Tactic talk: Is the 4-4-2 past its use by date for NUFC?

I got into a discussion about tactics earlier, which I quite enjoyed, so I thought I would put those thoughts into an article and see if we can have a bigger discussion about it.

One of the nice things was that it was done without the need to resort to abuse or childish rhetoric and everything had a reason – it was constructive rather than a shouting contest so for that I thank HBA 39 and Evil Franky!

Anyway the topic rolled around to what we have become accustomed to this season – the 4-4-2 formation. Love it or hate it it has served us well generally, and we have the league position to prove it. Does it have any longevity though? Are there plans to change things up? Do we have the personnel to change it up? Well let’s take a look and see.

Why 4-4-2?

Well I personally believe we are playing a 4-4-2 formation because it fits the personnel we have currently and also covers up some pretty big cracks in our squads. It probably won’t be the last time I mention this, but the full-backs we have currently need some help for varying reasons.

For example Danny Simpson needs help because he is unable to cope with people running at him while Davide Santon likes to get forward and is new to the country. Over time I expect to see Santon improve and he will need less and less help as he develops both physically and mentally, but I can’t say the same for Danny Simpson.

It is my belief that we are playing 4-4-2 to protect the pair of them. Perhaps protect is the wrong word when talking about Santon, perhaps cover for when he bombs forward would have better? However Simpson does need help. The thought of having nobody in front of him frightens the life out of me to tell the truth, which rules out any notion of playing narrow up top or using Simpson as a wing-back.

This means we have to have two wingers in the side which means that with only four spaces in the team, and a striking pair to be feared when fit taking two of them and a central midfield pairing that have been mentioned in the same breath as Manchester United and Chelsea taking the other two the options are somewhat limited.

What are the options?

Well at the moment I can’t really see any serious ones. This is where our personnel comes into question although obviously we can’t do anything about it until the summer now. We can persist with 4-4-2 until the end of the season and look to change it if or when we sign some better defenders (especially right-back, or left-back if Santon moves across) so that we can operate differently, but right now I believe that one player is holding us back massively.

However one way of getting around it is pictured right in this handy little diagram. Obviously you can chop and change the players to suit your preference, but that is what I’d quite like to see in action.

You have a flat back four, which is the only way we can play at the moment, with Cheik Tiote and Yohan Cabaye protecting them. Tiote can do what he does and Cabaye can pick those passes that he likes to do. In front of them we have Demba Ba who likes to sit a bit deeper and be the link up man, with Papiss Cisse ready to get on the end of anything, which is his preferred place to be.

We then have Jonas and Ben Arfa on the wings who can create havoc and set up the chances at one end while also being able to get back and help out the full-backs if needed, which shouldn’t be as often as we have Tiote and Cabaye sitting in there meaning one can drift a bit wider while the other sits in, or they could both move across as a unit. Think of them as the enforcers!

The future

As I’ve said, the future could hold anything for us in terms of tactical tinkering, as long as we have the players able to cope with it. At the moment I honestly believe we have the attacking threat to give us differing options, but without a solid base to build on and a reliable defence to fall back on, I feel that our options are somewhat limited.

Maybe that can change in the summer?

About toonsy

A lifelong Newcastle fan and current webmaster of this very 'blog who has the sole aim of creating a place by Newcastle United fans, for Newcastle United fans.

81 thoughts on “Tactic talk: Is the 4-4-2 past its use by date for NUFC?

  1. *correction @69…”he’s worth his weight in gold”

    ….actually at gold being roughly worth £36,876 per kilo, and Jonas weighing in at an apparent 73 kg, that would make him worth just over 2.5m at £2,691,948. I think he’s worth more than his weight in gold 😆


  2. The 4-4-2 system has sustained the power of time imo, especially here in England – but look to the continent and to the successful teams both domestically and international and you’d do well to find a team playing 4-4-2.

    Part 2 of NUFC’s goalscoring & creativity will be active later and there are many links with this area.

    In short, 4-4-2 is producing a shortfall of innovation at Newcastle United currently!



  3. I think that there are overreactions from most fans due to a recent dip of form.

    The team played poorly after going 2-0 up, but aside from a freak deflection and a poorly defended set piece, the team defended reasonably well against a toothless Wolves attack.

    When we go out and attack teams like many are suggesting on this blog, including getting our wingers and Cabaye further up the pitch, we are liable to give up goals in bunches. Pardew set up his team to get a clean sheet. When Wolves had the ball, NUFC players were letting them pass it around and then waiting for an opportunity to pounce. It worked when Cabaye was able to win the ball far up the pitch for the first goal, the players just seemed to tire as the game went on. It’s possible that Cisse picked up a knock which eliminated the little counterattacking threat that we’d had.

    Many of the suggested tactics and formation put forward on this blog would result in many more hammerings like we received at Fullham. Yes, we played the best football of the season during that first half – but our current players aren’t capable of sustaining the possession required and there will be inevitable huge gaps at the back.

    The 442 is still our best chances at keeping clean sheets and thus, picking up wins.


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