Recently, Rafael Benitez has changed from a 4-2-3-1 to a 4-4-2 system and this has seen a positive change in performances, despite the results.
Currently, there isn’t enough quality in the Newcastle squad to play a 4-2-3-1 system. Chelsea played 4-2-3-1 and won the league, Newcastle played it and almost got relegated. A 4-4-2 system suits Newcastle’s current squad as well as Benitez’s compact defending philosophy. Newcastle could afford to play more attacking last season because they had a lot more quality than their opposition, however this season they have to play more defensive due to the lack of Premier League quality in the team.
One of the reasons why the 4-4-2 is better for Newcastle is the fact that it’s far more compact and harder to break down than the 4-2-3-1. At the minute it’s easier for the wide midfielders to get back for defensive duties due to the fact they’re sitting further back than in a 4-2-3-1. On top of that, a player like Hayden tracks back to help the defence without exposing the rest of the midfield too much.
A 4-4-2 also suits some important players in the squad better. At the weekend Jacob Murphy put in a decent shift because he is more of a right midfielder than winger and so is more suited to that role. As well as that, Dwight Gayle has played much better in the new system. Gayle is a striker that needs the ball fed into his feet. He’s not the type of player that will win long balls or dribble past 5 players. When he’s up on his own and starved of service, it’s like playing with 10 men. However, if he has another striker playing next to him he can start to show his quality.
To sum it up; the 4-4-2 system is a lot more compact which is what Newcastle have to play really and it suits players in the squad more than the 4-2-3-1.
Feature image credit: Ben Sutherland