TALKING TACTICS.

Marvin Bartley on the run.''Photos by Andrew Smith

Marvin Bartley on the run.''Photos by Andrew Smith

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SCOUT Phil Smith’s tactical summary of Burnley’s season to date and the route forward ahead of the Christmas period.

DONCASTER Rovers and Hull City visit Turf Moor over the festive period, and it must be said that six points are required, if we are to enjoy a fruitful 2012.

Tactically the two sides are poles apart, Dean Saunders preferring 4-4-2, whilst Nicky Barmby opted for 4-3-3 against Millwall at the weekend.

It is the latter formation which I wish to focus on today.

4-3-3 consists of four defenders, three central midfielders, two wide men and a central attacker.

It is not uncommon for one of the central midfielders to sit and shield the back four.

Given the personnel available to Eddie Howe, one would suggest that Marvin Bartley is the ideal candidate for such a role.

He would, in all likelihood, be a spare man during our offensive transition, and thus expected to link play between defence and midfield.

Chris McCann and Dean Marney would play close to Bartley, but in a slightly more advanced position. They are able to not only link up with Rodriguez, but pressure the opposing midfielders, in order to maintain ball retention.

However, the deployment of a holding player can result in the back four sitting too deep.

As a result, should Bartley be bypassed, the midfield of the opposition are able to combine with their forward and generate genuine goal-scoring opportunities, due to the deep defensive line.

A core defensive weakness of 4-3-3 is the inability to close down an opposition full back, due to the central nature of your midfield. Looking at Hull City on Saturday, Paul McKenna, Corry Evans and Robert Koren experienced difficulties against Millwall, and thus both full backs were able to advance and deliver the ball into the danger zone. Kieran Trippier will be no doubt relishing the New Years Eve clash!

The threat posed by Trippier must be classed as a crucial part of our offensive transition thus far. However, his attacking instinct has often led to the opposition directing their offensive transition down the right side of our defence.

4-3-3, and the utilisation of a holding midfielder, allows for his attacking potency to remain. The system makes it difficult for the opposition to play the ball behind our defensive line, and thus when the back four are in possession, they are able to provide width.

Both Ben Mee and Trippier are able to join the offensive transition, as Bartley would provide defensive security.

Given the omission of Keith Treacy at the weekend, it would be reasonable to suggest that Ross Wallace and Martin Paterson are favourites to be deployed as the wide men.

Those two, coupled with Rodriguez, would cover the attacking width of the pitch, from touchline to touchline.

I would expect Wallace and Paterson to create a one against one attacking situation, as well as coming inside to link play with Rodriguez.

He can work the channels behind the defensive line, or receive the ball to feet and link play with our midfield.

I would class 4-3-3 as the offensive cousin of 4-5-1.

Indeed ,of the five teams who opted for a variation of 4-3-3 in the Championship last weekend, four resembled 4-5-1 during their defensive transition.

Using ourselves as an example, Wallace and Paterson would act as true forwards in 4-3-3,whilst they would be expected to support the central midfielders in the latter.

It is that formation which will be explored by myself on Tuesday, where I reveal that a personnel change may be required, particularly the introduction of loanee Sam Vokes, in order to increase its chance of success.

May I take this opportunity to wish all readers a very happy Christmas!