The Michael Wood Column

Wednesday 10 October, 2001

Why things at City are going Pear shaped

City's season is going pear shaped, and not just because of a bad set of results that the team can not seem to shake off, but rather because of the formation which, too often, looks like the fruit.

Pears. Wide at the bottom, thinner towards the middle but the same basic width until the tip. City's 433, with it's four at the back, a three in midfield, a three up front. Draw it on a bit of paper and you see the point, or rather lack of point, of the pear idea.

And the pear shaped City work pretty well. Going forward City are doing well this term. Only Nottingham Forest away saw City without a goal and when the front three includes Benito Carbone and Ashley Ward the capacity to get goals against anyone is there. However it is the forward line that is the problem.

Figure One: City looking pear shaped.
Figure One: City looking pear shaped.

Figure One shows City against the 442 formations that Burnley and Watford played to such effect against City. Left is the teams where neither is attacking, the right shows the opposition taking the ball into the City box. Notice how the full back are able to go forward to aid the wingers. City's full backs can cope with the one wide man but to cover the overlapping full back a man must be drawn out of the midfield, leaving too few men to cover the central area and giving the full back the opportunity to run into the gap left in midfield. City are open to assault by any team that can pass the ball across midfield because the Bantams are always going to be undermanned.

Figure Two: City's forward working harder.
Figure Two: City's forward working harder.

Figure Two shows the same situations but has one key change. When the opposition take the ball towards the City box the wide men, in most cases Carbone and Eoin Jess, track back with the full backs.

As a result three things occur:

Simple enough and, and this is the beauty of this system, it is doable because City have already done it. The first half against Grimsby, down at Portsmouth, at home to Coventry and Barnsley, this has been the pattern of the City teams that have got the best results this season.

What is required is that Jim Jefferies underlines the point to Carbone, Robbie Blake, Eoin Jess or whoever else plays this role. It is imperative that when the ball is going towards the City goal, so are they.

Of course this tires the players more, but we are told that the Jim Jefferies summer camp and the throwing out of the lightweights last season has left the Bantams with a team high on stamina and besides, the standing around up front waiting for the ball attitude of the second half of the game with Grimsby results in just one thing, losses. Players can be fresh as daisies and still lose. Better flogged to death with three points than sprightly with none.

So pear shaped City will send the season pear shaped. It is up to Jim Jefferies to impress on the men who play just off Ashley Ward that at times they have to be defenders. When he does the midfield will show it is more than capable of holding it's own, the back four will leak less because it will face less pressure and City will be back towards the top of the league.

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