Biggest Tactical Deficiency for Each EPL Team
With the English Premier League entering the home stretch, teams' efficiencies and deficiencies have been laid bare over the course of the season.
So let's take a look at one thing each team has really suffered from in a tactical sense this season, including Chelsea's formation mismatch and Newcastle's striking conundrum.
Enjoy the slideshow!
Lack of a defence-first holding midfielder
Arsenal currently use Mikel Arteta on his own in the holding role, and while he's excellent in possession and acts as a metronome on the ball, his defending leaves a lot to be desired.
He's a converted No. 10, and his instincts are missing. His first reaction is not to think, "What's behind me?" but to continue looking forward for several seconds too long.
He needs to play alongside a destructive No. 6, like Sami Khedira, because he can't hold a midfield on his own.
No midfield surge
Aston Villa don't have the gaping holes many relegation-threatened sides usually do, but there is a certifiable lack of drive in the midfield that hinders them on occasion.
The Villans have proved themselves to be very capable on possession this season, but when the other team stacks two banks of four in front of them, Villa don't have the wherewithal to overcome it.
They're looking to Fabian Delph to break forward, but his game is still too raw due to the injuries he's sustained in recent years.
Chelsea have hit a nice vein of form recently, but something that's plagued the side all season long is the use of a formation that doesn't fit very well.
Rafa Benitez has soldiered on with the 4-2-3-1 despite a glut of uninspiring performances, and the lack of off-the-ball movement in their 1-0 away defeat to Steaua Bucharest was astonishing.
Fans are eager to see their Blues try something new.
Lack of ambition at home
The amount of games Everton have drawn this season when they should have easily won is sickening, and it's that bad habit that sees you miss out on a top-four berth.
Some of this stems from a poor run of luck, but David Moyes is certainly guilty of playing some overly negative football at times. He never budges from his 4-4-1-1 formation—even against weaker teams—and the Toffees have the quality available to play a 4-4-2 at home and win.
Nikica Jelavic is often devoid of support, and it's easy to see why.
Lack of a dribbling threat through the middle
Fulham are a tough side to gauge. They're inconsistent, turning in a wonderful performance one weekend, then a drab one the next.
Common consensus suggests there's an over-reliance on Dimitar Berbatov, but I spoke to Kyle Bonn from Fulham's Finest, and he makes an excellent point: Berba's not the problem; it's the link to him that remains suspect.
A lack of a dribbling threat from the centre of the pitch has hindered Martin Jol in his attempts to install his footballing blueprint at Craven Cottage.
Lack of a physical midfielder
Watch Jay Rodriguez's goal against Liverpool this past weekend. Now watch it again. Now ask yourself how a player is simply allowed to sprint 40 yards and finish at the second time of asking under almost no pressure at all.
Liverpool need to buy a physically dominant holding midfielder, because as good as Lucas Leiva is at breaking up play, he's not the hustle-and-bustle presence required at times.
Lack of a true wide threat
Manchester United have been exceptional all season long.
Their weakness used to be Rafael, but the Brazilian has improved so much this season it's unbelievable. Sir Alex Ferguson has become tactically reactive and managed his resources well throughout the season.
If you can levy any criticism at their season at all, it has to be the lack of a wide threat. Nani and Ashley Young cut inside, and Antonio Valencia has regressed dramatically.
It's the only element they're missing at the moment.
Lack of width, lack of mobility
Manchester City have had a poor season, and to be honest, things were looking ominous after a poor summer transfer window.
Upon Javi Garcia's signing, concerns were flagged over his lack of mobility and pace. City already had a rather similar player in Gareth Barry, so why was the Spaniard brought in?
Scott Sinclair was supposed to be the answer to City's lack of width, but the former Swansea winger has barely been given a kick.
Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse together
This problem was actually fixed by Chelsea signing the former, but the first half of the season was a complete mess for Alan Pardew.
He couldn't bring himself to drop either of his Senegalese strikers and instead played them together in a system that didn't work. The 4-4-2 failed; Cisse on the right of a 4-5-1 failed.
It looked like an issue Pardew was never going to fix until the Blues met Ba's buyout clause, and although Newcastle's big January spending will likely headline the reason why they avoid relegation, Ba's exit brought balance back to the side.
Sometimes it's not tactical.
Norwich create chances through the use of their excellent wide men, but no one can convert regularly enough to see them safe from trouble.
There are strikers on top teams that would kill for the likes of Anthony Pilkington and Robert Snodgrass to be crossing for them, but the Canaries are limited by one cruel fact in football: 20-goal strikers cost more than they can afford.
Queens Park Rangers
Zero sense of urgency
Harry Redknapp hasn't done an awful lot wrong since taking over at Queens Park Rangers, so we look back to the Mark Hughes era to identify faults.
By all accounts, this looked like a team of strangers playing together, and that's mostly because it was, quite literally, a team of strangers playing together.
Disjointed chemistry was a major issue, and Hughes' many, many changes harmed the side. When they were stringing passes together, though, there seemed a certain reluctance to do anything particularly quickly.
Watching Jose Bosingwa take approximately four hours to cross the ball at the Hawthorns was just infuriating.
Unfortunately for the Royals, their tactically limited manager held them back this season. The squad is not EPL quality, but McDermott showed an astonishing lack of awareness throughout his tenure.
Reading has a 39.8 percent possession average—the lowest in the English Premier League.
One of the reasons for this is because McDermott played a 4-4-2 formation for half his games in charge, and Mikele Leigertwood and Hope Akpan are simply not good enough in a midfield two.
Masking low squad quality with good tactics is a must, but McDermott barely attempted it.
Getting caught on the counter
This criticism applies to both of Southampton's managers this season.
Nigel Adkins was an all-out attack merchant who, despite a love for possession and free-flowing football, left the Saints woefully bare at the back.
What's even worse is he didn't purchase a new centre-back to help stem the flow, and the goalkeeping situation simply failed to add any continuity to the line.
Mauricio Pochettino has simply continued that trend (per Barry Glendenning of The Guardian):
We are an attack-minded team and always want to push forward. It's not such a big deal if we concede a goal when we are pressing really high to get a goal for ourselves as well.
But to concede a goal when there are 10 of my players in my own area, in my own box, and concede a goal like that, I can never tolerate that.
No ground game. Again.
Stoke City, despite Tony Pulis' best efforts, remain hindered by the same old ghosts.
Aerially supreme yet deficient on the ground, over 30 percent of the Potters' goals this season have come from set pieces.
When you've got Charlie Adam averaging only 29.6 passes per game, it's clear your not using your technical assets and simply reverting to old ways.
Forced to play 4-4-2
Martin O'Neill only had Steven Fletcher to call upon as a striker, so he felt it necessary to sign another front man in January.
The arrival of Danny Graham for £5 million simply heaped pressure on the Ulsterman to play them both together, and that has resulted in the dreaded 4-4-2.
It's a reasonable strategy at home, but for QPR away? That's suicide.
No "plan B"
Swansea are the second of three clubs in the English Premier League that are largely faultless.
No one expected the Swans to continue their superb form in the top tier, and Michael Laudrup deserves a lot of credit for his ethic, his signings and his tactics.
You have to be looking for faults to find then in South Wales, and it's arguable that the club no longer has a plan B after selling its game-changing super-sub in January.
Danny Graham was a wonderful option off the bench in the club's time of need (see the 2-2 draw versus Aston Villa), but now that he's gone, it's all on Michu.
Lack of depth in key areas
There is a reason why Tottenham appear to be over-reliant on Gareth Bale and/or Aaron Lennon.
It's not because their replacements aren't as good; it's because there is no replacement.
Spurs have been flying high with these two in the side, but without them, Andre Villas-Boas had to commit to a full tactical reshuffle.
At the San Siro, the Portuguese manager tried a 4-4-2 with Gylfi Sigurdsson left and Mousa Dembele right, but the system contributed to a 4-1 downfall on the night.
Spurs need some depth to stop AVB having to shift the very earth beneath them if Bale or Lennon go down.
January was a failure
There's not much to pick at when it comes to West Bromwich Albion.
Steve Clarke has done an excellent job. Tactically, the Baggies are solid and to the point, while some very good additions were made in the summer window.
The only blip on the record was a tumultuous January window, where WBA failed to add significantly to their ranks and entered February with a few players who simply don't want to be at the club.
Lack of ability on the deck
Like a lesser Stoke City, West Ham have struggled to play football on the deck this season.
Sam Allardyce has done what he can to shake the long-ball tag his name carries, but as soon as the Hammers feel the pressure, they hit it long; with Andy Carroll up front, why not?
On a number of occasions, the Hammers' players have been seen misdirecting or mishitting genuinely easy passes under no pressure whatsoever.
The use of Franco Di Santo
This one is starting to defy logic.
It's a tune of thought frequent B/R commenter Dani F will sympathise with and one that confuses neutrals and all manner of Wigan fans alike.
Wigan are, in my opinion, one excellent striker away from becoming an excellent team. But Di Santo is not the answer, nor will he ever be the answer. The very fact that Roberto Martinez continues to use him is baffling, and his five goals from 28 appearances is a very unimpressive record.