Yesterday, during Seattle Sounders Coach Sigi Schmid weekly pre-season conference call he was asked about what the team was working on at this time.
At this stage, we’ve done a lot of hard work in terms of our fitness and trying to establish our base there. Now we’re trying to work on more of the technical stuff, and tactical decision making. How we do in relationship to certain situations. Does this look like the group that is playing together and how does it function best and are we best off playing in a 4-4-2 or 4-2-3-1, those are the things we’re working on now.
Ooh, look at that a 4-2-3-1!
But is that really all that different than what we saw over the last two years?
First let's look at the offense. Steve Zakuani has always played higher, whether by design or just because he doesn't trackback well doesn't matter. He's a high winger. This was also true when Sanna Nyassi was on the wing. Fredy Montero put the art back in trequartista in his withdrawn forward role.
Sigi even talked about Blaise Nkufo being a target forward.
Blaise gave us that guy in the middle of the field who could hold onto the ball and allow the rest of our team to join the attack. What I’m seeing right now is that he’s been injured, but I think he did good job in the Dallas game and did a good job of holding the ball up so that we could find him. We need to run off of him. We need to get more players into the box at key moments. We want to score, but not necessarily get into the box. All of our players have to get into the mentality of getting into the 18-yard box.
Readers here shouldn't be surprised by this. There have been extensive posts about the attacking element in this system demanding a target man. It is a large part of why I have referred to Sigi's Arrow as a 4-1-1-3-1, a kind of hybrid 4-2-3-1 and 4-4-2 with a CDM and CM pairing. That box-to-box midfielder has been one of the other keys, though the Nathan Sturgis and Osvaldo Alonso pairing played more as two defensive mids, with no one in the box-to-box role.
This is where we will discover whether there has been a shift in notation or actual formation. How the two center mids play will be more important than what they are called on a pre-game TV graphic.
Will we see more of a double-pivot where either of Alonso and Brad Evans get forward depending on the situation of the attack? This would be a band of 2 in the 4-2-3-1. Or will we see two holders as per last season with Sturgis and Alonso? Also a band of 2.
Or will we see a continuation of having one Center Mid being primarily a box-to-box man (whether Evans or Erik Friberg) and a primary defender (whether Alonso or Servando Carrasco)? This would be the stacked CMs of Sigi's Arrow.
Sigi's words are an indication that they are testing a few different things, and may in fact be shifting the strategy of the CMs, but whether he calls it a 4-4-2 or a 4-2-3-1 is immaterial. It is more important to see how the players play, rather than what someone calls it.