As Iain Dowie shifts unpopularly towards another 4-5-1 set-up against Aston Villa tonight, the reason for it seems pretty clear. In fact there are two reasons for it - Tom Cairney and Kevin Kilbane.
It feels close to our last chance to stay in the fight for survival tonight, as this is the game in hand we've had on everyone else for quite some time. It should have taken place at the end of February but Villa's involvement in the Carling Cup final put paid to that.
Now, with only ourselves to worry about as we prepare for a truly enormous occasion for the Tigers, our temporary football management consultant seems set to stick with the 4-5-1 formation. It is obviously going to be greeted with howls of derision when we need to win the game, but it's worth examining why he is looking at it.
Firstly, it worked well and looked quite good at Birmingham City. Dowie's only error was not changing to a 4-4-2 when bringing on Jozy Altidore as the hosts evidently were struggling to cope with City even with one striker and a packed midfield. He thought it was winnable with 4-5-1 to the end. Better finishing suggests he would have been right, but in a squad devoid of killer finishers, he took off the best the club has to offer in Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink when adding Altidore's power to the front line.
Secondly, the team is simply a better thing for Tom Cairney's presence within it, but although his defending is improving, there is simply no place for him in a 4-4-2 that also needs to accommodate Jimmy Bullard and somebody of an attacking bent in a wide position, who currently is Craig Fagan. For all Kilbane's laughable inabilities with a football, he is a steady influence, both as player and talker, and adds the insurance required that permits Cairney and Bullard to roam and scamper about with the ball at their feet. Kilbane adds little in attack, though he does get into attacking positions, but a four-man midfield which requires Cairney to play wider and operate as a defensive player as much as his marvellous touch gets him forward, is asking for bother. George Boateng can protect one. He can't protect two.
A 4-4-2 formation is, of course, preferable in the current Tigers situation, especially as it would - assuming Dowie has noticed this - pair Altidore and Vennegoor of Hesselink up front again. But the downside is that in the midfield, it wouldn't be Kilbane who would get sacrificed, it would be Cairney.
Dowie is within his right to stick with the 4-5-1 - and, frankly, the actual XI that began the Birmingham game within that formation. However, if things need to be stepped up with an hour gone, and the game feels winnable or salvageable, he has to grab the bull by the horns and use his substitution to create a 4-4-2. There are players like Seyi Olofinjana knocking about if we then need to re-strengthen the centre of the park in the event of having a lead to defend.
Cairney, unless he directly replaces Bullard, does not belong in a 4-4-2. It really is that straightforward.