I think for a while. We could set up Project: Meatloaf to attack the opposition. We could go all out aggressor, but I’m not convinced we have the squad for it.
If we break it down, to attack effectively you need to turn the ball over high up the pitch. To win the ball high up you need a high defensive line. To have a high line you need pacey defenders to minimise the threat of the opposition counter attacking with long passes into the space you leave behind. Our defenders are slow. They’re good, don’t get me wrong, but too slow to play in an attacking system as they’d be incredibly vulnerable to the counter.
If we tried to attack with a deep line to make up for our defenders’ lack of pace we’d leave a massive amount of space between defence and midfield, which would cripple us both defensively and offensively. In short, all out attack isn’t really an option with the players we currently have. So control it is. We’ll control the game, raising the back line slightly but not too much.
I never mentioned this to you, but when I first arrived in Hero Creek my first instinct was to set us up to play with a back 3. I saw the 4 quality centre backs at our disposal (I don’t think you’ve even met one of them yet) and thought we’d better use as many of them as we can. But to do that we’d need either wing backs or wide midfielders that will track back, as playing with a defensive back 5 would leave us short going forward, and we don’t really have either. I’m sure Kevin and Aurélio would give it a go if I asked them but I’d rather leave them further upfield. Plus, we have 2 very solid full backs, one of whom is our captain, so I decided on a back 4 with a holding man instead.
In the system we’ve used so far, which we’ll call Heróis Original, our holding men, especially Jaime Seidi, have been excellent. Crucial. They’ve started almost every single attack by bringing the ball into the opposition half and playing it out to one of the more offensive players. The holding man role has so far worked sort of like a quarterback for us. But against weaker, more defensive opposition I think Benjamim can handle the defensive dirty work and bring the ball forward on his own.
In dropping the holding man we’ll free up another attacker, so we’ll have Hurley as an attacking central midfielder next to Benjamim in the interest of having more bodies pushing into the final third. This was actually my original plan with Hurley anyway and it seems like a good time to give it a try. I was also unsure about Benjamim when I took over but he’s impressed me in my first few games. He’s a jack-of-all-trades with the right attitude and you can never have too many players like him. And a last minute winner never harms your reputation does it?
Our wingers are an interesting problem to solve. When I made Heróis Original I worried that playing Kevin as an inside forward, while giving my fullbacks no attacking responsibility whatsoever due to their lack of athleticism, would leave us lacking width, especially on the left. Eventually I plan to bring in a quicker left wing back which should fix the problem but that won’t be happening this transfer window. And besides, I’m still very happy to have O Capitão on the left for now.
Ironically, despite my initial concerns I think Kevin’s probably been our best player so far. In terms of chance creation he’s been excellent. If we ever manage to work the ball into the box to create a good goalscoring chance you can bet that Kevin’s played a major part in the move.
I’ve been less thrilled with Aurélio. I’ll be completely and totally honest with you: I couldn’t care less that he missed that penalty against Carapinheirense. We won 2-0 and that’s all that matters. It’s his overall involvement so far that bothers me. It probably doesn’t help my opinion of him that he’s so easily comparable to Kevin, who’s been as good as he has, but Aurélio just hasn’t created much for us so far. In Project: Meatloaf Kevin and Aurélio will be encouraged to swap wings every now and then. In addition to keeping the opposition defence on their toes it’ll also give me a chance to see if Aurélio can play better on the left. Is the problem him? Or is it the right winger role that I put into Heróis Original?
Medeiros and Magina will keep their positions and their roles. They’re both such exciting players; the kind of players that make you get up out of your seat whenever they get the ball, even if they’re in their own half. Plus, they’re the kind of players that the opposition will lie awake before matches worrying about.
Medeiros has given me no reason to doubt his ability to create from any area of the pitch, and he’s popped up with a goal too. Magina has made some brilliant runs both on and off the ball, and has laid on a goal for Medeiros, but has had a frustrating start to my tenure with no goals and 2 injuries so far. Like Medeiros though, I have no doubts about his ability at the minute and I’m happy with his back up in Hélder Arruda if he does turn out to be an injury prone player.
We’ll also work the ball into the box because we have far more passing ability amongst our attackers than speed or aerial presence.
So altogether Project: Meatloaf will look like this:
Underwhelming? Perhaps. “A 4-2-3-1 Wide, Franjo! How adventurous!” Fine. But it can’t always be “Let’s chuck a goalkeeper up front”. Sometimes you just need to tweak what you’ve got to get the best out of your players and the worst out of the opposition’s. Anyway, it’s not about the formation. It’s about the system. Fluidity is essential to Project: Meatloaf. Getting forward in numbers is essential. You could argue that it’s a better system than Heróis Original, or a riskier one, but to be honest it’s just slightly adjusted to rebalance us towards attack against more defensive sides.
Our defence is solid, I have faith that our front 4 will do fine, although I’ll be keeping an eye on Aurélio’s contribution, but everything will hinge on our central midfield pairing and I’ll be keeping a close eye on the battle between them and their opposition numbers.
One thing’s for sure: our match at Naval will be an interesting one.
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