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Daniel Brigham

It's time to ditch 4-4-2 (latest blog)

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No one should be getting worried yet, but it''s time for Neil Adams to learn from his 4-4-2 mistakes. By Daniel BrighamThere’s a brilliant scene in Woody Allen’s Annie Hall that often comes to mind when watching post-match interviews with football managers.The

two main characters, Annie and Alvy, are in the embryonic stages of a

relationship. Stood on a balcony, they talk uncomfortably about

photography while, in subtitles, the audience gets to read what they’re

really thinking.Whenever Arsene Wenger is denying that he saw an

incident that led to an Arsenal player getting sent off, or Harry

Redknapp is saying QPR played triffic and were unlucky to lose, wouldn’t

it be great if those b*llsh*t-skewering subtitles could pop up? When

Wenger’s saying ‘The sending off? I did not see’, what we really want

is a subtitle underneath saying ‘Of course I saw it. He was scythed down

like Jar Jar Binks at a Star Wars convention’. Redknapp needs only one,

permanent subtitle for every QPR defeat: ‘We was trifficly rubbish. You

get more movement out of them human statues in Covent Garden than you

do out of Leroy Fer’.Since Norwich’s loss to Charlton and draw

with Rotherham I’ve been wondering if Neil Adams needs subtitles. After

the Rotherham game, he said “we have had two freak results”. Then, in

Thursday’s pre-match press conference, he said that he believes someone

is going to get a “hiding” from Norwich soon.Did he really mean

these two things, or would subtitles have told us a different story? He

has a point. Norwich created an astonishing number of chances against

both Charlton and Rotherham and, with better finishing, we would have

won both games. Norwich have put three or more goals past the opposition

five times in the league already this season, so perhaps a hiding is

indeed waiting causally around the corner, wondering where the heck

we’ve been.It is also good that Adams, at least publicly, is

putting the results down to freakery. It keeps things positive,

suppresses any doubts fans and players may be having. But there is a

flipside to this. What if it’s not just in public that he believes that

those results were a fluke, but also in private? What if his subtitles

match exactly what comes out of his mouth?This isn’t time to be

too worried. Norwich are, of course, top of the league. They have the

most goals in the division and the best goal difference. But, if Adams

is completely unconcerned then perhaps we should, in fact, be a little

concerned. It is too easy to dismiss the last two matches as freak

results, too easy to say we’re going to give someone a hiding just

because we’re creating chances. For one thing, as we’ve

discovered, creating chances doesn’t necessarily mean scoring goals.

Although Lewis Grabban and Cameron Jerome have hit 13 between them, they

have also already missed more than I can remember Ricky van Wolfswinkel

and Gary Hooper missing in the whole of last season. Of course this has

much to do with the sheer number of openings we’re creating compared to

the very few of last season, but it also speaks of strikers’ hit-rates

in the Championship – far more chances are fluffed than finished. You

also have to ask questions about how we’ve been set up, notably at

home. You certainly can’t accuse Adams of not having a Plan B – three at

the back for the final 15 minutes against Rotherham attests to that –

but perhaps his Plan A of 4-4-2 needs looking at. Against Rotherham our

attacks became more and more predictable – set pieces and crosses from

the right from Nathan Redmond were our major threats. They were good

crosses. Norwich should have scored from them. But why have just one

open-play threat when you can have two or three?A flat 4-4-2

against teams that sit back against us at Carrow Road, with Wes Hoolahan

out on the left and two central midfielders, means we’ve become

predictable through the middle. The opposition know that the majority of

our attacks will come from the right, which makes protecting their goal

easier than it should be. They''ve worked out how we play in that

formation. At home we’ve turn into a daddy longlegs of a team – full of

venom but frustratingly unable to penetrate anyone.Dropping

Hoolahan, as some have suggested, and bringing in Josh Murphy on the

left is laying the blame in the wrong places. Hoolahan on the left is a

symptom of the problem, not the cause. The right thing to do would be to

move Hoolahan to where he can be at his most effective which, as we all

know, is at No.10. Playing two strikers, especially two

relatively similar players like Grabban and Jerome, means you are

denying the midfield another creative presence. A midfield five of Jonny

Howson, Alex Tettey, Hoolahan, Redmond and Murphy has everything –

power and finesse, adventure and protection, force and craft, calmness

and urgency, width and incision, as well as some truly memorable

hairstyles. It is a decent Premier League midfield which, at

Championship level, has no discernible weakness. Whoever plays

as the lone striker in a 4-2-3-1 is almost irrelevant. With the chances –

from both flanks, through the middle – that the five-man midfield is

capable of creating, any of Norwich’s forwards should thrive. It

is strange to see Adams, a man with a passion for tactics, stick with

such an archaic, unfashionable formation. It’s like seeing Lady Gaga

wearing a long skirt and a nice cardigan. On Saturday at Craven Cottage

his team selection will show us whether he truly believed that Norwich

had suffered two freaks results or whether subtitles would have told us

he''s accepted that 4-4-2 fails to get the best out of his team.

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As long as chances are being created then we shouldn''t worry. It would be concerning if we had to rely on set pieces as our only threat towards the oppositions goal, but I cannot see that happening with the attacking players we have at our disposal. The five man midfield looks very strong and capable and is certainly an option. We have so much strength in depth at the moment, that it is very difficult to name a best XI.

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Nicely written.

You''re right about Wes needing to be played in "his" position, but I just can''t see Murphy starting yet. I don''t think his stamina is up to it yet.

We''d best watch out for those venomous daddy longlegs when next in Brighton.

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time to ditch wes and play two outright wingers, stick with the 442451 or 4231 is the reason we got relegated in the first placeits all good and well playing 5 in midfield when youre chelsea, utd, arsenal.. they have world class attacking midfielders that score for fun, and a world class strikercity dontweve got a mostly british squad, players who have probably played 442 for a huge chunk of their careers, let them play in a way they are familiar and most likely happy with, if it means hoolahan is sacrificed then so be it, hes a nice option to have on the bench

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I wouldn''t be against seeing a flat 442 but it can''t have Hoolahan in it. It needs people who can hold the width on either side. I think it''d also help a partnership of Grabban and Jerome - which otherwise might not seem an ideal partnership.


Hoolahan at the tip of a diamond or playing at the front of a midfield 5 is good. Anything else isn''t the answer.

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A decent read. For me, its about simply playing the best formation for the game at the time and that suites the players you have available, and not trying to shoe horn in your favourite players. Consequently, there should be absolutely no need to shoe horn Wes in to the side if the system doesnt suite him or, there are players in the squad who better suite the circumstances. A major fail from Neil Adams in my book, but despite that we have still done OK, demonstrating just how strong our squad is.

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Just shows we all see games differently Mark. For me Wes was easily MOTM against Charlton from his 442 position. But not so effective against Rotherham where he was subbed after an hour.



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Funnily enough I also thought Wes was very good against Charlton - but I still think him being on the left was to the detriment of the team. Iron_Stan - I have to say I don''t buy your thinking that you can only play 5 in midfield if you''re one of the top teams (although it''s worth pointing out that''s exactly what we are in the Championship). Southampton and Swansea have both had success in the Prem with 5 in the middle. You''re doing Tettey, Howson, Wes, Redmond, Murphy a disservice by saying they''d be more comfortable in a 4-4-2. Certainly can''t agree that we would''ve stayed up if we''d played 2 up top last season - whenever we did we were hugely exposed in midfield.

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agreed it wasnt just the formation it was the plank in charge more than anything, but we had 2 seasons with 1 up top and we couldnt score for %h1tvery rarely tried anything different either

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Yes N, agree despite my comment, Wes did have a good game vs Charlton, cant comment vs Rotherham as have only seen the goals unfortunately.

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iron_stan wrote:time to ditch wes and play two outright wingers, stick with the 442451 or 4231 is the reason we got relegated in the first place

------------------------------------------------------------------We got relegated because:(1) we had a poor defence (and still have)(2) the one lone striker was poor, lightweight and lacked goalsand (3) and most important - Hoolahan was left out of the team

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