On Inzaghi’s 4-2-3-1

In 2012, I suggested Max Allegri should consider moving to a 4-2-3-1. But this looks just like a 4-3-3 with 3 central midfielders. That is basically what a 4-2-3-1 is, except that two of those three central midfielders are tasked as holding midfielders (one of which may/should make driving runs into space). abB07Roahg

One of those three midfielders is given a role behind the striker, which some players interpret as a “free role” in the formation.

Now in 2014, I’m not sure I would suggest the same to Pippo Inzaghi. That being said, he’s likely shifting to the formation in the coming days, and it’s worth considering first what the side might look like before exploring what the results of such a shift would be. For nostalgia’s sake I’m going to illustrate it with a this11 diagram.


Poli can be switched with Muntari, and probably will be; Honda can play centrally, but if Menez plays centrally than Honda does fine on the right wing (I know he typically plays centrally, but for now, he’s in form and playing well in the position while helping Abate be more effective – don’t play with it). De Jong is almost a lock for this formation until Montolivo gets back with the sale of Cristante, there is no one else to hold the midfield and distribute the ball. I’m not sure accommodating Torres into the starting lineup is the best course of action, but Torres’ psychological condition must be taken into effect, and he should be given a chance to have the side designed around getting him chances in the box. You’re a bit stuck with Torres anyway, so you may as well try to bring out the goalscoring prowess that’s buried under layers of psychological distress and physical aging.

Besides providing more support to Torres, the 4-2-3-1 differs from the 4-3-3 only in changing two side midfielders and one central midfielder into three central midfielders (or two holders, one creative) means the wide players in the “3” line, have to cover extra space. This means a lot of running there. Also, there are pockets of space that these wingers leave behind as they push forward and attack: great for creating a numbers game on counterattacks, but dangerous and susceptible to counter-counter-attacks. For a side with a defense weaker than the NFL’s “we never received that” campaign, this is a serious concern. Rami and Alex lack the speed to track back quickly, as do De Jong and Poli. So in emergency situations, Ignazio Abate is going to be the man to be sprinting back and helping out. Current vein of form aside, is that a situation that seems sustainable? An intelligent coach would find a way to play a fast player centrally, say Ménez, and have him sit in between those back three (fullbacks push up, NdJ sits back – formation essentially becomes 3-3-3-1, Alex/NdJ/Rami, DeScig/Poli/Abate, SeS/Ménez/Honda, Torres) and run amok. Hell, Edinson Cavani sprinted through the Milan central defense, imagine what someone with real pace would do.

But this isn’t a new issue, lack of speed in midfield and defense, and the formation shift actually should benefit Nigel De Jong significantly. His excellent World Cup campaign came next to a holding partner (admittedly with 5 defenders) and should his partner have the right sort of positional discipline and communication, the base of midfield should see better security. Of course, security in one area means weakness in another, the flanks are prone to 2 v 1 overloads should the wingers not come back and help out the wing backs. SeS and Honda, however, have been excellent about covering their fullbacks, and this bodes well for the formation.

My real concern with the formation is the lack of a partner for De Jong in the central midfield. Poli, Muntari and Essien are the candidates for this spot, and truth be told, none of them particularly are suited for the role. Poli gets the nod ahead of Muntari, because somehow Muntari continues to play despite being in almost as bad of form as Bonera, which reminds me how the hell is this still a thing?

The move is crying out for a quality midfield player (Kondogbia/Obiang) which Milan don’t really have. But like Allegri and Seedorf, Inzaghi is going to have to learn to adapt to a formation without all the tools he needs.


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About Pete Acquaviva

Pete writes about Milan on this blog. Occasionally other things. You would know which of them it is if you've gotten this far.

One Thought on “On Inzaghi’s 4-2-3-1

  1. RossoneriFido on September 26, 2014 at 10:59 AM said:

    Thanks as I said in the old article I had the same concern. It pains me so much when we don’t get a proper replacement for a needed role. When we sold Cristante we went to get a temporary replacement in Van Ginkel rather than going for Pedro Obiang who I have been saying for more than a year that we should get. What can we do? Nothing but hope for the best.

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