TALKING TACTICS: 4-4-2 remains a flawed system

Keith Treacy
Keith Treacy

SCOUT Phil Smith again takes a look at Burnley’s system and potential solutions to their current dilemma.

I will not offer criticism for the sake of it, that is not the purpose of my column. Granted, I am absolutely adamant that a rigid 4-4-2 will generate no long term success whatsoever. However, on the balance of play against Leeds United, Burnley were more than worthy of a share of the spoils, at the very least.

Scott Mathieson should have awarded a penalty when Marvin Bartley was felled in the area. On the flip side, Lee Grant can count himself exceptionally fortune to have remained on the pitch, given his deliberate handball in the first half. Had either decision been given it would be reasonable to assume that the tide would have turned in the recipients favour. Mathieson missed both and thus both Howe and Grayson can rightfully feel aggrieved at his performance.

Individual mistakes once again proved costly, but we need to steer away from looking for a scapegoat. Brian Easton has come in for much criticism this season, and has to take his share of blame for the equaliser on Saturday. When the ball was delivered into the danger zone he was facing away from the play and thus failed to track the runner. However, why were his defensive colleagues so deep? Why did they fail to push out and look to utilise the offside rule to their advantage? Poor line communication amongst the defensive unit is simply unacceptable at this level of the game.

As I highlighted on Friday, a key flaw of 4-4-2 is the duel responsibility placed upon the central midfielders. They are expected to both defend and attack and thus space is evident in transition. Given the managers preference for this formation, and the presence of two wingers, Burnley often look dangerous offensively but exceptionally vulnerable defensively. A small tweak into a 4-2-2-2 system may hold the answer.

Like the 4-2-3-1 formation, 4-2-2-2 consists of four zones. These are defence, defensive midfielder, winger and forward.

If we accept that the manager cannot find a role for Andre Amougou in midfield then the defensive midfield unit would have to consist of Marvin Bartley and Chris McCann. Such a role may not facilitate the natural game of our captain, but the need for defensive stability as a team must outweigh the preference of the individual at present.

I would instruct Junior Stanislas and Keith Treacy (pictured) to come inside, in an attempt to pull the opposition fullbacks centrally. The 4-2-2-2 formation provides Trippier and Easton with great freedom. They would be the focal point of our offensive transition. Our central defenders plus Bartley and McCann allow for a defensive block to be maintained throughout the duration of the game. This provides Trippier, in particular, with license to push forward and feed Rodriguez and Vokes, without the risk of being exposed, which has been a defensive weakness thus far.

Our two striker combination should see Vokes operate ahead of Rodriguez. Target man qualities are evident in the Wolverhampton Wanderers loanee and thus he must be expected to hold the ball up and stretch the play.

We are a team who look to get the ball down and play football in the correct manner. Realistically, that has to be the way forward .We lack a Kevin Ball type figure who can get in the face of the opposition. 4-2-2-2 allows for the footballing principles of Eddie Howe to remain. However, the key difference to his favoured 4-4-2 is the reduction in tempo. A more conservative, considered approach could very well be the way forward for Burnley Football Club.