt at the job. But Lucas did do a job on Anelka at Stamford Bridge and against Liverpool he showed that he couldn’t cope with his tight marking.
Within Football Manager 2011 Nicholas Anelka would be a more then capable trequartista, apart from his passing being a little under rated within the game (10) he would be perfect for the role. But this could be made up for in his creativity and decision making.
Another reason why Ancellotti may want to go back to the 4-4-2 diamond is the acquisition of Ramieras, the Brazilian is a capable MC/R with energy, pace and good defensive attributes, giving more fluidity to the midfield.
The 4-4-2 diamond might make it’s return or become a stable once again at Chelsea who are trying to fit Anelka, Drogba and from the orders at the top I can’t see Torres in any form being dropped. While it looks like Ancellotti over the past season has the players now who are more then capable in playing this system.
Despite losing though the diamond can be a useful formation with the right players. Even against Liverpool, Chelsea looked fluid in their movement. You will have a 4 man battle to control the midfield and 3 players in the middle attacking the goal. Have good enough wing backs to get forward and help support the play it can be a successful tactic. This might not be the last we see this season of this tactic.
Final Note: Just to plug a new blog that Me, Cagiva and Millie have put together about real football. Why not visit and tell us what you think of Touchlineshouts