The perfect formation

4-3-3 looking good for us!
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?

26 thoughts on “The perfect formation

  1. Mr Righteous here was screaming for 433 all season. Before that it was obvious we don’t have 2 good wingers. Pardew throwing Cabaye forward though has been a masterstroke!


  2. Good article. I remember we tried a 433 in Keegans second spell with Martins Viduka and Owen and we scored a few goals with it but it didnt work out in the long term mainly because we had no steel in midfield and the work rate of some of the players in the squad at the time was certainly questionable. I think its a difficult formation to play as when we dont have the ball we sort of utilise a 451 with the front free helping out the midfield which requires a lot of running from the players but its worked superbly. Its also flexible in that the Swansea game we pretty much played 451 to shut them down and defend and on the break we launch back into the 433. The two main components that make this work are hard work and pace, two things we have lacked, certainly together for a good number of years. If we keep our players and add a few good players into the mix I think we could really push on for champions league consistenly and fingers crossed trophies.


  3. could not agree more, ive been saying for a while we should try this system and Pardew has nailed it, we look such a well balanced team now and Pardew is getting the best out of all our top players. If you look at our performances in a 442 compared to 433 the results are obvious, in particular the home performances against wolves, norwich, and bolton, were not great and in each of those games we started a 442 and just could not keep the ball and just kept pumping it up to BA, in a 433 we destroyed west brom, swansea and Stoke, i think we have a real shot at the champs league playing this formation! HWTL


  4. Great article mate. The fact we’ve found something that is making so dangerous is pleasing. We present a goal threat in every game now which always goves us a chance of picking up three points!

    Off topic, but anyone seen former Sunderland midfielder Liam Noble calling Sunderland a “sh!t club with sh!t fans” 😆


  5. Think the old football cliche works perfect here , find the system that suit the players not the players to suit the system!


  6. The only prob with this set up is that it is not utilising BA to best effect.. He plays best as the out and out striker and his recent goal drought is a reflection on his move out wide… But Cisse form has put paid to him moving back there.
    Toonsy, Liam Noble ain’t telling us something that we don’t already know… 🙂


  7. Excellent article. I have been contemplating the same thing over the last few weeks as we have really come into our own, and I really do beleive that we are not far off total football that the dutch team of the early 70’s played with such authority.

    Against Stoke we played 4-2-3-1, with that quartet of players pressing high up the pitch which enabled us to drop into a 4-3-3 when we intelligantly made a few subs. The key to our evolution has been the footballing education of our most versitile players,RTaylor,Santon,Perch,Jonas,Ba, Cabeven Shola to a point where they know their roles and position duties enabling us to the flexibility to switch formations with ease.

    With a few canny signings of players with intelligence and good movement to interchange and cover advancing players by doing their defencive duties, I forsee us playing teams off the park or counter attacking teams into submission.

    All credit to Pardew and his staff it won’t be long before we are back in the Champions League, sooner than later I hope!

    HWTL Keep on fighting 😀


  8. the new formation for me has brought a whole new side to cabaye and its working…

    not sure ba will be so happy with it tho but its for the greater good


  9. As long as we keep winning Ba will be OK. Got to say though Cisse looks the perfect striker. Tremendous natural balance means he always strikes the ball well and he has great awareness. That run he made for Cabaye’s pass was fantastic. Wouldn’t swop him for any other striker!


  10. Carroll may be deadly in the air, but that would be no good right now as we don;t really attack in the air anymore. Owen in his pomp (which deserted him years before he came to us) would have been more suited to this game.


  11. I’m deadly in the air as well…. when I fart….and a fart has about the same market value as Carroll nowadays. 🙂


  12. Troy Stavers
    March 31, 2012 at 07:51
    “Is he better than Ba and Cisse? So far, I would suggest Ba and Cisse may be more clinical in front of goal but Carroll brings more to team play.”

    🙄 🙄 🙄

    😆 😆 😆


  13. Great article this one. I think the key to a successful 4-3-3 has to be a confident back 4 with a strong Tiote in front.
    (apart from his passing, he was magnificent against stoke).
    Also it needs a team that both understands how AP wants to work it, and is prepared to put in the required graft to make it work.
    Of course it helps also to have a quality distributor of the ball, which we have in Cabaye, and a forward line that frightens the bejesus out of the opposition. 😀


  14. Pardew actually started using this formation against Fulham when we got battered in the second half. Some Herbert’s obviously slagged him for it even though we played fantastically well in the first half of that game.

    The only thing that’s changed are the players.


  15. Looks like team GB are playing the Demba’s :mrgreen:

    Men’s draw:
    Group A: GB, Uruguay, UAE, Senegal
    Group B: Mexico, Switzerland, Korean Republic, Gabon
    Group C: Brazil, Belarus, New Zealand, Egypt
    Group D: Spain, Honduras, Japan, Morocco


  16. It could be Rotterdam or anywhere.
    Paris, Madrid or Rome.
    The Mags are back in Europe again.
    The mackems are staying at home.
    The mackems are staying at home.
    At home. At home.
    😀 😛


  17. Jobey god read mate.
    Yeah I think we have found our best formation for the players we have.
    I know sometime we will maybe see us reverting to a different formation due to injuries or tactics, but for the most I would like to see us stick to the current formation as it can be tweaked here and there.


  18. Toonsy thanks for posting that link on the last thread, just read the 45 pages 😆 some decent comments towards the end 😉


  19. GB, Uruguay, UAE and SENEGAL in group A! Lets find another Demba while he’s over here!

    What’s the chances of one of the Demba’s being called up?


  20. far as I’ve read(and understand) teams are allowed to call up 3 overage players(over 23yrs) but clubs do not have to release the overage players.


  21. Thats god richie as theres a chance we’ll be playing in Europe by then if we come 6th.
    Uefa have said they’ll switch our game to away if we come 6th and we’re drawn at home as there’s olympic games being played either side of that and with all the branding that needs to be changed from Olympic to Uefa would take too long!


  22. Against Stoke I actually think the formation was far more attacking, almost four up front with two holding midfielders.

    More like






    So 4-2-1-3 ❓


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