Tactical Analysis: What explains the rise, fall and rise again of the 4-4-2 in the Premier League?

“Since the arrival of Jose Mourinho at Chelsea in 2004, the 4-4-2 has been out of favor in England’s top flight. It hung on for a few more years, most notably in Tottenham Hotspur’s 2009/10 campaign when Spurs finished fourth while playing an extremely conventional 4-4-2 with two orthodox wingers, a target man up top, and a poacher playing alongside the target man. But there hasn’t been a title contender that played a strict 4-4-2 since Mourinho’s arrival–until this year. One of the most interesting developments in 2013 has been the return of 4-4-2, as Jonathan Wilson noted in his year in review piece for The Guardian. As it stands right now, the league leaders in Italy, France, and England all use a two striker system and Atletico Madrid, level with Barcelona on points at the summit of La Liga, has also favored such a system–so that’s the league leader or joint league leader in four of Europe’s five biggest leagues. It’s safe to say the two striker system is back. (It will be interesting to see how the four Bundesliga sides in the Champions League last 16 handle these teams that favor two strikers up top.) But in this piece we’re going to focus primarily on the Premier League and the three different types of 4-4-2 on display in 2013.” Think Football


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