Areas Leicester City Must Improve if They are to Remain Competitive Next Season

After a truly wonderful season, where Leicester City now sit seven points clear of nearest title rivals Tottenham Hotspur after a 1-0 victory over Southampton, the Foxes look set to shock the footballing world and win the Premier League. Leicester’s compact and hard-to-break-down 4-4-2 (to read further on this, take a look at my LCFC team analysis) has been very impressive and one of the key factors behind their success this season. Manager Claudio Ranieri seems to have found the perfect 11 players to fit into the system, though when the time comes next season when Leicester are competing in the Champions League as well as the Premier League, Ranieri will be forced to rotate his team a bit more, meaning the squad will need a few new additions this summer.

Owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha seems willing to back the club with a fair wad of cash. I expect Leicester’s recruitment team to be given around £50milliom to spend this summer. Head of Recruitment Steve Walsh will work closely will with Head Scout David Mills in order to build as strong a squad as possible, as cost-effectively as possible. The pair will continue the hunt for another rough diamond like N’Golo Kante, Riyad Mahrez or Jamie Vardy from lower leagues, though it is likely that Leicester will look to be buying more established players this summer, ahead of their competitive next year.

Though purchasing the right players is an extremely important task, keeping hold of key, almost irreplaceable players such as Kante, Mahrez and Kasper Schmeichel is just as important if Leicester are to remain as strong next season. Over the summer months, big offers from European big boys are likely to come in for these players but Leicester must fight tooth and nail to keep hold of these players, as replacing them with players just as good will be a difficult enough task, especially doing so at a suitable price.

In order to analyse the squad and determine areas that Leicester must improve and look to bid on in the upcoming transfer market, I will be going through each position and looking at the current options available, and whether or not they need upgraded upon. 
  

Leicester lined out in their average positions in the squad
 

Goalkeepers

One area Leicester are very well equipped both long and short term is in goals. In Kasper Schmeichel, the Foxes have arguably one of the best goalkeepers in Europe, as well as the most underrated in England. The Danish ‘keeper’s distribution is perfectly suited to Leicester direct style, and his shot stopping abilities are unquestionable.

In Mark Schwarezer and Ben Hamer, Leicester have two relaible back-ups to Schmeichel, should he pick up an injury. In their under 21 squad, Leicester possess Johnny Maddison and Daniel Iversen, who are supposed to be two of the best goalkeeper’s in their age group. 

Centre-Back

The centre-back position is somewhere Leicester have excelled this season, though first choice Robert Huth and Wes Morgan perhaps benefit too heavily from their side’s strong defensive system. The pair have had outstanding seasons, and Morgan will go down as a hero should he lift the Premier League title, yet a replacement for either seems sensible. Before spending unnecessary cash, Leicester will consider their current squad members obviously, though Liam Moore, despite being a promising young defender, hasn’t seen as much game time as he’d like, and looks set to leave this summer, while Marcin Wasilewski proved in his appearance against Arsenal that he isn’t up to the required standard to start for this team. Next to be analysed will be Daniel Amartey. The Ghanian joined Leicester in January and although he hasn’t played lots yet, he has looked solid in his few appearances and their is certainly lots of promise for him. Amartey is primarily a defensive central-midfielder, though his attributes suggest he may evolve into centre-back as his career goes on. 

After analysis, it’s clear that an addition to the centre-back position would be beneficial to Leicester. Possible targets include Walter Samuel from Basel who would offer invaluable experience, as well as fitting the profile of Ranieri’s central defender very well, Victor Lindelof, a promising centre-back from Benfica, Shawcross from Stoke and Ezequiel Garay, Zenit, as well as a few others.

Right-Back

The weakest area of Leicester’s team this season has been at right-back. Although Danny Simpson seems to have matured and improved since his silly red card, which cost Leicester the game at Arsenal, he still remains the weakest player in Leicester side. The man who filled in during Simpson’s suspension, Amartey, is defensively sound and does the basic task required at right-back, this isn’t predominantly his position, and he is of far more use elsewhere. The same goes for Wasilewski as what was said of him in the centre-back position.

The signing of a competent right-back would massively boost Leicester and for that reason, it will probably be a priority to sign a RB over summer. The player must be defensively adept in order to fit into the strict defensive system, though being mobile and able to overlap Mahrez when he cuts inside is also needed. Options are as follows:

Ricardo van Rhijn-Ajax

Jon Flanagan-Liverpool(Loan)

Callum Chambers-Arsenal(Loan)

Kieran Trippier-Tottenham 

Julian Korb-Borussia Monchengladbach 

Tyias Browning-Everton

The best option when taking ability and price into account is probably either van Rhijn or Trippier. Although Flanagan on loan would be ideal as he has Champions League experience as well as being a very good defender, Jurgen Klopp seems keen on keeping Flanagan near the starting 11 making a loan move unlikely at the moment. Tyias Browning is a possibility as he seems ready for some first team football, though doesn’t seem to be near it at Everton. He is a solid and physically outstanding young defender who could provide cover at both right-back and centre-back. Browning would see quite a lot of action in the FA Cup and League Cup, though there would be a couple of negatives; 1)Browning probably isn’t ready to start every game and another RB would be needed alongside him, meaning extra(perhaps unnecessary)money would be being spent. 2)Everton may command a decent fee as he is one of their best young talents.

Left-Back

Another position Leicester are well equipped in is left-back. Christian Fuchs was an excellent acquisition in summer, the Austrian is a great fit into the system and offers Champions League experience which is a bonus. Ben Chilwell is a young full-back who is currently attracting interest from the likes of Arsenal and Liverpool after his handful of promising appearances for Leicester this season. Chilwell is one who Leicester will be looking to hold onto as he will smoothly take over from Fuchs when the time is right. As well as the current two ahead of him, Jeffrey Schlupp can provide cover at LB, confirming no additions will be needed for left-back.

Centre-Midfield

Perhaps the most impressive area of Leicester team this season has been the centre of midfield. N’Golo Kante and Danny Drinkwater have excelled this campaign and have been two of the league’s best players throughout the season. The pairing are a nice mix, as they are both just as competent in defence as attack. Kante’s engine compliments Drinkwater’s better range of passing, which forms a nice midfield paring. 

Although the two have been almost faultless all season, perhaps an upgrade on Drinkwater would be wise as he probably isn’t Champions a League quality. Leicester must also consider potential replacements for Kante, should he unfortunately leave the club. Possible successors to Drinkwater’s role include Stefan Defour, Thomas Partey and Jordan Rossiter while a couple of candidates to replace Kante are Corentin Tolisso and Thulani Serero. 

Right-Midfield

Another outstanding player this season has been Riyad Mahrez. The Algerian has perhaps been the best player in the Premier League this season, and is a strong candidate for PFA Player of the Season. With this naturally comes interest from bigger clubs, and rumours of bids from Barcelona and PSG won’t seem to go after following the beginning of them in January. Mahrez is one player who Leicester must battle to keep a hold of, as replacing him at a suitable price will be far from easy.

Demarai Gray is a young English talent who has a good future ahead of him, whether it’s at Leicester or elsewhere. The winger is a different player to Mahrez, though if the Algerian wasn’t available, Gray would be more than capable of filling in. If Mahrez was to leave this summer, Leicester may not have to look any further than their current squad for a replacement, Demarai Gray.

Left-Midfield

Claudio Ranieri has done well to get the best out Marc Albrighton, who has had a very consistent season. The traditional winger has been very good on the left of midfield both when his team have the ball and when they don’t. Despite this, Albrighton is one of Leicester’s poorer players and a new signing to grapple with the best full-backs in Europe wouldn’t go amiss. 

The new signing must be a traditional winger, rather than a wide playmaker like Mahrez, as it is important to have balance on either flank. The signing must also be a clear upgrade on Albrighton, as back-up isn’t needed with Gray and Schlupp already providing that. Targets include Nathan Redmond and Joel Campbell.

Strikers

Perhaps the most difficult position to judge whether or not Leicester need additions. Firstly, Jamie Vardy has had an unbelievable season but at the age of 30 his form is more than likely to decline, and he will surely not be able to play three games a week at his age next season. Similarly to Vardy, Shinji Okazaki has had a brilliant season but his age suggests he will decline soon. 

Strength-in-depth is something Leicester have in the forwards department, which is always a positive. Leonardo Ulloa has been a good substitute to have, while Jeffrey Schlupp is always on hand to play anywhere down the left, left striker included. An interesting one is Andrej Kramaric. The big Croatian struggled after a promising start to his career at the King Power Stadium, though has impressed in a loan spell at Hoffenheim in the past few months. Ideally, Kramaric would remain at the club, making a few appearances here and there until he proved himself able to start, or not. This probably won’t be possible though, as Kramaric is likely to want to leave the club in summer unless he is a guaranteed starter next season, which is highly unlikely.

Another position where a signing isn’t hugely necessary but would boost the side largely.

Transfers

The most important signing in my opinion is a right-back, although another key addition is a centre-back as having just two or three suitable centre-backs isn’t anywhere near enough to remain competitive in more than competition. The signing of Ricardo van Rhijn from Ajax seems a good one, especially considering Ajax aren’t likely to command to large a few, probably nothing over £15m.

Van Rhijn would be a great signing as he would be the defensively sound right-back Leicester require for their defensive system, as well as being a good athlete, making him able to overlap Manrez when required. Although the attacking side of his game isn’t fantastic, Van Rhijn’s defensive abilities make him the ideal right-back for this team. Another major positive of the signing of the Dutch defender would be the fact that he is just as competent on the right or in the centre of defence. This would mean Leicester wouldn’t have to fork out on another back-up centre-back, as if Huth or Morgan were unavailable for a match, or their form simply dipped, Van Rhijn could move centrally, with Danny Simpson regaining his place at right-back.

If Leicester went into January requiring a centre-back being added to the squad, this wouldn’t be too much of a problem, as Huth or Morgan would probably be willing the time had come to be replaced.

In central-midfield, I would trust Drinkwater to be a starter for at least one more season(unless his form dips throughout next season)as in the last month or two, he has proven that his season hasn’t been lucky and that he is a brilliant central-midfielder in the right system. If N’Golo Kante was to leave the club, then Leicester will probably be demanding a fee over over £25m, which would then give them plenty of money to reinvest. His replacement should be a similar type of player, this man Corentin Tolisso. Although Tolisso is a target for bigger clubs such as Liverpool, if Leicester were to make the right offer to him and to Lyon, they would probably be able to lure him to the King Power Stadium, due to guaranteed Champions League football. This hopefully isn’t necessary though, as Leicester will be looking to keep hold of Kante.

Despite this, Gokhan Inler looks set to leave the club in summer, while Matty James won’t be ready for such a high standard of football after so long out, making a loan spell ideal for him. This will make the signing of a back-up central-midfielder pretty necessary. With Aston Villa going to down to the Championship, Idrissa Gueye, one of the few positives from Villa disastrous season, will be available at a cut-price. Leicester should offer Villa around £8m for Gueye, who would be a nice fit to Ranieri’s system if called upon. If injuries hit Leicester hard towards the January period, Jordan Rossiter of Liverpool would be a good loan signing for the remaining months of the season, even just as back-up.

If disaster was to strike and Riyad Mahrez left the club this summer, an expensive replacement would be almost necessary. Mahrez has been one of the few sources of creativity for Leicester this season, and if that was taken away, the Foxes would have to act quickly to find a new source. Although it may seem realistic, with the £30m Leicester would receive for Mahrez, Andre Schurrle could then be tempted back to England. Although Schurrle isn’t a wide playmaker like Mahrez, he does like to run inside very directly.

Another important area of improvement is the left wing. Raw pace and ability to cross are two skills that Anderlecht’s Frank Acheampong possesses, making him a good signing for Leicester. Due to the young Ghanian being so in-form at the minute, he would likely cost a fairly hefty fee, but it would most likely be worth it, as he would go straight into the starting 11 but also last Leicester for quite a number of years. Acheampong would cost around £15m.

Lastly, we come to strikers. Despite costing a probable very large fee, around £25m to be precise, Michy Batshuayi would be worth every penny. The Belgian forward is capable of playing in either of the 9 roles, making him a very effective signing. Signing just one striker as well as selling one or two would make rotation between Vardy, Okazaki and Batshuayi very smooth and pleasant for all three. 

In the unlikely event of Jamie Vardy leaving, M’Baye Niang would be his straight-up replacement, probably being signed for a very similar price Vardy left for.

Ins:

Ricardo Van Rhijn-Ajax-£13m

Idrissa Gueye-Aston Villa-£7m

Frank Acheampong-Anderlecht-£16m

Michy Batshuayi-Marseille-£24m

Total:£60m
Outs:

Gokhan Inler-£8m

Yohan Benalouane-£4m

Liam Moore-£2m

Andrej Kramaric-£8m

Leonardo Ulloa-£5m

Richie de Laet-Loan

Matty James-Loan

Nathan Dyer-End of Loan

Total:£22m
Potential Squad Next Season

  

Conclusion

If Leicester City are able to hold on to key players and make adequate signings to further enhance the squad they currently have, there is no reason why the Foxes can’t challenge for the Premier League title next season, as well as remaining competitive in the Champions League for a good few months. The fact they are likely to be first seed in the Champions League could make the first six months of their season a lot easier than other clubs find in their first season in the a Champions League. 

If Leicester form is to significantly drop prior to the January transfer window, it is likely that the Foxes will have more than enough funds to make necessary signings in an attempt to regain some form.

*In order to see the full list of transfer targets, which is over 100 players long, please contact me via Twitter by either DM’ing or mentioning me @boxtoboxcb. I’ll be more than willing to give you the list and even discuss this further!

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The 4-4-2 Diamond- Is Flexibility the Future?

The 4-4-2 diamond formation is a shape which hasn’t been used so frequently, particularly in recent times for a number of reasons. In this analysis I will aim to pick out certain features in this formation as well as taking a closer look at the variations it holds.

Out of Possession

One of the strengths of the 4-4-2 diamond formation is the variation it offers, this is no different in terms of defensive structure. The formation has two different systems which are the most commonly used. The first of these which I will look at is a flat 4-4-2, while the second relies on remaining in the standard diamond shape.

The flat 4-4-2 shape in defense is one which we are seeing used more commonly across Europe, following a few years long trend of avoiding the shape as it was seen to be incompetent in defending the centre of the field. Ways to combat possible overloads in the centre have been developed and enhanced though, two recent examples of this being a successful method is Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid and Claudio Ranieri’s Leicester. The way to defend the centre is to play as narrow as possible, to restrict space and block passing lines into otherwise vulnerable areas.

When defending in the flat 4-4-2, it is possible to press high up the field or as seen more often, defend in a deep block, with a focus on compactness. When defending in the flat 4-4-2, it requires the player at the tip of the diamond to have good physicality as he will have to retreat from his 10 position into 8 or even 6 to defend. This was an aspect of Arturo Vidal’s game which was excellent and allowed him to play this position very well in his final season at Juventus.

One team which excelled defending in a deep block with the flat 4-4-2 was Juventus under Antonio Conte in the 2014/15 season. Below we can see them defending in a deep, horizontally and vertically compact flat 4-4-2.
  

The second defensive shape is a diamond. This shape rarely changes from the standard 4-4-2 diamond which has both it’s positives and it’s negatives.

One of the main downsides to defending in this system is that it can be difficult to maintain vertical compactness due to the midfield being staggered. This leaves space either side of the 6 and sometimes the 10. These spaces can be very dangerous as the space left either side of the 6 can be exploited by the opposition 10, who then has the ball in a halfspace, the most dangerous area for a creative player to have the ball. Space either side of the 10 is dangerous too, as it allows opposition centre-backs to move into midfield to create an overload in build-up, also these areas are easy to penetrate from, meaning a deep midfielder, who can penetrate lines relatively well has lots of space to do this from. Another weakness of this system is that unless the strikers move many metres away from the position they are most dangerous in, the opposition full-backs have lots of time and space in build-ups. Although building through the full-backs is not the most effective method, if they have so much time and space to carry the ball forward easily, they are probably your best option in that situation. 

Despite there being a couple of problems, there are positives to this system. Although there were some problems in the wide areas when the opposition are building-up, when defending the wide areas in your own half, there is more success. Due to the shuttlers primarily defending the halfspace they are in a good position to back-up the full-back when an opposition player is in possession on the wing. Liverpool used this method in the 2013/14 season, here is an example below of Jordan Henderson- the right shuttler, defending the halfspace while Jon Flanagan- the right-back defends the wing.
  

This is very useful for cross prevention as if the winger is defended well enough on the wing, and forced to beat the full-back on the wing, the shuttler can then easily press the ball. Having a player in the halfspace is also very effective in preventing cutbacks.

There are obviously many other possibilities when defending, though far too many to cover all of them, therefore I have covered the two most common. Other possibilities include a 4-3-3, where the strikers defend the wings/halfspaces and the 10 pushes forward to press the centre-backs. Similarly a 4-3-3-0 can be used, where the strikers drop in line with the 10 and defend narrowly. This is very useful in limiting the opposition space in the second line of build-up.

In the Build-Up Phase

One of the most exciting features of the 4-4-2 diamond formation is the variability it offers in the build-up phase. This is largely down to having a single pivot and a 10, two players whose movements make build-ups very smooth if intelligent.

Due to having two 8’s ahead of him, the pivot is free to move almost anywhere within the first two lines of build-up, as the central zones will always have at least two players occupying them. One possibility in the build-up is for the pivot to drop between the centre-backs. By doing so, he offers stability in the backline which then allows both full-backs to move into more advanced areas, perhaps in line with the shuttlers, which then gives the back-three lots of space to build as the two centre-backs will split and move into the halfspaces. This will create a shape not too dissimilar to a 3-4-1-2, a very flexible formation. There are lots of possible variations from here, depending on movement, mostly by the 8’s.

For example here is one possible system focused around the 3-4-1-2.
  

We can see here that if the pivot moves a few metres to the left, this would open space for the RCM to drop into the first line of the build-up. If the 10 then took up an 8 position, this would create a very stable 4-4-2. By dropping players into deeper lines in the build-up, this may disorientate the opposition press and open lots of space in behind their first line of pressure, especially if they are man-orientated.
This positional play is very alike to that of Barcelona under Pep Guardiola.
  

Another possibility in the build-up is to create a 4-2-2-2. This is a very realistic idea and one that could be moved into without too much difficulty. The 4-2-2-2 would be focused on penetration from deep, particularly the centre-backs, meaning you need a particular type of centre-back, one who can play laser passes. Examples of this are Hummels, Boateng and Sakho. In this shape it is very important that players move intelligently as vertical passing lanes must be open from the centre-backs. 
  

In this image we can see how intelligent movement by the RCM has opened a passing lane to the 10 who has shifted a few metres to his right. This image also shows that this 4-2-2-2 has potential to be very effective against a high-pressing lone striker. This is due to the striker having to arc his run to block a pass to the LCB or 6, meaning he isn’t able to block the lane when pressing. This gives the blue team access to the 10 space by breaking the lines as well as the option for a lay-off pass to the RCM if he moves forward with the pass.

Despite the 4-2-2-2 seeming very effective against a lone striker, perhaps in a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1, a team who are horizontally compact and close passing lanes well may not be so easy to penetrate. A 4-4-2-0 with narrow wide midfielders would be extremely hard to penetrate through as passing lanes in the halfspaces would be closed by the wide midfielder and centre-midfielder having so little distance between them.
 

Example of how the 4-2-2-2 would find it difficult to penetrate a compact 4-4-2
 

Another downside to the 4-2-2-2 is that due to it relying on quick movement with almost perfect timing, if the movement wasn’t made correctly, a player(most likely a full-back)could be isolated without any passing options with a high possibility of being caught in possession. We can see how this may occur below.
  

In the scenario above, the RCM and/or the 10 have not moved close enough to the full-back quickly enough. This has allowed a well organised opponent to spring into a pressing trap with the full-back now at a high risk of losing the ball. This shows that if the team doesn’t have players who can move intelligently, the 4-2-2-2 will be pretty ineffective in possession.

Attacking Play in the Final Third

In attack, the team must make up for the lack of natural width by moving into areas which open up space for others. If there isn’t enough movement by the front five, the pitch will become congested and there will be no room for the creative players to create chances.

One common pattern we see from a 4-4-2 diamond formation in attack is for the two strikers to drift into wider areas, opening up space for the attacking midfielder to surge forward, often into the box.
  

 This method requires three players it’s the correct skillsets to play these roles however. The two forwards, who will be drifting wide must be very mobile with a bit of pace, as well as having good link-up play and being an attacker who is intelligent, particularly with his movement. The false 10 must be quick and able to time his runs very well, having good shooting is also a bonus for him. 

One team who used this tactic with some success is Liverpool under Brendan Rodgers in the 13/14 season. With Sturridge, Suarez and Sterling, Liverpool had three players who perfectly fitted the three forward roles. More recently, Lyon used this approach with Lacazette, Benzia/Ghezzal and Fekir, also three ideal player profiles.
 

14/15 Lyon breaking into a front three from a 4-4-2 diamond
 

A second option which is possible if the 10 is mobile and positionally flexible is for the 10 to make lateral movements onto the halfspaces and wings, to create overloads with the full-backs.
  

This can be useful as quick movements towards the flanks by the 10 can be difficult to track meaning he or the full-back may get a lot of space. There are downsides though, as due to the 10 spending a lot of time away from the centre, his full skillset isn’t taken full use of, as he will be more reliant on pace and being very direct with ball, rather than playing intricate passing, dictating the play, which is what he’d be able to do in the centre. Mesut Özil excelled in this role while at Werder Bremen, while Spain have experimented similarly with Juan Mata, though with far less success.

The third and final offensive variation allows the shuttlers to live up to their name. This method sees the two outer centre-mids(also known as shuttlers)move into wide areas depending on the side the ball is on. By moving onto the wing, this make the shuttler the main provider of width. This tactic, like any other, has both it’s strengths and weaknesses. One strength is that it can allow the team to be very strong defensively, as the full-backs don’t need to push up so far to provide width. This tactic also makes the team very strong on the counter attack as either shuttler has the freedom to simply drift wide and stretch the opposition’s bare defence.

One possible weakness is dependent on the tactical awareness of the shuttlers. If both shuttlers move onto the flanks this has a negative impact both offensively and defensively. Firstly I will speak about the negative impact it has in attack. 

If both shuttlers drift wide when a central player is in deep possession, this means no one is occupying two of the most valuable spaces(either halfspace in the middle third)on the pitch. With no one occupying the halfspaces, this makes penetration very difficult as the ball would have to travel a long distance to reach the strikers, almost impossible without playing a long ball. Without being able to play any effective vertical passes, the team are then forced to play horizontally and build through the ful-backs. Here is a very relevant quote by the great Johan Cruyff on why this is not ideal.
  

As well as having a negative impact offensively, the shuttlers moving wide can potentially have a bad affect defensively as well. Again, if both shuttlers incorrectly move wide, this means they are further away from ‘base’. This means if their team lose the ball they have a long distance to cover to get back into their defensive position. This can also leave the pivot exposed and often overloaded, which is a very dangerous situation. 

Again, this system requires particular types of players to work. The shuttlers must be very good runners who are positionally flexible, as well as being competent defensively with the ability to create chances from wide areas in attack, usually by crossing. The defensive midfielder must be mobile as he will probably need to move laterally to cover quite often, he must be very good defensively as there is a chance he will be exposed at times. One team today who have players ideal for this would be Arsenal who have Ramsey, Elneny, Wilshere and perhaps even Iwobi and Sanchez, as potential shuttlers, with Coquelin as 6.
  

Benfica won the 2009/10 Portuguese league using Angel di Maria and Ramires as shuttlers, these are two perfect examples of players who fit the profile of their roles. 

Weaknesses of the Formation

Although I have went through some weaknesses for each specific shape, there are some general weaknesses to the formation itself. 

The first if fairly obvious, if the shuttlers/8’s do not fulfil their defensive duties effectively by covering the halfspaces, the flanks can easily be overloaded which then leaves the full-back exposed. Even if an overload isn’t created, yet the opposition have qualitative superiority in a 1v1, this is a very dangerous situation and one which must be prevented by the shuttler.

Another weakness of the formation is the congestion that can occur, particularly in build-up, if movement isn’t good enough. Obviously if movement is good enough, then this makes the build-up more clean, and easy, though if the opponent is well organised it can still be extremely difficult. If the opponent presses high(ideally with a front two)with good vertical compactness, this can make it almost impossible to escape the press as there is almost no space in behind the first line of pressure to escape the press.

Theoretical Teams Using the Formations

With the 4-4-2 diamond apparently going out of fashion, it is unlikely that we will see many top European sides using it in the coming years. The only hope it seems, of seeing the formation become more commonly used again would be for Juve’s success with the formation to continue, and other managers to follow trend. 

Anyway, as we probably won’t see many top sides lining-up in the formation, we can dream! Here is a few theoretical teams lined-up in their own specific 4-4-2 diamond.
 

‘Ajax- The positionally flexible Davy Klaassen can drop deeper to aid in build-up, as well as making bursting runs through the middle’
 

‘Bayer Leverkusen- A tough one, as we are so accustomed to seeing B04 line-up in their flat 4-4-2. Some interesting structures’
‘Lazio- Midfield has serious potential if utilised in the right way. Perhaps a compact 4-4-2-0 would mask it flaws and allow them to flourish in possession’
‘Monaco- Such an exciting young team. Maybe there would be some disjoint in attack, but I had to fit in all the young talent somehow, didn’t I?…’

As you may be aware, the club’s I used above were chosen by people on my Twitter, so thanks to all you guys that replied. I’ve tried not to choose teams that have played a midfield diamond recently(Inter, Juve, West Ham)as that wouldn’t be as fun. I’m aware I’ve not went through each team in any sort of depth, though if you want to know more about how I would really set each team up, then feel free to contact me on Twitter(@boxtoboxcb)as I’d be more than happy to discuss!

Conclusion

The 4-4-2 diamond formation is a very interesting one as perhaps the biggest plus point to it doesn’t lie in the shape itself but instead the flexibility to move into other shapes depending on the phase of play. 

Personally I feel defending in a 4-4-2 diamond is not a viable defensive approach and is understandably the reason many coaches are reluctant to use the formation, even despite their love of central dominance, which can be easily achieved in the formation. Though exposure on the flanks can be easily avoided, by having a smooth transition into a flat 4-4-2. This system does require particular players in each position, but it is still achievable through good coaching. In the attacking phase, I feel playing with a midfield diamond, two forwards and two wing-backs is an almost perfect attacking formation. It offers such flexibility and fluidity of movement, which is an absolute nightmare to defend against.

Despite the formation being unlikely to be seen commonly in any of Europe’s big leagues in the next few seasons, as tactical analysis evolves and enhances, alongside tactical coaching, perhaps the formation will be an option for some of Europe’s top coaches.