Talking Tactics – Nikolai’s MW: A bigger test

Hello! We’re back with the second part of our latest Talking Tactics series. Tactics guru Nikolai put forward the MW and it worked out quite well for Liverpool, which you can re-live here. I know what you’re thinking though – Liverpool are good anyway, is it really that good? After consultation with Nikolai, I took over at Blackburn to find out

Why Blackburn then? Well, they’ve got £20m to spend and enough defensive midfielders to fit the system. They’re a very average side whose reputation is surprisingly low considering.

They start with a lot of injuries, so we have to do without Flowers and Wilcox early on. Luckily, Bakayoko agrees to join as do Molnar and Belbey. Mark Ford is the final defensive midfielder in the jigsaw and this is how we’ll start the season:

It’s a worrying start. West Ham are one of the poorer sides around but they’re always ahead. No need to panic though, Flowers is a huge miss.

Alarm bells. Another poor side hold us to a draw

The stats are still in our favour so maybe it’s purely the keeper?

Flowers and Wilcox return for the trip to Bolton and despite conceding to their only shot on target, Wilcox scores a free kick to win us the game.

This start on paper is a dream. The results are not backing it up.

Signs of life? We leave it late but we do turn it round eventually.

A poor home defeat to Tottenham sets us back. They dominate the stats, too.

So, I could have thrown the towel in at this point and said it was a tactic for good teams and that’s your lot. But what worked with Liverpool? Can we do that again here?

Goals haven’t really been a problem. Spurs aside, we’ve at least scored in all the other games. But the opposition seems to find it very easy to get through, which is odd considering we have three DMs in there. Liverpool had Mark Wright playing in the DM role, going back to CB. Perhaps the run arrow is really that important. Where the player is going might be more important than where they are?

Broomes is going into DM to help sweep up.

I can’t overstate what a difference this made.

Is it a one off?

A First Division team? Need more evidence

Well that’s promising, even if the three injuries are not great news.

Coventry signed Le Tissier and it’s bizarre but we managed to come back late on.

Total domination.

Right then, what can we take from this turnaround so far? Was it just a case of bedding into a new system? New players finding their feet? Marlon Broomes shoring things up?

Clearly the fixture list has been kind to this point but…

The last one is particularly pleasing, they are unbeatable more or less. But we actually deserved it

A negative was a defeat to Liverpool, but that is the only blot on our copybook since Broomes went into the central DM role.

The test dictates we go for 19 games, this is the table at the half way point

Clearly, I’ve given Broomy an ego

Let’s look at the average ratings. Playing Sutton as a centre back also cannot be understated. He’s been immense in there with Hendry. The front 2 obviously are stars and Belbey, who I’ve never had before, has been tremendous in the AMC role. Sherwood and Ford have not rated well.

Here is Belbey:

Out of curiosity, I want to play 6 more league games.

There were a load of cup games after that which we won, but at the cost of an entire defence

Which came at the cost of a defeat at Elland Road

So there we are then. 5th but in the final of the League Cup and the quarters of the FA Cup.

In summary then it’s clearly a formation with merit. What I would say is that it’s easier for negative opposition to shut down, as you can see here

I don’t think it’s as explosive as the 2-3-1-2-2, though it does seem less prone to a red card. Chris Sutton thrived as a centre back

Make your own minds up and let Nikolai and I know. There’s a lot to like, but I found myself being frustrated by super keepers which had largely been a thing of the past in the 2-3-1-2-2.

Until next time…

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