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Is a change of formation the formula to Fulham’s success?

How many different ways did Fulham line up last year? Is picking the right one and sticking with it the key to a successful campaign?

As the new season beckons, Fans of Fulham Football Club are hoping to see an instant impact under Jokanović in his first full season in charge of the club. But will he be able to accomplish this through the current line up of 4-4-2?

I have analysed the pro’s and con’s of the current formation and taken an in depth look at the possibilities.

The Current Formation

Leicester City Barclays Premier League Winners Bus Parade Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

The 4-4-2 has shown it still holds pedigree in the modern game. A system that was donned by Claudio Raneri’s Leicester City in their miraculous Premier League triumph and is also a favourite for Diego Simoene's ever present Atletico Madrid.

Fulham have sported the 4-4-2 over the past season, playing four central midfielders across a flat midfielder leaving the side open against quick passing and pace down the flanks.

The 4-4-2 formation is one of the oldest formation in English football. Commonly met with a negative reaction by fans.


The main strength of the 4-4-2 formation is have two banks of four and two frontmen. The two lines of four keep the formation disciplined and the two strikers play off each other.


Although the formation may be disciplined, It leaves the team flat and prone to most passing styles of play.

The New Formation

Liverpool v Manchester United - UEFA Europa League Round of 16: First Leg Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

I have taken a look at some of the statistics, delved into different tactics to dissect which formation holds the key to success. The formation that was brought to light would be that of the 4-2-3-1. Jurgen Klopp has always had success with his dynamic take on the formation, most notably with his time at Borussia Dortmund. But has since brought back an attractive style of play to Liverpool since implementing the formation to The Reds.

The key characteristics to the formation is that of soaking up the pressure in the midfield then quickly dispersing the ball with quick build up play before releasing the counter attack. A style of play that causes opposing teams to fatigue.

The 4-2-3-1 formation has brought success across Europe’s top leagues and which a majority of Premier League clubs have donned over the past couple of seasons.


As aforementioned the style of the play is ideal for quick build up play. triangle passing effectively breaks down the opposition. Having two holding midfielders soaks up any pressure, allowing any one of the more attacking midfielders to drop to supply options, making it increasingly more difficult to defend against.


After assessment, the 4-2-3-1 is the formation with the least weaknesses. The one weakness that became evident is only having one striker can then become stranded. The style of play can easily be adjusted to support this game plan.


What we have in Marcus Bettinelli is a young Goalkeeper full of prospect. Still in need of sharpening his game to become the commanding goalkeeper the club desires. Bettinelli 24, has plenty of years ahead of him to become Fulham’s number one, but his current role at the club should be that of shadowing a more experienced Goalkeeper.

This summer, Slavisa Jokanovic needs to be in the market to sign an experienced goalkeeper. One that is quick off the goal line and can make himself big within the box. Last season well publicized the fact that Fulham’s Goalkeepers were found to be rooted to their line too frequently, which in turn led to conceding far too many goals.

Fulham v Middlesbrough - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

Full Backs:

The quality of Full backs that Fulham currently possess on their roster, all but one fits the role of the new system.

In a previous article I wrote I stated that I am indeed a big fan of Fredericks and believe he has the potential to become a brilliant right back for the club. Where as he still needs time to develop factors of his game, his pace will suit the new style of play. If in fact Slavisa Jokanovic decides to experiment with a new system. But we need to address the current situation we have at Left Back, Tim Ream’s versatility to play either at Left Back or Centre Back makes him an ideal fit as a squad rotational player but is in no way fit to fulfill the role of starting XI. Another player who impressed during his spell on loan at the club is James Husband. Recent discussions on the CottageTalk Podcast brought light to a great point. Husband 22, whose parent club Middlesbrough will be playing in the Premier League next season, may well see a reduction in his playing. Still at a young age, Fan favourite Husband may be the perfect fit. Whether or not the club can retain his services once more, may it be on a permanent or a loan deal is yet to be seen.

Centre Backs:

With the third worst defence in the Championship, Jokanovic will need to prioritize rebuilding the defence. The acquisition of Michael Madl is a promising bit of business and suggests that the manager plans to strengthen the clubs leaky defence.

Jokanovic’s needs to a Centre Back with Championship experience that can complement Madl’s playing style. A player that will lead the line and deal with aerial threats.

Fulham v Charlton Athletic   - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

Holding Midfielders:

The two Defensive Midfielders are the pivotal to the formation and the key to its success.

As aforementioned the two holding players duties are to soak up the pressure and to eliminate the oppositions momentum.

In the deeper laying roles of the midfield, The team needs a charismatic, verbal and dedicated player to lead the team. Scott Parker is the perfect mold for this position.

The second Defensive Midfield position needs to Jokanovic acquire a player that is defensive minded and confident with the ball at his feet. Whilst a good distributor of the ball to suit the triangular style of passing play.


These positions are in need of a complete overhaul. The team lacks pace and with the new system of only one striker, support from the wide men will be crucial.

The club will need to spend big on signings this summer on Wingers, Between them they will need to help attribute with scoring to ensure to offload the pressure of the sole Striker.

Central midfielder:

The most pivotal and influential position on the field in the new formation. The Creative midfielder, This role collects the ball after build up play and his duty is one of two options. Either play a dynamic pass through to the striker or dribble through the defensive line himself.

A position that we do not need to make a new acquisition. The club already have two players that fit this mold perfectly. Tom Cairney should be brought in off the Right Wing and played in his strongest position. Jokanovic’s first port of call is to convince Emerson Hyndman to sign a new contract at the club and portray to the young American the ambitions of the club. If Jokanovic starts the new season with the two of them on his team sheet, It will be as if he had two new signings.


Within the current set up, the two frontmen of Dembele and McCormack thrive off each other. It has been well documented that McCormack plays to his strengths when he has a strike partner to play off of. But with all the uncertainty surrounding his future at the club we are left questioning, Will he, Wont he?

Although McCormack is undoubtedly the talisman of the team, The aging forward may not be the best player suited to build on for the future. McCormack has made no secret of his desire to play in the Premier League and may look to secure that ambition.

Moussa Dembele would be an ideal player to build the clubs spearhead around but with the young frenchmen out of contract and reports of his future circling.

Cauley Woodrow looks to be a hot prospect for the future, Being part of the Under 21' England Team. I cannot see Woodrow being prolific enough to fill the void left by McCormack and Dembele if they leave the club. I can only see Woodrow as squad player for now.

If Fulham are to reach the Premier League then Jokanovic is in need of replacing a possible 30 plus goals. He needs to be in the transfer market for a couple of prestige Champioship calibre strikers.

Fulham v Rotherham United   - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images

Do you believe we will see success with the current line up or would we benefit from a different style of play? Maybe you would like to see a complete different style of play implemented all together?

Leave your thoughts in the comments below.