You could say we’ve held an okay account of ourselves so far this season considering who we’ve had to play, but at the same time, we can’t deny it hasn’t been particularly encouraging. Adrien Silva not officially signing (until January, it seems) has been a real blow, but this only reinforces the need for a change in formation.
It’s time for transition from 4-4-2
Long gone are the days of 4-4-2 in 2015/16, a fluid running machine which was unstoppable week in week out, leading to our title glory.
In the 2015/16 season, we had Danny Drinkwater and N’Golo Kante in midfield, and essentially Kante did the work of two players, whilst Drinkwater was allowed the freedom to create. This made for a flourishing central midfield partnership.
But this was two seasons ago. We need to realise 4-4-2 isn’t going to work to such a degree that it once did without Kante. Presently, we have become heavily reliant on 20 year old Wilfred Ndidi, who is being overworked trying to compensate for not having a dynamic midfield partner next to him.
Most gameweeks in the Premier League, we are coming up against teams who have more players in midfield than us, and it’s due to our persistence with 4-4-2 that we continue to be overrun in the centre of the park. Our lack of ball retention also invites more pressure onto ourselves.
Our game is based on a counter attacking style of play, but in games, if this doesn’t work, we struggle as the players haven’t been adapted or trained to play an alternative way. Creativity is one of my biggest concerns, and in order for 4-4-2 to work you have to have that.
Without Silva’s cutting edge passing in the midfield, we are going sideways far too often, resulting in the defence pumping long balls usually up to Vardy and Okazaki - which isn’t going to work.
I do struggle to wonder at this moment in time, where are goals are going to come from on a regular basis. Riyad Mahrez rarely fires on all cylinders these days, Demarai Gray offers a kind of threat, but you can really see why now the club wanted both Adrien Silva and Gylfi Sigurdsson in the summer.
Lack of intensity on the pitch not helped by Shakespeare’s offield tactics
These days, we seem to be lacking the intensity we once had as a side. We are rarely attacking teams like we used to, getting on the front foot etc. The way Shakespeare has been setting up hasn’t helped this. Much of our football has been negative and defensive. Our focus seems to be based more on keeping out the opposition, especially away from home.
This in turn isn’t doing our attacking players any good, and we can’t doubt the ability we have going forward. You could even argue you’d struggle to find a side outside the top six with the attacking options we have, but they are not shining due to how the current mindset is.
So it comes to the solution part, well, from my perspective anyway. Moving forward, I’d like to see Craig Shakespeare opt for the 3-5-2 formation.
I feel we have a variety of personnel who would suit this shape. For instance, Mahrez could play as the central attacking midfielder, which would mean he wouldn’t have to keep tracking back like he does at right wing, giving him more freedom to create. Chilwell/Fuchs and Albrighton could be the wingbacks, we could get together a really solid back three and as well as this, keep a front two.
It was the change to 3-5-2 towards the end of the 2014/15 season, which lead to our great escape from relegation. It’s proven to work before with a similar group of players, and I think it would make us a different proposition to face which is needed. I feel this formation is the best way we can cover up not having Silva, plus the creativity issue, as we would be able to counter better and be a more exciting outfit going forward.
3-5-2 is something I’d be looking at implementing home and away, as we don’t particularly seem great on either soil at the moment. It’s 2 wins in 25 Premier League away games; we’ve got to start offering more away from home. Summer signing Vicente Iborra is an option we need to be utilising from now on in, to give some much needed help to Ndidi.
Looking at our away matches so far this season, we go to these places in hope; sitting back for prolonged periods during the game and hoping something comes off at our end of the field. Although I understand away from home you should be looking to keep the back door closed first and foremost, you also have to pose a threat at the same time and we haven’t got this balance right so far this season.