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Five at the back : A modern day formation

With the new football season underway, teams have their plans all set up. Managers have their players or most of the players they want. Training has been going well and now it is all down to results. One thing club managers have in mind when using tactics is a team formation. These days many more clubs are using a “five-at-the-back formation”.

After a Premier League season where Chelsea won the title they implemented a five at-the-back formation. A tactic not used by many teams in recent times but used successfully by Chelsea boss Antonio Conte. Using the formation allows defenders to assist in attacking plays.

Any formation used with five at-the-back includes three centre-backs and two full-backs. The two full-backs will help in the attack on the wings acting as wingers as well. This is why three centre-backs are used. If the full-backs are far up the pitch the centre-backs are able to cover all defensive positions by using the defensive space.

Chelsea won the 2016/17 Premier League season with a five at-the-back formation

The way that football is adapting every year seems to be an influence on managers and their tactics. Teams that are successful one year can set a trend the following year. Other teams witness what has worked and will try out the new so-called tactical success.

It will be interesting to see how the Premier League pans out this year with a number of teams changing to formations including five at-the-back. We will be able to see if these formations are more effective. They could help improve attacking play but could it mean the defence is more vulnerable than a formation which uses four defenders?

Despite Chelsea having won the Premier League, winning the title last season doesn’t guarantee they do it again because of their formation. Playing the likes of Victor Moses and Marcos Alonso at full-back positions, both players have adapted their style of play within the squad. Cesar Azpilicueta has been playing as both centre-back and wing-back also.

Clubs will feel that having five at-the-back is more secure as there are more options in types of play. More defenders will be creating assists and possibly scoring extra goals due to attacking mentalities. This will be a positive for statistical pundits.

Kyle Walker – One of the most highly rated wing-backs at present

As the beautiful game changes, there are certain exploits that coaches and backroom staff will try to take advantage of. Playing a certain formation can be a help but only if the club has the right players for all positions. Trying to adapt a centre-back to wing-back will not always work.

Obviously down the wings, you need players who are quick as well as able to attack and defend. These days, wingers are seen as more valuable than ever due to their demand by so many clubs. That’s why we’ve seen players such as Kyle Walker transferred for a big amount of money. Not only is he a first team player but plays an important role that not many players are able to adjust to.

In conclusion, five at-the-back is a growing trend that will increase value in wing-back versatile players. We will see more of the trend over the next few years as football slowly changes its old traditions in tactical play.

About Jamie Kynaston

A season ticket holder at Stoke City for 20 years. Follows most leagues and usually talks too much about football.
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