West Bromwich Albion have reverted to a 5-3-2 formation in the previous two games under Keith Downing, and picked up two vital away points in their relegation battle, but will it stick under a new manager?
The formation was last seen under Gary Megson for the Baggies during their first promotion season back in 2002. Neil Clement and Igor Balis would bolt up and down the wings with players like Adam Chambers and Andy Johnson controlling the midfield. It should mean Albion will be tighter at the back if performed correctly, much like the Megson era where Russell Hoult and co kept 27 clean sheets, winning 1-0 an impressive 17 times.
If West Brom are to succeed with this formation, the most important part of the side will be the full backs. They will need to cover defensively but offer all the width the side will have, bombing up and down the flanks, attacking with team. They will have to be some of the fittest players on the pitch to constantly run up and down the sides to be in the correct position throughout the game.
It will take time for Albion to get use to the new formation but it should help them more stable in defence. The experience the West Brom defenders have will be vital if they are to stay up. Jonas Olsson has 24 international caps for Sweden, Gareth McAuley has 46 for Northern Ireland and Diego Lugano has a staggering 91 caps for Uruguay who he also captains. If the formation does stay the experience these defenders have will be very important and should improve West Brom’s defence. Craig Dawson shone against Tottenham, showing his Premier League qualities and that he can fit in this formation. With Ben Foster behind them they have an outstanding keeper who could play for any side in the Premier League.
The strength of depth West Brom have will also suit this formation. Experienced players like James Morrison and Stephane Sessegnon can play in a number of positions, meaning they can rotate during the game, disrupting the opposition’s game plan, causing them problems defensively.
However, the formation is much weaker against teams using a lone striker, as the third defender becomes redundant and easily overwhelmed if the team have prepared properly for the game. With the lone striker role becoming more dominant in the English game, it would be hard to use this formation successfully.
Once a new manager is installed, the formation should still be used away from home as it is set up for the side to sit back and defend, but counter with pace, something West Brom are good at, with fantastic breakaway players such as Morgan Amalfintano. At home however the formation should be changed in favour of a more attacking approach to take the game to the opposition in front of the fans at The Hawthorns. Stand in head-coach Downing has left the new manager with a new option giving him every chance of success.