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4-4-2, time to collect your bus pass!

white hart lane

Written by Adam Davenport.

As I watched Tottenham get the run around by some Young Boys last night I couldn’t help but be reminded of England’s nightmarish world cup campaign!

Not because of the white kit on show and not because of a defence woefully short of pace, but because it was the last time I saw a team play 4-4-2 against a foreign opposition! Coincidentally it was also the last time I saw a team that exposed in midfield and on the counter attack!

Top level football has undoubtedly changed over the last few years. So much so that I can’t think of the last time I saw two top class teams line up against each other in a 4-4-2 formation, particularly in a big game. Arsenal, Chelsea, United, Liverpool….none of these sides play 4-4-2 anymore.

Players are better on the ball nowadays and possession is key. Ever since Claude Makelele took it upon himself to master and patent the ‘Makelele position’ as it’s now known no top team is without one, in some cases two, and in the odd case even three.

The once thankless task of breaking up play and sitting in front of the back four is now the key position. It has long been acknowledged that in ‘The Championship’ you are only as good as your strikers, well now I think it’s fair to say that in Europe you are only as good as you’re holding midfield players. The chain begun a while back; one less striker stood upfront means more players playing in the ‘hole’ in-between a defence and attack, these players that operate here are the best in the world and need looking after. Somewhere along this dangerous chain of events we have ended up with a player like Yaya Toure being valued at twenty eight million pounds and earning two hundred and twenty thousand pound a week. If that does not emphasise how important these players are then nothing will!!

It would not surprise me if over the coming seasons children in the school yards start filling their Merlin sticker collections with holding midfielders as they become bigger stars. Imagine that in our day? “I’ll give you two Dennis Bergkamp’s for one David Batty?”. It is hard to see how this can possibly be good for football but never the less it is happening.

For Tottenham and England to succeed at the highest level they need a change of tactics. England showed signs of it in their recent friendly against Hungary, deploying an out of sorts Wayne Rooney alone up front with runners playing off him. Spurs will need to do the same if they are to have any hope in the Champions League. They certainly have the players to play a ‘modern formation’ but whether Harry will have to upset one or two of his strikers in order to succeed. Jermaine Defoe will certainly be a casualty for both England and Spurs if this trend continues.

There is no doubt it makes a game of football less of a spectacle but the Irony is the bigger the ‘Beautifull’ game gets the more business orientated it becomes consequently the bigger a defeat becomes.

Goodbye four-four-two, you had your moments but times change, people change! It’s me not you and all that…!



  1. laurance

    August 19, 2010 at 10:12 am

    Cracking read……………… on.

  2. Aaron

    August 19, 2010 at 10:18 am

    Aren’t you ignoring the fact that Tottenham qualified for the Champions League playing 4-4-2, beating Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool along the way?

    I’m not saying that it should be the default option for teams but the reports of its death have been greatly exaggerated. Like most formations, it can be successful if a team has the right players and applies it in the right way.

  3. Eirik

    August 19, 2010 at 10:26 am

    Manchester United played 4-4-2 a lot last season, and did as well in the first game of the season against Newcastle. I totally agree that it’s old fashion, but teams still use this tactic.

  4. Jaygoooner

    August 19, 2010 at 10:45 am

    Couldnt agree more. Barcelona are happy to play with two holding midfield players, yet are wonderful to watch. (Arsenal games excepted lol) The evolution of football formations was evident to some extent during the World Cup, Germany in particular played with a fluid interchangeable line up. Total football? Yep. it is the future, don’t park the bus sell the bus and invest in players that can attack, defend, and pass as and when required. Oh gosh, isn’t that what Wenger is trying to acheive?

  5. TH

    August 19, 2010 at 11:13 am

    The lone striker up front has changed the way strikers operate as well. Defoe is in the mould of a more traditional Michael Owen style striker, quick, a great finisher, but can’t hold up the ball.

  6. Runferyermoney

    August 19, 2010 at 11:20 am

    @aaron, you don’t get the point??? it’s bout 4-4-2 not being effective against the foreign opposition

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