The last week or so, I have been trying to come up with a way to counter the ultra-narrow formations dominating the GameWorld, without backing away from the formations and style of play I have been using since day 1. After an initial dramatic dip in form, I think I have now found a way to deal with the ultra-narrow formations, without abandoning my traditions.
These ultra-narrow formations rely on the fact that their central midfielders will drop wide to mark your own wide players, whilst forming a compact block defensively. Alternatively, when such a narrow formation attacks, the wide players of your own team seem very inept at picking up the narrow players moving out to the flanks from the middle on.
I have now found a way to make my 4-2-4 work against these narrow formations. Yes, I admit I have narrowed my formation a bit to bolster my defence, but I also re-distributed the roles within the team. Instead of two inside forwards, I am now only using an inside forward on the right and an actual winger on the left. Upfront, I am using a Trequartista on the right and a Targetman in the centre. In midfield, I am using an attacking deep-lying playmaker and a defensive ball-winning midfielders. At the back, there are two man-markers and two wing-backs in front of a sweeper keeper.
It works like this. At both ends of the pitch, the team’s shape adapts and evolves when in possession to expand the pitch and to create space for their flair players. In defence, the defensive midfielder Cleverley drops in as a centre-half to allow the actual centre-backs Miguel Ferreira and Samba Sylla to spread the width of the pitch, allowing Claudino and Jovanovic as wing-backs to venture forward.
The main effect of this is that is suddenly transfers a huge defensive responsibility onto the two opposition wide midfielders. When you're fielding a narrow formation, your main attacking threat was coming from the wings. My strategy meant it was very difficult for the opposition's wide players to track my wing-backs and then have the energy to attack them at pace. Many opposing wingers looked exhausted by the end of a game.
Upfront, the main movement was the combination of right winger David Hall and trequartista Ivan on the right-hand side. Hall starts wide, meaning the opposing team's wingback assumes he is the player he should be picking up. But then Hall starts drifting inside, which means the opposing teams wing-back usually tracks him into the centre, which in turn opens up space for Ivan on the right-hand flank.