It seems probable that Atlanta United will play four at the back when it takes on New England at Gillette Stadium on Saturday.
Anyway, the big question is what will the rest of the formation look like?
Manager Frank de Boer (finally) went to the 4-3-3 in the last game at Columbus. It’s a formation that Atlanta United used quite well in its first two seasons. Though the team didn’t score against the Crew, it generated a season-high for shots and shots on goals in league games. More importantly, Atlanta United more closely resembled the team that scored 70 goals in each of the previous two seasons than it has in any other league game, and any other game except for the second leg against Herediano.
It seems likely that the team, after another week off between the two games, will use the same formation in front of tens of people on Saturday, right?
We shall see.
Much may depend upon if defender Franco Escobar is healthy enough to try for his second start this season at right fullback. De Boer has said a reason the team didn’t start the season in the 4-3-3, and instead went to the 3-4-3, is because of Escobar’s injury that prevented him from playing in the first seven games.
Even if Escobar isn’t healthy, I think de Boer will stick with the back four, figuring out some way to use the three centerbacks (Michael Parkhurst, Leandro Gonzalez Pirez and Miles Robinson) as three of the four.
It will be more intriguing to see how many midfielders and forwards/strikers de Boer uses. Against the Crew, Eric Remedi, Darlington Nagbe and Julian Gressel were the three midfielders with Ezequiel Barco and Hector Villalba flanking Josef Martinez up top.
Pity Martinez didn’t play because he was getting married (congrats to him), while also recovering from a hamstring injury suffered while on national duty with Argentina. He was running last week, so I assume we will see him participating at training today. The question becomes how to use he and Barco within the formation.
I wrote last week that I think they would best be used playing underneath Josef Martinez, forming a triangle in which they can play off each other to try to create space. Playing Barco and Pity Martinez outside, where Barco and Hector Villalba were against Columbus, has produced almost next to nothing.
Watching Barco and Pity Martinez, it seems clear that the two like to drift inside anyway. Barco seems more comfortable in the middle of the pitch than on the wings. Pity Martinez also looks more comfortable in the middle, where he has taken a lot of long-range shots, than on the wing.
So, I think it would be interesting to see if de Boer goes with a 4-3-3/4-1-4-1 formation in which the front 3 would be Josef Martinez, Gressel (on the right) and Nagbe (on the left), with the midfield three being Eric Remedi as the defensive midfielder, and Barco and Pity Martinez as offensive-minded midfielders. In this formation, Gressel and Nagbe would have do to a lot of running because, while they will be tracking back on defense, probably more than Barco and Pity Martinez.
This is what it would like:
Or, if this helps you:
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