We’ve had a great season and before the last 5 games or so it was going really well, but there were often debates about how we were going to integrate all of our firepower into one team. Without making our team defensively frail this seemed impossible and almost football manager like.
But then Alan Pardew cracked it, I’m not quite sure why he went bold and tried it, but my god it’s worked. It’s bold to move your top goal scorer to wide left, and to move your winger to either left back or the holding midfield role, but it’s just come off.
During this time we’ve also had injuries to the defence and midfield, so Tiote has been out, with Perch replacing him, then Perch went to the defence and it was a real mix up, but we’ve kept winning, because of the trusty 4-3-3.
A lot of fans would think 4-3-3, we’ll get murdered in midfield, no way. We run the midfield in most games, mainly due to the work rate of the top three who make it hard for any of the oppositions midfield allowing Cheik Tiote and Jonas Gutierrez to sit and protect the defence.
Hatem Ben Arfa has really flourished since the change in formation, and has produced two goals and four assists in the last five games we’ve played. He’s really looked back to his old self and has destroyed every full back he’s played against in that time, including Jose Enrique.
Another player who has seemed his best in this formation is Yohan Cabaye. With the other two midfielders holding it has allowed him to get up and join the attack a lot more, a role he played in his time at Lille where he scored plenty of goals. His advanced role has allowed him to create four goals and score two in the last three games.
Papiss Cisse also looks a lot happier in this formation. He scored goals before the switch, but now his all round games looks a lot sharper, and his link up with Ba, Cabaye and Ben Arfa is dreamy. The front man has scored eight goals in the five games since the formation change, that’s made us unbeatable.
For those worrying about our defence during this formation, we’ve conceded one goal in five games, this come from a defensive mix up after Fabricio Coloccini had left the pitch at West Bromwich Albion, so we’re solid at the back as well as tantalizing upfront.
This formation is reminiscent of the Chelsea team which Jose Mourinho led to the league title in 2003/2004, only losing one game. Mourinho thoughts on the formation are below;
“Look, if I have a triangle in midfield – Claude Makelele behind and two others just in front – I will always have an advantage against a pure 4-4-2 where the central midfielders are side by side. That’s because I will always have an extra man. It starts with Makelele, who is between the lines. If nobody comes to him he can see the whole pitch and has time. If he gets closed down it means one of the two other central midfielders is open. If they are closed down and the other team’s wingers come inside to help, it means there is space now for us on the flank, either for our own wingers or for our full-backs. There is nothing a pure 4-4-2 can do to stop things.”
Mourinho is the master of tactics, and I really think we’re creating something similar to his great Chelsea team. We have two wide men, Demba Ba and Hatem Ben Arfa where they had Damien Duff and Arjen Robben, and Papiss Cisse up front alone, where they had Didier Drogba.
Behind them we have Yohan Cabaye in the Frank Lampard role and Jonas Gutierrez is in the Michael Essien role just in front of Cheik Tiote who is holding in place of Claude Makelele.
It’s not exactly the same, but the principles are the same and it bares thinking about.
This system is also flexible for changes. We can bring in Sylvain Marveaux or Gabriel Obertan in the wide positions. Leon Best, Shola Ameobi and Demba Ba could all play the central striker role, and Danny Guthrie and Dan Gosling could both drop into midfield, we have options, it’s a nice thing to have to deal with.
We possibly may have played 4-4-2 for the first half against Bolton, but then a switch was made at half time, if so that shows that the formation is working even more and it has to stay.
Since the switch we have won five out of five, scoring twelve goals and only conceding one. We’ve won all our five games by at least a two goal margin, and have led four of our five games at half time. In that time we’ve glided into 4th position and now hold a three point led over Tottenham, who are our nearest challengers, the Champions League dream could possibly turn a reality.
I think Pardew has hit the jackpot, what do you think?