The 4-2-3-1 formation has overtaken the good old 4-4-2 formation as the most common way managers set up their team. The impetus on playing the ball to feet and less on the long ball has meant that teams have thrived with 4-2-3-1.
This season, Leeds United are no different. Our success has been built on a solid 4-2-3-1 formation, but with some important fixtures, especially away from Elland Road, is it time for Garry Monk and his management team to look at changing the formation?
Well, I thought it was worth looking at the pros and cons...
Get men behind the ball if necessary
The 4-2-3-1 formation does have numerous advantages to a team especially in a competitive league like the Championship. It has the ability to become a defence or attacking formation very quickly and is a base for adaptability if used correctly.
Leeds have used the system in a defensive sense very well, and you frequently see them put 6 or 8 men behind the ball and soak up the pressure and attack from there. 4-2-3-1 is the modern standard for setting up an effective side and we have seen success with it so far.
Interchanging between players
One progressive idea to the 4-2-3-1 formation is it's ability to have players interchange throughout the game with ease. You often find the wingers will change sides if they need a different and alternate approach when going forward. Leeds possess a lot of pace in the wide areas, and this formation allows them to break at speed on the counter attack in various positions on the field.
Another positive of the 4-2-3-1 is the spine it provides the team, with the two central midfielders holding and being the connection between both the attack and defence. This allows players the freedom to go and express themselves further up the pitch. Also, on the counter attack, it allows the central players and the wide players to break quickly and gain an advantage. Garry Monk's style of play, especially on the road and in the 2nd half of games, implements this tactic to great effect. We see a lot of success built around this idea.
The 4-2-3-1 formation has served us very well so far this season and the saying ‘don't fix what isn’t broke’ does come to mind, mainly because of the success we’ve seen. However, Leeds sometimes lack the ability to adapt in games, and this is a concern. Against certain teams within the division we need to change not just the personal but also how we implement them.
We seem just to be sticking with the 4-2-3-1 formation regardless of whether we are stagnated in the match.
Isolates the Striker
The major downfall of the 4-2-3-1 formation is the fact the lone striker can become isolated. When this happens for Leeds, the goals and chances start to dry up. Ipswich, Cardiff and Huddersfield (even though Wood scored against Huddersfield) used our own formation against us and restricted Wood throughout the game.
I wonder, in these particular fixtures, would 2 upfront and the pace down the wings draw the defenders to the ball and free up space in behind?
Wingers not getting back into position
Another problem with 4-3-2-1 is that the wingers play an integral part in the attack and the defence, and I find sometimes our wingers are caught out of position, leaving spaces for the opposition to attack. With the important role our wingers play in the way we play our football, I wonder in certain fixtures against clubs around us if the 4-1-4-1 formation might be a better alternative as the attacking players have that support in front of the defence and can play with more freedom.
We saw how successful this formation could be against Reading in December.
Largely, the 4-2-3-1 has served us well but with 4 important games to come including high flying Brighton, I do feel a tweak to 4-1-4-1, particularly in the away fixtures, may just make all the difference to where we finish this season. MOT
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