The short yet dominant reign of the 4-2-3-1 formation may be drawing to a close based on the evidence of World Cup 2014, with Argentina, Costa Rica, Chile, Italy, Mexico, Uruguay, and most notably Holland, all going three at the back in at least one of their Brazil fixtures.
A raft of Premier League clubs will adopt the formation, which has been utilised to great effect by football luminaries such as Republic of Ireland gaffer Martin O’Neill in the past, to try and gain a competitive edge, but the three below seem best placed to take advantage of the latest craze.
Unless the Red Devils land a couple of centre-halves of the quality of Germany’s Mats Hummels, who they’ve been repeatedly linked with, then their lack of quality in the position may make going three at the back necessary.
New coach Louis van Gaal, a proponent of 3-5-2 and 4-3-3 in Brazil, has added Luke Shaw to a pool of marauding full-backs, which already includes experienced internationals Patrice Evra and Raphael da Silva.
Phil Jones and Chris Smalling both have plenty of previous across the backline, and could stand either side of Jonny Evans – whose solid reputation remains largely intact in spite of last season’s travails – in the centre.
Toffees boss Roberto Martinez used this strategy to great effect when pulling off Wigan’s great escape from relegation in 2011/12, with the Latics winning seven of their last nine games of the campaign.
With Sylvain Distin, Phil Jagielka, John Stones and Antolin Alcaraz all available at centre-half, and flying wing-backs Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman also in the defensive ranks, Everton look best placed of the 20 Premier League teams to utilise this system.
Tigers chief Steve Bruce set up with his son Alex, Curtis Davies and James Chester at the back on occasion last season, most notably at home to Manchester United on Boxing Day, when the latter scored against and then for his old club.
Maynor Figueroa is still around to serve his long-time gaffer at wing-back, as is fellow Bruce stalwart Ahmed Elmohamady, and Hull have a good enough mix in midfield to ensure an alternative attacking thrust to this system.
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