8. The Reshuffle

Tactics are a funny thing – Often, a tactic which I sit and put together carefully will fall flat on its face when I try to use it, while some of my most effective tactics have been a total shot in the dark which should never have worked in a million years.

This season, I’ve spent a lot of time tinkering with tactics, with middling effects. First, we started in a 4-3-2-1, with three central midfielders. This worked for a short time, but eventually it was found to lack any sort of creativity or bite in midfield. I then switched us to a 4-2-3-1 with the return of Adam Lallana, but again this was found wanting.

We crashed out of competition after competition, with our players totally unable to find the target, eventually enduring a spell of 6 games without a win in the run up to March’s international break. Out of both domestic cups and the Champions League, and with 8 games to secure European Football for next season, I threw caution and planning to the wind, drastically altering our tactics and moving to five-at-the-back.

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There were a few gambles involved in this tactical switch. Firstly, any level of success would see it carry into the new season, which would mean changing the individual training of every single player at the club: We would no longer use wingers, meaning that wide players would either be sold, or moulded into different roles and positions. The balance of the squad would probably also have to change, with players like Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah having to adapt to more central roles quite quickly in order to keep depth in the attacking trio.

At this point, i’m sure everyone’s expecting some sort of in-depth tactical analysis of my new tactic and how it works, and why it works, and why I chose the instructions I chose…

I have unfortunate news: you’re reading the wrong blog.

I chose a formation, put a bit of thought into the roles, and hoped for the best. Our first game with the new tactic coincided with a training change (see ‘The Blueprint‘) but I elected to keep everyone on their original positional training, until I could figure out if our tactical re-shuffle would be a permanent one.

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Our new-look side definitely did the job against Stoke, as the new tactic got it’s first run out: Dominic Solanke partnered Roberto Firmino up top as we scored 2 goals in a single game for the first time since February (It’s now April) to topple Stoke and send ourselves 3rd. Obviously, 1 game does not make a world-beating group, and the real proof will be whether we can continue to find the target in our final 7 matches, with 12 points currently separating us from Manchester United at the top of the table.

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