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Parma Ham's gone mouldy

Parma's Tactics Masterclass 14

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Any good Manager relishes victories for the excellent opportunity they offer to confront and address weaknesses in the following week''s training without demoralising, criticising or paralysing players through analysis.

It is simplistic and not absolute, but players tend to be more willing to confront deeper issues, negatives and specific changes after a positive result and the resulting feel-good factor.

The Brentford game was undoubtedly a result game, where outcome would inevitably overshadow performance. Unlike fans, coaches typically prioritise patterns of play, shape and a progress towards a style and optimum methodology for the playing resources at hand, confident that results and success will follow its successful understanding and implementation.

Norwich won handsomely on Saturday, though a good manager will have had a number of elements on his mind for this week''s sessions following events that didn''t occur during the game, but which nearly did, could have and will do against other, better opposition or on days when luck is a little against you.

We are always looking to minimise luck''s role, maximise our resources and and amortise, hide, misdirect and camouflage our weaknesses.

So what are they? Why can we win handsomely on Saturday, lose 5 games on the spin previously and yet win 7 out of the previous 8?....what specific factors link these seemingly contradictory statistics?...

Firstly we are trying to be too good.

Our formation - and more specifically the players and the overriding characteristics of the players selected - is designed to oppress teams, to be superior, to man-for-man outplay them, pin them back and dominate them.

If we are a bright opposition Manager however, we might look a little deeper into this approach, this mindset, this methodology.

When Norwich have possession, when Hoolahan, Pritchard, Murphy, Naismith, Jerome, Oliveira are weaving attractive and intricate patterns around the box they look dangerous indeed, fine goals may result.....fans cheer, neutrals are impressed, Brentford are demoralised, a cricket score can occur.....

.....but what if they don''t score?

Teams don''t score with every attack. The amount of time a player has the ball in his playing arc is small single-digit minutes during an entire game...so what of the other 85..?

Repeatedly on Saturday attractive moves broke down in the final third, the forward midfield three, plus the striker, had made fluid movements, good movements...then thrown their arms in frustration as a move almost came off...fine, well played lads I hear you cry....but..

...let''s do the maths...

...as in many other games his season our full backs played high to act as auxiliary midfielders, the central striker must stay high to act as a structural pivot, the 10 must join, link or even go beyond, a Murphy certainly needs to to maximise his pace...exciting I hear you cry!...but who does that leave on counter and what position are they typically in?

Anybody watching movements and positions off the ball, which any good coach does naturally and is not drawn to the ball or the immediate action, but rather what will, should or could happen in the next phase (o anche quello dopo magari)...

Jonny Howson made a welcome return, but he is not a pivot player. He is in constant motion and a classic box-to-box number 8, except that he doesn''t quite get into either box. Dorrans is a tidy player who doesn''t take up defensive positions out of possession.

Neither of these factors are massive criticisms unless or until they (dis)complement the three creative midfielders who have - very unluckily - just not quite scored and are not behind the ball defensively and are now not contributing much at all to our shape.

As we saw on Saturday - particularly in the first half - Brentford knew all this before the game started. We are no longer giving away state secrets.

They hit repeatedly flat diagonal balls, where Hogan spinning in behind had joy and the Brentford no19 - who I liked - caused us tactical problems coming off the line and feeding into the 10 space and at times overloading the sides of the centre backs, feeding off Hogan and half clearances.

When our full backs are high and our midfielders have nearly scored we are still highly vulnerable because what remains - at best - in a small narrow square block of 4 players, the two midfielders of whom rarely if ever maintain station in the crucial CDM pivot position which is fundamental to the way this 4231 should function.

The full backs can only play high when - at the least - a W defensive formation is created with the CDM acting as de-facto the auxiliary centre back in a 3 until either full backs are returned to station or danger is cleared.

We repeatedly leave this critical position unmanned. Neither Howson, nor Dorrans'' natural instincts are to protect and hold station here. Somebody must always autistically adhere to this space, even if - Tettey take particular note - somebody else must do doggy shuttles to close other spaces in central midfield.

In addition our centre backs must be able to move into wider 3/4 positions, half-full back positions we could call them. Ryan Bennett cannot - and does not do this - those 2D diagonals expose us time and again when he plays. Bassong tries to move into these areas (unlike Bennett), but looks uncomfortable, clumsy and ill-at-ease on the ball when he does so. If the full backs are not there, they are de-facto entrusted with this job, which doesn''t suit either of them.

Martin and Klose are better suited to the movement required, though neither are excellent at winning ugly Championship headers and tackles. I would argue however that it is a combination of the structure of the side, the make up of the personnel and the roles that they are being asked to perform, or not perform, that is more culpable for the defensive exposure than either Martin or Klose as individuals per se.

WestCoast Canary asked in a previous Masterclass what the weaknesses were and how the opposition would exploit them. I refrained from dissecting at that positive time.

Following a resounding, welcome and positive 5-0 win, now is the right time for the Manager and players to hold up that mirror and club confront those tactical demons.

Early goals, great skills and benevolent Gods ensured that ''being better'' was indeed the winning tactic on Saturday. It is an approach that even the Manchester City''s of this world find hard to enforce with their unlimited resources and potent tactical weapons. Leicester''s tactical anti-football (harsh, ''compact and counter-attacking'' - ed) confounded all of the elite and superior last year.

We are not giving away away trade secrets. Norwich''s opponents have long-since worked it all out.

The question is: has the manager and have the players?

Parma

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It''s a bit late asking if the manager has worked it out. We''ll probably be in league one by the time it dawns on him why we''re letting in hatfuls of goals.

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Very interesting reading again parma.

Out of interest what positions would you look to be strengthening this january. I have thought for a while now that we needed a proper DM but do we need two or do you think Thompson could play that role.

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A great read as always Parma, I see you as the Michael Cox of the Pinkun. The Christmas period will go a long way to answering the questions you pose here. Hopefully our ''superior'' squad will pay dividends as ''weaker'' squads lose players to injuries and suspensions. Thanks again Parma.

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Looking forward to Louis Thompson being fit again and think it will be interesting to see how he would play alongside Howson.

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Excellent Parma. Reads to me that you feel none of the four centre halves we play suit AN''s preferred system. Begs the question why we haven''t trained them properly to do the job or replaced (some of) them.

Or change the system?

Agree CDM issue needs addressing and, as with others, wonder how Thompson next to Howson might look. But we''d still need cover in this area - maybe rebalance the squad in January and look for a Tettey upgrade. Then back to the whiteboard and speak really slowly to the centre back four, who appear to have struggled to comprehend what''s required of them.

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Thats stones is went for c£50m in the summer shows just how few ball playing CBs there are about - replacing them is great but who with; the best suggestion on here seem to be tom lees or lewis dunk - and are they better than we have?

As for coaching improvements into the likes of bennett, martin & Bassong its hard to see why neil could when a messiah, defensive minded manager and the players friend in the previous managers were unable too; perhaps they are simply too one dimensional and incapable of change?

Lewis thompson and a returning to form tettey (if he can) should last the season, giving ricky martin until the summer for his team to find the next kante.

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As with the schizophrenic results, I think that the reasons for the inconsistencies in the performances of the squad is more to do with the way the formation is played, the natural tendencies of the players and whether their particular skills are suited to the particular roles they are either a: asked to play or b: de-facto forced to play because of the way the game / formation shape / pattern of play in matches actually plays out.

Masterclass 7 was a good template for tactical analysis and indicates why certain positions on the field - in basic terms fixed pivot locations that somebody must stand in almost regardless of game situation - are essential and cause structural issues if not properly covered and respected.

The 4231 is not a de-facto bad formation, though certain elements of it require certain kinds of players and movements. Some of these are clear themes such as the no9 pivot needing to stay high to create the space for the 3 to operate. If the central one of the 3 players is a deep-lying 10 like Wes then you do not have pace penetration in behind your 9. If you do not have a pacy, penetrative 10 then this function must come from the wider players in the 3. If the wider players provide pace beyond your 9 and your full backs play high, who covers the 3/4 space between centre back and full back that you have inevitably exposed? Not only have you exposed this space, but it doesn''t demand an especially accurate pass or clever player to execute it.

We are not trying to be wise after the event or even eliminate every conceivable goal situation against us, but this is a clear and present tactical flaw in our armoury. It doesn''t take a Leicester 2015-16 to sit a compact 8 with a busy 10 and a rangy 9 to wait for such opportunities to create easy turnover and counter chances against us.

Our defensive weakness is because of our attacking formation.

Attack is not the best form of defence. Sometimes you attack and sometimes you defend and sometimes you play in neutral. When you attack you are mindful of your defensive shape and when you are defending you are alert to counter-attacking opportunities. When in neutral you play lower risk, passive possession football and probe for weaknesses in the opposition from a compact shape with spaces between the lines reduced to a minimum.

Spaces between the lines defensively might well be covered more elegantly (on our Pink''un word-visual whiteboard) via 4321. I feel that this definition might be a little clearer to our players and mentally establish roles more clearly.

When playing fluid football - as Norwich endeavour to do - it is more important where you move to (or finish), as opposed to where you start from.

This amendment to 4321 ensures that there is a clear central CDM who retains that shape regardless. Tettey may start in such a position, but his puppy-ball-chasing tendencies, whilst busy and worthy, do not always help us tactically. He is not capable of a Carrick-style generalissimo no6 role as his district job is too weak, nor is he disciplined enough to play the Makalele no6 crab-shield that I would like to see us employ. Thompson may well grow into this role and Inwould happily see him tried, he shows diligence and a stricter adherence to his duties, which I like.

Howson playing a roaming 8 ahead and slightly flanking the deep 6, with even Dorrans offering close, narrow passing options from the other side is quite fine for me also.

This more compact structsure allows for the higher full backs and offers the necessary protection to the centre backs, whilst naturally shutting more spaces between the lines.

Caveat: both full backs pushingbhigh aggressively at the same time will still offer an easy diagonal which will trouble the centre backs. For this reason I would prefer players such as Martin and Ilose who move into 3/4 full back areas more comfortable. Both of these players also distribute the ball far, far better than Bennett or Bassong, plus they release the ball far quicker after receipt, a key skill for centre backs in a fluid formation (and keepers too Ruddy take note). On Saturday Bennett repeatedly had acres of time on the hall and used it all for himself, mostly to steady himself, check for danger, read a pass and play a pass. This looks ok, but a bit laboured to fans, who forgive or overlook it if and when he wins a few meaty headers it tackles. What coaches see is that cleverer midfield players worked hard, made a sharp 5 yard burst to create a small amount of space to receive the ball. They didn''t get it because Bennet hadn''t completed his processes yet. When he is ready, the opposition had read and covered the move. Fans then look up and things look static. Martin''s extra half second is crucial here and may not be recognised or respected.

Norwich have overloaded resources on the advanced 3 of the midfield, though conversely it is the relative lack of defensive nous on turnover from these players that may cause some of the issues we regularly see when the team concedes.

It would be somewhat ironic and frustrating if the majority of our relatively meagre resources were spent overloading the squad with players who cannot all be played simultaneously and conversely contribute to our repeating weaknesses.

It may be that our over-reliance on Wes for multiple years has also contributed to us over-solving the problem via Naismith, Canos, Pritchard and still retaining Wes. All good players, but not diligent defensively and not all blessed with pace to go beyond our hard-working no9.

The irony may be that in terms of our revised 4321 with added Italian defensive structure, that the best fit for the advanced 2, whinshould naturally be capable of splitting into wider areas and stretching defenders, having pace to go beyond our pivot 9 - and even the absolute to shoot from distance when confronted with massed rank defences - have been with us for years and cost us nothing. It would appear to me that if I was an opposition manager that the fluidity, pace and intuition of the Murphy twins playing as a 2 behind a pivot 9 would give me real tactical problems.

Unfortunately I just benched £25m worth of no10 investment that is now not really suited or necessary. It raises legimate questions about the synchronisation of tactics, manager, football board and joined-up investment.

Oh.

And I''d like £12.5m to go and get Afobe who is the right kind of no9 for the formation and shape please.

Thanks.

Parma

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Great stuff as ever Parma. You are a star.
From my vantage point in the blankets I get to see the centre halfs split and full backs bomb on. The simplest way to notice is when our keeper has the ball. In days gone by we''d see the keeper roll the ball to the full backs and the attacks would build. But the modern way is for the centre backs to receive the ball from the keeper but in full back positions. Then as we build the full backs are already in attacking positions. I worry when teams press with high tensity. Obviously if they lose the ball we''re in trouble but also if they clear hurriedly and the opposition intercept we are also in trouble. The plus side is to have Pinto and Brady already placed to do damage.

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Fascinating, Parma. If I have understood, there are some basic problems. One is that the formation is arguably too attacking and/or that we are trying to fit players into roles for which they are not necesarily suited.But that is exacerbated by players who are meant to be mitigating that emphasis on attack being tactically undisciplined and not fulfilling their defensive duties. Growing up when Italian league football was the undoubted pinnacle, one notable feature was that players were tactically disciplined, almost to a fault. If you told a midfielder to sit in front of the back four that is what they would do, even if it wasn''t their "natural" game.If Herrera at Inter, for example, instructed a player to play in a certain fashion, that is how they would play. Is it that managers in the English game are less tactically demanding, or that players simply ignore instructions, or lack the mentality to follow them?

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Purple,

Roy Hodgson said a great deal, saying very little, in response to (almost) that very question in relation to England. The self-deprecation conceals the real meaning:

''One of the things I''ve learned in the last two years was overestimating players'' understanding of exactly what you want''

This is precisely why I advocate a close analysis and deep understanding of your players natural tendencies. This is what they will revert to under pressure, not what you may feel as a coach you have instructed them to do.

Thus I work with players who already have the natural inclinations I am looking for in the role I want them to perform. This might involve them playing in unfamiliar areas of the field or playing players that are not necessarily the best players, rather they are the best suited for what I require them to do.

I also ensure that what I ask them to do in the role they must perform is complementary to their natural instincts. The formation must suit the players and vice versa. It is in no way simply picking your best 11 players.

I want pace in certain areas, I want dogged, unswerving diligence in certain areas and I want calm, geometric heads in others. There are certain roles on the field where there can be no compromise, I must know what I''m going to get.

I love fluidity in the forward areas, but it is not cost free and it is not possible across all positions all of the time.

Fluidity also requires high intelligence, which is what Hodgson is referring to.

Italians do not dream of fluidity in defence or even in much of the midfield. Abandoning formal structure would be considered football suicide. Italian players tend to be tactically informed and still they don''t do much of what Norwich are repeatedly doing.

I have played with Dutch players and coaches with multi-position fluidity. They could make the current system work.

They just did not remind me of stereotypical British footballers.

They wouldn''t just understand the Masterclasses and be able to implement them, they could write them and improve on them.

I''m afraid the future of British football must be in the classrooms, not on the muddied parks.

Parma

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The thing is parma can you actually see Alex changing his formation. We have had the problem that you have described perfectly all season and it is obvious that we have been found out but Alex just keeps doing the same thing.

I was kind of hoping that a rebalancing in january would sort the problem but after reading that I am not so sure now.

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I''m afraid that OP sounds like a Babelfish translation"and even the absolute to shoot from distance when confronted with massed rank defences ""to sit a compact 8 with a busy 10 and a rangy 9 to wait for such

opportunities to create easy turnover and counter chances against us.

"

"Bennett repeatedly had acres of time on the hall and used it all for

himself, mostly to steady himself, check for danger, read a pass and

play a pass."
I''m not sure what acres of time are, or whether you mean Bennett didn''t move the ball quick enough

"When you attack you are mindful of your defensive shape"
eh ? a player breaks free and heads for goal ... the last thing on his mind is the defensive shape behind him

"in basic terms fixed pivot locations that somebody must stand in almost

regardless of game situation - are essential and cause structural

issues if not properly covered and respected "
not sure what structures are being issued or what earth it actually is supposed to mean, nor I suspect do you

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Indeed Bagster.

When Westie asked for such an analysis much earlier in the season I declined, but it would have been more-or-less word-for-word what we have outlined here at that time also.

It is precisely when you have superior players that you don''t need to gamble on extreme tactics.

I would argue that in that contextually there is /was more logic in Hughton''s defensive approach in 2014 - when something out of the tactically ordinary might be argued to have been necessary to make up our playing resources shortfall - than the current over-attacking hubris that sees us blindly and blithely ignore tactical defensive flaws with comparatively superior playing resources to almost all others.

Oxymoronically I suspect we would score as many or more - and concede far less - via less overt attacking.

There is a Shakespearean ''methinks he doth protest too much'' about our breathless, endless -and sometimes mindless - commitment to eternal attack.

We are good. We do have good players. No need to ''go on'' about it as we say in Norfolk.

Parma

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Parma:

“Why can we win handsomely on Saturday, lose 5 games on the spin previously and yet win 7 out of the previous 8?....what specific factors link these seemingly contradictory statistics?...

Firstly we are trying to be too good.”

Or maybe the teams we beat just weren’t very good. And we didn’t win 7 out of 8.

The previous 8:

Fulham (a) now 10th 2-2

Rotherham (h) now 24th won 3-1

Wolves (a) now 20th won 2-1

Newcastle (a) top lost 4-3

Burton (h) now 19th won 3-1

Nottm F (a) now 13th won 2-1

Wigan (h) now 23rd won 2-1

Cardiff City (h) now 22nd won 3-2

That’s 5 wins against teams now in the bottom 6.

No wonder we beat Brentford the current 7th from bottom.

We didn’t have to try to be too good against any of them, we just were (although sometimes not by much).

It’s hardly contradictory that we lost to:

Preston 14th (good manager who did suss us out)

Brighton 2nd

Leeds 4th

QPR 17th (new manager, player sent off),

Derby 9th.

We should have tried harder to be too good against them.

In the 5 games it was goals for 3, against 11 and only in the Preston game did we have more shots on target than the opposition.

Not many contradictory stats there.

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"Jonny Howson made a welcome return, but he is not a pivot player. He is

in constant motion and a classic box-to-box number 8, except that he

doesn''t quite get into either box."who is this setting up Redmonds goal Howsonor his goal in the first leg

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[quote user="Dan Dare"]"Jonny Howson made a welcome return, but he is not a pivot player. He is

in constant motion and a classic box-to-box number 8, except that he

doesn''t quite get into either box."who is this setting up Redmonds goal Howsonor his goal in the first leg[/quote]You are trying to refute a description of Howson''s characteristic play by referring us to a couple of examples where he actually did what he might be expected to do regularly game after game. Doesn''t wash. I suggest you look at Howson''s heatmaps every time he plays to see whether they bear Parma out, not simply cite the odd exception.  

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Heatmaps, what a pile of steaming horse sh  itRuddy he was crap on Saturday, he hardly made a save at allAs to Howson what he is supposed to do is play football, not make fu  cking appearances all over the grass like the queen at a garden partyyou haven''t a clue

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[quote user="Parma Hams gone mouldy"]Purple,

Roy Hodgson said a great deal, saying very little, in response to (almost) that very question in relation to England. The self-deprecation conceals the real meaning:

''One of the things I''ve learned in the last two years was overestimating players'' understanding of exactly what you want''

This is precisely why I advocate a close analysis and deep understanding of your players natural tendencies. This is what they will revert to under pressure, not what you may feel as a coach you have instructed them to do.

Thus I work with players who already have the natural inclinations I am looking for in the role I want them to perform. This might involve them playing in unfamiliar areas of the field or playing players that are not necessarily the best players, rather they are the best suited for what I require them to do.

I also ensure that what I ask them to do in the role they must perform is complementary to their natural instincts. The formation must suit the players and vice versa. It is in no way simply picking your best 11 players.

I want pace in certain areas, I want dogged, unswerving diligence in certain areas and I want calm, geometric heads in others. There are certain roles on the field where there can be no compromise, I must know what I''m going to get.

I love fluidity in the forward areas, but it is not cost free and it is not possible across all positions all of the time.

Fluidity also requires high intelligence, which is what Hodgson is referring to.

Italians do not dream of fluidity in defence or even in much of the midfield. Abandoning formal structure would be considered football suicide. Italian players tend to be tactically informed and still they don''t do much of what Norwich are repeatedly doing.

I have played with Dutch players and coaches with multi-position fluidity. They could make the current system work.

They just did not remind me of stereotypical British footballers.

They wouldn''t just understand the Masterclasses and be able to implement them, they could write them and improve on them.

I''m afraid the future of British football must be in the classrooms, not on the muddied parks.

Parma[/quote]Thanks, Parma. A pithy quote from Hodgson. As to the last line, the only trouble is I have been reading that same solution for (and this is not an exaggeration) quite a few decades!

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[quote user="Curious Canary"]Parma:

“Why can we win handsomely on Saturday, lose 5 games on the spin previously and yet win 7 out of the previous 8?....what specific factors link these seemingly contradictory statistics?...

Firstly we are trying to be too good.”

Or maybe the teams we beat just weren’t very good. And we didn’t win 7 out of 8.

The previous 8:

Fulham (a) now 10th 2-2

Rotherham (h) now 24th won 3-1

Wolves (a) now 20th won 2-1

Newcastle (a) top lost 4-3

Burton (h) now 19th won 3-1

Nottm F (a) now 13th won 2-1

Wigan (h) now 23rd won 2-1

Cardiff City (h) now 22nd won 3-2

That’s 5 wins against teams now in the bottom 6.

No wonder we beat Brentford the current 7th from bottom.

We didn’t have to try to be too good against any of them, we just were (although sometimes not by much).

It’s hardly contradictory that we lost to:

Preston 14th (good manager who did suss us out)

Brighton 2nd

Leeds 4th

QPR 17th (new manager, player sent off),

Derby 9th.

We should have tried harder to be too good against them.

In the 5 games it was goals for 3, against 11 and only in the Preston game did we have more shots on target than the opposition.

Not many contradictory stats there.[/quote]

Alarming stats. We haven''t beat a decent side, or a side on form all season.

I fear the Brentford result is merely a case of papering over the cracks.

We have some fantastic talent in this squad, but as a whole the squad suffers from weaknesses in key areas such as CB and CDM. Whilst Howson and Dorrans are very decent footballers, they are not true CDMs, and as such don''t fulfill the role in the way it should be carried out. having said that, they are the best players we have in that position. Possibly Thompson next to Howson would be better. But i like the way Dorrans uses the football.

I think both Dorrans and Howson would operate better in a flat four or a diamond.

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Fuzzar,

It is reasonable to assume that a number of players will be on the open market for the right price in January. This may alleviate some financial pressures, though it may not necessarily weaken us for the task at hand.

Klose is a player designed for a higher level. He is not especially suited for the Championship and commands high wages, whilst retaining a decent resale value.

Brady has received material interest from multiple top level clubs and it may have been a mistake - both for the club and his career progression- to have over-played our hand in price negotiations.. £15m is a fair price if cash terms are good and some churn is a good idea upon relegation. New players can help catalyse the firebreak necessary to separate from the negative recent past. Olsson may stay longer if Brady leaves and Toffolo deserves a chance as a Champs back up.

Naismith should suit Norwich well. He can play multiple positions, has some top level movement and processes, whilst ostensibly having the mindset to succeed in any context. It is unclear in any case whether any top level deal could be constructued that avoids significant loss being concretised on Norwich''s side.

Squad-wise Lafferty can and should move on. Tettey can play anywhere across our new 3 shield, though may not take kindly to not being an automatic choice in the second tier.

Canos could back up a Murphy, I would like to see Josh tried occasionally as a no9 when a good opportunity arises (he moved into that area vs Brentford interestingly), Pritchard is a good enough footballer to develop into one of the roles either side of the CDM or even in a pivoted 1-2 forward line with Pritchard in the hole and the Murphy''s in a front 2 in due course. That could be interesting to try as an inverted forward triangle.

The £20m or so that could easily be returned in January (plus the more significant pcm savings in wages and their full contractual liabilities) may well have to be predominantly retained.

Afobe would be a wonderful option, but there is a perfectly reasonable hypothesis that we have a big enough squad already.

Parma

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I think there will be a chance that we could let Klose and Brady go this january. I would also let Naismith go even if it entails a loss, lets face it we overpaid and our best chance to get something back will be the january sales. We can then bring back Maddison.

I would also like to see Laferty and Tettey moved on.

We will need to replace Tettey though.

I do agree with your formation with the three shield and your front three options are very interesting and would suit what we have.

The issue is that I don''t think Alex is likely to change it and he will carry on in the same manner.

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Bagster,

The required characteristics of the deep-lying midfield pivot are quite particular. Whilst an aggressive strong tackler is an obvious skill, it is my view that the player needs two fast feet and an ability to remain cool in small spaces.

The personality and psychology of the player then becomes relevant because there is something of a paradox in the requirements to be both aggressive and cool-headed.

The pivotal nature of the position inevitably means that the ball is attracted to this area, plus it''s an obvious out-ball for the centre backs to use. Thus the player need not be able to hit long, raking passes or be able to shoot (always welcome of course), be cool in front of goal or have pace over mid distances.

Two fast feet, a lightness and swiftness of movement, a snappy aggressive approach to tackling, with an ability to hit - relatively simple - 5 yard passes quickly. The spatial ability to process scenarios quickly and to release the the ball in as short a timeframe possible after receiving it is key. Knowing what you''re going to do before you receive the ball is essential. Ball retention needs to be near to 100%. Creativity not required. Any loss of possession in this role can be fatal.

At the highest level you might be able to convert a marvellous player like Michael Carrick to the role, because his passing is so exceptional and his mind so crystal clear. That isn''t Tettey.

The role very often demands a player that has the intelligence not to move. To know when to stand still and retain shape. To withhold any attacking instincts, to take simple passing options. In an ideal world others in midfield should be shutting down opposition players in possession. Tettey runs about too much when he should stand still or shout at someone else to do it.

In the 4231 played the current way, the 2 are often left exposed by the relentless attacking forays of the 3. When coupled with high full backs and - say - Howson driving forward to link the attacking play Wes, Tettey is isolated and the sides of the centre backs are exposed. He tends - in an admittedly imperfect defensive situation - to burst towards the ball to try and win it. This leaves the centre backs further exposed.

A better - and safer - passer is certainly required in the key pivot role, but the way the 4231 formation is currently played will need to be modified to achieve more defensive stability (or the formation changed).

Improving or exchanging players themselves is both unlikely financially and rather unnecessary as it is unlikely to make a massive difference when such tactical defensive weaknesses exist in the way that the formation is currently operated.

Parma

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The performance against Everton was a good one for sure but hardly their first team or ours for that matter.

I think our performances illustrate exactly what parma is saying with the better sides able to see our weaknesses and able to exploit them.

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Thanks Parma, always enjoy your posts.

Perhaps more simplistic - but where you say the way we play 4-2-3-1 will need to be modified - is it not more down to personnel? We already accept that Dorrans and Howson - whilst their use of the ball is very effective etc, are hardly ball-winning midfielders (although Howson does get stuck in more than is noticed I think), whilst on top of that the 3 attacking players we play behind the striker don''t tend to be the best defensively, they''ll certainly try but when we''ve had players like Hoolahan Pritchard and Jacob as an attacking 3 they hardly have the physicality or the tackling ability.

Also, whilst I like your description of the deep-lying midfield pivot your requirements are high - to the point I don''t think you''ll find one in this league!

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Hogie,

The ovverriding tone of this Masterclass is that it is the way the formation is de-facto operated during games - as described in some detail - that is the significant contributory factor to the inconsistent form and stark stats as outlined here.

Better sides can exploit the tactical flaws in the system, without having to anything sufficiently strategically clever. Weaker sides are overrun as they would be.

It is not unlike England''s flat-track bully history of swamping small qualifying nations only to be found out by tactically and intellectually superior sides at International level. Too much attacking is great for the Sun, but you need to look in the mirror and ask whether it really consistently works at higher levels.

Simply changing personnel - even assuming you could afford, find and attract better - would only improve things marginally if the underlying tactical flaws are not addressed as outlined earlier.

Parma

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