The tactical battle of the Premier League

Although the 4-6-0 formation would naturally indicate a lack of ambition and attacking threat without a striker, there is much more to the system than the numbers suggest. Playing a ‘false 9’ in the hole where a typical ‘number 10’ player would play not only provides a greater chance of dominating possession and a foothold in the game from midfield, but also allow for the more attacking players to interchange and have the freedom to roam around the pitch to pull markers out of position. Chelsea utilised this system to relatively positive effect in their Champions League Semi-Final first leg tie against Atletico Madrid; they successfully nullified the considerable threat posed by Diego Simeone’s side and kept them relatively quiet, barring a couple of saves made from Mark Schwarzer. Jose Mourinho could spring a surprise by using this strategy in big games against the top four; the acquisition of Cesc Fabregas makes the 4-6-0 a logical choice, as the former Arsenal man has played as a ‘false 9’ for Spain and Barcelona with relative success.


Defensive solidity is the all important component that every team must base the foundations upon, particularly those who may find themselves fighting for their lives at the bottom of the Premier League table. Coming up against the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City may be an exciting, yet equally daunting, proposition for teams such as Burnley who cannot match the resources or quality of players on the pitch. It may, therefore, require a strategy that not only focuses on keeping it tight at the back, but also offers something going forward for the opposition to think about. Sean Dyche may already know that numerous teams are likely to dominate possession, but simply lying down and surrendering has costs many teams dear in the past. Playing a rigid back five can allow a defence to remain tight and restrict the space in and around the 18 yard box, with two holding midfielders in front to break down attacks and be the focal point for attacks. The three further up-field line up as two wingers on either flank to provide support for the lone striker, whose task is to hold the ball up and bring others into play; although these three might find themselves slightly isolated at times, it allows a team to have an attacking presence and make the opposition wary of getting complacent and pushing too many forward in case they get caught by a counter attack which decides the game.

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