Stars and Gripes

Occasionally interesting insight (and gripes) about the USMNT

Quick Thoughts: ENG, USA and Death of the 4-4-2

with one comment

(Very quick thoughts, so please disregard a general lack of proper spelling and grammar)

OK, kidding about the last part of the headline (sorry).  It is interesting though, that England and the United States, two of the principle exponents of the 4-4-2 in South Africa–when most sides had switched to some variation of a single-forward, five-man midfield (4-2-3-1, 4-2-1-3, 4-2-2-1-1)–played a similar formation in their first friendlies since the Cup.  The surprising part?  It wasn’t a 4-4-2.

Both Fabio Capello and Bob Bradley lined up their squads with just one “true” forward–Wayne Rooney for the English, who endured boos throughout, and Edson Buddle for the United States.  Playing behind them in the hole, as “false 9’s”, in the nomenclature of our times, were two men who were deployed primarily on the wing throughout their respective World Cup campaigns: Landon Donovan and Steven Gerrard.

There are some interesting parallels to consider:

– Both men serve as the heart and soul of their nation’s offense.  For all of the support they receive from Wayne Rooney, Frank Lampard (in Gerrard’s case), and Clint Dempsey (mainly, in Donovan’s case), England and the United States live and die on the performance of the two men.

– Both prefer playing in the middle, and seem to excel when given the opportunity.  Yet both were also pushed out to the wings in recent years by coaches (Capello and Bradley) seemingly dead-set on playing a rigid 4-4-2 (yes, both have experimented, but they’ve consistently returned to the 4-4-2 when the pressure was on).  In both cases, the rationale was the same: they may start on the wings, but they are given the freedom to roam across the pitch, choosing their positions as they see fit.  At times, this logic was proven correct; at others, it caused both to either disappear for stretches, or to force the subject, leaving the wings bare and their defenses exposed.

What makes the situation even more interesting is that both nations arrived in South Africa obviously short of a quality second striker option of true international caliber.  The United States had lost Charlie Davies nearly eight months prior, while England’s two year audition phase for Peter Crouch, Jermaine Defoe and Emile Heskey had yet to produce a clear winner.  Yet both managers chose to stick to their preferred 4-4-2, forcing their true creators to the wing.

And yet, coming back from a month-long break, both Bradley and Capello opted to move away from the formation, choosing instead to play with their starts in the withdrawn forward role, and to great effect.  Gerrard responded by carrying England with two wonderful second-half strikes, while Donovan–not atypically, mind you–looked the only man on the pitch for the United States who actually deserved to be there, and nearly struck in the third minute after a lovely, mazey run through the Brazilian defense.

I’m not suggesting that Capello and Bradley are tactically naive–that’s just silly.  There is simply irony in the mutual circumstances surrounding the squads, and in the events of the last few days.

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Written by Pete Kavanaugh

August 12, 2010 at 9:38 am

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. Interesting stuff. I haven’t been keeping up with your blog or with int’l soccer at all since the day after the Brasil game, but I look forward to more of this.

    PhilipVU94

    August 23, 2010 at 12:21 am


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