Pointless Diamond

I could quite happily lose myself in a computer management game once more. I gave up weeks, arguably months or even years of my life to Championship manager and later football manager in time gone by. I’m sure these games have progressed somewhat from when I played them last but I also assume that you have to set out with a fixed formation; even if it is customised.

And the media need a ‘named’ formation; Man city are slated for their 4-4-2, Chelsea dominate with their 4-5-1, Liverpool have their complex 3-4-3 and we have adapted to a diamond. Simple as that, no need for anybody to think further than this, it has a name; we play a diamond!

Except; we clearly don’t.

[frame src=”http://jackswan.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/pitch.png” width=”350″ height=”IMAGE_HEIGHT” lightbox=”on” title=”Pitch” align=”left” ]I’ve had issues with the labelling of the diamond since we have changed our set-up. The diamond in midfield is exactly as it says on the tin, a holding midfielder, with two either side further forward and one sitting in the hole behind a front two.

Cork can sit deep, Shelvey and Ki are both perfect for the ‘sides’ of the diamond and Siggy loves to play in the hole and so you can be forgiven for being lazy and assuming that this is how we will shape up; but we don’t. And this isn’t football manager; this is a game that consists of people and real life.

The reality is that we don’t play a diamond anymore than Liverpool play a 3-4-3 or Chelsea a 4-5-1. Modern day football and intense coaching and tactics allow complex systems which can’t simply be labelled as a specific name and how we currently play can’t be simply called a diamond.

It was welcome to see Gary Neville have a good look at our average player positions in the first half against Liverpool which clearly showed that our diamond was no such thing. He gave a lot of credit to Monk for the way that we had adapted our game specifically for Liverpools set-up.

While I totally agree with giving our manager more credit, I personally think that he was giving him the wrong credit.

Brendan has mastered a very complex system in their set-up. I mentioned in the last issue how it totally tucked us up at Anfield and that Monk had no response to it. It allows two advanced wingers on both flanks at times while dominating the midfield and keeping a solid three at the back. This isn’t something which you can simply show the players a picture of ‘how you are going to set up”, it involves every player knowing their exact role and constant communication on the pitch throughout the ninety minutes.

Our former manager has a very continental style in the way that he approaches the game. Mourinho is a master of this, his players know what they need to do right down to the tiniest of details and he demands that, any player such as Juan Matta who can’t do this will be out, they need to be able to implement a game plan and be able to adapt and change systems throughout the match. Van Gaal has struggled to get his approach over to his squad but he has this same aim and it is starting to show rewards, whether he plays with the fans favourite; 4-4-2 or 3 at the back, there is far more to it than a simple formation.

The Premier League is lagging behind with complex tactics. For years, it was assumed that every side would play a 4-4-2 formation, a little nippy boy feeding off a big lump up front and that was British football.

Knowledge is king. And knowledge spreads. The best football sides in the world in recent years have come from mainland Western Europe, Spain, France, Germany and Holland have been streaks ahead of the rest of the World.

There is no coincidence that managers and players have moved freely between these countries, learning new ideas, new tactics and this is why this part of the world has dominated football. They are more advanced tactically than the rest of us.

There are very few in the Premier League that are finally catching up. When you look at the top 5 or 6 clubs now, the managers (possibly with the exception of Pelegrini) are tactically incredibly aware. And show an insane amount of detail to everything: I firmly believe that this is what we are up to and that this is who Gary Monk is able to compete with.

Our set-up is bordering ‘Total Football’. With the exception of the two centre backs, each player seems to have incredible amounts of freedom and yet a clear understanding of what is demanded of them.

There is no ‘fixed’ positions. The full backs have to add the width to the attacks and so are encouraged to bomb forward at every possibility. Our midfield three rotate. Shelvey loves to get the ball from deep and Ki loves to get past the last defenders.

The front three are all over the place. And mix and match constantly. Siggy is as advanced as the other two and seems to have as little defensive responsibility; the three almost seem a ‘unit’ where they work it out between themselves.

It would be interesting to know exactly why we have changed to this way or exactly who allowed or forced it. It may be that Monk felt Gomis needed more support than Bony did and this set-up was all about this or it could be that he needed Cork to complete the pointless diamond or maybe Naughton was the missing piece, Rangel wasn’t up for the added exposure.

I expect us to use it for the rest of the season and we could be perfecting something very special. It took Liverpool half the season to really get hold of their new way of playing and it could be that Monk has thought that we have the luxury of perfecting this ready for next season without it costing us anything; the fact that the players have adapted to it straight away may be a bonus OR there may be a lot more to come.

Monks reputation grows each issue, I have always thought that he will be a good organiser but I have a feeling that he is a lot more special at this than what I realised. Brendan is probably the most organised manager in the league and our man has learned from him and its really exciting to see. One thing is absolutely certain though; Its not a diamond!!!!

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