I have been supporting the 3-man defence experiment that Strama has conducted. Part of it was because of our failure to get any kind of stability with a 442, 4231, 433, 451 formations. However, it has been 3-4 months that we have consistently used a 3-man defence in 343, 352, 3412 formations but not improved our style of play or even acquire an identity. I was reconsidering this and thought that it may not be the right formation for our team.
Mind you, this doesn't have much to do with our poor results but more with the fact that we are no better in quality of our game than we were 6 months back.
First the positive aspect, the 3-man defence is best suited for our defence. We have two of the best young and upcoming defenders in Ranocchia and Juan. Both are at different stages of their development, but have shown that they can succeed at this level. However, they are still inexperienced and are prone to few errors frequently. This gives a chance to play both of them along with Samuel who is our most experienced and still our best defender.
But the problem lies a bit ahead with our achilles heel, the ever so weak midfield. Now the 3-man defence is less versatile than the 4-man one and can be used in limited formations, which are 343, 352, 3412/3421. Forgetting the strike force, let's only look at the midfield which will have either 4 or 5 players based on the formation.
- A midfield of 4 has 2 central midfielders both of which are good at defending and at least 1 has the ability to link with the attack. The only midfielder who can link with the attack is Guarin but with him in a midfield of 4, we become very vulnerable defensively.
- A midfield of 5 has 3 midfielders in the center of the park. Now in this formation, the 2 strikers are isolated and hence it is very important that the midfield has some creativity. We don't have any deep playmaker, and we don't even have reasonable passing qualities to be able to hold on to the ball.
- The wingbacks are very important and their impact can be seen by the number of goals/assists by players like Lichtsteiner, Asamoah, Maggio, Isla have scored for Juve/Napoli/Udinese over the last 2 seasons. However, none of our wingbacks have that kind of impact. Zanetti never has the end product, Pereira is more suited as a fullback than a wingback, and Jonathan.. well no words are needed here. Nagatomo has been most productive but then he only works when he gets a chance to use his pace.
In short, no elements of our midfield work for a 3-man defence. The midfield problems also exist for a 4-man defence, but in that case the threat can be shifted to other areas like fullbacks, or moving to a 433 kind of system with more strikers but still not losing the defensive strength.
The current experience with 3-man midfield in Serie A says that we need a lot of runners, and players with good abilities at both ends of the pitch. Clearly, we lose a lot of that when we start with Zanetti/Cambiasso/Gargano/Nagatomo/Alvarez/Guarin.