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The slow and painful death of 4-4-2

Call me a purist or someone who is still fixated with the successes of Arrigo Sacchi’s AC Milan in early 90’s or Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United dominating during the entire 90’s, I have always enjoyed seeing a team operate with 4-4-2 formation. Lately, every team has opted for a 4-2-3-1 approach and it is indeed a sad sight to witness the painful death for one of the best ever football formations created.

It all started with the Spanish football bringing in their gifted play-makers to operate behind the strikers which needed an extra protection in the midfield. That called for managers to cover up their central midfield and put two men shielding the back four. In a 4-2-3-1 formation, midfielders have distinct roles where one acts as the destroyer (CDM- who breaks up attacks) while the other being a box-to-box (CM) midfielder.

Moving on, three attackers playing in support of the lone strikers have set characteristics which they need to abide by. The wide men, (RW & LW) must have pace and trickery to go pass defenses while the central attacker (CAM) must have the intelligence to link midfield and attack. Striker (ST) like any generation we are from has the task of scoring goals.

The slow and painful death of 4-4-2

One can clearly see the limitations and certain demands which modern day’s formations ask of several teams as it needs to have players fitting the certain criteria. Yet, teams across the globe have drastically shifted towards the 4-2-3-1 culture. It is almost seeing a machine-like operation from the teams and at times, they become very predictable as well. Take for instance, Chelsea’s 2014-15 run has come to a brutal stand still with teams already getting the idea what they are about to do next.

As compared to it, a 4-4-2 in itself has the ability to filed two goal-scorers and at anytime of the game, teams can quickly craft a chance and put the game to bed. During the 90’s Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke left everyone widemouthed with their link-up and interplay. Same was the case with Theirry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp. Moving forward, a more fluid 4-3-3 saw Raul and Ronaldo flourish together at Real Madrid while Spain ran the rule with Fernando Torres and David Villa in their ranks.

The slow and painful death of 4-4-2

Gradually with time, 4-4-2 has seen its end and perhaps the biggest reason for that has been the lack of quality strikers who can play at the highest level and the emergence of crafty and technical play-makers. Currently, I cannot think of any club or country except for Argentina, Belgium, England, Juventus and Atletico Madrid who boast two quality strikers in their ranks, which is indeed sad and hard to believe.

It was almost as if teams out of a sudden drought of strikers found a way to operate with lesser number of strikers and have ended up playing a 4-2-3-1 formation which has its advantages but cannot be trusted to be effective on a longer run. It is a system designed to suit the individual and not focus on the entire team. It is a sign of weakness and to a degree it is more reactive formation than being pro-active.

Image credit: getty

One thought on “The slow and painful death of 4-4-2

  1. Very well written. It could only have come from a seasoned sports blogger who knows the game inside out with its nuances on fingertips. You certainly are one. I hope clubs take notice and bring back the glorious tactics from the past.

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