Is 4-4-2 dead?
It's as traditional as Fish and Chips, the Royal Family and Colin Slater - but has the era of the old 4-4-2 formation come to an end? Many of Europe's top teams have abandoned the old set in stone line up and it seems our Stranraer supremo has done likewise - but is he right to do that? Does modern football need a modern formation?
It seems inevitable that come the big kick off in August Colin Calderwood sending out his charges in a 4-3-3/4-5-1 formation. He's built a squad containing winger-cum-striker types in Arron Davies, Garath McCleary, Paul Anderson and he is seemingly trying (rightly or wrongly) to fit Nathan Tyson into this mould. He's also previously spoke of his distrust of our form in a 442 and preserved with 4-3-3/4-5-1 through to the dramatic climax of last season.
In recent weeks the old warhorses of the City Ground scene have been sharpening their knives and calling on olCC to retreat and go back to 4-4-2 - but are they right?
In Calderwood's favour is the fact that the new formation is much more flexible. It allows for greater numbers behind the ball when defending and greater emphasis going forward from the very nature of the fact it morphs from 451 to 433. It suits a counter attacking team with pace as its strength, something CC desperately wants from his Tricky Trees.
Very often as well it can turn into a 442, if necessary, with a wide man tucking back and a winger pushing forwards, showing an inbuilt ability to alter without substitution. 433/451 also contains a space for the 'Makelele role' - that tireless enforcer who patrols the midfield stifling out attacks - important for defensive stability.
4-4-2 by comparison has had a tendency to look pedestrian. Witness Germany's transition when they changed from a flat, flimsy 4-4-2 to a dynamic 4-3-3/4-5-1 mid European championship which took them further in the tournament than their abilities should have expressed.
One argument in the Evening Post - from one of those sages Burns or Birtles - said that Forest had been undone by '4-4-2 teams' such as Doncaster last year. Whoever it was obviously hadn't paid much attention to League One's most stylish passing outfit. O'Driscoll often tinkered but mainly stuck with what could be described as a 4-3-3/4-5-1 formation which outwitted many of less talented League One line ups. Many others are choosing this option now too. Ferguson secured the Premier League title with a swashbuckling 433, Chelsea pushed them to the wire by returning the Mourinho's old 433/451 and the Champions League version of Benitez's Liverpool are much more dangerous than their domestic alter ego, playing a 4-2-3-1.
It's not enough to choose a formation because others are but it's certainly worth considering why successful sides are looking beyond 4-4-2.
Flexibility, innovation and keeping up with the Jones' may be one thing however but the chief concerns with maintaining this formation in the Championship may well be deficiencies in the current starting 11 on Trentside.
433/451 requires strong full backs to be able to cope without constant cover and there are still question marks over Luke Chambers' ability in that role and maybe Jules' discipline on the other flank.
Questions may also be raised about the 'winger-cum-strikers' in the squad. They need to do a lot of work to make the formation viable and have to have an impact for it to be successful. Davies, Anderson and Tyson have had or are having injury concerns and all four (including McCleary) are unproven at this level.
The other issue is the striking role. Many times last year Forest frustratingly looked limp going forward because of a lack of support for the central striker. Done badly 4-3-3/4-5-1 could leave Earnshaw/Cole/Garner/Tyson chasing shadows and wasting their undoubted talent.
Those points will need to be resolved over the season but for now it's obvious that CC wants his 4-3-3/4-5-1. It also seems obvious to this blogger that we should not just dismiss this out of hand. I don't profess to know whether CC's formation will work but the days when 4-4-2 was the best and most viable option are gone and calling for 4-4-2 for 4-4-2's sake doesn't make sense. Managers are opting for more flexible models in ever increasing numbers - let's just hope CC knows how to make it work here next season. Over to you Colin....
t10red has his own Blog, which is well worth checking out HERE