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“What is the difference between systems, you tell me?” and there basically ended any discussion on the subject of 4-4-2.  Not because no one could give Roberto Martinez their views on football tactics, but because he was going to tell us, whether we wanted to hear or not.  It’s not as simple as picking a starting tactic and sticking with it.

“We should help the players know how to play in different formations, a 4-4-2, a 4-2-3-1, 4-5-1, 3-5-2, the players should be able to switch like that, click, click, click”.  So it’s just like that, what you play is that important, or unimportant.  Bobby’s view is clear, “It is the players that make the systems work” it’s not the other way around.

But it’s also clear that he doesn’t think that he’s got the payers to play your traditional (and much vaunted on the DW concourse) 4-4-2.  “if you have a Heskey, and then you have another, you can play in a front two because those two will score goals”.  Bur of course, Latics don’t have a Heskey any more. “if you are relying on Hugo Rodallega’s physicality to hurt the defenders, that is going to be difficult”.

And there lies the key to the shape that Bobby wants his players to form.  You might think that Latics don’t have the players to play anything but the simple, ‘hide your flaws’ formation, he thinks that we don’t have a strike partnership that can, yet.  Not that he’d go out of the way to accommodate the calls of the fans if he had.

The reason?  “Four, four, two is the easiest system to play against” and then “we have 4-3-3 which gives us bigger options, especially when you get those quality players in the wide areas with the ball.”  The formation he plays is aimed at “getting the best out of our players” and getting around the numerical problem of “having two strikers against four defenders”.

Bobby sees 4-4-2 as a “rigid” system over relied on when teaching English youngsters the game. It might be fine when you have two sides huffing away at each other but get a better side involved and they can’t deal with players who step out of the “straight lines and 4-4-2”.  “We should help the players know how to play in different formations, a 4-4-2, a 4-2-3-1, 4-5-1, 3-5-2, the players should be able to switch like that, click, click, click.”

So is it better to stick to what the players know?  “All the players that we have from last year, they are defenders really, and my goalkeeper.” The rest, obviously are new and have been bought to play the system they are.  “It is not the new system that the players are being asked to do something completely different. It is the opposite, we are trying to get the best out of players.”

So there you go, the simple answer is that it’s not as simple as all that but I guess anyone with any sense knew that already.  But it’s not just about the formation and tactics, you can do all that with tiddlywinks a real football manager has players to contend with and there’s a whole different article (or two) and that will have to wait until next time.

Until then…

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