As football goes I’ve been noticing something recently, there’s been an epidemic of sides that play 442 in defence with a striker wide on the wing but when in possession break quickly onto the counter attack and play 433 with the winger bombing forward as an extra striker. Often this player is a striker on the wing, as in Heskey last season at Liverpool or Bellamy at Newcastle. Arsenal don’t quite play this system even though Reyes bombs forwards the requisite number of times because quite frankly they’re too good to be held back by mere systems. This is how to play like Arsenal for the rest of us.

This 4423 looks like it could be the new version of the man ‘in the hole’ midfield diamond as defensive midfield players have become more adept at dropping back, Dietmar Hamann style, and picking up the Paul Scholes/Totti type role. Wheras in this system if they drop back then they’re outnumbered by the 4 midfielders across the park and can’t get hold of the ball and you’d expect the apcy striker playing out wide to be faster than a defensive midfielder whose playing close when chasing a dinked ball over the top.

The system first employed with most effectiveness by Zdnek Zeman’s Lecce in Serie A but sadly didn’t take there when he moved on to bigger clubs as it works best with unfashionable/hard working (in football these are synonyms) players who are very, very fit. Thus the perfect fit for the English league where the general tempo is such that player fitness isn’t really an issue when playing any system. Probably our finest exponent of this tactic and the source I heard it first explained by on Soccer AM towards the back end of last season is the constantly surprising Bolton team of Sam Allardyce who’ve had great success using it to flood defence/attack and outnumber the opposition in the area of trhe pitch they feel is most significant at any one time. Because in football, if you’ve got the extra man, you’ve always got a chance.

As you might be able to tell I’m plotting teams and tactics for the upcoming Football Manager 2005, having verified that the beta demo works perfectly under Linux with Cedega I’ve allowed myself to raise hopes.