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Stephen Hart on Formation Geek


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Hey guys, before I start, I will give you a warning.

Yes, I work for theScore and it may come across as shilly, but as you know I normally do not push the product on the Vee's. Heck sadly, I dont have time to post as much as I would like to, but alas here I am.

If you didn't catch the Footy Show last night, we had Stephen Hart in on Tuesday to talk tactics with Kristian Jack. The television version was a 4min shortened version, this web version is 11min of awesomeness.

Not that there is much to go up against, but this has to be the most insightful segment even done with Canadian soccer.

http://blogs.thescore.com/footyblog/2011/06/01/the-formation-geek-canada-edition/

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Really enjoyed this - and you're not peddling at all. The thing I think I have the biggest problem with regarding Hart's mentality is that he seems absolutely convinced that his 4-2-3-1 leaves the striker LESS isolated that the two strikers would be in in a 4-4-2. And about that I think he is dead wrong. The only exceptions might be against far weaker opponents. Against evenly strengthed or more difficult opposition, I don't think I have seen a striker MORE ISOLATED that our lone top man, particularly when it has been Friend.

Now, he's got the added dilemma of having his two most successful current strikers, Jackson and Hume, playing regularly in 4-4-2, and he still wants to peddle this nonsense. Jackson is virtually useless as a lone top or as a winger. Is he willing to sacrifice his top-form player to stick with his plan?

I really like Hart in many ways, and he obviously has a sound soccer mind, but it irritates me to hear him still talk about this formation as being something he is "working on", as if it is a relatively new experiment. It works in some cases, not at all in others, and hasn't led us to any kind of success in competitive matches. Case closed, as far as I am concerned.

Most of the matches will be close, but this is still a formation under which Canada will lose most key matches 1-0 or 2-1, I'm afraid to say.

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Haven't watched the video yet, but in adding to what Nolando is saying, i think Hart is viewing the formation from a TD angle and trying to make the transition from youth teams to NT as seemless as possible - which makes sense when you don't play alot of games. My hunch is he has the entire program playing the 4-2-3-1 to become "our system" which plays to our strengths; lots of defensive midfielders and fast wingers, but not alot of goal scorers at striker. I assume this formation will not change at all and all of our age group teams will be playing in that formation going forward as long as Hart is in charge.

The maddening thing for me is the rigidity with which he clings to the formation. You have to make tactical and strategic adjustments when necessary, like playing at home and needing a win or chasing a game from behind etc.

Edited by jpg75
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Jackson is virtually useless as a lone top or as a winger.

While I don't think he's useless as a winger, why does it have to be a choice between the two? Why can't Jackson slot in behind the striker? This would mean he'd have to do a tad bit more defensively but he'd be doing that anyway if he was playing on the wing. This way, we're still in the system and Jackson plays near the top with another striker to play off of (who may win a header or two more). This would move DeRosario out to the wing which I wouldn't mind at all.

Of course, I haven't watched the segment either so I don't know what sort of responsibilities Hart places on that position, but I'm sure Jacko can do that.

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Haven't watched the video yet, but in adding to what Nolando is saying, i think Hart is viewing the formation from a TD angle and trying to make the transition from youth teams to NT as seemless as possible - which makes sense when you don't play alot of games. My hunch is he has the entire program playing the 4-2-3-1 to become "our system" which plays to our strengths; lots of defensive midfielders and fast wingers, but not alot of goal scorers at striker. I assume this formation will not change at all and all of our age group teams will be playing in that formation going forward as long as Hart is in charge.

The maddening thing for me is the rigidity with which he clings to the formation. You have to make tactical and strategic adjustments when necessary, like playing at home and needing a win or chasing a game from behind etc.

Playing devil's advocate here a little, but I think some of the rigidity must be due to the sparse CMNT schedule, and the fact that in order to have a complex set of flexible options the team would have to play a lot more often to have familiarity with eachother and the system(s).

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Playing devil's advocate here a little, but I think some of the rigidity must be due to the sparse CMNT schedule, and the fact that in order to have a complex set of flexible options the team would have to play a lot more often to have familiarity with eachother and the system(s).

Yeah, that's what my "which makes sense when you don't play alot of games." comment was about...

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Right... I somehow digested your last line without the first part.

No worries. I don't have a problem with a system, it's just that from time to time it might be a good idea to make a change/tweak to respond to changes your opponents make or in certain scenarios where it's warranted....my usual and only beef with Hart.

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4-4-2 is done and dusted for the time being in international soccer. Even England doesn't play 4-4-2 anymore.

4-2-3-1, or 4-3-3/4-5-1 is what Canada must play. BUT, a winger and/or CM must be in offensively supporting positions for the CF at all times.

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No worries. I don't have a problem with a system, it's just that from time to time it might be a good idea to make a change/tweak to respond to changes your opponents make or in certain scenarios where it's warranted....my usual and only beef with Hart.

Perhaps its easier to switch formations in club football when I team is together ALL the time. International football may be different. I doubt the USA adjust their formation in response to their opponent. For that you need time and we are still trying to perfect one formation. Also I do recall us playing a 4-4-2 against greece but I could be wrong.

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While I don't think he's useless as a winger, why does it have to be a choice between the two? Why can't Jackson slot in behind the striker? This would mean he'd have to do a tad bit more defensively but he'd be doing that anyway if he was playing on the wing. This way, we're still in the system and Jackson plays near the top with another striker to play off of (who may win a header or two more). This would move DeRosario out to the wing which I wouldn't mind at all.

I agree that it's worth a shot. I think Johnson as a winger is also a dead issue from where I am sitting (I am now convinced he should be a defensive mid and nothing else) so why not try DDR out there on the right and then have Simeon in the middle (either striker or central mid) where he would be asked to cross (a weak area of his game) much less and where he could occasionally overlap with a non-liability striker like Gerba or Occean (or Hume?). This might make it the sort of flexible formation that Hart seems to be dreaming of.

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Perhaps its easier to switch formations in club football when I team is together ALL the time. International football may be different. I doubt the USA adjust their formation in response to their opponent. For that you need time and we are still trying to perfect one formation. Also I do recall us playing a 4-4-2 against greece but I could be wrong.

We didn't played with 1 striker up top against Greece...though it is harder to do, international sides can and will sometimes change their formations when the situation warrants it. The Czechs under Bruckner were masters at in-game formation adjustments, it's do-able, you just need players that understand the game.

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Brilliant show... I can see why Hart's insistance on 4-5-1 (4-2-3-1) / 4-3-3 formation based on following:

1. Offence to Defence adaptation. You can easily adapt from 4-5-1 to 4-3-3 easily.

2. Leveraging Canada's strength on midfield play, we have to crowd the midfield to create the turnover and push forward with counter attack off the wing or down the middle.

3. Less isolation for the attacking players up front. Lone striker can always track back to pick up the ball but in replacement, another attacking player from either side of wings or from the middle can cover his spot.

However I would love to see us try 4-4-1-1 as Dero playing the withdrawn striker role with Jackson on top as the CF. This gives Dero the freedom to roam around his space and create chances for Jackson to hammer it home. We can still use Simpson to attack from the LW and/or some overlaps coming from DeJong / Klukowski.

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Brilliant show... I can see why Hart's insistance on 4-5-1 (4-2-3-1) / 4-3-3 formation based on following:

1. Offence to Defence adaptation. You can easily adapt from 4-5-1 to 4-3-3 easily.

2. Leveraging Canada's strength on midfield play, we have to crowd the midfield to create the turnover and push forward with counter attack off the wing or down the middle.

3. Less isolation for the attacking players up front. Lone striker can always track back to pick up the ball but in replacement, another attacking player from either side of wings or from the middle can cover his spot.

However I would love to see us try 4-4-1-1 as Dero playing the withdrawn striker role with Jackson on top as the CF. This gives Dero the freedom to roam around his space and create chances for Jackson to hammer it home. We can still use Simpson to attack from the LW and/or some overlaps coming from DeJong / Klukowski.

Obviously 4-2-3-1 converts to 4-4-1-1 as easily as it does to 4-3-3 depending on personnel.

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http://www.canadiansoccernews.com/content.php?1790-Hart-Canada-to-play-USA-aggressively

Against Ecuador last week Hart started what looked like a 4-5-1 formation with Simeon Jackson as a lone forward. At times the undersized Jackson was lost and Hart says that they have been working on a few different looks in training this week to try and get Jackson more involved.

“We’ve been working on various things and within the three games we’ll show some (formation) flexibility,” Hart said.

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Hey Sean, don't apologise, the soccer community in Canada is so small that cross-promotion is a good thing. I discovered the Score this year, and tape episodes of TFS, Italian games, and Serie A rewind. The host is excellent, and the other two are very knowledgable.

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Props to Hart for switching to a 4-4-2 in the last 10 minutes last night to press for the equalizers when down 2-0.

Props for pointing it out, too. Of course the Americans were intending to defend by then, but still we had so much of the ball and had many dangerous chances. Give it a chance for a little longer next time, perhaps?

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I think the most important thing is having the personnel to be flexible within our formations. It seems with Canada if we run into any kind of injuries we are so thin that our options are limited. It's getting better though and last night it was nice to see us able to make adjustments and immediately change the game.

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With so many calling for a 2-striker 4-4-2 formation, I wonder if a 4-1-4-1 line-up would offer a good compromise.

The idea being to rotate our midfield triangle, so that we have one defensive mid (say Dunfield), with two central mids in front of him (say Hutchinson and W. Johnson). This would allow either of our wingers (Simpson on the left or Jackson on the right) to shift up as a second striker, depending on which side we are attacking from. This shifts us easily into temporary 4-4-2 attacking formations, that could slide back to the modified 4-5-1 while defending.

GK

Back four

Dunfield

Jackson - Hutchinson - Johnson - Simpson

Gerba/Friend

--> Attack down the right: Jackson moves up as 2nd striker, Hutchinson slides outside to RW, Johnson and Dunfield stay inside

--> Attach down the left: Simpson slides up as 2nd striker, Johnson slides outside to LW, Hutchinson and Dunfield stay inside

...just thinking aloud.

Edited by David C.
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I liked the way our 4-1-4-1 worked back in 2007, and then we stopped using that formation as soon as Mitchell took over. With 2 central attacking mids the lone striker is less isolated and they can also help out the defensive mid.

I'd prefer using Will Johnson as the defensive mid with maybe Hutch and DeRo in front of him and then Simpson and Jackson on the wings and Gerba up top.

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