Sing Alleluia: Martin O'Neill considers switching back to 4-5-1 for Manchester United

First things first, I'm not sure about the title of this post, I just wanted something that was sort of memorable to the news that Martin O'Neill is considering switching back to five in midfield, because I for one think he must. Also, I'm not going to criticise Martin O'Neill, but I think he got it wrong when he moved to four in midfield to accommodate Heskey.

The irony is, I was all for Heskey signing, mostly because of his effectiveness in a 4-5-1 formation while at Wigan and under Martin O'Neill at Leicester. I can't talk for his time at Birmingham City, but somebody told me he did it there too and was quite good also.


But the arrival of Heskey and us reverting to 4-4-2, while it might not be the only factor in our dip in form, it does coincide with it and while Martin O'Neill is saying today that it's giving away soft goals, we didn't give those away when we were playing five in the middle and actually stole a lot of points in the latter stages of games when playing five in the middle.

Look, it's not that I think five in the middle is the best formation any football club can play, but we have to look at our strengths and for me, with the current crop of players we have, five in the middle is the best option, especially with the likes of James Milner, who will run until next Wednesday for you and Ashley Young, who is better suited to the space created when we do have five in the middle.

But, while Martin O'Neill considers it, it's not for certain it's going to happen tomorrow.

Have I contemplated changing formation from 4-4-2 to 4-5-1? It is a decent point. The time we went to 4-5-1 and won away from home, people said 4-5-1 wouldn’t be able to break down defences at home.The point I am making is when we drew at home with Fulham using 4-5-1, people were asking ‘Do we not need an extra centre-forward?’

When we played three midfield players with Stiliyan Petrov holding, in many aspects, it gave us a lot of stability and a lot of strength around that area. And away from home, with Gabby Agbonlahor down the channels and midfielders breaking, it seemed to suit us greatly. At home, I wasn’t sure it was always effective, but I am not so sure that formations are everything. It is something to consider. I look at the formations, tactics, it is a point to consider.
Martin O'Neill, April 3rd 2008

The most important thing I think we need is consistency in formation, so that everyone knows the role they have to play and not just those eleven that start. If we play a consistent formation, everyone that is coming through or coming on, also knows the role that each position is expected to play and like I've said above, with our current crop of players, five in the middle is best.

But don't take my word for it; nobody voted for 4-4-2 or 4-3-3 in our recent poll!

It's not about five in the middle away from home, then four in the middle at home. The Fulham match Martin O'Neill brings up, for me anyway, isn't an ideal one to look at because the one before at home, we held Manchester United to a goal less draw and the one after, both playing five in the middle, we beat Bolton 4-2.

Those are the result we should be looking at, for home matches and five in the middle, if anything the Fulham match might have been a blip and considering the result before and the result after, at the time, we would have all taken that blip.

We have to try and stop conceding daft goals, not only daft, but soul-destroying goals. They knock the stuffing out of you in many aspects. That is my viewpoint.

We’ve got to get back to playing in the type of form we showed from late November right through to February, when we went 13 league games unbeaten. We’ve got to win some matches and we’ve got to remain unbeaten.
Martin O'Neill, April 3rd 2008

I don't want to put words into the mouth of Martin O'Neill, but if he just adds the letters 'ation' to the end of one of the words he has used, I think it might all start to fall into place again; Jonathan Wilson also thinks so - he says 4-4-2 is dead!

So, the change in formation is under consideration but we'll not know for sure until tomorrow, but if we want a fighting chance to get something out of this game and not see our team go to 4-3-3 in the second half with James Milner playing at right back, then I believe it is something we have to do.