mercoledì 6 giugno 2012

EURO 2012 Preview: the change argument

“Whether it’s 4-4-2, 4-2-3-1, 4-3-3 – the numbers game is no the beautiful game in my opinion,”  Harry Redknapp once said. In the wake of Roy Hodgson’s appointment as England manager, all that you could heard from tactical analysts is how much the new England's boss is linked to very different kind of patterns. At West Brom, Hodgson tried 4-4-2 and 4-3-3/4-5-1. This is because he's the ultimate ‘system’ manager, one which wants train his team on a daily basis in the way to teach his zonal defensive system. Hodgson is not very demanding tactically – his teams defend the same old way, with two banks of four and two or a lone striker up top – but his drills are focused on it and on team shape. Another thinking manager is Paul Lambert. His Norwich usually was lined up in a traditional 4-4-2 with two wide men in a direct football orientated. But Lambert switched to a  4-4-1-1 when he needed and he also picked three centre-backs against Chelsea. The reason for that is because English managers, which usually sets out in a 4-4-2 which two centre-midfielders, often operate in a 3 men midfield league. One of this EPL season’s story was the success of Alan Pardew. Newcastle's manager have been playing with different systems other the 4-4-2 formation he employed in the earlier part of the season. Alan Pardew changed and Newcastle have played a 4-3-3 too. Tactical flexibility is part of the modern game. Being tactically flexible is a good thing when it works, as for Roberto Di Matteo in Chelsea. Other times, it can be a bad thing, as Kenny Dalglish's continuos changes showed. We are not talking about a change of system during the season but about changes from game to game or within a game. It requires palayers' ability in tactical thinking. Tactical flexibility can apply if a particular tactical formation is known by the players. But how does it works at next level, when coaches have few time to work with the players? From WC 2012, the 4-2-3-1 formation dominated. The three Euro WC 2012 semi-finalists, Germany, Netherlands and Spain, all are expected to employ a version of this system though Jogi Low showed a 3-4-2-1 against Ukraine. Almost every other country will play a back four, two wide players, a lone forward and a three-men midfielder. It’s a 4-4-1-1, 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1. Big teams aside, Sweden, Czech Republich and Denmark too should play this way. Can we expect much variety of system? Are there flexible teams? Poland coach Franciszek Smuda is gone through a lot of patterns: 4-3-2-1, 4-1-4-1/4-3-3, and 4-4-2. Now is a 4-2-3-1 parking the bus with Arsenal's Wojciech Szczesny in goal; Damien Perquis (Sochaux), Marcin Wasilewski (Anderlecht) and Arkadiusz Glowacki (Trabzonspor) as centre-backs options; and Rafal Murawski (Lech Poznan), Dariusz Dudka (Auxerre) and Eugen Polanski (Mainz) as holding midfielders. Between big teams is unusual to switch the starting formation but this isn't not true talking about Italy. When Cesare Prandelli took the job, he wanted to play 4-3-3 but injuries and line up skills forced him to swiitch to a 4-3-1-2 formation. Fixing scandal and defensive bad shape could force him to make another change and switch to a three-men back line. There’s a block of seven Juve players so a 3-5-2 formation could be not a bad idea, as John Horncastle pointed out. And also a late change of system for the Azzurri isn't a new: all remember when Giovanni Trapattoni ran a 4-3-1-2 until the start of WC 2002 just to switch to a classic 4-4-2 at the start of the tournament. One to watch is Slaven Bilic. Croatian manager showed his flexibility switching from 4‑1‑3‑2 to 4‑2‑3‑1, 4‑3‑3 or 4‑4‑2. In any case, he likes to employ two attacking full-backs. That produced some troubles for Bilic (as friendly game vs Norway showed). Bilic can change because he has has plenty of options in midfield with Ivan Rakitic, Niko Kranjcar, Ivan Perisic, and Luka Modric, and in attack with Eduardo, Nikica Jelavic, Nikola Kalinic, and Ivica Olic.

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