Friday, 12 March 2010

Once more for the one up front

If there is a reason to field a 4-5-1 formation against Arsenal tomorrow, it is to keep Jimmy Bullard involved.

The super-skilled midfielder is still returning to fitness after his extraordinary injury problems and needs help and protection in the centre of the park that a 4-4-2, the preferred method of everyone, will not entirely provide.

And, as it's a hiding to nothing game, the Tigers might be able to get away with it. Few people - okay, let's make that nobody at all - would predict that City would get anything against a talented and resurgent Gunners outfit irrespective of formation. So maybe a 4-5-1 might be seen as a damage limitation exercise.

It may limit the damage to Bullard's fitness, but given that a 4-5-1 still got blasted substantially out of Everton's water last week, and further so at West Ham United a fortnight before, would it necessarily limit the damage to the scoreline and the goal difference?

It's a proper quandary.

Certainly one thing that Phil Brown can do to aid the lone striker while also giving Bullard enough assistance is pick natural wide players who can attack and who can really run. This means Bernard Mendy or Kamel Ghilas on the right. However, the doubt remains over the fitness of Stephen Hunt for the other flank, and that leaves few natural choices for the manager. Richard Garcia has the appetite but isn't left-sided; Nick Barmby has the hunger but, again, is not left-sided. It's a tough one, and exposes just how valuable Hunt is when he isn't playing.

Another thing is to pick the right front man. Someone who is mobile, fit, able to control the ball, able to run along the line, selfless and in touch with his team-mates. This narrows it down to just one player - Jozy Altidore.

The 4-5-1 might work, depending on what the most is you can expect from it when Arsenal are the team in town. But the only way Brown will appease the supporters after recent horror shows is to get the right players for this otherwise wretched, negative formation. And hope and pray Bullard can be active in a 4-4-2 by the time we head down to Portsmouth next week.