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New Article: Our possession and the 4-4-2

I assume most people would have noticed now that in 6 out of 7 the league games played so far we have been behind in the amount of possession kept, sometimes by a significant amount. The exception to this being the Huddersfield game where they had 10 men for half the game. I have had a little look at the very '"reliable" BBC website has our possession stars are as follows (not including the Huddersfield game):

Brentford: 39%
Wigan: 45%
Derby: 37%
Brighton: 36%
Wolves: 39%
Watford: 39%

Using the equally "reliable" Sky website now lets have a look at the formations that these teams played against us:

Brentford: 4-1-4-1
Wigan: 4-3-3
Derby: 4-3-3
Brighton: 3-5-2
Watford: 3-5-2
Wolves: 4-2-3-1

What we can see from this is that many of the teams we have come up against have overloaded the middle of the park whether that is by having 3 at the back or 1 up front to help create the extra man in midfield. Wigan and Derby’s 4-3-3 formation will also play out like a 4-5-1 with the two wide men up front dropping back into midfield when they don’t have the ball and pushing forwards to create options when they do. On the other side we play quite a rigid 4-4-2 which is causing us problems when trying to pass the ball out the back due to lack of options through the middle of the park when coming up against a packed midfield. I see a lot of comments which point out that the game seems to be passing Johnny Jackson by, which I feel is quite understandable when a lot of the times he is the only Charlton player in the middle of the park as Buyens usually drops deep to collect the ball, and our strikers tend to be on the shoulder of the defenders - I feel that this is also a reason why a lot of our attacks break down, or we end up just passing it across the back line into the full back and wingers and back again as there's just not that option in the middle of the park. Conversely when defending, though hard to break down, teams we are playing are really making use of that extra man in midfield which is why they keep the ball for longer periods as there is generally always that extra option for them in the middle to give and go and least appear to have some more meaningful possession.

Does this mean the system we are playing is wrong? Well not necessarily, we have not lost a game yet which is encouraging. However as 3-5-2/4-5-1 are really popular formations I personally feel for the 4-4-2 to really work we need to see an improvement from George Tucudean as he is link between our midfield and attack and it would be nice to see the ball 'stick' to him a bit more when he gets it. I feel Tucudean has a better chance of getting the ball into Jackson and Vetokele, which would thus push our wingers up and allow us to retain possession better.

What do other people think? Do they like the 4-4-2 or would they like to see us change formation to maybe 4-5-1 revolving around perhaps Moussa as the player to be the creative pivot.


  • edited September 2014
    I like the 4-4-2 what I don't like is when Moussa comes on for George and drops back so its a 4-4-1-1, leaves Igor isolated
  • Whatever we are doing is working at the moment.

    Possession doesn't win you football matches. Goals do.

    But in answer to your question, 4-5-1 for me.
  • Great research, said last night that the reason they had loads of possession wasn't down to them being better than us, but the fact we were being over run in the middle. Especially when you look at Wolves with an energetic 5 compared to our 4, which included no wingers and Jacko, who for all his qualities isn't the quickest.
  • Well presented FCF.

    My view is, I like being the possesion team. For me, it signals dominance and control. Keeping the ball for long periods of time will also most likely tire the oppenent more.
    The fact that we are unbeaten and have made the bright start we have, playing against the better teams of this league, suggests that we are playing a clever game.

    I also think, that If we are consistently getting points on the board via a certain playing style, then lack of possesion of the football is not something to be majorly concerned about.

    I do think Tucudean should be dropped next game. Keep a couple of other players on their toes aswell.
  • 4-4-2 only works if the two banks of four are close enough to interpass and move up and down together. Ours don't as defenders sit too deep and haven't since the pace of RR allowed us to hold a high line. Notwithstanding AC's reign of 4-5-1 with Costa marshalling. "Midfield over-run" has been a common theme since Racon/Semedo days. Even our L1 record was based on attrition and long ball.
  • 4-4-2 only works if the two banks of four are close enough to interpass and move up and down together. Ours don't as defenders sit too deep

    I do agree with this, and as mentioned I believe Buyens dropping so deep is often isolating Jackson.

    However, I don't necessarily believe that Buyens going deep is a bad point, he is a calming influence and spreads the ball well. But if Jackson is to be the attacking midfielder in the partnership we need to try to get the ball into his feet on the run and facing forwards, to often especially up against the extra man if he does receive the ball from the defence or wingers it will be with his back to goal or marked which prevents him from initiating an attacking move.

    I am not sure how to remedy this. Clearly the formation is working well enough for us, so why necessarily change? The problem I feel is though we are playing a passing style of football, I don't think the rigidness of the formation is contusive to it, with Tucudean and Vetokele playing so far up the pitch, it kinda feels like we should be lumping the ball up to Tucudean so he can bring others into play. If that's not what we want to do, (and I would not want Vetokele dropping deep), it's either up for George to drop deeper and help out with the midfield linking to the strikers or for perhaps another more versatile player to be instead of George, or finally maybe playing out and out wingers so we can push there midfield back and create more space in the middle.
  • Dortmund played 442 last night and the commentators were jizzing over how refreshing it was to see
  • Excellent summary of the season so far! We should play our best players in a fluid front six and having watched every league game except Huddersfield, Tucudean is not in the best six!
    Assuming everyone fit, Vetokele, Buyens and Gudmundsson are first on the team sheet. Then potentially Bulot, Jackson and Cousins (in a central role).
    Tucudean or even Bikey can partner Vetokele after an hour?
    I don't know enough about the players or football tactics but 4-2-3-1 is how the papers describe the Premier league... I wonder how Liege play these days?
  • As much as we all have a soft spot for Jacko. i'm afraid he needs to be sacrificed in favour of Jordan Cousin if we are to continue with the 442 formation. Jordans fantastic engine would help compensate for any numerical disadvantage
  • Great opening post to this thread.

    I'd like to see us moving to 4-5-1 as we have the players to make this work very well. A midfield of gudmundsson, Buyens, Jackson, cousins and bulot excites me.

    I just can't see us sustaining results with 4-4-2 all season. Maybe switching between the two formations depending on the oppo would work best.
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  • Dortmund play 442, so do At. Madrid.
  • Peeters has stated that Tucudean needs to improve to stay in the team. I think the formation and strengths of our next opponents might dictate personnel and formation.
  • edited September 2014
    Taxi_Lad said:

    As much as we all have a soft spot for Jacko. i'm afraid he needs to be sacrificed in favour of Jordan Cousin if we are to continue with the 442 formation. Jordans fantastic engine would help compensate for any numerical disadvantage

    Can't see it happening especially as TBH made reference after the game last night to the blend of senior players helping the youngsters through games. Apart from being Big Bob's choice as captain JJ is the only other outfield player apart from TBH over 30 years of age. Bikey is 29 then Wilson 27 (not a regular starter) then loanee Buyens 26. Curbs always preferred a couple of experienced old heads in his sides. :-0

    Edit; To quote TBH
    “Joe Gomez is only 17 years old (Upper sixth form for the benefit of @somerton‌ schoolboy comment in the players marks thread) and he has a great future. Igor [Vetokele] has started the season very well and scored five goals already and Jordan [Cousins] has played very well so we have some good younger players.

    “They need some good direction from the experienced players and that’s what we try to do at the club.

    “When a younger player goes to play first-team football he needs to get confidence and get good advice and we’re there for them.”
  • I think the key at the moment is George, he often drops deep and gets into good positions but the quality isn't good enough. I've stated all along this season that we need a striker like Yann did in league one to come in and bring us to the next level and potential play offs. If you remember right, we were winning a lot with Hayes and BWP but I have no doubts that we wouldn't have got automatic promotion never mind the Championship without out the boost of Yanns talents.
  • It would seem possession is over rated, there is a theory if you have the ball your player is more likely to make a mistake which leads to conceding a goal than if you don't.

    If every time we get the ball we burst up the other end and score what does it matter if the other team has it for five minutes before we do the same again!!
  • shine166 said:

    Dortmund played 442 last night and the commentators were jizzing over how refreshing it was to see

    Yes indeed, though from what I am aware about with Dortmund and At. Madrid they set up 4-4-2 when off the ball, but in attack are much more fluid than we are.

    I think 4-4-2 could work for us, especially when defending as we have seen. However I think I would like to see us more dynamic in attacks perhaps switching to a 4-3-3 with cousins, Jackson and Buyens in the middle and JBG, Tucudean, and Vetokele up top. That would mean pushing Vetokele out onto the wing which might take away from his goal poaching skills.
  • edited September 2014
    A very good and well thought out thread.

    When confronted with that it does leave quite an issue to ponder; on one hand, we're undefeated so we shouldn't worry too much, on the other hand we are gifting the opposition attacks by leaving our midfield open at times. It's all about weighing up whether or not we can afford to play that way every match - I'm veering against that.

    However, Paulie has made a good point in that Igor can get isolated up front in 4-4-1-1 style formations when Moussa is on, and works best with Tucudean as part of a 4-4-2.. so in reality we do need another player up top.

    Ideally I'd like to see 3-5-2 which would be the best of both worlds, but this does pose a dilemma with Wiggins not being at his best, and young Gomez needing some support whilst he gets used to the match; unless he was the third CB? It also leaves a question mark over JBG, and potentially Bulot.

    The only 3-5-2 I can think of is:

    ------ Gomez - Ben Haim - Bikey --------
    Wilson - Buyens - Cousins - Jacko - Wiggins
    -------- Tucudean - Vetokele -----------

    Which affords Gomez some protection but leaves us quite exposed on the left, I like having 2 up top and I like having two layers of defence along the wings too.

    Potentially 4-3-3;

    Solly/Gomez - Ben Haim - Bikey - Wiggins
    ---Cousins ---- Buyens ------ Jacko ---
    --- Gudmundsson ------------ Bulot --
    ------------- Vetokele --------------

    Bulot could be replaceable with Moussa or Harriott.
    Gudmundsson can make way for Wilson or even Tucudean.

    In possession we go to 4-3-3 and counter attack with numbers up front, whilst out of possession we fall back to 4-5-1 and flood the midfield, whilst having natural wingers on the pitch and Cousins back in the centre. We still "accommodate" Jacko and have Buyens in the center of the pitch where he can ping balls about. We also don't disturb the defence.

    In short? I aint got a clue!
  • Despite his lack of experience, 3-5-2 would only work with Gomes central as pace option. But 4-4-2 is way to go and once Joe is CB we can play games on oppo half and boss sides.
  • I think it was after Brentford when Bob Peeters stated that he wanted the team to keep possession and pass more as this has the effect of tiring the opposition.

    These stats don't really bear out Big Bob's thinking but, as has been said many times, we're still unbeaten.
  • edited September 2014

    Whatever we are doing is working at the moment.

    Possession doesn't win you football matches. Goals do.

    But in answer to your question, 4-5-1 for me.

    You are right but you have to accept that we have benefited from profligate finishing by the opposition. interestingly we have also been concerned with our ability to defend from corners after the two goals at Brighton, however if you look at the stats this season we have been awarded 26 corners but conceded a massive 67, including on Tuesday 10 by half time, so defending at corners may not be that big an issue.

    I think there is a danger of complacency due to the good start, I am sure that BBB is aware that not all is as rosy as the results and position suggest.
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  • The possession stats can mean very little......they would be broken down further by the Clubs as to where the possession is, where turnovers are best forced etc......then they can mean more.
  • 3-5-2 would work with TBH Bikey and Gomez. But we'd need someone a bit better than Wiggins. then also somoene with a bit more to their game than George and we'd look good.

    Possession isn't all but our performances are dropping with fitness and teams working us out, they are realising how much of the ball they can keep, the more and more this happens the more our fitness will diminish in the later stages of a game
  • Excellent analysis.

    Looking at the game on Tuesday, I think we didn't have more possession because we lost it in midfield by only playing four across the middle. This gave Wolves an extra man in the key area.

    Although I see comments are mixed on him, I think when Moussa came on for GT it gave us more fluidity and movement up top which, finally, gave the Wolves back four, and therefore midfield, more to think about. I haven't seen the stats but I would guess that in the final phase of the game, once we'd made the change, possession was more even. Certainly we started to push back against Wolves having been under pressure throughout the half to that point.

    I understand the value of 442 but I'm not sure TG is the guy to play in that role. If we don't have the personnel then I would go with Moussa or Bulot behind IV, able to play intelligent balls into space for him.
  • Just a question maybe from ignorance. I have now heard two managers say that the pre-occupation with formations is very much supporter led whereas the managers's role is to ensure that players can adapt as a game progresses. Thus the actual formation is of minor importance compared to the ability of players to respond to on field events. Flexibility and all that. So I'm confused, again.
  • So is this saying that in defending and effort we were equal and were not much behind on attacking? If so bears up comments that possession alone is not the only metric that matters.
  • We start off 442 and then move to back 4, new back 4 just infront of the other back 4 . Tucudean watching and Igor up front alone.

    This formation gleaned 5 out of the last 9 points available. However, it could easily have got none !

    Slightly worried Bob is riding the luck.
  • Great insight into the way we perceive our season so far, shape, tactics and selection, and sine great comments and opinions, we have had an unexpected great start to the season, and BP is saying all the right things and getting the best out of our team... Why would he want to change it? if it ain't broken then don't try to fix it....
  • STig......thanks. We have similar metric's over here in Perth, and also Apps that gauge individual performances as the game goes on........and this is at Amateur Level !
  • Did you notice the possession Everton had last night (less then their opponents), and they still won 4-1
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