Is Pardew’s 4-2-3-1 formation a taste of things to come?

Posted on July 17th, 2011 | 18 Comments |

Newcastle's starting 11 against Darlington.
Newcastle's starting 11 against Darlington.
Now being a Geordie expatriate in London, I wasn’t at the Darlington game personally, but from what I can gather, manager, Alan Pardew lined his troops in the increasingly popular ‘4-2-3-1’ formation.

When I say “increasingly popular”, I mean within the English Premier League as many overseas teams have utilised this formation for quite some time now. Since it’s inception some time around the 1980s, there has been some debate on whether this is what could be described as an ‘attacking’ formation, or merely a variation on the 4-5-1 system, making it more flexible in attack by allowing three of the central five to move forward to support an old fashioned ‘number nine’ type figure who can both hold the ball and shoot.

Anyway, in Newcastle United’s case on Friday evening, this line up involved the use of Leon Best upfront, supported by Hatem Ben Arfa in a kind of midfield playmaker / second striker type role. On either side of Ben Arfa were Haris Vuckic on the left with Joey Barton in his right sided role from last season. Playing the more defensive role further back in midfield there was Alan Smith and Danny Guthrie, with (L to R) Shane Ferguson, Steven Taylor, Mike Williamson and Danny Simpson making up the usual back four (see picture). Admittedly, the personnel were much changed later on as is usually the case in such friendly games, but the principle remained much the same throughout most of the game. In an interesting side point though, much vaunted new signing, Yohan Cabaye was later used in the more defensive midfield two after poor Danny Guthrie had to come off with an ankle knock sustained after only eleven minutes of the game.

As most of you will know, the game was a modest 2-0 victory against decidedly lacklustre opposition for a Premiership side, with the goals coming from Joey Barton and Sammy Ameobi. You may also know that the events of the game were largely overshadowed by the “If Ameobi scores, we’re on the pitch” style antics too, though as far as the game itself went, this formation seemed to be the most interesting development to me personally.

When the game was over, manager, Alan Pardew assessed it thusly on the club’s official website:

“It’s early days but we had a lot more control tonight, as you would expect against lower league opposition.

“We were excellent for long periods of the game. Certainly at the start we passed the ball, moved the ball and controlled the game.

“We did it with a purpose – I thought Hatem (Ben Arfa) was excellent, especially the workrate he put in and his performance. That bodes well, but four or five of our players are right up to speed already as you could see.

“We caused them a lot of problems and could have had a bigger scoreline. All the youngsters who came on towards the end carried that on, so it was a good night on the football pitch.”

So I will conclude by asking the question, is this a taste of things to come for the coming season from Pardew or just a one off experiment. We have already heard Pardew expressing a wish to utilise Ben Arfa in a second striker role rather than on the wing when he said:

“Next season? He will play a central role in our attacking line. I want to use him as a playmaker, a number 10, just behind one forward.

So perhaps this is more than a mere one-off experiment. Do you think so? And if so, will it be a good thing for the side?


NUFCBlog Author: workyticket workyticket has written 1093 articles on this blog.

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18 Responses

  1. Assuming you got the idea for this thread from leazesterrace WT, I’ll add the reply I made on the site for comments.

    “The first thing to say is 4-2-3-1 needs the apprporiate personnel. The keys are the central attacking midfielder and the two DM’s. I have faith in HBA performing that role but Smith and Guthrie ?

    Equally the solo front man needs to be agile, intelligent and pacy – Best IMO is none of these !

    Having said that if you replace Smith and the unfortunate Guthrie with Tiote and Barton or Cabaye and then run with Marveaux (providing he’s not another Gosling or Ireland) and Jonas as wide attacking free role MF’s and Ba upfront (Sturridge IMO would be a better option but in life you cant have everything you want can you Mr Ashley ?) then we’ll have a decent first XI.

    Anticipating injuries throughout the season, I’m just not so sure about our second XI ?”

    That is to say what happens if HBA is injured (please God not again) ? What about the wide attacking MF’s if Marveaux and Jonas are injured or transferred and what happens if Ba gets injured and we end up using Shola or Lovenkrands as the front man ?

    Another wide right player (Shaquiri) and front man (Sturridge or someone much better and more expensive) would help although the defence needs some back up as well but we’ve only got one pot to plss in havent we Fatman ?

  2. This way we would get the best out of HBA and Cabaye. If Hatem is allowed to roam wherever he wants and let Barton, Marvuex or Guti drift in from the wings then we should have a real fluid attack.

    Also allows Cabaye to play deep as the playmaker. Against Darlington he made 3 or 4 absolutely outrageous 50 yard passes to the wings.

  3. Aye,
    cos it’s easily adaptable to 451, 433 & 442, with the right player permutations.

    About f****** time!


  4. Armchair tacticians always know best because they have this wonderful weapon known as hindsight. Score more, concede less, it’s that simple, which ever formation is used. How many times has a team that’s set out to attack, scored nowt and conceded and lost against a team that was set out to defend? What do the first four letters of analyse spell? Exactly!

  5. cla5hb0y68 says:

    “Armchair tacticians always know best because they have this wonderful weapon known as hindsight. Score more, concede less, it’s that simple, which ever formation is used”

    Aye but you still need a plan before you walk out onto the pitch otherwise we’d end up all over the show just like last season :) and lets face it Pardwho needs all the help he can get !!!

    Would prefer plans B and C as well for when Tiote and HBA go awol for ACoN or injury :(

  6. 1 thing I noticed is that pardew says that HBA will play “just behind ONE forward”. To me that means either we’re not getting another striker or if we r then HBA will probably play on the wing. I firmly believe u need 2 strikers so this advanced role wouldn’t work in my eyes unless we played a 4-3-1-2 formation…

  7. With the right players you could probably play any of the modern formations, including the one mentioned. The top teams effortlessly switch tactics to suit the circumstances. The lesser teams are more rigid, I’d be surprised if Pardew was flexibly tactical enough, in most games, to mess around with formations to much. Be nice for him to prove me wrong though.

    Did we have a team out against Berwick on Saturday. If so does anyone know who played and what the result was?

  8. If he want to use this plan, we need more 1-2 quality players to rotation in midfield.

  9. whats everyones best starting line up in 4-2-3-1 with current players…

    Guti Ben Arfa Barton
    ….Cabaye Tiote
    Jose Colo Tayls Simpson

    Looks like a really strong team to me!


  10. I think Ben Arfa and Cabaye will be big players for us this season they both look class acts. Yes it was just Darligton that they were playing against but when you watch these guys they are quality. I think that we are now well covered in midfield and am happy with what we have their. However, we need a strong left back asap and I`d be quite happy if they went for Wellbeck up front.

  11. Grumpy Old-Toon says:

    “Did we have a team out against Berwick on Saturday. If so does anyone know who played and what the result was?”

    We did, Moyo scored one and it finished 2-0

    United: Soderberg, Nicholson (McGorrigan 69), Toland (Storey 63), McDermott (Aird 63), Turton (Sayer 63), Nzuzi, Moyo (Knight 69), Inman (Campbell 69), Airey (D Taylor 46), Newton (Miele 58), Edmundsson (Ions 69).

    Do you use Newsnow G O-T ?

  12. AndyMac, cheers mate, I sometimes go to NewsNow, but had only logged on briefly, so did the lazy thing apart from which I didn’t think many of our foreign contingent would know about the game, and mentioning on the blog might be of interest to them. Does that make sense? :)

  13. Roscoe @ 10

    I agree with your formation, although I have a feeling that Ba will not be the front man. I believe we will have signed a forward before the season starts who will be the first choice.

    ………BA (ANO)
    Guti Ben Arfa Barton
    ….Cabaye Tiote
    Jose Colo Tayls Simpson

  14. Shame N’zogbia wont be on the left of that top three, id sell colo to sevllia and buy Scott Dann, Chris Samba

  15. Good use of Football Manager for that pic! ;)
    Cabaye impressed me on friday night – was getting stuck in with some hefty tackles which i wasnt expecting from him as well as some class long range passing. Would work well alongside tiote in this system.
    Sameobi for the bench to bring on in AM – his energy, pace and enthusiasm could change a game

  16. darlomag says:

    “Sameobi for the bench to bring on in AM – his energy, pace and enthusiasm could change a game”

    He’s orf on loan according to the Clueless One !

    If Ranger Best and Smith are surplus to requirements and Donaldson and Sammy are off on loan how many players are left in the first team squad assuming Jose goes but is replaced ?