For the past few weeksNewcastleunited have been playing with a different formation and have largely given up on the 4-4-2 formation deployed in the earlier part of the season. We must be honest in our assessment that the new formation has looked great and performances have been praiseworthy.
A lot of credit for that goes to Alan Pardew, the management staff for identifying the need to change and then coming up with an option that has blended nicely on the pitch. Of course the players deserve the credit as well for being the ones to carry it out on the pitch so elegantly. This is not the first time however thatNewcastlehave played a 4-3-3. In the latter part of 2007-08 season we saw it being deployed. The attack was lead by Michael Owen, Mark Viduka and Obafemi Martins. The system sawNewcastleplay well and avoid the drop by claiming some useful points.
The reason why Newcastle United have done well with the 4-3-3 formation this season is that because it suits many of the players down to the ground. Yohan Cabaye one of the most outstanding players for the toon used to play in a midfield of three at LOSC Lille and Demba Ba (signing of the season) used to play in a front three at TSG 1899 Hoffenheim (square pegs, square holes). It also allows players like Hatem Ben Arfa, and Papiss Cisse to come into their own and do what they do best. Of course the defense remains as it is as a back four and overall the Newcastle defence has been solid (apart from 2 capital punishments).
4-3-3 as a formation has many advantages over, lets say, a rigid 4-4-2. One of them is that it can manifest itself into many other formations easily. Whilst in possession one can go with 4-3-3 or a 4 -2 -3 -1, while defending it can be a solid 4-5-1. It is a very fluid system that allows players to explore different options. If we were to look at all the different leagues and all the top teams from Europe, not many go with a standard 4-4-2 system. For example, it is the formation which Barcelona have so consistently adhered to, allowing the creative players, such as Xavi and Iniesta to hold the ball in midfield and ship it out wide to the fast wingers. It is certainly something which we have been trying to emulate. Now, we just need to find some wide men with a bit more pace than Gutierrez.
When everyone is fit and available Yohan Cabaye, Cheick Tiote and Danny Guthrie have emerged as pardew’s first choice midfielders and that has prompted Pardew to put Jonas Gutierrez at left back. With all due respect, Jonas is not a left back and that could be problem as he has proved to be one of the hardest working players with a great work ethic, and he is the club vice captain as well. So, this could be a tough decision for Pardew to make. Another issue that rears is that 4-3-3 system puts a lot of onus on the full backs, for providing width to attacks and apart from Santon none of our full backs have shown they possess the required pedigree to that on a consistent basis (something to ponder).
We must say that we like what we have seen of the new tactic and would want management to continue with the same. Who knows, if Newcastle manage to qualify for the UEFA Champions league (long way to go I know) or the Europa league (almost there), Newcastle can attract higher caliber players can be brought in adding to the highly rated youngsters and make a big impression playing in a 4-3-3. Well, we certainly hope so.
By Himanshu Dhingra