The 3-5-2 formation; the thought of it has always, and probably always will, remind me of the Roy Evans mid-90’s era when we were blessed with attacking talent, but outweighed by defensive fragility.
First off, there is a massive argument against the use of 3-5-2 in football – the biggest be the question of which top side has ever won a title playing the formation? No team (I dont believe) has ever won the English title or the World Cup playing this way?
But, we are now where we are and we are struggling to get things right. It seems not only is our well publicised away form the problem. Take the discussion over at RAWK as a good debate on exactly what is our style of play? We lack a unique way of playing. Maybe the answer, or at least I believe what Benitez is looking for us to achieve, is that we will play a high-tempo and varied style. At the moment I don’t believe this is happening and im happy to bet im not alone in this thinking.
So, the argument for 3-5-2 could now be a lot stronger for several factors;
Players suiting the formation
Let’s start with our defence and the problems there; Hyypia is often caught out by a fast or mobile forward, but when he isn’t in the team we miss his aerial ability to clear the ball. Agger has come through and shown great composure on the ball and is more than comfortable moving the ball out of defence – a quality needed when playing wingbacks (much like Dom Matteo used to do, but obviously not a great comparison Im sure Agger would be much more able).
So, a back three of Carragher, Hyypia and Agger would give balance, left and right footers either side of Hyypia. And a good mix of defensive qualities.
Now to the wing backs. For me, they would be pretty straight forward; Riise and Finnan. Both are attack minded defenders who seem very capable getting forward, comfortable crossing and in the case of Riise more than able to get forward to provide a huge attacking threat in his left foot. Finnan consistently supplied many assists last season when forward, and has played the role in the past. Both have played as midfielders under Benitez.
For me, we miss Kewell a lot this season, he provided natural width on the left and an attacking threat. Gonzales doesn’t look ready for the Premiership, yet, and Garcia isn’t naturally wide to play the role of a left midfielder.
The right midfield is well documented and obvious for anyone to see we don’t have a player good enough to fill the role, and no, Pennant I dont believe is the answer, at least right now.
So without a left or right midfielder we can remove the two positions by playing wingbacks. Problem solved?
The Alonso factor and Sissoko injury
The reason Alonso was so effective last season was arguably due to having such cover from Sissoko or Hamann. With Momo now out for potentially 3 months and Xabi finding it difficult to re-create last season’s form, maybe the answer would be to give him the defensive cover in the shape of 3 centre backs, thus enabling him more freedom in the middle.
The obvious problem at the moment is getting his position correct. While as many debate it, it seems clear he isn’t the same box-to-box midfielder, making covering runs, sliding challenges and still getting forward. Gerrard these days is a lot more attack minded. He is undoubtedly our best player though. Let’s build the team around him then and give him the perfect role of attacking midfielder with Alonso and another (when fit, Sissoko) behind him.
For me, the argument for 3-5-2 is very strong and I could not see any harm trying it, just as Benitez did in the Newcastle away games for the last two seasons.
Position wise I’d line-up (with Sissoko fit) as:
—- Carra – Hyypia – Agger —–
Finnan ——————– Riise
——– Alonso – Sissoko ——-
———— Gerrard ————
—– Crouch – Kuyt ————
At the moment, with Sissoko out, Id have Gerrard deeper and Garcia behind the front two.
Join in this debate, here.