This is the second of my longer pieces that deal with topics that interest me. There will be a piece before each of our home Championship games. This one deals with the 4-4-2 system and the way that Stendel uses the system differently to the standard model. I hope you enjoy it. Understanding the game; the reasoning behind Stendel's 4-4-2 Part 1 Everyone knows 4-4-2. It is the systems that we were all brought up with. It consists of 2 centre backs and 2 full backs (4), 2 centre midfield players and 2 wide midfield players (4) and 2 forwards (2). It is described as 4-4-2 in its defensive shape, but in its attacking shape, it more resembles 2-4-4 as the full backs push forward into midfield positions and the wide midfield players push forward to the forward line. Indeed, over-lapping full backs can be in advance of wide midfield players. So far, so obvious. When I was a kid that was as far thinking on formations had progressed. Every team played in exactly the same way, and as a result, there was no advantage to be had from the system. The attacking and defensive shapes were well understood and every player understood his role. The over-lapping full back, such a revelation when it was first introduced, was nullified when the opposition wide player dropped back mark the full back and effectively, to stop the overload. There had to be a new line of thinking to redefine the system in order to try to regain some differential advantage. The way that Stendel played 4-4-2 last season, our wide player often did not follow the opposition full back when he advanced, and this created an opportunity to overload on our full backs. This was often mentioned by accusatory BBS correspondents in relation to a winger not working hard enough. However, cover for the overload was often provided, not by the wide player, but by the nearest free player. That might be a midfield player or it might be a central defender, but it resulted in the rest of the defence changing position/orientation slightly in order to compensate for the covering player being dragged out of position, sometimes with a forward player dropping deeper to cover any hole that resulted in midfield. You often saw the full back on the other side of the field narrow his position in order to cover a centre back, who has in turn moved to cover his colleague who has moved to cover the overlap. This has resulted in two more changes as compared to the full back role from my youth. Full backs are now playing deliberately much narrower than they used to do, leaving the opposition wide players in more space and with more time. They do not mark the wide player closely like they did in my youth, preferring to narrow the gap between full back and centre back in order to cut out damaging through balls that sought to exploit that gap and to cover one-twos aimed at by-passing the centre backs. The bonus is that they are in a much better position to cover as described above, when the defence has to change position in order to cover any overlap. The upshot of this change of role for full backs is that full backs in the modern game are getting much taller than they once were. The reason is that in the above scenario, they are often stand-in centre backs, and as such, they have to be able to win the ball in aerial challenges. Expect this tendency to be confirmed when a new left back arrives in the January window. You see, in today’s game, defending is no longer just a job for the four who start deepest. Defending, and for that matter attacking, is for all outfield players. When a BBSer blames the defence, he is generally referring to the back four, but in truth a goal could result from any outfield member of the team losing concentration, and not doing the job that he has been assigned. The BBSer simply blames the defender closest to the player who scores, and generally, he looks no deeper than that. One of the problems with the system is that it potentially involves every player, and because of that, every player must be reading the game all of the time. They must recognise the triggers and they must recognise accurately what their role is in the developing circumstances. It is not easy and it takes a lot of time to learn the system properly. But why was the system changed? Well as I said above, the counter-measure for the over-lapping full back is just too predictable. Leaving a wide player up field creates a defensive problem, which can be overcome by good team play as I have described above, but it also creates an opportunity for us on the counter-attack when the ball is won back. When we win the ball back, our wide player is potentially unmarked. Last season, that opportunity on the counter-attack meant that in the main, our opponents at Oakwell respected our threat on the counter and did not even both to try to work the potential overload on our full backs. Many were far happier to stay in shape, and secure defensively, especially Scunthorpe who played with a back 5 that stayed as a back 5, even when they had secure possession. I am not sure that we will see the same scenario this season when our opponents will be far more relaxed about their ability to match us going forward. During his brief time in charge, Morais, who played in the same way, found that our opponents did not respect the potential danger of our wide players. We did not pose the threat on the break in the Championship that we did last season under Stendel in League 1. Morais had abandoned the psychological high ground that Stendel found much easier to occupy against weaker opposition last season. Would Stendel recognise that difference at the start of the new campaign against Fulham? Indeed, he did. The system changed subtly for our first home game, and the wingers went back to covering overlapping full backs. It turns out that Stendel is not fool enough to leave his wingers high and test our opponents resolve in covering the counter-attack, not against a team that played in the Premier League last season anyway.