The Football League Paper - - NEWS -

SAY what you want about 4-4-2. It’s out­dated, easy to play against, li­able to be dis­man­tled by con­ti­nen­tal coaches.

That’s all true. But no­body will ever con­vince me that it isn’t the key to en­ter­tain­ing foot­ball.

Just take last week­end’s barn­storm­ing 3-3 draw be­tween pro­mo­tion ri­vals Burn­ley and QPR.

All year, QPR have been slug­gish and unin­spired. Steady at the back but pedes­trian on the break, their five-man mid­field has clogged rather than cre­ated. Each point has been ag­o­nis­ingly ground out.

But on Satur­day, switched to 4-4-2, they played with tempo and free­dom. Sud­denly, they had two for­wards mak­ing runs, space in mid­field and wingers with sim­ple, de­fined roles. Ev­ery­body per­formed with at­tack­ing in­tent and clar­ity of pur­pose.

As for Burn­ley, where would they be with­out two strik­ers? Sam Vokes and Danny Ings oc­cupy all four de­fend­ers and usu­ally one mid­fielder, so en­er­getic and in­tel­li­gent is their for­ward play. That’s got to be bet­ter than a flooded mid­field.

Thing is, I love watch­ing Spain play, with their five-man mid­fields and “false 9”. But they’re good at it. Their play­ers make it a fluid, flow­ing, thing of beauty.

When lesser teams try to ape them, it be­comes a sludgy, turgid bore-fest, amount­ing to lit­tle more than 4-5-1 in at­tack and 9-1 in de­fence. Cow­ardly, in other words.

What Burn­ley do is brave.What Le­ices­ter – also devo­tees of 4-4-2 – do is brave. It rep­re­sents a com­mit­ment to en­ter­tain­ment. It says:“Go on, pack your mid­field – we’re here to score goals”.

Would it work against Man City or Barcelona? No way.Would it work in the Premier League? Doubt­ful.

But it ab­so­lutely will pull pun­ters through the gate. And at this level, that is per­haps the most vi­tal thing.

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