Why Mazzarri Should And Will Drop The 3-5-2 Formation

Why Mazzarri Should And Will Drop The 3-5-2 Formation
Sep 17, 2016

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Before last week’s memorable win for The Hornets, there was speculation over whether Walter Mazzarri would drop his preferred 3-5-2 after the Italian coach came out and publicly stated that there was a possibility he would drop it. When the team lineup was announced an hour before kick-off it was revealed that the 3-5-2 formation was the formation that would be played once again. This did not go well.


After 33 minutes of action, Watford found themselves 2-0 down, and deservedly 2-0 down. After a remarkable piece of skill by West Ham’s Dimitri Payet to set up Michail Antonio, the game started to feel a bit embarrassing. As Troy Deeney said, a man who was born and bred in Birmingham, “After that goal, we started going in Valon started going in with lots of tackles and we just roughed them up” said Troy. “Look all we said was, we are here, don’t mug us off”.


After the second goal, Mazzarri (even with his little knowledge of the English language) clearly understood Troy Deeney’s message and changed things up to a 4-1-4-1 which made an instant impact with Ighalo scoring in the 41st minute and Deeney just before halftime completing the comeback. Watford came out that second half and played without fear in a 4-1-4-1. The space Lanzini, Payet and Antonio exploited in the first half suddenly had magically disappeared. But it wasn’t magic, was it? It was a manager spotting that it wasn’t working and changed it. We saw this with Slavisla Jokanovic and now Mazzarri – a certain smooth Spaniard didn’t do this last season leading to horrific form in 2016.


Troy Deeney scores the equaliser at the London stadium

Walter also changed things up against Arsenal. After being completely dominated in the first half by the North London club; the formation was changed to a 4-4-2 and it was Watford who had the better of the second half. There will be no way a 3-5-2 will be applied on Sunday’s fixture against a dangerous Manchester United team that poses a serious threat up front.


Why was the 3-5-2 formation implemented originally?

Whilst at Napoli, Mazzarri played a 3-5-2 which was very successful. He not only managed to qualify for the Champions League for the first time in the club’s history; Mazzarri won the Coppa Italia the season after. A brilliant spell.


How does it work?

In defence, there is essentially five in defence. When not in possession, the three centre-backs squeeze together so there is no space for the opposition to exploit, and on the wings, the wing-backs act as full backs to provide a solid defence. These two wing-backs for Napoli were Maggio and current Watford player Zuniga. In the midfield there are two holding midfielders, they were Inler, Behrami and Dzemaili; those two sit deep and cover the defence. They are expected to put pressure on the opposing teams attacking players and put in a disciplined a workmanlike performance.

Mazzarri and Zuniga

Going forward with possession, the wing-backs act as wingers providing width in attack. The attacking midfielder in the no.10 role has the job of linking the midfield to attack leaving the expectation of the two strikers and the attacking midfielder to mainly get the goals.


Why doesn’t the system work with Watford?

Well, the main problem is that there is too much space at the back for the opposition to work with. Yes, under Quique Sanchez Flores The Hornets created about half of the chances than with Mazzarri, but at that rate Watford will have to convert every chance they get just to stay in the game! Holebas’ final ball isn’t good enough – and like both Janmaat and Amrabat – Holebas often finds himself out of position leaving the three centre exposed. And the result? Payet doing robona’s to an unmarked Antonio to head home.


Playing a 4-1-4-1 – how will it affect the lineup?

Playing a 4-1-4-1 leaves Watford with six centre-back options; Kaboul, Prodl, Britos, Cathcart, Mariappa and Kabasele. Kabasele and Mariappa will be left out of the squad most games; leaving Britos, Kaboul, Prodl and Cathcart to be rotated based on form, fitness and the opposition. For example, Prodl is expected to play against Manchester United to mark Ibrahimovic, however he did not start against West Ham as Kaboul is quicker to deal with the likes of Antonio etc.


With there being full-backs and wingers in this formation, it means Holebas and Janmaat – Watford’s starting full-backs – won’t get caught out of position and gives Amrabat very little defensive responsibility as he will play in his original position a winger. Amrabat for this reason which can struggle defensively, as proven against Arsenal


In the holding midfield position, Behrami will start most weeks, with Watson filling in if needed. Both very good options. In the central midfield, Pereyra and Capoue will be the partnership on most occasions, with Doucoure and Guedioura as appropriate backups.


With new signing Okaka out for six weeks after suffering an injury against West Ham, Deeney will be playing on how own in attack with Ighalo benched. Success to play on the wing with Moroccan international Nordin Amrabat.



Another option that could be used in the long term, something similar to this is what I picture the Watford team to look like in a 4-3-3. This formation suits Success, Deeney and Capoue in particular perfectly. Positives with this formation? There will always be players in and around the opposition’s defence without being exposed at the back. Negatives with the formation? In the midfield, Watford could easily be outplayed. Especially if Pereyra pushes forward.


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