With the start of the 2020/21 season fast aproaching and a new untested manager at the helm, the question on most fans’ mind is – what formation will Pirlo use?
While it is important to have the right formation, the more important aspect would be the tactics used within said formation. A formation at the end of the day is just a template that a manager uses to assign positions to players. It is the tactics implemented within that formation that helps in the execution of the roles given to players and approach of the team as whole. Hence by itself a formation is meaningless.
While deciding on the right gameplan it is vital to take stock of the personel at our disposal, along with their respective strengths and weaknesses. As things stand at this moment, with the exception of signing a striker I do not see us making any futher additions to the squad. On that note below are 3 key factors that need to be consdered before we decide on the right tactics/ fomation to follow.
Efficiency of Full Backs:
This is the area where we have been criminally understaffed for a while. In the last couple of years things have gotten so bad that we have had to resort to playing Cuadrado at RB on a regular basis. In fact its fair to say that the RB position is akin to the professor of “The Defence Against The Dark Arts” position at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Where in we seem to have a different one every year.While on the other side Alex Sandro has been a stable presence for quite sometime, his levels have been dropping a for a couple of seasons now and behind him we are yet to develop a reliable back up. With Danilo, De Sciglio, Sandro not up to the mark and a returning Pellegrini yet to make his debut for the club, Pirlo is left with a real conundrum when it comes to the full backs - Toothless in attack and ineffective in defence.
With this in mind if Pirlo does want to play with 3 CBs as has been reported in a few outlets, the above mentioned full backs are going to have to be used in a more advanced position which is further going to expose their frailties from both an attacking as well as defending perspective. Another option could be to play Demiral at RB as part of a flat back 4. While this would reduce our attacking threat (Not that we had any from our regular full backs) it would certainly shore things up on the defensive side.
Without a doubt this has been the area most ignored by management for a long time. So much so that last season Ronaldo and Dybala basically had to fend for themselves as they dragged the rest of the team to a Scudetto. While the arrivals of Authur and Mckennie to replace Pjanic and Matuidi was a welcome sign, such is the mess we have gotten ourselves into that these 2 signings alone are nowhere near enough. Considering Ramsey’s fitness issues, that now leaves us with 4 and a half recognised MF options (I have not considered Khedira at present). If he is able to overcome his injury issues I do feel that Ramsey does possess qualities benificial to the team as long as he is used as a box to box MF which is where he is at his best as opposed to the multitude of roles he was asked to fill last season.
Having said that, at present we still lack the numbers and dynamism in midfield if we are to even contemplate a deep run in the champions league. While someone like a Kulusevski could be asked to do a job, that would be a complete waste of his talent as he is better off either in the attacking third or on the wings. With all these issues at hand does Pirlo really risk playing a 3 man midfiled?
Honestly we would be better off playing a 2 man midfield as part of a 4-2-3-1 with one sitting in front of the defence and the other doing the running job. This would give us the option of playing an additional attacker and ensure that our most produtive players are not completely abandoned in the attacking third. In addition this would result in us playing the flat back 4 discussed earlier and would also allow us to overcome the next and most important factor.
It is fair to say that the only positive to come from Sarri’s season at the helm was the form of Dybala. Having followed him for a while now, it is quite clear that his best position is either as a 10 or as a false 9. The mistake that Allegri made during his final season was pushing Dybala out on the right as part of a front 3 on a regular basis.
While it would be tempting to give Ronaldo a free role, allowing him to roam across the breath of the attacking third, fact of the matter is, that freedom needs to be given to Dybala instead. This would thus ensure that Ronaldo is played in his most effective position on the left allowing him to cut inside to take shots on goal. Additionally, the striker that is signed – Suarez, Dzeko, Giroud, Morata or whoever it may be, along with being a goal threat will more importantly play the Benzema role of holding the ball up and playing Ronaldo on, to further enhance his productivity.
With a striker upfront, Ronaldo on the left and Dybala as the 10 as part of a 4-2-3-1, this would allow us the option of utilizing Kulusevski’s speed and energy on the right wing, which would otherwise not be possible if we were to play with a front 3 which would force Dybala on to the right.
As a 10 Dybala can act as the creative spark in the attacking third resulting in a less dependence on the midfield. Thus he needs to be given the freedom to move around the area.
Fact of the matter is, over recent seasons, the team played their best while utilizing the above tactics/formation. While a lot can change from now until the start of the season, this approach could be our best hope of getting the most out a squad that is still carrying a lot of liabilities.