Why Villa should NOT play 4-4-2
Being English, a lot of us seem to think that 4-4-2 is the way to play. But I really don`t think it is. I have mentioned it a few times in my, 'The Week In Villa` column, and our results can also point to my argument.
Here are ten reasons why I believe we should play 4-3-3/4-5-1.
1. Plenty of teams play it, so when we play 4-4-2, the opposition have the extra man in the middle. It was extremely evident against Chelsea, and if we play 4-4-2 against Liverpool, Gerrard will probably end up with the freedom of the pitch. Even teams that DO play 4-4-2 have creative 'in-the-hole` kind of strikers. Looking at our most recent opponents, Robbie Keane is a perfect example.
2. Petrov and Barry. Two cracking players, who would get in many teams in the Premiership. However, they have one negative point in common - both of them lack pace. With three central midfielders this is less of a problem, as they are generally in tighter situations with less ground to cover. When it is just the two of them, the gaps are larger, there is more ground to cover and their lack of pace becomes more of an issue. This is especially a problem when the opposition are on the counter attack.
3. We win the ball higher up the pitch most the time - this is perfect for our counter attacking style of play.
4. Offensively, it offers a lot more fluidity than the 'tram-lines` of a 4-4-2. It is harder to mark players, and it is so much more difficult for defenders to pick up the likes of Ashley Young and James Milner.
5. That also makes us more threatening on the counter, as generally, the wide players play 10/20 yards further inside than in the tram-line of a 4-4-2.
6. The starting position of a striker can be better, depending on whom it is. In terms of Gabriel Agbonlahor, he is more suited to the lone striker role because it is easier to make use of his pace. It is easier to run off the full-back and involves more 'coming in from the outside` - something Thierry Henry used to do at Arsenal all the time. Agbonlahor is nowhere near the class of Henry, but he is damn sure in the same league when it comes to speed.
7. Petrov generally plays the holding role. However if he does decide to push on, it leaves us less vulnerable as there are two midfielders to potentially slip in behind.
8. With Petrov playing that role, it also generally means it is Gareth Barry supporting the forwards when we play 4-4-2. With the lone striker formation, Barry has another midfield partner pushing on which keeps the defenders guessing more on who to pick up.
9. It also means that as they are coming from deep, they are harder to pick up.
10. The system also gives more freedom to the full-backs to push on. Of course, our full-backs are a source of frustration for most of us but in theory, it should mean that the full-backs - who get a LOT of the ball in the English game - can go forward with more confidence.
So, suffice it to day, I really do not believe we should 4-4-2! Yes there are times when it is appropriate (a plan B is important, and something we seem to be lacking) and I would love to see us sign a real top-class striker and if we do then it raises the question of what to do there, but to be honest I would like us to bring in another midfielder, one who has real offensive flair, but that is another discussion for another time.
Bottom line - if we play 4-4-2 against Liverpool tomorrow, I am convinced we will lose. Not saying I am confident we will win with one up top, but we stand a better chance of getting something out the game with that formation.