Whatever happened to the 4-4-2?

I’d like to to talk about the contemporary game and how it’s changed ever since I started watching, 10 years ago –

Football, and the way it’s, played has changed a lot over the last decade or so. What happened to the 4-4-2? It was probably the most popular formation at the start of the decade and right now I can probably count out the number of teams playing this formation regularly on my fingers. It had always been the hallmark of a good English team. The Manchester United side of 1999, the Arsenal side of 2002 and even Liverpool, when they won the so-called treble in 2001, employed a 4-4-2. 

The 4-4-2 defined my perception of football when I started following and playing the game. Back then, to me. the ideal midfielder was someone who played either like Scholes or Vieira, a player who sat in the middle and controlled the game or someone who went about regaining possession and destroying the opposition’s game. A central midfielder was never expected to score regularly except for a screamer from outside the box, or the occasional set piece. The center forwards in front of goal, the Michael Owens and the Dennis Bergkamps were expected to get on to the score sheet, supplied by the central and wide players.Which brings me to my next point – the winger. The modern game has no place for the orthodox winger. Players such as Ronaldo and Messi who started out as wingers now play as central players. Very few players today fit in to the same mould as that of Ryan Giggs or Robert Pires in their prime. Gareth Bale does remind me of the quintessential winger, as did Ronaldo before he started playing as a central player but I have a feeling that he his part of a dying breed of players. 

Another position that I feel is being made redundant is that of the deep lying playmaker or the ‘regista’. Andrea Pirlo, Xabi Alonso and Paul Scholes are the only world-class players I can think of who still play in this position. A dying breed? I certainly think so. Most playmakers today are of the box-to-box variety, equally adept at playing on the wings or in the middle of the park. The only role I which I feel hasn’t changed significantly is that of the center forward. Teams still appreciate and need someone up top to score that all important goal.

I have nothing against the modern game and in fact I’m huge fan. It’s just that its good to see a team like Spurs, or Manchester United play a good solid 4-4-2 once in a while. It’s quite nostalgic really. Like listening to an Oasis song you used to love when you were growing up. Reminds me of times when football was all-important, when I used to shout the name of my favourite player every time I took a shot, and when mid-week holidays equaled LIVE! Champions League football. It brings back a lot of good memories.  

Writing credits: Pranav Deshpande. Part-time engineering student and full time football fan. His blood runs Liverpool Red and it’s been that way since he saw Mickey Owen single-handedly sink Arsenal in the 2001 FA Cup final. He says – “Stevie G, Michael Owen and Xabi Alonso are probably the best players I’ve seen play for Liverpool.”