The Premier League has often boasted of sticking to one formation and letting teams joust in unison. However, off late with the increasing number of foreign players in the league and newer and younger managers there has been a change.

A tall stalky goal-keeper, two hefty center halves at six foot four each, two quick yet sure footed full backs. Two pacey cross providers on either side of two free-kick taking central midfielders who run the game, a tall heading striker and another poacher to mop up all loose balls. This once was a set up used by almost all Premier League teams in the recent past. The well-known 4-4-2 was once a formation used by all in the English speaking nation. Like clockwork, each one stuck to their role and played on the side which their foot favoured.

Right from the Manchester Unitedai??i??s Arsenals to the West Bromai??i??s and Bolton used a 4-4-2 with strictly only players who were suitable for that particular formation. As fans of the Spanish and Italian Leagues grew in number to criticise the boring wing play, Premier League remained yet the most entertaining football league in the world. Liverpoolai??i??s squad then in 2005 was notorious for using a 4-4-2 with Luis Garcia on one wing and Harry Kewell on the other.

Change in formations

With the advent of some unbelievable players and some experimental managers, the concept of reverse wingers gained fame. It is yet a mystery as to who started the movement as many fans would debate the idea to be their clubs. However one player and team that grabbed the spot light for the reverse wing concept was that of Christiano Ronaldo playing in Manchester United. Often used as a right winger, Alex Ferguson soon began to utilize his talisman on the left side so as to allow him to cut inside and unleash lethal strikes. The use of reverse wingers predominantly seen in the La Liga by Frank Rijkaard in form of Ronaldinho on the left and Messi on the right made its way to the Premier League and gave birth to the phase of narrowed 4-4-2ai??i??s with reverse wingers and overlapping wing backs.

In recent years we have seen the evolution of the 4-3-3 and the more dynamic 4-2-3-1 formation in Premier League. Initially implemented by Arsenal and Manchester City, the 4-2-3-1 formation gained popularity as it enabled the midfielders to crowd around the 4 man midfield in a traditional 4-4-2 and gain the upper hand in possession and eventually shots on goals. The 4-2-3-1 formation employed two holding midfielders one playing a deep playmaking role and another a defensive enforcer role. The 3 advanced players played on wings and an extra striker when necessary whilst one lone striker often a prolific finished or a holder of the ball would play alone.

This dynamic 4-2-3-1 formation which was introduced in Chelsea soon became a favourite of all premier league clubs as managers such as Andeas Vilas Boas and Roberto Martinez implemented it at their respective clubs. The 2012-13 and 2013-14 season saw almost all team predominantly stick to the 4-2-3-1 formation (save Liverpool with theur 4-1-2-1-2 diamond formation) that offered them flexibility of playing a wing based tactic as well as a narrow 3 man midfield and striker set up. AVB often criticised for being unable to change and adapt to different situations was seen often stuck to using a 4-2-3-1 with inverted wingers in all game.

The 3 Man Defense

In todays day and age however, the use of 4-2-3-1 is an ordinary affair. A new formation is being introduced in the Premier League, and two team using them are facing results different to each other. Louis Van Gaal, the Dutch wizard has established his rule at Old Trafford. Having trained champions in the past, Van Gaal looks to restore the temporarily lost glory of the Red Devils. Utilizing a system with 3 backs, Van Gaal looks to challenge the title with a 3-5-2 formation. This formation however requires extreme levels of fitness and strict adherence to roles, else the plan will fail. With the two wide wing players doubling as wing backs, the formation allows the flexibility of having 5 in defense and at the same time offering 7 players as an attacking option.

One other team that has been using a three back formation is Liverpoolai??i??s Brendan Rodgers. However unlike Van Gaal, BR

Louis van Gaal made some brave decisions

uses a 4 man midfield and 3 strikers. Which is the reason his team seems to be struggling. The two wide players doubling as wing backs, leaves only two men stranded to face the full force of a 5 man midfield from the 4-2-3-1 formation. This imbalance is what has cause Liverpool to concede possession more often than not resulting in an adverse result. Even with a great set of players. Brendan Rodgers has been implementing the players in the wrong way which has cause them to loose out on most games this season.

This clearly emphasises the importance of a formation in a tactical scenario. A 3-5-2 formation almost counters a 4-3-2-1 in more ways than one. With two strikers in the vicinity, the center backs have their hands full. In order to assist the center backs the two deep midfielders are required to drop deeper and bolster the numbers of the defense, hence cutting down man power for their attack. The two wing backs double as attacking wingers as they charge at the opponentsai??i?? full backs supplying crosses at regular intervals. The three midfielders also advance to attack and hence rendering the three advanced midfield players of the opponent ineffective by forcing them to track back. The fact that three center backs are always covering defensively gives the team a sense of confidence against counter attacks. However the Tottenham vs Manchester United game saw the formation countered in the second half and eventually leading to a draw.

Hence the worth of the new formation will be realised only at the ned of the season in the long run. Two seasons ago two clubs made a new formation famous in the Premier League and it caught on like wild fire. This season there are two new clubs trying to propagate the use of a tactic that is predominant in the Serie A. Will the three back formation be Premier Leagueai??i??s new 4-4-2.

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