The Rebrith of 4-4-2? Kenny Cunningham reckons it never went away

The former Ireland defender was speaking on tonight's Off The Ball

BY Cian Roche 22:04 Monday 22 August 2016, 22:04 22 Aug 2016

Image: Mike Egerton / EMPICS Sport

Sunderland suffered their second defeat in as many games this season under David Moyes as they were beaten 2-1 at home to neighbours Middlesbrough.

On Sunday, Off The Ball carried live and exclusive national radio commentary of the game and co-commentator Pat Nevin pointed out that Sunderland had been using a classic 4-4-2 formation as they set up after the half-time break.

The formation is one that has been done away with in a classical sense, seen as outdated by coaches. Many teams have opted to play with a lone striker or with an attacking forward playing off the striker.

Louis van Gaal famously deployed a 3-5-2 formation during his time at Manchester United, while Arsene Wenger switched between Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud as a lone striker last year.

The return of the set-up was seen with Leicester City during their title winning season, who opted for two up front in Jamie Vardy and either of Leonardo Ulloa or Shinji Okazaki.

Speaking on tonight's Off The Ball, former Ireland defender Kenny Cunningham explained that the formation is still prevalent, but that it hasn't been evident in its traditional form.

"I think 4-4-2 has always been in fashion, I think people have looked to rebrand it over the last 5-10 years as a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-4-1-1 with one guy playing off the front man," he explained. 

"When me and Kevin [Kilbane] played people said it was always 4-4-2 back in your day, but you could have easily said it was easily 4-4-1-1. You think of some of the best sides of the day, the Manchester United teams. [Teddy] Sherringham often played off a [Dwight] Yorke or a [Andy] Cole.

"That was classic 4-2-3-1 but it was never termed that. It was always a 4-4-2 with two central strikers. But always one of those central strikers always dropped in or behind and they linked up with each other... I think it's always been there but people just haven't been speaking about it."

He continued: "When I saw Spurs playing at the weekend and [Harry] Kane playing off [Vincent] Janssen to me that's a 4-4-2 with two central midfielders behind them... Kane would come short and Janssen would be stretching and coming in behind."

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