Fans calling for 4-4-2 in 2012 need a reality check

England manager Roy Hodgson The idea that fans know better than a manager in football really annoys me. Of course those who watch football are entitled to their opinion about the game and certain players. But I doubt Joe Bloggs down the pub really figured out the future of football was 4-2-3-1 until being told it was a hundred times during the World Cup. (I’m not excluding myself from this condemnation I recently watched the Juventus vs. Inter Milan game, where both teams used formations reliant on several attacker’s and various versions 3-5-2 and 3-4-3. I watched with little to no idea of what either team was achieving with their various formations). My point is there’s nothing more irritating than arm-chair managers and the Sky Sports News era believing they’re Jose Mourinho due to the (lack of) insight Paul Merson gives them every Saturday.

Among my main annoyance with fans who believe they know better than the manager are people who still believe a team playing with one up front is sending out a negative message. Mike Bassett: England manager parodies the out-dated 4-4-2 system in 2001, and yet fans still groan if their team contains only one striker at home. One example of this short sighted terrace simplicity, is Sunderland, since Martin O’Neill’s arrival, the Black Cats have used almost exclusively 4-4-1-1 a natural formation for a team whose best player Stephane Sessegnon likes operating in the hole. Yet when things aren’t going right and the Wearsiders aren’t scoring goals, fans instantly point to the lack of strikers on the pitch, bypassing the more obvious failings of a defensive mindset and poor performances of the club’s three main creative players. Also when looking at the two best strikers currently on the North East club’s books I believe it’s doubtful that both Louis Saha and Steven Fletcher could play together seeing as the two have such similar attributes. Another option is Fraizer Campbell who can operate as a striker but also winger when Sunderland aren’t in possession but their remains major doubts about the England international’s quality, he hasn’t scored since February. Another reason teams rarely use this system is football matches are often won and lost in the midfield, so packing three in midfield makes sense when trying to impose your will on your opponents. Such is the out-dated nature of 4-4-2, Spain were able to grind their teams into submission in most games without playing with a striker of any nature, defending and attacking with over-whelming possession.

Also like any sport in football you should aspire to be the best and the top teams rarely use this formation, the marquee game of the weekend just gone saw Manchester United out-wit Arsenal with a variation of 4-4-1-1 up 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1. Manchester City have such a plethora of attacking options Roberto Mancini rarely only puts one of his four top-drawer strikers on the pitch. But the Italian doesn’t just limit himself  just to 4-4-2 trying 3-5-2, 4-3-2-1 and 4-3-3 among other formations even if the former Inter Milan manager has had varying success with his systems this term. England’s failings with 4-4-2 in the world cup should also have shown fans just how ineffective the formation can be, attempting pin-ball football to try and get the ball forward in the Euros regularly saw England out-played and somewhat fortunate to reach the quarter finals.

Tottenham Hotspur fans have also condemned management for the use of just one striker. But last season by consensus Spurs were playing the best football in the Premier League with just a solitary forward, relying on excellent creative players such as Aaron Lennon, Gareth Bale, Luka Modric and Rafael Van Der Vaart to create chances in a team that cannot be considered negative. I also think the fans booing vehemently when Jermain Defoe was substituted for Emanuel Adebayor said as much about the popularity Andre Villas-Boas then it did about a negative approach. Spurs played the last half hour with Gylfi Sigurdsson, Gareth Bale, Aaron Lennon and Clint Dempsey supporting Adebayor hardly a dearth of attacking options. The team they were playing in that match-up as well Wigan have enjoyed great success playing with a 3-4-3 system a style no other team in the division regularly use.

My point is 4-4-2 was going out of date ten years ago, let alone now, in 2012 the idea of playing with just one striker shouldn’t be stereotyped as negativity.

Let me know your thoughts on 4-4-2 on Twitter where you can find me: @jimmylowson