The Big Four: What Does the Future Hold for the '09/'10 EPL Season? Part Two

Nathan CliftonCorrespondent IAugust 4, 2009

So now that the transfer window is slowly coming to a close (though expect a lot to happen in the coming weeks), managers will start to have ideas as to where his players will line-up and in what formation.

Whether a formation changes throughout a season will be down to its success and positive results on the pitch so one can only hazard a guess, possibly based on pre-season results.

Let's have a look at how the Big Four, potentially, could line-up next season.

Manchester United

Last season for United it seemed to start as a 4-4-2 but slowly merged into a 4-3-3, with Ronaldo sometimes being used as the focal point in the attack. Now that he is gone, and judging on pre-season line-ups, a 4-4-2 would make the most sense for Sir Alex.

The acquisition of Antonio Valencia (and the fee paid) would suggest that he is going to be starting on the right of a four man midfield, with either Nani, Park or even Tosic playing on the left.

It is the central midfield roles that will be the most coveted by some of the players in the United squad. With Carrick, Anderson, Hargreaves, Fletcher, Scholes, Giggs and Gibson all vying for a spot in the starting line-up I would fully expect Ferguson to rotate players in this position until he has found the perfect combination.

Michael Carrick enjoyed a great season last year and he seems the most likely to be guaranteed a starting spot when United entertain Birmingham City in their season opener.

The back four pick themselves, although the right back position may be up for grabs although many think that Wes Brown is set to pick up where he left off in the '07/'08 season before he was sidelined by injury in the '08/'09 campaign.

Ferguson seems to be sticking with youth up front. Aside from the pre-existing duo of Rooney and Berbatov, they have failed to attract a top quality forward (debate continues about Michael Owen's abilities and fitness). This suggests that Ferguson is willing to rely on the likes of Macheda and Welbeck, hoping they can push on from their successful '08/'09 development.


It would be very surprising, unless Liverpool pull off the transfer of David Villa from Valencia, if Benitez decides to change from his hugely successful 4-2-3-1 formation.

The likely departure of Xabi Alonso to Real Madrid shouldn't highlight a change in system for Rafa (although a step down in quality from that position will be inevitable) as he has Lucas and young Frenchman Damien Plessis waiting in the wings and with replacements being touted such as Steven Defour from Standard Liege and Wesley Sneijder from Real Madrid should mean that Benitez will stick to his guns.

The back four should be interesting this term, particularly the centre backs as the question remains who will partner Jamie Carragher, Daniel Agger or Martin Skrtel? That will be Rafa's decision to make but the full backs seem to be set with acquisition of Glen Johnson and the fine form of Fabio Aurelio last season.

The departure of Alvaro Arbeloa may be felt during the season if either get injured with the potential exit of Andrea Dossena to Napoli on the cards.

In the wide positions it should be straight fight between Kuyt, Babel, Benayoun and Riera.

There is more than enough quality there for Liverpool to pick up where they left off last season and with the strike partnership of Gerrard and Torres blossoming toward the end of the last campaign expect Benitez to rely heavily on those two scoring the goals again for Liverpool.


Chelsea is an interesting one as it has recently been reported that Carlo Ancelotti is to use a diamond shaped 4-4-2 for the coming season, with Lampard at the top of the four and the potential signing of Andrea Pirlo as the base.

This got me thinking: Malouda or Zhirkov would occupy the left side, possibly Joe Cole (when fit) or Essien on the right but then where does that leave the likes of Ballack, Deco, Mikel or Kalou?

Answers on a postcard please.

They are fully equipped in defence and attack to pull of this formation, with a ready made replacement available in each position.

Like Manchester City with their strike-force, it may be difficult for Ancelotti to keep all of this midfielders happy this time around.

Over recent years Chelsea have played with three central midfielders, two wide men and one up front. Tried and tested, it worked a treat. But Ancelotti has other ideas and wants two men up top and it will be very interesting to see how the rest of the team react and if the system works better than their old 4-3-3 / 4-5-1.


Now I fully expect Wenger to go with a tried and tested 4-4-2 set up, particularly after seeing how well it has performed for them during pre-season. But a sudden lack of depth in some areas means a potentially worrying time for Arsenal fans.

The departure of Kolo Toure and the potential departure of Phillipe Senderos would leave them very thin at the back with only Gallas, Vermaelen and Djourou as the only recognised central defenders at the club.

In both full back positions they seem well equipped, Clichy and Gibbs on the left with Sagna and Eboue on the right, providing Eboue remains at the club as he also doubles as a right sided midfielder if need be.

The central midfield area is an area for Arsenal that frustrates me a lot. It is clear that what they have now is not working, particularly in the Premier League. The lack of physical strength and experience was evident last season especially during the games at home to Hull and away to Stoke and Fulham.

Patrick Vieira...? Perhaps.

It is clear Denilson, Diaby, even Nasri, who was deployed in that role during the season, are not up to performing that role that allows Fabregas to weave his magic onto a football pitch.

The wide areas also remain interesting. Theo Walcott has nailed the right wing as his own but the left remains very much up for grabs with Rosicky, Nasri and Arshavin all vying for a starting berth.

Up front also remains a puzzle. Do they deploy Robin van Persie up top and have Arshavin play off of him or go with Bendtner and van Persie from the off. And then there's Eduardo.

All of Arsenal's players have shown during pre-season that the 4-4-2 will work for Wenger, it's just who he chooses to fill these roles.