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Will Teams Play Without Forwards?

Updated on July 11, 2012

With the much talked about ‘no recognised forwards’ formation used by Spain in the recent European Championships proving to be very successful it is now time to wonder, and perhaps worry, if many teams will attempt using it over the next season.

After a certain formation or positional switch has been used during a major tournament and it has proved to work there always seem to be managers who like to get in on the act and use it too.

In the 1950’s a lot of teams played really attacking 4-2-4 formations with 2 really attacking wingers echoing the great Brazilian teams of the time.

Then after England won the World Cup without playing any wingers that became the fashion in football for a while.

Over the years there have been different formations that have been in vogue and the same with certain player positions. Whether it’s playing 4-4-2 or 4-3-3 or more recently 4-2-3-1, or teams playing with 4 at the back or 3 at the back. The introduction of wing backs. The use of sweepers. The holding midfielder role. Playing one up front, and maybe one supporting ‘in the hole’.

These have all been introduced and copied because they have been seen to be successful. But do some managers just copy them for effect. Do they want to be seen as real innovators in the game, or is it a need to keep up to date. Some people like to have the latest, toy, or gadget or car and maybe some want the latest formation.

The thing with a formation is that it has to be for the benefit of your team. The players you have at your disposal must be able to carry out the game plan accordingly and not be struggling to master the basics.

To use the introduction of wing backs a few years ago as an example there are some players who made this role look so simple and they could get up and down the wings all day in both a defensive and attacking sense. But then you would see managers who liked the look of it and would put a player in to that position in their own team and while they might have been a good full back or a good midfielder they didn’t have the necessary skills for that role.

The same goes for Spain’s formation without any recognised forwards. The key word here is ‘recognised’. For while it might look as though they are playing a 4-6-0 formation the midfielders are always looking to link up and attack, pulling defenders all over the place and leaving space for someone to have a shot at goal. With players in this position such as Fabregas,Silva and Iniesta once they are in front of goal they are then as clinical as a good quality forward anyway.

In the hands of an inferior manager with lesser players that formation can easily be turned into the dullest that has been used for a long time where the 10 players are actually mainly thinking defensively. Scotland under Craig Levein used a 4-6-0 formation in an away game against Czech Republic a couple of years ago and was widely condemned for it. Scotland lost the game but Levein stuck to his guns claiming that it could prove to be a formation widely used in the future. There lies the problem with it. When the formations are written down on paper they look like the same thing but out on grass it’s totally different. One can still be a skilful, attacking style of football while the other remains a stodgy,defensive, overly cautious system.

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    • James Vernon profile imageAUTHOR

      James Vernon 

      6 years ago from UK

      Thanks for the comment Barry. Yes i think you need great,attacking players from midfield to play this way successfully but i still wouldn't be too surprised to see some club teams try it now and again even if it doesn't suit them.

    • barry1001 profile image

      barry1001 

      6 years ago from North Wales

      To play the 4-6-0 formation effectively as Spain do, you need to have the right players in the team. Spain can do it because their midfielders are a) so talented and b) are well schooled in the short, one touch passing possession football. Other teams would certainly be less effective. For instance, could you see England employing a 4-6-0 formation with the midfield they have at their disposal?

    • James Vernon profile imageAUTHOR

      James Vernon 

      6 years ago from UK

      Thanks for the comment Richard. Yes i was saying here that teams should always play to their strengths, but i wouldn't be surprised if some teams try to play without forwards even if it doesn't suit them at all.

    • James Vernon profile imageAUTHOR

      James Vernon 

      6 years ago from UK

      Thanks for the comment CyclingFitness. I hope not many teams try to play that way because they don't have the players but i wouldn't be surprised if they do.

    • James Vernon profile imageAUTHOR

      James Vernon 

      6 years ago from UK

      Thanks for the comment mandar. Yes i agree. I don't think many have got the players to play that way but i still think some will try to.

    • James Vernon profile imageAUTHOR

      James Vernon 

      6 years ago from UK

      Thanks for commenting CCahill. Yes i just think some teams will have a go at different formations whether they've got the players for it or not.

    • CCahill profile image

      CCahill 

      6 years ago from England

      a 9-0-1 lol seriously!?

      I take it your a Nottingham fan CyclingFitness, when was that madness? I take it; it was unsuccessful then ?

    • profile image

      Richard-Murray 

      6 years ago

      CCahill said it best, play to your strengths. If anything, managers that try to follow Spain show they weren't looking at the Euros. Italy displayed the counter already. Play to your strengths and the weaknesses of the opponent system and have contingency systems for sudden changes by opposing managers and unforseen injuries and red cards. That is the basic plan of every manager. Second, the 46 requires midfielders who play with each other alot. France's national team could play a 46 but the midfielders would look poorer because midfield connections require time between players to become seamless. It is in that seamlessness that the 46 works. It is dangerous expecting in one summer for a bunch of midfielders to play the 46 as seamless as Barca midfielded Spain do. Lastly, playing to one system has one great flaw, it is obvious. A good manager wants the ability to tweak their club. National sides may not need that as much since they dont play as many games, but club sides require tweaks for the multitude of events during a season. A club side must always play with center forwards, central midfielders and center defenders.

    • CyclingFitness profile image

      Liam Hallam 

      6 years ago from Nottingham UK

      At present Spain are probably the only team in the world that could play such a game but the absence of their main forward in David Villa kind of forced it on them.

      We watched nottingham forest play a 9-0-1 formation under Gary Megson for a season and that was like watching paint dry so it doesn't always work. Megson was also a shockingly bad manager

    • mandarmk9 profile image

      Mandar Karandikar 

      6 years ago from Ratlam, India

      A very informative and well researched hub. But I don't think teams will follow Spain because it has the greatest midfielders, and simply doesn't need forwards!

      :) Mandar

    • CCahill profile image

      CCahill 

      6 years ago from England

      Yeah some great points, i can only guess that it wont work for many teams but wouldnt be suprised if they didnt try it none-the-less, Brendan Rogers with Liverpool probably the first in line to try it.

      I think the 4-6-0 was tailored towards Spain's own strengths, teams would be better to find formations and strategies which work to their own strengths.

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