TALKING TACTICS: Vokes is an asset

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As a supporter it has to be said that I experienced enormous frustration at St Andrews last month, when Steven Caldwell had his usual solid game.

All hypothetical of course, but I often question if results would have been somewhat different had the Birmingham City man remained at Turf Moor.

Granted, we are all aware of his lack of pace, but if you are looking for a leader of men, there are few better in the Championship.

On a similar note, it has to be said that the departure of Chris Iwelumo has undoubtedly weakened the tactical options available to Eddie Howe.

In 4-5-1 and even the 4-4-1-1 seen at Hull City last month, the lone forward has to possess good ball control, upper body strength and heading ability.

Iwelumo was able to hold the ball up and bring others in to play, and I believe his value to the team was unfortunately underestimated during his time at Turf Moor.

With Jay Rodriguez, Charlie Austin and Martin Paterson all vying for a starting berth, it would be understandable if some chose to exclude Sam Vokes (pictured, left) from their preferred starting XI.

Indeed, with Danny Ings beginning to return to full fitness, long term attention has to focus on the more permanent members of our squad.

However, whilst the Wolverhampton Wanderers loanee remains at Turf Moor he provides the manager with a viable plan B.

I wouldn’t class Rodriguez, Austin or Paterson as being wholly effective in a normal 4-5-1, yet Vokes has all the qualities required to enable this tactic to be considered a success.

For me, as a result, 4-5-1 was never a viable option throughout the opening months of the season.

However, whilst we have Vokes on the books, we can eradicate the air of predictability surrounding 4-4-2 and its variations, and harness the ability of the Welsh International.

As well as the aforementioned qualities highlighted when discussing Iwelumo, Vokes also has the pace required to latch on to any balls from midfield.

Ironically, given the negative misconceptions surrounding 4-5-1, its success is actually wholly dependent on an attacking intent wherein the midfield moves forward in support of the lone striker.

Indeed, one must see a high tempo with pressure applied in the first, second and third phase.

Otherwise the team will become overrun in central midfield, and Vokes would, as a result, have to drop deep into midfield to prevent the opposition from dominating in the centre.

An offensive minded midfield of five can be difficult to pick up, either by playing the ball between the lines or making late movement towards the penalty area.

It is crucial that our wide men have the ability to dominate in a one against one situation.

That should be of no concern, given the quality of footballer available to Eddie Howe.

Given his preference for 4-4-2, it would not surprise me if a small tweak from 4-5-1 was offered, resulting in a 4-1-4-1.

The formation offers similar characteristics to 4-4-2, with Bartley given instruction to either shield or man mark.

The latter would be recommended to combat an opponent floating between the lines of defence and midfield.

Ross Wallace could even be positioned centrally in front of Bartley, allowing him to push high and act akin to a withdrawn forward during offensive transition.

I conclude my brief four -part summary on Friday with a look at Jay Rodriguez, and the formation which I believe can best harness his ability, 4-4-1-1.

PHIL SMITH