If you’re like me, you sit around in your spare time thinking about soccer. One of the things I like to mull over are tactics and shapes for the hometown team, FC Dallas. Which brings me to a formation suggestion I would like to make for Coach Luchi Gonzalez in 2021 – a narrow diamond 4-4-2.
A narrow diamond 4-4-2 is the formation that Philadelphia Union plays, to give you one example. In many ways, it’s the same 4-3-3 FC Dallas plays now with the front line inverted to use two strikers and a “10” rather than a high-9 and two wingers.
Why a Narrow Diamond Four?
First and foremost, this suggestion is about optimizing FCD’s best attacking and midfield talent, most of whom are quite young and active. Los Toros have a large number of central mids and linking-8s in particular. There’s also a selection of off-striker and false-9 types kicking around.
Specifically, by playing a two-striker system, Jesus Ferreira or Franco Jara can play as an off-striker style they both seem to like. This also would allow a lot more Ricardo Pepi on the field, which is looking more and more like a really good idea. The idea is to be less reliant on just Jara for goals.
The narrow diamond also uses two linking-8s and a 10. Now as we’ve said time and again, Luchi-Ball doesn’t use a pure 10 so I’ll stick with my new favorite term, attacking-8, for this spot.
Lastly, FC Dallas has some pretty good attacking outside backs. Now we all know Bryan Reynolds is going, going, gone. But the players who are most likely to replace him fit the same mold. Combined with Ryan Hollingshead on the left, the wide channels are ripe for attacking backs.
What Does the ND4 Look Like?
For the sake of discussion, I’ll fill in the narrow diamond four with the current roster as if everyone is healthy and thus ignoring, for now, any winter signings. That’s a different article.
RATS = Andres Ricaurte, Bryan Acosta, Tanner Tessmann, and Brandon Servania.
You can see this gets you two of the four RATS plus Paxton Pomykal and two out of the three strikers – Pepi, Jara, and Ferreira – on the field at once.
Obviously, this leaves the team’s wingers – Michael Barrios, Fafa Picault, Ema Twumasi, and Dante Sealy – out in the cold. They would be competing for one of the two striker positions or even a spot in the midfield as any of the 8s.
The loss of Barrios from the XI is not what it used to be. Prior to this year that would be a big deal. It’s not anymore and there’s a chance he’s not even on the roster in 2021.
Plus we’ve seen that Coach G likes to change shapes from time to time so various sets of 4-2-3-1, 4-3-3, 3-4-3, and 3-5-2 could use any number of these wingers in their sets.
There’s a catch to everything right? What do you give up to play this way?
First, one might think it could be harder to press this way but it’s doable just as the front three presses now. The forwards split and the attacking-8 steps up, or wide, as do both the linking-8s as needed.
Second, the wide spaces are wide open spaces and can be overloaded. A team that plays a flat 4-4-2 might be able to exploit this and get in a lot of crosses by forfeiting the middle of the park.
Consequently, the FCD linking-8s have to be mobile enough to cover up the outside backs when needed. But that’s something the 8s on the team do already in the 4-3-3 because a few of the wings on this team don’t play much defense.
Or FCD can just change shapes for a wide spaces kind of team.
Lastly, the holding-6 – Thiago Santos mostly – could be on an island. But all formations compress and both linking 8s will end up sitting next to the 6 and filling wider if the team were to sit deep. Part of the job of a linking-8 is to play box to box and that includes helping his 6. Similarly, the front three would compress and flatten too.
Bottom line, the front-5 in this shape needs to be mobile with energy and range to cover up and help out. Just as they are in this team now.
There are times Luchi likes a double pivot. If the diamond-4 is the base shape it’s easy enough to rotate the midfield into a box-4 (4-2-2-2) if you feel a double-6 is the way to go for a particular matchup.
Could a Narrow Diamond Four Work?
I certainly think it can or I wouldn’t be suggesting it. FC Dallas will be making moves this winter, both moving players out and bringing guys in.
Playing this way probably means adding another forward to the list of needs. But that’s really about it in terms of added needs.
FCD has all the personnel to not just play in but to optimize a narrow diamond 4.
Once Reynolds became a starter and putting in those most excellent crosses the same thought came to mind. Especially with our CMs being more useful than the strikers/wings
Games are so often won in the midfield. With our offense struggling to find the final pass it helps to have 3 playmakers on the field at the same time (Ricaurte, Paxton, and Jesus).
Love the experimentation. A few counterpoints: (1) Luchi’s talked ad nauseam about how the Academy dicates how the first team will play – they’re wedded all the way down the club to the 4-3-3 (or derivatives thereof); (2) your fullbacks have to carry a ton of water on the wings in a diamond, and, because he’s a righty who wants to drift inside, Hollingshead isn’t suited to that; (3) I understand that you’re low on Barrios right now, but the tradeoff of taking him off for a 3rd midfielder (Tessmann or Servania or Acosta) seems like a recipe for generating fewer chances, which is problematic given how poor FCD’s attack was in ’20.
If you want Jara/Ferreira to play alongside Pepi, you can still do that in the 4-3-3 by putting them in the middle together as you suggest, and just have the other winger flop sides as the opposition dictates (eg: the September game @ MN) with the weakside fullback pushing forward to fill the space.
Taking Barrios out of the lineup is why this probably isn’t really in the cards.
What do you do when Reynolds gets sold mid-way through 2021? Right now there is a dearth of talent at CB, but if that gets resolved favorably, I’d like to see a 3-4-3 a la Napoli under Walter Mazzarri, with either Ricaurte or Pomykal playing the Hamsik creator role, Pepi playing the Cavani role, and Barios playing the Lavezzi role.
Reynolds is going to be sold this winter.
I’ve definitely had this thought before when playing with FC Dallas in FIFA and trying to maximize their young talent. As you said, the difficulty in the past is that you’d be pushing Barrios out of the lineup, but I agree that’s not a big deal right now. The only real issue for me is that you have to find a place for Dante Sealy to get minutes, he has too much talent as winger to force him into a different position.
It does line up nicely though, doesn’t it?
ST: Pepi, Ferreira/Jara
AM: Pomykal, Roberts as backup
CM: Ricaurte, Tessmann, Servania (maybe offload Acosta?)
DM: Thiago Santos, Cerrillo