Swindon 1 – 2 Peterborough: Town’s tactical shift
Alex Cooke takes a quick look at Town’s use of a 4-4-2 for the second-half of Saturday’s match versus Peterborough United…
Swindon began on Saturday with a 4-2-3-1 but for the second half reverted to a 4-4-2 formation with a diamond shape in midfield. And, while it helped Town get more players into their ‘natural’ positions, it also left a few floundering.
Anton Rodgers, who had suffered in the first 45, forming part of a very weak shield on the right side of the team, was given a more natural position at the base of the diamond. There he could contribute more to what he is good at – keeping the ball moving. Drissa Traroe also looked happier with the chance to take the ball and push on, trying to feed the front two and Ben Gladwin, deployed at the tip of the diamond. It also stopped him having to get the ball off the back four, something he seems to struggle with. In the first half the pair gave a perfect illustration of how ill-equipped Town would be for a traditional 4-4-2.
Louis Thompson got his move back into midfield and naturally added drive on the left side of the diamond, although he was a loss at the back. Thompson has never been a great dribbler but his mobility started to open the middle up a little as Peterborough found him harder to track and close.
The defence were slightly more exposed by the change, partly as their cover was halved but also because once the soft second goal had been conceded both full-backs had to attack. In many ways this suited young James Brophy. The talented child seemed to benefit from attacking from deeper positions, running at his man, rather than the first half when he found it harder to beat an opponent stationed closer to him. It also exposed his limitations as a defender when Peterborough’s Jon Taylor dribbled past him easy and later drew a foul from Brophy, resulting in a yellow card.
On the right flank Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill found life harder. Peterborough were well aware of BOO’s left-footedness and their full-back was able to position himself to prevent BOO moving inside. This did cause a problem for Town, not only because a successful 4-4-2 diamond relies on the full-backs to give the team width. But the need to score meant Peterborough could push their wide forwards into the gaps left behind and isolate Town’s centre backs [Yellow arrows, first chart].
Both Nicky Ajose and Jermaine Hylton had struggled in the first half and it was affecting the team. Hylton in particular was suffering at the hands of Peterborough’s physical defenders. His smaller frame and lack of experience as a lone striker meant he couldn’t come short to lay balls off [Red arrow]. Instead, he had to run wide and behind the defenders. While Peterborough put enough pressure on the ball that Town rarely managed to get a long pass in behind them (bar Rodgers to Ajose in the opening few moments) Hylton was at least able to make space for Gladwin in front of their back four.
The move to a partnership could have suited them, but it never really did. With crosses from the right coming in from deep but always curling in and Brophy often looking to cut inside, both strikers found themselves battling in the middle instead of being allowed to run into wider positions to take the earlier pass. Again, Town could have done with the more physical presence of Jon Obika or Wes Thomas.
Despite Tom Bassam’s slightly strange assertion that the formation change caused the second Peterborough goal, the change of system worked well. Pace was injected and an extra body was pulled into the heart of midfield. It could be one to consider for when players start to return from injury, particularly when Obika can support Ajose and a Yaser Kasim can offer his vision and ability to allow the team to play out from the back.