Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Time to flirt with a Four Four Two?

Gustavo Poyet spoke openly about going back to basics prior to the Albion's recent goalless draw with Hull City and the Albion numero uno was rightly pleased with a clean sheet.

However, that shut-out owed as much to the thickness of the Amex crossbar paint job than it did to solid defensive displays.

As well as hitting the woodwork twice, the visitors also forced a pair of excellent saves from Casper Ankergren.

Perhaps more alarming still was the fact that Hull City looked more organised, more disciplined positionally and the more likely to score.

Brighton have gone seven games without a win in all competitions and following the flurry of points which came their way from the opening handful of games, the team has suffered from opponents figuring them out.

A lack of pace at full-back has been exploited during the last few games - most notably on the left hand side where Marcos Painter is being made to look a player well below the standward Amex regulars have come to appreciate.

Positionally, he is still superb, but with no solid cover in front of him, he has struggled with the overlapping widemen more commonplace in the Championship.

Ashley Barnes, a fairly promising attacking prospect, has been lining up on the left of a forward three or, in more baffling moments, at the forefront of a midfield three.

This does not play to his strengths and leaves him back-tracking and defending when his instincts are surely to find space and exploit.

Also, against better teams, Liam Bridcutt is left with too much grass to cover at the base of the team's midfield trio.

So what is the answer? Well, a temporary flirtation with four four two would not be a bad idea.

With Noone on the left in a more traditional wing role, Painter would be less exposed. And with two central players operating in a far tighter space in the middle, Bridcutt would be able to run games alongside Gary Dicker.

Inigo Calderon would still like to get forward, so a wide right player along the lines of Ryan Harley or Vicente would give the option to cut in alongside Bridcutt and Dicker and allow Calderson to overlap.

Most importantly though, it was give Craig Mackail-Smith someone to weave magic with.

As a lone striker (or central in a three whichever way you look at it) he has played superbly. But the nagging feeling remains that the fans are not seeing Mackail-Smith in his best role.

He should be playing off the last shoulder, pulling centre backs out of position and linking up with a partner rather than playing the majority of the game with his back to goal, or chasing lost causes.

Will Hoskins was signed in the summer to play up top and deserves his chance. Coupled with Mackail-Smith, he has the potentiat to wreak havoc.

And Barnes, if used off the bench as part of a front two, would be more at home and more able to show off his talents than toiling away out wide.

Poyet is right to say Brighton have a style. The fans love it. The team love it. And, quite frankly, some of the football we have seen over the last season or so has been almost unrivalled at the Albion.

But, with a small squad being stretched, the old lesson of square pegs in round holes seems pertinant.

There is no shame in having a plan b and trying it out every so often.

Even the best teams are tactically flexible. And, if you believe Poyet and Tony Bloom - the best is what Brighton are setting out to become.

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