Football Tactics for Beginners:The 4-2-3-1 formation

The most widely used formation in international football at present is the 4-2-3-1 formation and most of the top clubs in Europe have been...
Ritesh Gogineni
Editor/Founder of The False 9.

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How will Coutinho fit in at Bayern? A look at Niko Kovac’s 4-3-3 formation

Bayern Munich has signed Philippe Coutinho in a loan deal from Barcelona for an €8.5 million fee for the duration of the loan. The deal does include an option to buy, but Barca’s inability to sell the Brazilian midfielder outright clearly shows how far his reputation as a premier player has fallen. Coutinho is one of the many players in the modern game who need specific systems and style of play to thrive, just like Mesut Ozil, Isco and many others. At Liverpool under Klopp, the Brazilian was at the top of his game. His best performances came when he was played on the left as part of the front three. Although, Valverde did try playing him on the left at Barca, Coutinho’s role was not the same.

Coutinho struggled initially when he was played as part of the midfield three in a 4-3-3 formation and was eventually pushed out of the team by Arthur. Coutinho perhaps could have thrived in a midfield three when Barcelona had heavy midfield domination during the days of Xavi, Iniesta and a younger Busquets. But Barca’s traditional midfield domination had considerably declined under the likes of Luis Enrique and Ernesto Valverde and Coutinho struggled in the center when he was starved of the ball. He was later tried as left sided attacker as part of the front three, which on paper was Coutinho’s best position. But he struggled to replicate his Liverpool performances as a combination of poor form and the need to shoe-horn Barcelona’s other big signing Ousmane Dembele into the team left him on the bench more often than not. Also the fact that Barcelona had better finishers than him occupying the central areas in Messi and Suarez gave less options for Coutinho to pull of his usual cutting in from the left and going for goal move.

Niko Kovac’s formation at Bayern Munich

Playing as a left forward in a traditional 4-3-3 with the right winger providing the width and Lewandowski primarily occupying the center halves will possibly give Coutinho the ideal platform to get back to his best at Bayern Munich. Also, if Kovac wants to play both Coman and Gnabry, he could very well switch to a 4-2-3-1 formation with Coutinho as the number 10.

niko kovac formation bayern munich

Niko Kovac’s possible 4-3-3 formation at Bayern Munich with Coutinho

Although Dortmund have done some excellent business in the summer and have started the season strongly, Bayern have the resources even without Coutinho to win the Bundesliga. But the Champions League is where Bayern fans will expect to see an improvement and that’s where Kovac has his work cut out. In the knockout stages, against a strong opposition, Coutinho will be a liability. A 4-2-3-1 formation with him as the number 10 might not work as well with number 10s expected to work hard defensively against the opposing deep lying playmakers. A counter-attacking 4-3-3 is best suited for Coutinho, but only time will tell whether Kovac can drill Bayern and Coutinho to be able to sit deep and break with speed.

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