Why we play 4-5-1 or "You don't know what you're doing"

Discussion in 'Columns' started by Rob, Sep 28, 2008.

  • by Rob, Sep 28, 2008 at 4:05 PM
  • Rob

    Rob The Boss Admin

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    As the chant of "You don't know what you're doing" echoed from the away end of Fratton Park, we were 2-0 down to what should have been a fragile Pompey side. With what looked like no chance of getting back into the game, all that was left was time for reflection on what had gone oh so very wrong in our win-less season.

    The problem may very well be that Ramos indeed doesn't know what he's doing with the personnel we have. As soon as the team was announced it seemed clear to apparently everyone apart from the manager that there were several strange choices in there. Gilberto back from the wilderness to replace the injured Bale and provide support down the left of midfield? A 5-man midfield with Pavlyuchenko again on his own up front but with no sign of our supporting midfielders? Dawson brought back into the centre of defence in replacement of King with Corluka shifted back to the right and the impressive Gunter missing out yet again.

    Does Ramos know what he's doing? All we can analyse is what's put in front of us and that's what I'll attempt to do in this column, taking a look at our season so far, focusing on the squad and the apparent deficiencies which an ultimately poor transfer window has left us with.

    As I see it, the problem we have is a complicated one. We certainly have quality players but do we have the right players? Take Zokora for example. In a 2-man midfield he’s poor at best. He often struggles with the simple pass, losing valuable possession carelessly and fails to get into space for his team-mates to pass to so rather than relieving pressure we get forced into mistakes.

    Contrast this with his performances in a 3-man midfield and he’s like a completely different player (and maybe the one we thought we were buying). With more time to sit back and read the play, his positioning in front of the defence is superb. He’s always there to receive the short pass back from his midfield team-mates when they’re under pressure and with more options in midfield in front of him to play the pass to he looks calm on the ball. When he picks the ball up from deep and surges forward with it, not only does he relieve pressure on us, he makes a significant attacking contribution.

    Sound great doesn’t it, so what’s the problem? With a 5-man midfield as we’ve put out in the last few games it means playing 1 up front and unfortunately we just don’t seem to be getting the system right. I’ll start off by saying I’m fast becoming a huge fan of Pavlychenko. He’s worked tirelessly on his own up front with shockingly bad support and shown real heart, a complete contrast to a certain sulking Bulgarian. He may not have the class of Berbatov but he’s certainly an accomplished striker as his record shows and if we manage to get things right I think he could have a far bigger impact for us than he did and become dare I saw prolific. So how do we go about getting it right?

    If we’re going to play with only 1 striker as it seems our midfield setup almost deems necessary then it’s up to the rest of the midfield to support but that’s just not happening. We have two direct players, GDS and Lennon, who despite turning around every performance when introduced Ramos seems intent on not playing and instead it takes a poor first half before they’re brought on and allowed to influence our play. Is the problem here that we have too many midfielders without having the right ones?

    Bentley and Lennon both clearly prefer the right side of midfield but are very different players. Bentley, although not showing it recently, can put in a great cross from deep and it was really expected that out front two would feed on those crosses all day. Of course our “front two” are now playing for Liverpool and Manchester United and instead we’re left with Bentley playing poorly in a system where he’s not necessarily suited. When he does put in a good cross (and these will get better as he settles and his confidence returns), there’s only the lone figure of Pavlychenko fighting a losing battle against strong defensive partnerships trying to make space for himself to get any chance at goal. In contrast, Lennon’s major weakness is his poor crossing and despite some recent improvement in this area, it’s really his pace and direct play that’s his major benefit, especially in a system where the striker needs this support running from deep. Similarly, the direct play of GDS is often a welcome addition to a side that’s simply struggling to get further forward and fill the space between midfield and attack. Thankfully, unlike Tarrabt who his style does have a passing resemblance too and despite his small frame, GDS is certainly not just a “luxury” player. He works hard for the ball, when he gets it it takes a lot to get him off it and when that does happen he isn’t afraid to come back and make amends by tacking and fighting for it. If it wasn’t for this I would be really worried that we have 3 players with only 1 position to accommodate but because of GDS’s versatility and with Lennon looking more comfortable on the left then it may not be so bad after all.

    I’m not so sure if the same can be said about our other midfield options, namely Jena and Modric). It would seem to be an easy choice between the two. While still acclimatising to the pace of the premiership, Modric is by the far the more accomplished midfielder and with a touch of the Ossie Ardiles about him, our midfield and whole system should be built around getting the best from who’s going to prove to be one of the best midfielders we’ve seen for years. The problem here is vice-captain Jenas who Ramos clearly sees something in that many fans don’t. It may just be a case of once Modric is fully fit that Jenas will play less and less of a part but for years now we’ve waited for him to reach his potential and to be fair in some games we have seen glimpses of the player he could have been for us but in my opinion it’s now time to cut our losses with him. If he was going to step up to the next level he would have done it by now and persisting with him means we can’t settle on a system or style of play that works.

    I’m trying to base my opinions here on more than the typical knee-jerk response and on the back of an absolutely awful performance against Portsmouth it might not be the right time to be critical of Jenas whilst praising O’Hara but the latter has shown far more fight and spirit befitting a captain of our club and if we do persist with a 3-man midfield I’d be more than happy for those 3 to consist of Modric, Zokora and O’Hara with Jenas being moved on.

    It’s coming to the stage of this column now where I just put all my cards on the table and name my first choice 11 but a few comments on our defence is maybe in order first. Gomes, superb. I was worried that we might be signing the “Brazilian David James” (and that’s the “dodgy” David James, not the one who just kept another clean sheet against us) and while he’s already shown a few eccentricities such as a penchant for punching rather than taking the easy catch I’m confident in saying that he’s the best keeper I’ve seen play for us (which admittedly only goes back as far as Thorstvedt or so). In front of him Woodgate is a rock and alongside King (oh Ledley, where forth art though?) forms possibly the best defensive partnership in the premiership. Unfortunately despite repeated assurances from the club with regards to his fitness, King still looks to have problems and the last thing we need now is an unsettled defence to accompany the chopping and changing with the rest of the team. Having said that, Corluka looks an adequate replacement at least in the short term and with Hutton and Bale that completes one of the strongest defences in the league. Unfortunately, and some people may forget this, we’ve been missing 3 of our first choice back 4 for much of the season with Bale and Hutton joining King on the treatment table. However, with Corluka and Gunter we have adequate backup with the only weak-link at left back where BAE still isn’t convincing many fans that he really has a future at WHL.

    So time to pick my team. I honestly feel that the team below should still be capable of finishing in the top 6 this season.


    Hutton Woodgate Corluka Bale

    Bentley Zokora Modric O’Hara Lennon


    Gunter as a temporary replacement for Hutton doesn’t weaken that line-up significantly and leaves a strong bench. GDS can replace any of Bentley, Lennon or even O’Hara in that midfield depending on the opposition but it’s vital that Modric provides the link between midfield and attack that we’ve been sorely lacking so far this season. As I explained above, whilst I dislike playing 1 up front as it leaves Pavlychenko isolated, with the personnel available in our midfield, it’s extremely understandable why Ramos is persisting with it. If we moved to 4-4-2, while the front line improves significantly with Bent and Pavlychenko both capable of running the channels and dragging defences apart, the midfield just doesn’t work. If we had a defensive midfielder who was more comfortable than Zokora (Veloso or even Diarra may be the answer) then we could revert to 4-4-2 without too many problems and whether that happens in January is something we’ll have to wait in see.​
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Discussion in 'Columns' started by Rob, Sep 28, 2008.

  1. ziggy
    Great analysis, I thought we looked comfortable today until their goal, we didn't look threatening but I didn't think they did either to be honest. The mien trouble is when we get the ball in midfield we just stroke it around and don't get anywhere. Even O'hara who as you say get's stuck in and will fight all day, gets the ball and turns back and sideways when an incisive forward ball is what is needed. I'm still willing to be patient and the last thing we need now is a reaction from the board and another new manager. Jenas does frustrate me, he does some great things but doesn't seem to be able to play that killer ball that the lone forward so craves. Personally I quite like BAE, he needs to improve, sure but some of play today was excellent.

    Also thought the officials were rank, I'm sure I saw the ball go out of play a couple of times, including in the build up to their penalty.
  2. BringBack_leGin
    I am 91.11111% recurring in agreement with you, with the 8.99999% recurring difference being that I would have Giovani ahead of Bentley in there.

    In Jenas, Bent and Bentley we have three signings who we brought in simply because they were the English flavour of the month at the time, all over priced, all not good enough.

    Until Hutton is fit, I would see Gunter in his place. I would only play King in europe where Corluka is cup tied, and otherwise have him on the bench. And when fit i would always have Bale at left back, not left wing (though I don't mind Ekotto).

    In January I'm not at all sure how we can possibly fix this. A kosher DM? A top class CB? A brilliant link man to play with Pav (who knows, maybe we can still get Arshavin).

    It's a mess right now but I stand by my prediction that 4 games from now we will not be in the bottom 4. Come full time v Arsenal we will be 16th or above and on the rise.
  3. grittyspur1
    Good shout, Rob, and a reasoned and mature analysis of our current problems that may or may not force our club into crisis, depending who you talk to! I agree with your comments on Gomes, Jenas and Modric. The last one is more wishful thinking, as we really have not seen enough of him, and it's time to get him back on the pitch as far as I'm concerned.
    It seems that so many posters on this site agree on what our three biggest problems are:
    1) What the fukc's up with Ledley King, and when are we going to replace him?
    2) Why haven't we replaced Carrick with a modern 'holding' midfielder? (Sorry, folks- as much as I like Zokora and The Hudd- they are not 'like-for-like' replacements for MC)
    3) How do you replace Keane, Berbatov and, come to think of it, Defoe? Surely what was on display today at Fratton Park is not the answer.
    I just wish that Ramos/Commoli/Levy/Gus/Whoever would answer those three questions first before they try to do anything else. Or else, we will be taking one step forward and then two steps backwards for the foreseable future.
    Listening to Pompey today and imagining Defoe's enthusiasm and industry on the pitch was enough to make me feel sick to my stomach.
  4. pistol14
    Gomes was superb? What games have you been watching? I have seen nothing to suggest is that he is any better than Robbo. How many times did robinson palm a ball out straight to an attacker and Gomes did exactly that today!

    Other than that i would agree with most of the article.
  5. riversmonkey
    After two cups wins and a clean sheet I think Ramos was banking on another smash and grab job to continue the slow improvement. Which in theory would have set us up nicely for 'easier' fixtures against Bolton, Stoke and Hull. At this moment in time none of those upcoming fixtures look winnable, when you look at the physical and workmanlike qualities of those teams. We are likely to be outmuscled, outfought and in dire straits.

    Ramos needs to go, a new perspective and an injection of energy and new ideas is needed to revitalize what I imagine is a shellshocked and despondent dressing room. I'm not saying Ramos is a terrible coach or that Poyet is an inadequate assistant but for whatever reason it hasn't worked. We can throw excuses around but lets face it the nature of the performances have been abysmal and that falls only on the coaching staff and the players.

    On a positive note we have three cups to attempt to win and a league season to salvage, with the main aim getting to the magic forty points mark asap.
  6. JoeT
    I have tried to be patient with Jenas, but the man is a coach-killer. He shines in some games...usually against weaker opposition...gets on the team sheet for the next (tougher) game and then semi-dissappears. He has been doing this for as long as he has been at Spurs; he must go. So I agree with you 'Rob'.
    However, right now I just can't see us getting anywhere playing Pavlychenko up front on his own....no matter what people say about him (and I do see potential there), he's just not strong enough right now. Sol Campbell had him in his pocket all of the game today. We have to play two up front for a while longer.
    So, we have to make changes to our midfield - a 4 man midfield - until we are stronger. Why not go with a back four of: Gunter/Hutton; Corluka; Woodgate; Bale/Ekotto and free up King to rotate in and out of that holding midfield role with Zokora? Play either alongside Modric. As for wingers; go with our faster/attacking players - for home games or teams that we feel we can do well against, and for really tough opposition maybe go with guys like O'Hara on the left and even Zokora on the right. Crazy or not?
  7. JoeT
    Please don't start saying Ramos must go; give the man more time. Sure his lineup was not good today, but think about some of the games he won for us with his adjustments last season.
    Without Ramos right now we will be REALLY up shit creek!
  8. antlesh

    with all due respect mate... what are you comparing Ramos to? also at what point must he go? when we are playing championship football????
  9. PT
    My conern was brought up early in your piece Rob. I remember a quote from Ramos earlier in the transfer window, when being questioned about Berbatov's future and he said he wouldn't know his best team until the last day of the window.

    Well, to me, that rings alarm bells.

    At the point of going in to the season, he should know his best eleven, with the depth of our squad's perceived qualities allowing for adequate replacements.

    The tactics and formations should have been well drilled and rehearsed and each player, be he first choice or not, honed into a complete understanding of his colleagues' movements and instructions.

    What we've seen so far is what looks remarkably like a cup team and a points team being put out - in other words, A Bentiz-esque penchant for butchering the previous line-up and putting in numerous changes, not only in personnel but formations too.

    How can we gain team confidence, if the team is not known until beofre kick-off?

    Confidence players like Bentley and Lennon, Gio and Bent, Dawson and Huddlestone will never get impetus and flow in their game. For example, if a player like Huddlestone knows he has to fight to get in the side, then his mindset is such that he goes on to the training pitch to persuade Ramos that it is he, not his colleague that should be lining up.

    If Ramos is still discovering the best formation for the players he has at his disposal, or the best players for the formation he wants to play, then all I can say is that the "Eureka" moment had better not be far down the line - I saw this in the seventies and it'll be far, far more damaging if it were to happen, no matter how good we are on paper, this time around.
  10. Pillbug
    Oh god. Admittedly I have had a few drinks, but we are the worst team in the league... and not just by dint of our record. Despite the endless protestations of the loyalists, regulars Jenas, zokora and newly minted Bentley have performed well below their paper value.

    Ramos has had plenty of time to prove his worth. We do, frankly, look poor. Having lost Keane and Berbatov hurts quite a bit, but one would have expected the development of our defense, and the only difference between us then and us now is the overwhelming influence of Woodgate, the only useful signing, potential for bale and gio aside, that has actually come to fruition.

    Jenas, Zokora and Bentley are absolute horrors in the midfield. I know, of course, that some will jump to their defense... zokora closes down play, jenas works hard. Bull... shite.. I am not saying they are horrible people, or even bad football players individually, but they do not even come close to constituting a playmaking force as a whole. Too much responsibility has been loaded on players of limited capability.

    Right now, we are looking to go down, and the fact we are in relegation territory is frightening. We would have been relegation candidates last season and even the one before had we not somehow been sexy enough to get Berbatov and hold Keane. Now they are gone, and we can see to rot that has become of our midfield and defense. There are people who say we 'too good to go down'.... I had braces when I was a child, and the obnoxious dentist I had, he used to ask me if I would wear my retainer. Of course I said that, yes, yes I did. He would shake his head at me like the bastard he was, and say "The teeth don't lie, Andrew, the teeth don't lie." That bastard was right. Are the sunshine boys going to tell me that our record and performance over the last 10 months is a lie, or some kind of aberration of circumstance?
  11. ken the yid
    With only playing one striker up front,then you might as well stick Blobby up front ´cause it will make no difference.Ramos for f*ck sake-how hard can it be?
  12. Matt Hammond
    it would appear ramos doesn't know what he is doing. sacking the coach now though would be a bad idea.
    if the asian billionaire buys out levy & co, maybe he will do away with the director of football and head coach roles in favour of the british, tried, tested, proved and accomplished manager role. spurs have been at the continental approach for some time now. it has been by and large fruitless. it also cost bmj his job. i know jol had tactical floors and his fitness methods were questionable, but has ramos really been any better? no.
  13. parj
    im not a massive jenas fan, but the difference in our team with him and without him is clear. without him we are just fcuking shit. with him we play better. but you cannot blame the central midfield when a coach picks flipping gilberto who offers no option. picks BAE and Corluka as full backs who again offer no width on the overlap. plays pavlychenko upfront who will insist on trying to shoot from stupid positions and is actually quite slow on the turn and quite weak.

    not many options there for Jenas or even modric. heck you can put in Michael Carrick and he'll struggle with that formation!!! people underestimate how important the wings are in any play and if you dont have support from the wings its difficult for any central midfielder.

    what do all managers seems to see in Jenas? a hard working midfielder who can play passes and connect the defence and attack. but he can only do that with the right players around him.
  14. Rob
    Have we played a 3 man midfield that didn't include Jenas? The issue isn't Jenas missing, it's that in a 2-man midfield Zokora is a liability (as is Huddlestone and most of our midfielders).

    My opinion is that we need to persist with 4-5-1 and we need to drop Jenas but to prevent Pav being isolated from the midfield it's got to be Modric who really steps up. Our season hinges on him staying fit and playing as well as we know he can.
  15. sxboy
    The whole idea of 1 up front is that the lone forward gets plenty of back up from the 5 man midfield.
    Jenas just cant do this, i also think Modric is the better option and with the players we have, we have no option other than 4-5-1.
    I can't stand Zakora he loses everything he wins he can't pass he dosnt ever offer a scoring threat and he needs an age on the ball to decide what move he is going to atempt, which is why he is even worse in a 2 man midfield.
    We have 2 problems at the moment Zakora and Jenas.
  16. DJS
    Rob has touched on a very good point in regards to the situation surrounding Zokora looking superb in 5 man midfield but not so hot in a midfield 4.

    This is a situation we should have addressed in the summer over all our other recruits in my opinion as we need someone to sit in the middle and actually bloomin' CONTROL IT which we haven't had since Carrick...

    I also am fed up with this crappy 4-5-1 formation - we should always play a 4-4-2 with a pair of decent strikers up front.

    After Keano and Berbs I'm SO SICK of this one man up front system! (fair enough when we only had Bent but now no excuse).

    My view is we should be playing Bent alongside Pav until Jan and if Bent don't prove himself we should be looking at someone like Lukas Podolski to come.

    We NEED a bloody decent defensive midfielder!

    I'm still rubbing my head in regards to Modric as he probably will come good but our deficencies last season were left wing and defensive midfield and he looks to be solving neither...

    I'd like to see:


    Hutton Corkula Woodgate Bale

    Bentley NEW DM Jenas Modric / Dos Santos

    Bent / Podolski Pavyuchecko
  17. JimmyG2
    Well at least Dawson has redeemed himself.Thought he played well today.Team selection I find baffling again.In Modric we have one the best midfielders in Europe and he sits on the bench to watch Gilberto have his first run out.
    Pavlyuchenko was having a good game and he is replaced by Bent. Lennon was on fire at Newcastle and is replaced by Bentley who admittedly played better today. No cohesion or consistency of selection.
    Mainly though we play without any pace at the back or through the midfield.Possession is fine but it should be for a purpose.We give the opposition too much time to cover.Hopefully we sre at rock bottom now and the only way is up.
  18. Spurger King
    I've always felt that it is difficult to get an indication as to how a season will pan out, until the first 10 game have been played. I'm sticking to that, and will reserve judgement until then.

    However, what I will say is that if Ramos continues to make the god awful decisions that to date leave us rock bottom, not only will he be gone after 10, but his leaving present will be a nice little relegation dog-fight for the unlucky sod who takes over.

    Would anyone bet against Levy making another genius decision, and hiring McLaren?

    Come back Christian Gross...all is forgiven!
  19. BringBack_leGin
    Jenas is a liability in any formation. The man is by far the worst midfielder we have had since Dozzell left, and I include both Freund and Leonhardsen in that. Zokora, in my opinion, looks good as a DM in a three man midfield, because the onus is not on him to pass at all as there are two other midfielders to do that. Purely on grounds of passion, because the boy is limited, I would have O'Hara in there. And the third and final slot should go to Luka Modric every single time, for him to have freedom to support Pavlyuchenko and not be responsible for anything beyond being an attacking midfielder.

    I would never not play Lennon, he is the only attacking threat we have right now and why Gilberto of all people was put in ahead of him is a mystery. On the right it has to be Giovani every time for the moment. He and Lennon are the only one's who seem to give the team any life, and putting them on their wrongs foots seems to get the best out of both of them as they can push forward more and create more by being close to the front man, Barca style circa 2006.

    And as you have said, Corluka needs to be made Woodgates permanent partner at the back, because King can't be relied on and Dawson is awful. Bale when fit should always be left back, with Ekotto as back up, and likewise on the other side with Hutton and Gunter.

    If Ramos had kept Lennon in, started Giovani and played Modric ahead of Jenas I think today would have been a different ball game.

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