Five-Four-One: The Coleman Conundrum

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2 Responses

  1. Wyn says:

    A well argued point of view, but if this is the case for the “defence”, I will put the case for the “prosecution”.

    The first two witnesses I would call for the prosecution would, irony of ironies, be Coleman and Roberts. When they adopted the wing-back system at the start of the last campaign, it was met with much scepticism (including from myself). This was a radical departure from the longstanding 4-2-3-1, and seemed very risky as very few of the players at the time would have experience of a wing-back system with their club sides. Although things very nearly went pear-shaped out in Andorra (more down to that disgraceful pitch than the formation), it cannot be denied that the change of formation proved to be a master stroke. The success of a change in formation wasn’t a one-off either. The move from a 5-3-2/3-5-2 to the 3-4-2-1 box formation for the match out in Haifa, although a less radical change than from a flat back four, was still a bold move, and gave us the blueprint for qualification and tournament success.

    The other strong argument in favour of a change of formation would be that our current two favoured alternative formations the 3-4-2-1 or 4-2-3-1 both involve two holding midfielders. The absence of Allen, combined with a half-fit Ledley (who will need to contribute far more offensively and mobility wise in the absence of Allen’s all-round game), is a serious headache. Not only that, but the game out in Vienna was just about the only game in this campaign where we were second best for the majority of the game (62% possession to Austria, and 15 shots and 7 on target to our 7 and 3 respectively). This in spite of having Allen and Ledley available to anchor the midfield – with Ramsey being the only notable absentee. Allen’s departure on 56 minutes was particularly telling. So, there is good reason to fear being over-run in the middle of the park at the CCS.

    Having said all this the problem with a change of formation is that there isn’t a system that obviously addresses the concern about the defensive midfield problems caused by Allen’s absence. The best I can come up with is a 4-3-3: Hennessey, Gunter, Williams, Chester, Davies, Ramsey, Ledley, Huws, Bale, HRK and Lawrence/Woodburn. Offensively, with a very mobile front three, that could be a formidable line-up – but it would be a big departure, and it’s not clear that it would really improve the defensive midfield problems.

    So, all in all I the case for a change of formation isn’t clear-cut at all. But neither is the case for the status quo. As you say, Coleman will be having many sleepless nights over this. Precedent suggests that if Coleman were to change things, then the first game of the international season is probably the best time, with the two aforementioned changes coming at the start of the season and in after the end of the club season. As it is, I expect Coleman to keep things largely unchanged. The most radical change he may be contemplating is to drop Ramsey alongside Ledley, and play Lawrence, Joniesta or Woodburn (off the bench) alongside Bale in the dual-10 position. This isn’t Ramsey’s best position, but we need some creativity from deep, and Ramsey certainly has quarterback capabilities.

    The most telling aspect of the post is the absence of any suggested pairing to replace the Ledley/Allen duo. This mirrors discussions elsewhere. Where suggestions have been made, they’ve been very unconvincing – any combination of Ledley, Edwards, King or Huws is either lacking in creativity, dynamism, ball retention capability or experience, to varying degrees.

    In the absence of any convincing suggestion as to how we can accommodate the absence of Allen, in terms of either personnel or formation changes, perhaps the mantra “in Coleman we trust” is about as good as it gets. That and a bit of overdue Bale magic.

    • Russell Todd says:

      Hywel replies:

      Great points – well made, Wyn. I do not disagree with anything that you have said there. Allen’s absence is showing that his presence is every bit as crucial as Bale and Ramsey – if not more so.

      I think he has to bring Lawrence into the mix somewhere. He had a good season last year and has looked bright for Leicester in pre-season.

      I’m not sure you can even pick Ledley – no club, no pre-season – it’s a big ask.

      I’m not sure I’d pick HRK either. He’s played very little football over the last 12 months. He trusts Edwards so he’ll come in. King is another fringe player who has yet to do anything of note for us, so Lawrence would be the obvious choice.

      Woodburn is an interesting one. I like the look of him. He’s clever, has an eye for goal and a killer pass and is well used to pressing. He’ll be extremely fit and desperate to prove his worth. It’s a gamble though.

      I think Coleman’s first thought will be to keep it tight. With that in mind – he’ll play Edwards next to Ledley (if fit). Your point on Bale is a good one. He really isn’t the all action rampaging wing back he once was – there isn’t a hige amount of running for us and I question if he needs to be further back to allow him to get on the ball more. Either way – he is due a big performance after an indifferent 12 months.

      Thanks for reading and responding so thoughtfully.


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