4-4-2: Formation can be difficult for defenders to deal with, says Jonathan Wilson

Last Updated: 27/01/14 12:36pm

Jonathan Wilson explained to The Footballers' Football Show why the 4-4-2 formation is making a comeback.

Many clubs throughout Europe - including reigning La Liga winners Barcelona and current Champions League holders Bayern Munich - adopt a 4-2-3-1/4-5-1/4-3-3 system to ensure they earn and keep a sufficient amount of possession.

However, Manchester City are one of a number of sides to use the 4-4-2 this term, with Manuel Pellegrini frequently pairing Sergio Aguero and Alvaro Negredo in the striking department.

And Guardian journalist Wilson - who penned the book Inverting the Pyramid: The History of Football Tactics - detailed the benefits of Pellegrini's chosen approach.

"Defenders are used to coming out with the ball but that is more difficult when you have two strikers to contend with."

Chris Powell

"4-4-2 has been one of the trends of the season with Man City playing a version of it as well as Atletico Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain," said Wilson.

"I think centre-backs have got so used to playing against one centre-forward - one marks the striker and the other acts as cover - that mistakes can be mopped up.

"But if both defenders are having to mark there is no cover so they have to learn to deal with that."


Charlton manager Chris Powell joined Wilson and former Celtic midfielder John Collins in The Footballers' Football Show studio, and revealed his preference for a strike partnership.

The 44-year-old - whose front two at The Valley is often comprised of Yann Kermorgant and Simon Church - revealed how he has tinkered with a 3-5-2 system as a way of packing his midfield yet guaranteeing his side remains potent as an attacking force.


Played: 24
Won: 5
Drawn: 9
Lost: 10

But the one-time defender says that formation puts heavy strain on the wing-backs.

"You should always try to play with two strikers if you can and the 3-5-2, which I played in under Jim Smith at Derby, gives you that option," said Powell, who won five caps for England.

"It works if your outside centre-backs are comfortable in full-back positions - Michael Morrison, who I have played on the right of a three at Charlton, is - but the legwork is done by the wing-backs.


"As a full-back you are used to feeding your winger and then overlapping or underlapping him but as a wing-back you have to deliver crosses and then get in the box when your other wing-back is delivering, as well as get back and defend."

Powell, Wilson and Collins used a tactics board to make their points in Sky Studios but the Addicks chief - whose Championship club have just been taken over by Belgian businessman Roland Duch√Ętelet - says he uses that apparatus sparingly whilst coaching his players.

"Sometimes we look at the tactics board and sometimes we look at a screen, but I tend to go through tactics more with my players on the pitch, because that's their workplace.

"You can move the pieces on the board but when it's happening live it is better as I can stop and start things and tell the players how I see us playing, as well as go through little adjustments we may have to make during games."

To hear more tactical debate, download the Footballers' Football Show podcast here.