The new season is upon us, we have (so far) managed to hang on to our key players & also added a few. So what's our system going to be this year? In pre-season Pard's has (worryingly) mainly lined us up in a flat 4-4-2, which is as exciting to watch as a full day's test match of cricket without any beer & as effective as a mackem on university challenge, at times. This system has it's time & place for sure but to be Plan A going into this season leaves me a bit disillusioned. As good as our season was last year we can count on one hand the outstanding performances we actually had, especially with the 'hoofball' tactics we seemed to fall into on countless occasions. Whereas the West Brom away game seemed to be a revelation & turning point not only in our season but of our future as a football team. When Demba Ba, Papiss Cisse & Ben Arfa attacked as an unstoppable tripod with Yohan Cabaye providing the ammunition, we all purred as we totally destroyed them hands down and then took that into the Swansea, Liverpool & Stoke victories to name a few. It was a sight to be hold.
However, even after this we still slipped back into lining up as a 4-4-2 and if it weren't for the individual genius of Ben Arfa and Cisse, we wouldn't have had the results we did closing off the season. The change back to hoofball horsesh*t seemed only to keep the sulking Demba Ba happy and to make sure he didn't activate his release clause this summer, instead of helping the actual team overall. Other than for that reason, it didn't really make any sense.
Well that time has passed now. Demba's release clause is no longer active & he's going nowhere. So can we move on from this attitude of pleasing him on all costs, it was a bit shameful and I didn't like it one bit. It also seems Demba has a shin problem anyway and is struggling to be fit for tomorrow's game. So will this force Pardew's hand?
Papiss Cisse is expected to be fit and raring to go and proved to revel playing in the centre of a front 3. With also the new signing of Vurnon Anita & fingers crossed Tiote to be fit (less so Cabaye) we could be forced to play 4-3-3 with only Shola being the other fit striker available. He cant start for the sake of playing 4-4-2 surely?
Silvain Marveaux has been absolute class in pre-season and seems like a new signing himself so he must surely be in for a much welcomed start, probably on the left wing. Jonas seems at home in the centre of midfield these days so if Cabaye doesn't make it, he is capable of filling in. Disappointingly Ben Arfa doesn't look to be fit enough yet to play so it will be Sammy Ameobi and Obertan to fight out that place on the right wing. Or even Amafiltano. He is another player capable of sitting on the right of a midfield three or on the right hand side. A midfield 5 to choose from Marveaux, Jonas, Anita, Tiote, Amafiltano, Obertan & Sammy seems like a much better option than sticking in the totally unpredictable lump of Shola for the sake of a less effective system.
Spurs will no doubt line up in a 4-5-1/4-3-3 system themselves with Van der Vaart in the hole, so sticking either Tiote or Anita on him is a must. He had a stormer of a game at St James' last season. He must be stopped. Being outnumbered in midfield with a new signing of Anita in there doesn't seem like a piece of tactical genius to me. That's if indeed he does play. What's for certain with no Cabaye or even potentially no Tiote, we need as many bodies in the centre of the pitch to counter Spurs as much as possible.
All of the above is not an exact science. We may line-up 4-3-3 and get smashed or stick 2 up front and win comfortably. However, what I do know is, if I am sat watching Steven Taylor continuously lump the ball up towards a bumbling Shola as our main weapon of choice...I think I will burst into tears.
Do the right thing Pard's.