Death of the 4-4-2?
The formation itself is as old as football itself, when the cavemen stepped outside and kicked a rock around, they where lined up in a carefully organised 4-4-2 formation so as to provide the perfect balance between attack and defence. However recently is began to die out and lose its place within modern football, critics referring to it as “outdated”. In 2010 none of the winners of the Spanish, Italian or English League deployed this formation.
After England crashed out of the Euro’s on Sunday many people began to question the formation deployed by Roy Hodgson, the traditional 4-4-2. You can’t argue against it either, the wingers looked isolated, Steven Gerrard found himself pushing forward to help this, leaving the middle wide open for Andrea Pirlo to weave his magic. Although some people would argue the formation itself I would actually place the blame with James Milner and Ashley Young for failing to perform. Milner looked about as threatening as a kitten and Young was about as effective as a chocolate fireguard. Their inability to perform not only had the other nations laughing that these were the two best wingers we could offer but also raised the question; Has anyone ever bought a replica “Milner” shirt? Oh and; does the 4-4-2 have a place in football today?
Current world champions and the no.1 ranked team by FIFA in the world Spain have adopted an usual tactic so far in the competition, a 4-6-0 formation. Although this hasn’t been as fluid in allowing their typical passing play it has still bought them to this stage of the competition. The introduction of a striker to their play in Negredo against Portugal actually ruined their play with his movement the equivalent of having a statue upfront. The 6 in the middle all arguably the best passers in the game allows for a patient, possession based team that looks to carve open the defense. While I’m not saying this is the way forward for England, its showing that to compete at the top we have to change out style of play.
Then there is the Chelsea way. Now it pains me even now to talk about this as a Spurs fan who stupidly purchased a membership card the day of the Champions League final expecting Barcelona away we now look forward to hosting Derry United. Chelsea played about as much football in the whole Champions League knock out rounds as in a four minute FIFA match on my xbox. Instead they thought bugger this and placed as many men as they could within their penalty area and stood in the way of whatever the opposition had to offer. Although on paper the tactic seems as dodgy as Raul Meireles haircut it – annoyingly- worked, leading to the crime that is Jose Bosingwa owning a Champions League winners medal whereas true footballing legends like Fabio Cannavaro, Jurgen Klinsmann, Ronaldo (the fat one) and Eric Cantona who never won the CL look on in disgust.
While England went out to win the Euro’s the Chelsea way, Germany go out looking to outplay the opponent through quick, splitting passing something England definitely have the potential to do. The Germans look comfortable in possession whereas we looked like someone had put a hedgehog in our boots every time we got the ball. Bastian Schweinsteiger acts as the operator for Germany, who operate a 4-5-1, providing the killer passes in for Mario Gomez. In the group stages out of all the matches Gomez featured in he spent only 33 seconds on the ball yet still scored three goals. Lethal.
So what has happened to the once popular 4-4-2? The pace of football has definitely changed over the last fifty years, anyone having seen a video of the 1966 world cup final would testify for me, the game taking a much slower pace almost turn based. Perhaps the introduction of pass and play football combined with the introduction of foreign footballers contributed increasing the pace of the game, favouring more defensive or attacking formations dependant on the team. 4-4-2 seems unfortunate, stuck in the middle in that its neither attacking or defensive when in today’s modern game you need to be one or the other. Although England set up defensively it wouldn’t work in a 4-4-2 formation, meaning a 4-5-1 should have been adopted to flood the midfield, control Pirlo and allow Gerrard to act as the play maker.
As for the 4-4-2? Its inability to fit in with the current style of football has led to his ultimate demise. R.I.P.