Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

A Winning Formation? 4-2-3-1 Down the Years

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

A Winning Formation? 4-2-3-1 Down the Years

Article excerpt


BORO have being playing a variation of 4-2-3-1 on and off - but mainly on - since Aitor Karanka's appointment in November 2013.

And, here's the thing, it's rarely looked truly effective. Sure, it's worked from time to time.

After all, Boro won promotion in 2016 under Aitor Karanka using a 4-2-3-1 formation and reached a play-off final 12 months earlier.

But it's hard to think of too many players who've thrived in the attacking midfield positions when Boro have played 4-2-3-1. It was the case in three years ago and it's still the case now.

That's not to say another system would have been more successful, it's impossible to know for sure either way.

But let's have a look back at the various combinations of players who have been used in that attacking midfield trio and assess their effectiveness.

2013/14 (Left to right) Carayol/Ledesma - Tomlin - Adomah Aitor Karanka arrived in the November of 2013 and immediately began putting his stamp on the Boro team.

He adopted 4-2-3-1 and tried to find the right combination of players. Luke Williams and Jacob Butterfield were given a chance to stake a claim but as the Spaniard started to settle into his job, he liked the idea of Albert Adomah on the right, new January signing Lee Tomlin in the middle and Muzzy Carayol on the left.

Carayol's cruciate knee injury suffered in March 2014 opened the door for Emmanuel Ledesma, who had played a big part in Boro's Christmas revival.

Up front, on-loan striker Danny Graham got the nod more often than not, though Karanka admired and appreciated Curtis Main's endeavour and energy.

2014/15 Reach/Adomah - Tomlin/Vossen -Adomah/Bamford Karanka couldn't quite make his mind up which combination of players he trusted to play in the attacking midfield trio.

But, looking back, there's a section of Boro fans who get misty-eyed about the times the head coach fielded Albert Adomah on the right, Lee Tomlin in the middle and Adam Reach on the left with Patrick Bamford or Kike Garcia up front.

That line-up had a balance that appealed to the purist, with Adomah and Reach both playing on their strongest foot and Tomlin pulling the strings.

As the season climaxed though, Karanka seemed to lose faith in Reach and pushed Tomlin to wide left and placed Jelle Vossen at No10.

It worked in the play-off semi-finals but, in the final, and with striker Patrick Bamford carrying an injury, the attacking midfield of Adomah, Vossen and Tomlin failed to click.

2015/16 Downing/Adomah - Fabbrini/Ramirez - Adomah/Stuani On paper, the Adomah-Ramirez-Downing trio looked nailed on to succeed.

But in practice things weren't quite so simple.

The first half of the season had seen Aitor Karanka struggle once again to find a consistent combination. …

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