Added flexibility means Ireland won't be tactically predictable during the 2018 World Cup qualifiers

Robbie Brady exemplifies the ability to play in more than one system

BY Raf Diallo 17:16 Saturday 3 September 2016, 17:16 3 Sep 2016

Ireland's Jon Walters celebrates scoring with Robbie Brady the third goal against Oman ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne

One of the takeaways from Euro 2016 was the emergence of the likes of Robbie Brady and Jeff Hendrick as players who will be prominent as Ireland try to qualify for World Cup 2018 and then the European Championships of 2020.

But as the first 2018 qualifier against Serbia approaches, Ireland are also far more tactically flexible than under the previous regime of Giovanni Trapattoni.

During much of Trap's time in charge, the 4-4-2 was the template which worked well initially against mid-tier opposition but was cruelly exposed at Euro 2012.

Martin O'Neill has slowly devised a strategy that can now see Ireland play in a diamond and 4-2-3-1 depending on the players utilised. A 4-4-2 is also a possibility that has been used sparingly from time to time.

And as Off The Ball's Kevin Kilbane pointed out as he put together a team to face Serbia, the XI he picked could also be fielded as a 4-3-3 because of Brady's versatility.

The Norwich player has appeared as a left-back, central midfielder and left-winger for the Boys in Green and is also an option to play more centrally in the hole.

Ireland's Robbie Brady celebrates scoring against Oman ©INPHO/Tommy Dickson

Other players in the squad who can take up different roles include Jon Walters who can lead the line or be pushed to the right, Jeff Hendrick who impressed in a box-to-box role at the Euros but can move wider and James McClean who O'Neill experimented as a second striker.

The manager has experimented with formations increasingly during his time in charge with the diamond (supported by over-lapping wing-backs in the shape of Brady and Seamus Coleman) taking shape in the lead-up to the Euros and then becoming one of the staples that worked.

Certainly, the Boys in Green will be less predictable tactically during a qualifying campaign that pits us against challenging sides like Wales, Austria and Serbia that have their strengths and are closely-matched with ourselves.

Wales in Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey, Austria with David Alaba and Serbian trio Nemanja Matic, Branislav Ivanovic and Aleksander Kolarov means there will be individual threats at the very least - perhaps more than we can offer in that sense.

But in a group that is expected to be tight, that ability to change things up and try a different approach tactically could prove to be a difference in terms of getting into one of the top two places.

And in comparison to the previous management team, one could not predict with absolute certainty what formation and shape will be fielded in Belgrade on Monday.

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