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Guest Article: Formation Talk: 442 v 4231

There has been a lot of talk about formations recently, Dougie clearly prefers 4231 but has used 442 on a number of occasions with varying degrees of success. Many fans feel this is would make the difference and catapult us up the league yet have short memories, casting my mind back to Owen Coyle`s tenure, he was heavily criticised for his failure to recognise that we were being overrun in midfield week after week and we needed an extra body in there.

My preference, with the players that we have, is 4231. However, my preferred formation for Bolton Wanderers has been 442, my preferred formation as a player was 352 but that is a completely different story!

Looking at the players we have available, we are heavily stocked in the central midfield department and less heavily stocked in the winger and striker areas, so, logic tells you to play with 5 in midfield but for this to work you need your wingers and your attacking midfielder to get up and support the lone striker and get themselves in the box, we haven`t done this anywhere near enough all season and this is a big reason why people are saying that playing 1 up front doesn`t work. It does work, when players are doing their jobs, but players haven`t been. We haven`t seen as much of Hall as I would have liked, Eagles loves running in the opposite direction to the ball and when he does get it he loves giving it back to the opposition even more and Chung Yong Lee has been erratic and is so afraid to shoot it is untrue, once such a goal threat is now shot shy.

Not many teams play with one up front these days so do you match the opposition formation or do you play your own way and not worry about the opposition? Well, isn`t that what Owen Coyle did? No work on opposition shape or strengths is ridiculous in this day and age. So what the most vocal Wanderers fans are now screaming for is the same thing that they were screaming at Coyle to get rid of!? Very strange.

442 has its strengths don`t get me wrong. Two players up front occupies both centre halves meaning that the opposition full backs cant get forward as often and there is support when the ball is cleared up there if they play off each other - as Ings/Vokes do so well at Burnley. The thing is, we don`t have a Vokes, never mind an Ings! Their understanding is bordering telepathic, we don`t have that, if we did then we would be playing two up front every week. You have to cut your cloth accordingly and by playing 4231 that is what we are doing, we are trying to get the most out of the players available.

Most people would like Moritz to play most of the time, he is very creative and a big goal threat for us but he is not a winger so needs to play centrally, he cannot play as a CM so if Moritz plays, we have to play 1 up front because he offers nothing defensively. If we play 442 then Moritz cannot play, so you then take away that threat.

My preference would be one striker with Mark Davies in the central attacking midfield role and Moritz coming on as an impact sub, I feel that he just isn`t fit enough to play 90 minutes and is somewhat of a luxury but he is very talented and can be a match winner, or match saver demonstrated by his beautiful free kick against Forest.

In summary I believe that if the midfield can dictate possession and we can get bodies closer to the striker, playing off and running beyond him then we can score goals and win games. We have shown we can dominate possession for long periods in some games but make ridiculous errors to tip the balance and let the opposition at us. Looks like we will have little choice but to play one up front in the next game, unless someone can be drafted in this week…alternatively it looks as though our youngsters are having a little competition between themselves to get into Dougie`s thoughts, Wilkinson, Youngs, and Clough all on the scoresheet in the Development squad`s 4-0 win at Leicester, in addition to that, a certain Mr Bogdan with a clean sheet, hoping his return will see both keepers up their games fighting for the shirt which can only be good for the team.

The Journalist

Writer: Moonpig1 Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Tuesday January 14 2014

Time: 9:49AM

Your Comments

I wholeheartedly agree with pretty much all of that, except I think that Lonergan is already fighting tooth and nail for the shirt and has been ever since he got his chance. However, my one additional comment on 4-2-3-1 is that there's a reason why we play it. The 4-2 part is generally (at the moment) Ream, Mills, Knight, Baptiste, Spearing and Medo. We generally look reasonably solid with both Spearing and Medo in there but end up frequently looking toothless up front as Eagles wanders off the wrong way and it's 3v5 in the opposition box at best. I still feel that our best attacking football last year came when Dawson marshalled the back four and we didn't have to be so defensively minded in midfield, because he was capable of putting his personnel in the right place at the right time and picking up the pieces when they got it wrong. We don't have that any more, which is why Leicester's forward line took us to the cleaners, and I really hope DF pulls off some masterstroke defensive signings in the transfer window so we can really have a proper go every week again.
I think the key is getting Ream back into CB with Mills and if not i would like to see him back in the DM role with another CB brought in...and a LB-too much to ask?? Maybe!........I think Lonergan is getting better, he is glued to his line as much as Bogdan and fails to release quickly enough and his kicking isnt great but his shot stopping has been outstanding recently. Having two 'No 1s' can only be good for the team and it is now upto Bogdan to push for a recall.
Really good article, Moonpig. And I think most of us would go along with your assessment. It must be extremely helpful to have played in these systems and therefore have a greater understanding of what they entail. People like myself only really played 235! But as you said yourself, playing five across midfield and one up front hasn't been the success we may have wished for, because our wingers don't put in a full shift. And for me, they never will. You summed up their weaknesses brilliantly. Even Hall, with all his promise, has had to be replaced early in a match because he was proving to be something of a luxury. Us less cerebral fans, merely think that when we have played with two strikers things seemed to have improved somewhat. What it is, I don't know. Maybe it's psychological. Maybe the players just feel very comfortable with that and perform with a bit more energy and enthusiasm. All I know is that with a lone striker for the last few months, our overall performance has been inadequate.
Barney Grumble
I get what you are saying Barney but a lot of people were saying how well we played on Saturday with 2 up front yet we played most of the game with 1 up, people have seemed to overlook this. The best periods of games were Wigan away, relentless possession and attacks 2nd half with one up, Doncaster at home could have been 6, Blackpool away was 0-0 Beckford hitting the post all those with one up front. Its a double edged sword, play 2 up you lose attributes of midfielders like Mavies and Moritz play one up and you can be isolated and the striker has no one to play off.
Could it be that the pattern was set early in the game and due to starting 442 the players played a higher line and kept that going once the switch took place? It is a bit like arguing black is white to say we were not better on Saturday and against Blackpool than we have been in a long time. If we return to the same defensive line on Saturday we will lose. I agree we may not be able to go 442 with the players available but maybe 4141 with Medo in a sweeper role in front of the back four and an attacking 4 in front of him may be the answer.
Could it be that the pattern was set early in the game and due to starting 442 the players played a higher line and kept that going once the switch took place? It is a bit like arguing black is white to say we were not better on Saturday and against Blackpool than we have been in a long time. If we return to the same defensive line on Saturday we will lose. I agree we may not be able to go 442 with the players available but maybe 4141 with Medo in a sweeper role in front of the back four and an attacking 4 in front of him may be the answer.
It was as though the players had been liberated. The shackles had been taken off, so to speak! And as Gav has suggested, once we were in attacking mode, continued in that vein for the rest of the match. Having Mavies back must be a huge fillip to the team and make a considerable difference going forward. But, whoever is available on Saturday, we must make every effort to build on this and not regress into the defensive mode of previous games. Let's hope the cavalry come riding over the hill before then with reinforcements!
Barney Grumble
I think as Gav suggests the key is to be up and at em from the start and set the pace of the game. And then keep it going. Although I totally agree we need to plan for each game and strategise on our knowledge of he opposition we also need to be confident in our squad strength and not give too much respect to opponents. We are good enough to beat most in this division and we should play on that and believe in it. If we had had a more winning mentality against Yeovil, Huddersfield, Sheffield Wed etc we would still be very much in the mix
Skopelos Chris

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