So, the forum seems to be pretty split on how we should line up tactically next season, with the majority torn between a 4-2-3-1 and a 4-3-3. There are also a few that favour the 3-4-3/3-5-2, having seen Conte's Chelsea perfect the system and romp away with the league title. I feel that this summer's midfield signings will transform our identity towards one or the other, but which will it be? Here, I'll take a look at what we need to make each formation work tactically, and the pros and cons of each system. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Spoiler: 4-2-3-1: This has become Mourinho's most utilised system in recent years, guiding Chelsea back to the summit of the Premier League in 2015, and previously with Real Madrid in amassing an astonishing 100 points, scoring 121 goals in the process. He also frequently used this system at Inter Milan, winning an historic treble. At these clubs, Mourinho was flexible enough to revert to a 4-3-3 on occasions where he deemed it necessary, often on their travels against strong opposition. He also used a diamond with the Italian side. It's important to note the structure of the midfield three in this formation. The two at the base of midfield have complementary attributes to create the complete midfield. Mourinho usually opts for a disciplined player alongside a more mobile midfielder. He has one creative passer, and one defensive option, be it a water carrier or pressing destroyer. Between the two players, they have to cover a number of bases: - The Creator (Xabi Alonso as the deep lying playmaker at Real Madrid, Fabregas as a more progressive playmaker at Chelsea. Motta played a deep playmaker role at Inter, while Stankovic was often preferred for a more advanced playmaker position). This is Pogba's role in our side. - The Disciplined Holder (Again, Xabi Alonso did this for Real Madrid, while Matic was responsible for this at Chelsea. Cambiasso took on this role to great effect at Inter, covering for the attacking full back Maicon. Motta also played in a disciplined way when he was chosen ahead of Stankovic). This has been Herrera's role for us under Mourinho. He is of course capable of this, but is better suited to pressing the opposition. It is a role that many have suggested Fabinho could fill, whilst we have also been linked with Dier, and Matic himself. - The Destroyer This is a player that puts his foot in, makes challenges and pressures the opposition. (Khedira played the role at Madrid, while Matic and occasionally Ramires did this for Mourinho at Chelsea. Cambiasso would do this for Inter, especially with the disciplined Motta alongside him). Herrera is this player for us, it's his most effective role. - The Power and Presence (Khedira provided this at Real Madrid, albeit in a less physical league. Matic had this for Mourinho's Chelsea, preventing them from being overpowered aerially or physically bullied by the more powerful sides. Cambiasso was powerful but Motta provided a bit of aerial cover when necessary). We have Pogba to provide this, although links to holding midfielders may suggest that we are looking to add more to the squad. - The Legs (Khedira had the engine at Madrid to compensate for Xabi's lack of mobility. Chelsea used Ramires for this where necessary, although having a more robust #10 in Oscar certainly redressed the balance of the midfield somewhat. For Inter Milan, Cambiasso provided the legs alongside Motta, while Stankovic also had a decent engine when called upon). Herrera has incredible stamina, Pogba too, so we don't have to worry about this. I feel that we already have that complete skill set in Pogba and Herrera, we just lack the depth beyond those two. Fellaini has power, Carrick has discipline and creativity, but they both lack the legs. I'm still hopeful that Pereira has a role next season though, as I feel he has the potential. Then you look at the furthermost midfield player in the system, the #10. He has to provide the creativity in more advanced areas for a potent striker and goalscoring wide players (Ozil for Real Madrid), or the goals to compliment a more creative attack (Oscar at Chelsea, although he mainly provided more legs and energy to compensate Fabregas and Matic. Sneijder was a huge goal threat for Inter Milan). We have shown to be one of the more creative sides in the division, but have failed to take the chances that we make, so I feel we will need a goal scoring #10. This is particularly the case should we sign Morata - a player that has improved his finishing immeasurably but has never contributed a haul of goals such as Ibrahimovic, so may still prove unreliable in this regard. PROS: - We already have the complete skill set in Pogba and Herrera for the two central midfielders. - We have two or three players most suited to the #10 role. - Mourinho has recently used the system to good effect at both Real Madrid and Chelsea. - It's a system that is suited for teams dominant in possession and territory. - Provides an extra body further up the pitch so theoretically greater attacking options. CONS: - It may not get the best out of Pogba in terms of attacking output. - Mkhitaryan and Lingard are better suited as transitional #10's. i.e. countering systems like a 4-4-1-1. - Can be more useful in a high press and high line, which Mourinho doesn't often adopt. - Intelligent opposing #10's can find pockets of space and hurt us. - Doesn't suit us against better sides that dominate possession. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Spoiler: 4-3-3: This formation brought Mourinho huge success during his first spell at Chelsea and previously kick started his career at Porto (albeit mostly under the variation of a 4-3-1-2). It is a more defensive structure that allows for quick transitions and counter attacks whilst providing numbers in midfield to restrict the opposition. The structure of the midfield three is very different. The most defensive player is basically a water carrier, a defensive screen who protects the defence and contributes little going forward (Makelele at Chelsea under Mourinho, Costinha at Porto). He has to be positionally disciplined and pass possession onto the more creative players ahead of him. Both Carrick and Herrera can occupy the role, although the former can't be relied upon to play consecutive games, and the latter is better suited without the shackles of positional responsibility. Tuanzebe may be an option, but he lacks the experience required to be a dependable solution. We will have to buy for this role now or in the immediate future (Fabinho, Dier and Matic all strongly linked recently). The most advanced of the three is often the goalscorer in Mourinho's version of the tactic, someone that can attack from deep, make late runs, be a presence in the box and score from distance (Lampard at Chelsea, Maniche at Porto). His primary role is to effect the final third of the pitch, to create with both passing and movement and to score goals from midfield. We know Pogba has an abundance of creativity, and I think he can add more goals to his game with a bit of patience and a little less defensive responsibility. Pereira, I feel, could become a very able deputy. The final midfielder of the three is the box-to-box link man between defence and attack (Essien/Thiago at Chelsea, Mendes at Porto). He's a bit of an all rounder, able to contribute in attack, retain possession and create chances, whilst having the tenacity to press and the stamina to get back and help out at the other end of the field. Mourinho tends to favour a more defensive option, someone with stamina and tenacity that really enables the goalscorer to thrive. Herrera is the perfect choice for us here, although the recent links to Nainggolan could suggest that he may move to the deeper of the three midfielders. Both players have everything, but Nainggolan is probably the more attacking option, while Herrera has more discipline. PROS: - The system should get the best out of Pogba. - As a more defensive formation, it should satisfy Mourinho's need to play a counter attacking style. - It allows a deeper defensive line and negates the need for attacking full backs. - It is a more direct system which allows the wide attackers to stay further forward a little more. - Would suit the pace and directness of Rashford, Martial, Mkhitaryan and Lingard. CONS: - We lack the perfect option for the holding midfielder role. - Can be a little negative against the smaller sides intent on sitting back. - We lack depth in midfield and may require two new players. - Requires a striker that can hold the ball up well, but also has strong movement and work rate (Morata could be perfect for this, and a reasonable possibility if recent speculation is to be believed). -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Personally, I have always loved the 4-3-3 and particularly the way the dutch have used the tactic to phenomenal effect. I enjoy the quick counter attacking style, the fluidity of movement and the dynamism of end to end football. However, I can't seem to shake my love of the #10, and particularly James Rodriguez. I think it's the role in a side that most affords a player complete freedom to influence a game, and allows the kind of flamboyancy and creativity that produces the magical moments in football that we all love. I have to admit, I can't shake the feeling that we will only sign one central option for a midfield role, and ultimately I think we need two. Whether that be for either system, we need more depth and we need the players that can bring out the best of what we already have. I am more than convinced at the players we have been linked to most seriously - Morata would be the perfect striker for either system and Perisic provides something missing in attack, but the signing of Lindelof and Mourinho's reluctance to make fleeting changes suggests to me that only one central midfield acquisition is on the cards. I'd like us to alternate between the two formations dependent upon opposition, injuries and rotation, but in order to do so I think we need two additions to that midfield. I'd personally like Fabinho and James Rodriguez, but I'd trust Mourinho and be more than happy should he prefer Nainggolan. Perhaps he sees Pereira as a vital new addition, perhaps not. I just hope that we don't go into another season relying on Carrick and Fellaini with such importance. So what do you prefer? (Perhaps a poll could be added?) What do you think Mourinho will do? What other pros and cons have I missed? What other formation do you prefer and why? Who framed Roger Rabbit? What came first, the chicken or the egg? Etc.