Adrian Clarke looks at tactical trends from the 2022/23 season so far.
Premier League managers have felt less inclined to use a back three during the first part of 2022/23.
The latter three teams have moved away from this system in recent months, opting for a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 formation instead.
With 13 of the 20 teams starting with three at the back in at least one fixture in 2022/23, it remains a popular tactical option among head coaches who want to adapt their shape on a match-by-match basis.
Only Antonio Conte and Graham Potter currently use a back three as their preferred system, with an overall drop in usage from 28.6 per cent to 22.2 per cent, or down from 217 of 760 team selections in 2021/22 to 69 of 292 starting line-ups this season.
|Defence||21/22||% used||22/23||% used|
Leaders Arsenal are one of nine clubs to have deployed a 4-3-3 as their first-choice formation so far this season.
|Crystal Palace||9||West Ham||10|
Indeed as six clubs have adopted a 4-2-3-1 formation, three-quarters of Premier League teams (15 out of 20) have made one of these two classic frameworks their most-used set-up.
Overall, we have seen the popularity of 4-3-3 rise to 31.5 per cent this season from 24.3 per cent usage in 2021/22.
The ever-popular 4-2-3-1 has leapt from 21.4 per cent to 29.4 per cent.
Why the trend towards four at the back? This may in part be down to an attack-minded mentality of managers.
In recent seasons there has been a fall in managers adopting defensive deep-lying tactics. Leeds United, Brentford, Fulham and AFC Bournemouth are good examples of promoted teams who have had a positive style of play. None are defensive. Swapping a central defender for an extra forward player makes sense when your focus is on scoring goals.
The sight of more opponents lining up in a 4-3-3 will also put off some managers who prefer back threes. Most would feel more comfortable with a four-man defence facing three forwards.
It's a similar story for the 4-2-3-1. In the case of Brighton, Brentford, Wolves and Nottingham Forest, who ditched a back three early on this season, they were all short of goals. Bringing in an extra creative player was needed to provide a greater threat.
|Formation||21/22 total||22/23 total|
The five most-used shapes remain the same this season. The only change in the order from the end of 2021/22 is the 4-4-2 (classic) being replaced in third spot by 3-4-2-1.
Former Burnley manager Sean Dyche consistently used 4-4-2, which explains this change in light of his departure and the Clarets' relegation.
In general we have seen a drop in top-flight managers using two centre-forwards.
Last season 28 per cent of formations contained a twin strike force, but during the early weeks of this campaign, the figure stands at just 19.5 per cent.