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PLM and the chance to go back to 4-2-3-1

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Not really been mentioned in other posts but I thought PLM had a really good game yesterday, probably most consistent 90 mins since joining.

What I find most pleasing about that is that it has given me hope that him alongside Normann are strong enough for us to play a central 2 and then have 3 hard working but more attack minded players in front (take your pick from cantwell, Rashica, Tzolis, Gilmour, Dowell, Sargent).

Probably not against the top sides but games we really should be going for a win (in normal circumstances that would be Brighton but I was happy with the continued cautious approach yesterday given our woeful start and their impressive start)

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We could still do that but maintain the 3 the the back to keep it tight...

               Krul

   Kabak  Hanley  Gibson

Aarons   Normann L-Melou Giannolis

     Sargent   Pukki    Rashica

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Neither are Dms that will just sit in front of the back 4 and with the attributes they have, we wouldn’t want them to do that.

Normann was fantastic yesterday and was everywhere (no surprise he cramped up and couldn’t last the 90). Disciplined when we were set as a 5-3-2 but also pressing them high before transition and played some lovely balls over the top to the strikers. One cross field ball to Aaron’s in the second half really was another level. Not a DM in front of a back 4.

PLM, I agree had his best game and has a knack of getting his long dangly legs to the ball to knick the ball off the opposition. Made a few mistakes but was always eager to rectify and was full of running. Supported the attack well and will be useful around the penalty area. Not a DM in front of a back 4.

What the 3 at the back gave was the extra cover whilst also allowing one of them to step out of defence at times knowing the other 2 are there (and also at least one of Normann/McLean/PLM).

Something else that I don’t think has been mentioned enough about yesterday is how good Kabak looks with the ball and stepping out of defence. This happened on enough occasions to clearly be a coached game plan and I look forward to seeing more of it. It shows there are attacking plans and intent and that the formation is not simply about defence.

Playing a back 4 caused all sorts of problems on the flanks (particularly our left side) which became all too easy for the opposition to exploit (Woeful Watford knew how to beat us). The 2 sitting wouldn’t solve that. The solution would have to be that the full backs sit deeper which in turn stifles attacks. We have found a workable solution to that problem whilst hinting at some joy in attack. I know I’m in the minority but there were a lot of positives yesterday and am happy to see the formation continue. The defence is as sorted as it can be (with more training and playing together only going to further help) so now the focus can be more on how we counter and attack to get some goals.

 

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15 minutes ago, Fiery Zac said:

We have found a workable solution to that problem whilst hinting at some joy in attack. I know I’m in the minority but there were a lot of positives yesterday and am happy to see the formation continue. The defence is as sorted as it can be (with more training and playing together only going to further help) so now the focus can be more on how we counter and attack to get some goals.

Agree with this FZ. It feels as if Farke has been to trying to deal with a specific issue (defence of course) and getting that solid and will graduate the playing 'dynamics' of our midfield and attack. It is as if he is starting the season now in earnest (having had virtually a new team to integrate following such a truncated pre-season).  I believe his comments yesterday on Dowell (in relation to the Cantwell question) give us a little glimpse. We might be seeing more of him. I'm expecting too to see more of Gilmour and maybe Sargent more interchangable with Rashica or Tzolis soon. Interesting times and luckily, despite our start we are still within touching distance of safer ground.

It makes for quite a fascinating campaign actually as we see a coach under such pressure try and navigate out of it. Whether we are depressed about our start or not (of course we all are) it still holds a lot of interest, We actually are watching an emergence of strategy and the coaching taking place.

As supporters it's still important to have patience and perspective. Yesterday we watched a very expensive Man Utd team lose 4-2 and a Watford team absolutely steamrollered by Liverpool. Then we saw how a team coached by the 'god' that is Bielsa really struggle against a lowly Southampton team. There remains much room for hope and some green shoots.

Edited by sonyc
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2 minutes ago, Tetteys Jig said:

problem is you can play 5 at the back, 3 defensive mids and expect to win games

5 at the back without the ball reverted to 3 at the back in transition.
 

Whilst it can be argued we erred more on the side of caution, watch the game back and we did play 5 to 3 at the back well. It is NOT a defensive formation when executed properly. What we’re seeing is the early stages of it and some good promise for games to come.

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2 minutes ago, sonyc said:

Agree with this FZ. It feels as if Farke has been to trying to deal with a specific issue (defence of course) and getting that solid and will graduate the playing 'dynamics' of our midfield and attack. It is as if he is starting the season now in earnest (having had virtually a new team to integrate following such a truncated pre-season).  I believe his comments yesterday on Dowell (in relation to the Cantwell question) give us a little glimpse. We might be seeing more of him. I'm expecting too to see more of Gilmour and maybe Sargent more interchangable with Rashica or Tzolis soon. Interesting times and luckily, despite our start we are still within touching distance of safer ground.

It makes for quite a fascinating campaign actually as we see a coach under such pressure try and navigate out of it. Whether we are depressed about our start or not (of course we all are) it still holds a lot of interest, We actually are watching an emergence of strategy and the coaching taking place.

As supporters it's still important to have patience and perspective. Yesterday we watched a very expensive Man Utd team lose 4-2 and a Watford team absolutely steamrollered by Liverpool. Then we saw how the 'god' that is Bielsa really struggle against a lowly Southampton team. There remains much room for hope and some green shoots.

Out of likes but excellent post. Glad I’m not alone in seeing the positives and some excitement for the future.

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25 minutes ago, Fiery Zac said:

Neither are Dms that will just sit in front of the back 4 and with the attributes they have, we wouldn’t want them to do that.

Normann was fantastic yesterday and was everywhere (no surprise he cramped up and couldn’t last the 90). Disciplined when we were set as a 5-3-2 but also pressing them high before transition and played some lovely balls over the top to the strikers. One cross field ball to Aaron’s in the second half really was another level. Not a DM in front of a back 4.

PLM, I agree had his best game and has a knack of getting his long dangly legs to the ball to knick the ball off the opposition. Made a few mistakes but was always eager to rectify and was full of running. Supported the attack well and will be useful around the penalty area. Not a DM in front of a back 4.

What the 3 at the back gave was the extra cover whilst also allowing one of them to step out of defence at times knowing the other 2 are there (and also at least one of Normann/McLean/PLM).

Something else that I don’t think has been mentioned enough about yesterday is how good Kabak looks with the ball and stepping out of defence. This happened on enough occasions to clearly be a coached game plan and I look forward to seeing more of it. It shows there are attacking plans and intent and that the formation is not simply about defence.

Playing a back 4 caused all sorts of problems on the flanks (particularly our left side) which became all too easy for the opposition to exploit (Woeful Watford knew how to beat us). The 2 sitting wouldn’t solve that. The solution would have to be that the full backs sit deeper which in turn stifles attacks. We have found a workable solution to that problem whilst hinting at some joy in attack. I know I’m in the minority but there were a lot of positives yesterday and am happy to see the formation continue. The defence is as sorted as it can be (with more training and playing together only going to further help) so now the focus can be more on how we counter and attack to get some goals.

 

Perhaps with 3 CBs we don't need a specialist DM?

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8 minutes ago, ron obvious said:

Perhaps with 3 CBs we don't need a specialist DM?

Exactly. That’s the point I’m making, I thought that was clear.

3 at the back suits the midfielders we have. 

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The formation worked yesterday. It wasn't because we were playing 5-3-2 (which is what it is really) that Sargent missed his sitter and his one on one, or why Pukki wasted a few chances, or why Rashica failed to play a straightforward pass to Idah to score.

What we played yesterday kept a clean sheet and created enough chances to win 3 games. It was slack finishing that ruined it, nothing else.

But I agree PLM was great yesterday, apart from his balls into the box; they were catching practice for their keeper.

Edited by canarydan23

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I do agree system worked well yesterday. Most notable second half where I think the key difference is that Kabak was excellent at covering Max and that allowed him to push forward. Interestingly on other side I thought Gibson was poor covering Dimitris. That didn’t stop Dimi bursting forward but we were far more susceptible to the counter on that side

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I totally agree with the OP and couldn't disagree more with @Fiery Zac.

The defensive issues in the wide areas were entirely caused by the switch to 4-3-3. Without a number 10, the wide attacking midfielders were too high up the pitch and failed to offer sufficient cover. 

The midfield 3 were all over the place and frequently caught out of position. The fullbacks were exposed by the shambolic midfield.

People keep telling me that the 4-2-3-1 is too open without any actual evidence because we've never actually seen it in the Premier League. The evidence from last season was that the pair of defensive midfielders gave us a really solid spine. Abandoning this is a significant factor in our recent defensive frailties.

Players don't generally have only one position they can play in. Midfielders in particular tend to be quit versatile. Saying that someone who plays central midfield couldn't play in defensive midfield is frankly nonsense.

The whole point of the double pivot is that those two CDMs remain disciplined positionally to afford freedom to the rest of the midfield. Rather than having Kabak occasionally stepping forward with the ball, you occasionally have PLM dropping between the centre backs. It's still defensively sound.

Without a number 10 there simply isn't the threat. Two strikers hunting for scraps and chasing long balls isn't really a plan.

All the times Aarons and Giannoulis burst forward yesterday only to produce nothing highlights the need for the attacking midfielders. Imagine if that was Rashica and Tzolis with Sargent at number 10 behind Pukki.

The two CDMs would afford us the opportunity to get our attacking players onto the pitch. Instead we've got McLean running around fairly aimlessly and an extra centre back to compensate for the lack of discipline in midfield.

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PLM has probably been our best midfielder overall this season. He covered a lot of ground and stopped a lot of counters yesterday.

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1 hour ago, Tetteys Jig said:

problem is you can play 5 at the back, 3 defensive mids and expect to win games

It doesn’t have to be seen as 5 at the back.  
Kabak is stepping into midfield. Aarons and Dimi flying up the wings.  It’s a flexible approach which also enables us to stifle the oppo when under the cosh.  It’s a work in progress but I saw some good signs yesterday.  We need to stick at it. 

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1 hour ago, Tetteys Jig said:

problem is you can play 5 at the back, 3 defensive mids and expect to win games

Sorensen might be a defensive midfielder (I don't think so at this level) but the 3 playing in the team certainly aren't.

 

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32 minutes ago, Petriix said:

People keep telling me that the 4-2-3-1 is too open without any actual evidence because we've never actually seen it in the Premier League.

Weren’t we playing 4-2-3-1 while being repeatedly spanked last season in the Prem?

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19 minutes ago, Monty13 said:

Weren’t we playing 4-2-3-1 while being repeatedly spanked last season in the Prem?

We adapted it significantly last season. In 19/20 it was more like a 4-1-3-1-1 with a single CDM and a very attacking number 10. In 20/21 we played with two solid CDMs for the first time.

No one is advocating returning to the system from two years ago.

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44 minutes ago, Petriix said:

I totally agree with the OP and couldn't disagree more with @Fiery Zac.

The defensive issues in the wide areas were entirely caused by the switch to 4-3-3. Without a number 10, the wide attacking midfielders were too high up the pitch and failed to offer sufficient cover. 

The midfield 3 were all over the place and frequently caught out of position. The fullbacks were exposed by the shambolic midfield.

People keep telling me that the 4-2-3-1 is too open without any actual evidence because we've never actually seen it in the Premier League. The evidence from last season was that the pair of defensive midfielders gave us a really solid spine. Abandoning this is a significant factor in our recent defensive frailties.

Players don't generally have only one position they can play in. Midfielders in particular tend to be quit versatile. Saying that someone who plays central midfield couldn't play in defensive midfield is frankly nonsense.

The whole point of the double pivot is that those two CDMs remain disciplined positionally to afford freedom to the rest of the midfield. Rather than having Kabak occasionally stepping forward with the ball, you occasionally have PLM dropping between the centre backs. It's still defensively sound.

Without a number 10 there simply isn't the threat. Two strikers hunting for scraps and chasing long balls isn't really a plan.

All the times Aarons and Giannoulis burst forward yesterday only to produce nothing highlights the need for the attacking midfielders. Imagine if that was Rashica and Tzolis with Sargent at number 10 behind Pukki.

The two CDMs would afford us the opportunity to get our attacking players onto the pitch. Instead we've got McLean running around fairly aimlessly and an extra centre back to compensate for the lack of discipline in midfield.

We haven’t tried 4-2-3-1 in the PL except all the time when we last in the PL.

The problem I have debating with you is that you seem to think it’s all so black and white and it feels like you won’t concede you’re wrong about anything.

”The defensive issues in the wide areas were entirely caused by the switch to 4-3-3”. That’s simply not true, we had massive defensive issues last time in the PL and massive defensive issues in our first promotion season under Farke - when we played exclusively 4-2-3-1.

This was addressed last season and in the championship we had the players (Skipp) to play an effective system that allowed our full backs to get forward with adequate cover for the defence.

Farke has shown he learns from mistakes and this seasons changes are as a result of last time we were in the PL and the defensive issues we faced then. I’m not saying 4-2-3-1 can’t work, of course it can but do we have the players good enough to execute it and get way with sloppy mistakes? Are we a club able to get the players good enough? (Is Skipp good enough for the PL - Spurs fans and pundits I listen to say No, not yet).

You talk about width and the lack of it a 4-3-3. The full backs give us the width, it has always been the same under Farke. Buendia and Cantwell were allowed to play inside looking for this balls to Pukki and to support in attack. Ironically, for your argument, the no10 has always been the issue for us (particularly in the PL). Vrancic not suited to it, Stiepermann great in the championship but ineffective in the PL and others given a go (McLean, Leitner) but with  similarly poor results. The effective moves and through balls came from the full backs and Emi/Todd playing more centrally thus negating the need for an out and out no10. Our last truly effective and essential no10 was Wes.

“Players don't generally have only one position they can play in. Midfielders in particular tend to be quit versatile. Saying that someone who plays central midfield couldn't play in defensive midfield is frankly nonsense.” - disagree. It’s about discipline and the reading of the game. Tettey was fantastic at being in the right place at the right time, protecting the back 4. Trybull, although tried in that position was simply not as well suited to it. He liked to get forward more and just wasn’t as tactically aware.

PLM dropping into a back 4 where the full backs are more than likely still running back is not even comparable to a back 3 of actual defenders, and a back 5 in all likelihood unless caught on the counter. For the championship (or if we had a better overall standard of player) yes, with our style of play (like Brighton) in the PL, no.

Yesterday wasn’t the finished product (that so many seem to expect immediately) but was an indication of what’s to come. The huge positive is that those attacking players are ready and waiting to be added to what is now a solid defensive base. That’s exciting to me and not the negative that is all over this forum.

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11 minutes ago, Petriix said:

We adapted it significantly last season. In 19/20 it was more like a 4-1-3-1-1 with a single CDM and a very attacking number 10. In 20/21 we played with two solid CDMs for the first time.

No one is advocating returning to the system from two years ago.

Significantly adapted? I’m not sure I see any evidence of that.

We replaced an ageing Tettey with a younger more mobile Skipp. 

Other than that it was largely both the same system and players so I’m confused where you are coming from personally.

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10 minutes ago, Petriix said:

In 20/21 we played with two solid CDMs for the first time.

Not true. The double pivot of Tettey/Trybull had been tried and in the PL the majority of the time the two were Tettey and McLean who were not advanced at all. Also they are not two solid CDMs. Skipp yes but McLean/Rupp werent playing as an out and out CDM

Yes last season was a much more concentrated effort at being tough to break down but being in the championship with Skipp played a huge part in our success when comparing to what we need to do in the PL.

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2 minutes ago, Fiery Zac said:

We haven’t tried 4-2-3-1 in the PL except all the time when we last in the PL.

The problem I have debating with you is that you seem to think it’s all so black and white and it feels like you won’t concede you’re wrong about anything.

”The defensive issues in the wide areas were entirely caused by the switch to 4-3-3”. That’s simply not true, we had massive defensive issues last time in the PL and massive defensive issues in our first promotion season under Farke - when we played exclusively 4-2-3-1.

This was addressed last season and in the championship we had the players (Skipp) to play an effective system that allowed our full backs to get forward with adequate cover for the defence.

Farke has shown he learns from mistakes and this seasons changes are as a result of last time we were in the PL and the defensive issues we faced then. I’m not saying 4-2-3-1 can’t work, of course it can but do we have the players good enough to execute it and get way with sloppy mistakes? Are we a club able to get the players good enough? (Is Skipp good enough for the PL - Spurs fans and pundits I listen to say No, not yet).

You talk about width and the lack of it a 4-3-3. The full backs give us the width, it has always been the same under Farke. Buendia and Cantwell were allowed to play inside looking for this balls to Pukki and to support in attack. Ironically, for your argument, the no10 has always been the issue for us (particularly in the PL). Vrancic not suited to it, Stiepermann great in the championship but ineffective in the PL and others given a go (McLean, Leitner) but with  similarly poor results. The effective moves and through balls came from the full backs and Emi/Todd playing more centrally thus negating the need for an out and out no10. Our last truly effective and essential no10 was Wes.

“Players don't generally have only one position they can play in. Midfielders in particular tend to be quit versatile. Saying that someone who plays central midfield couldn't play in defensive midfield is frankly nonsense.” - disagree. It’s about discipline and the reading of the game. Tettey was fantastic at being in the right place at the right time, protecting the back 4. Trybull, although tried in that position was simply not as well suited to it. He liked to get forward more and just wasn’t as tactically aware.

PLM dropping into a back 4 where the full backs are more than likely still running back is not even comparable to a back 3 of actual defenders, and a back 5 in all likelihood unless caught on the counter. For the championship (or if we had a better overall standard of player) yes, with our style of play (like Brighton) in the PL, no.

Yesterday wasn’t the finished product (that so many seem to expect immediately) but was an indication of what’s to come. The huge positive is that those attacking players are ready and waiting to be added to what is now a solid defensive base. That’s exciting to me and not the negative that is all over this forum.

You're right. I am seeing it in a fairly black and white way. I'm obviously in the minority and clearly Farke sees it differently. 

I don't think you're in a position to say that I'm wrong though. At least not unless we actually tried the things I'm saying. I accept that I *might* be wrong. But I don't really see how I could be as wrong as conceding 16 goals, scoring two and getting just two points from eight games.

I may be putting too much emphasis on the changes to the system last season. Maybe it was all about Skipp and Buendia and the lower level of the opposition.

But we will likely never know. What we probably should have done is tried to keep our natural system initially, then looked at changing it if things didn't work. That way we'd have maintained our momentum and our confidence.

Dowell was excellent at number 10. His set pieces were really dangerous and he posed a real goal-threat. That's exactly what we're missing.

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2 minutes ago, Petriix said:

You're right. I am seeing it in a fairly black and white way. I'm obviously in the minority and clearly Farke sees it differently. 

I don't think you're in a position to say that I'm wrong though. At least not unless we actually tried the things I'm saying. I accept that I *might* be wrong. But I don't really see how I could be as wrong as conceding 16 goals, scoring two and getting just two points from eight games.

I may be putting too much emphasis on the changes to the system last season. Maybe it was all about Skipp and Buendia and the lower level of the opposition.

But we will likely never know. What we probably should have done is tried to keep our natural system initially, then looked at changing it if things didn't work. That way we'd have maintained our momentum and our confidence.

Dowell was excellent at number 10. His set pieces were really dangerous and he posed a real goal-threat. That's exactly what we're missing.

Thanks for the considered reply.

I think the changes were because of Farkes last disastrous experience in the PL. The argument could be made he’s overreacting but he’s wary of anything similar happening again. With the turnover of players (and losing Skipp particularly), continuing as we were just because it worked in the championship isn’t using the knowledge of our last season in the PL.

You’re right we may never know some of those things but on the evidence we do have, the 4-2-3-1 didn’t work in the PL with the no10 being the problem position. I don’t agree Dowell was excellent last season and therein lies the problem, an ok in the championship no10 is not going to solve our problems in the PL. Not creative enough and too slow. I agree set pieces would improve with him on them (though they couldn’t get any worse than yesterday). A back 4 didn’t work in the first few games as we had no out ball for our style of play. It could be argued a no10 would help with this but we’d still just be countered against on the wings. And mainly we don’t have an out and out DM and are adapting accordingly. Whether that’s because there wasn’t one for us to buy or Farke always wanted to change our approach in the PL is something else we’ll likely never know.

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The 4-2-3-1 didn't work in the Premier League last time and the 4-3-3 was even worse at the start of this. The 3-5-2 has shown signs of improvement and I don't think it would make much sense to revert to 4-2-3-1 in the short term. The three centre backs with two wingbacks in Aarons and Giannoulis suits our personnel better than a back four right now.

Obviously any formation can be used in a defensive manner or an attacking one depending on the personnel or the instructions they are given, but I've been banging the 'three centre backs with wing backs' drum for a long time and I still feel it's the best choice for us right now.

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Controversial comment to follow - 

Rashica will be introduced as a wing back to replace Aarons. Perhaps in Jan if Max leaves. In my opinion Aarons is just too small to play his position in this PL. 

Less controversial -

now that Norman and PLM have been successfully integrated, we’ll switch formation to a 5(3+2)-2 -1-2 with Dowell replacing McLean.

Edited by Surfer

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5 hours ago, Fiery Zac said:

Exactly. That’s the point I’m making, I thought that was clear.

3 at the back suits the midfielders we have. 

Apologies. i missed the import of the fourth paragraph

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5 hours ago, KeiranShikari said:

Sorensen might be a defensive midfielder (I don't think so at this level) but the 3 playing in the team certainly aren't.

 

Well they aren't attacking mids... how many goals and assists have they had recently? We need a traditional attacking mid in there of some sort to break the lines. We currently play 8 men behind the ball and then feed scraps to the 2 up top. It's unambitious, making up the numbers type football.

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@sonyc You mentioned Farke’s comments about Dowell - I can’t find what he said? I’m curious whether he’s going to get a shot as IMHO he’s looked good when he has played and god knows we could do with his set pieces. Having said that I realise he’s not (yet at least) a complete player, has only appeared in cup games and I’m probably getting Becchio syndrome.

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It's a tricky one (as always) to get the balance right across the pitch. 3 CBs with Normann in front has certainly made us harder to break down and imo plays to the strengths of Aarons & Dimi. PLM is starting to look more settled. McLean does a bit of everything to a decent standard. Hopefully it's a work in progress and we'll see the benefits up top soon, but we are lacking a bit of punch/confidence/ability...in the "final furd."  

Sargent has his attributes but there isn't a lot of evidence (so far) that he will get near the 10 or so goals we need from him over the season as the main forward in support to scrape into 17th position. Rashica hasn't threatened too much either just yet. We might see more of Dowell soon if we can keep the back door shut, but I'm not sure he offers enough against the ball. We may well see plenty of Tzolis as the season develops. It's difficult to see how Gilmour will fit in in this current formation. Hopefully Cantwell will start to force the issue soon and chip in with some goals & assists. Idah looks every bit the Championship journeyman. Pukki is a known quantity this time around. At this point it is hard to see where the goals are going to come from. 

DF has pragmatically made us harder to break down which was the correct thing to do and he deserves credit for achieving it. Chance creation improved yesterday. The conundrum now is to start taking the chances that come, not to concede first, stay competitive around the middle & keep it tight at the back! Easy! 😁

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If I had my way I’d go back to 4231 as soon as we’ve built up some confidence. Especially at home and revert to 532 away from home.
 

We need to be a threat to the opposition or we’re done for again. 
I’d drop Gibson, Kenny & Josh and play the following:

Krul

Max, Kabak, Hanley, Dimi

PLM, Normann

Tzolis, Gilmore, Rachica 

Pukki

 

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When DF won his first championship 3 at the back was used as an attacking ploy. Extra CB more advanced FBs Rhodes on Aaron’s cross GOAL! Job done!

Re Dowell, we need to remember that a whole season was wrecked by that late tackle. He was excellent against Bournemouth but there are some questions against the ball. Given DF’s sparing use of him then perhaps he is still in recovery mode.

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