Tactical evolution over recent decades has been hard to come by. There has not been one single overarching change of formations in football since possibly the 70s, that has impacted the majority of teams in world football. It seems there have been more holistic trends of overall tactics. Like for example the death of 2 in midfield (however even this isn’t completely gone especially in lower divisions), ball playing defences, use of the regista and a slow inclination of every position towards midfield.
Another one of these has begun to creep up over the last 2 years or so in world football although again it’s a reinvention of something used before, the diamond. ‘The diamond’ that has been used in football’s vocabulary for many decades now, has many different meanings and symbols for different people.
For some it’s a disregard of the central midfield zone completely with two wide wingers and one holding midfielder, for others it can mean the swamping of the central midfield zone with 4 players. This all can be done with a 3/4/5 at the back combination as well, so it’s vague word. In this change however it’s the description of the one most predominantly used by Liverpool in 2013/14 season and used by more teams including England onward. The narrower use, with 4 tight central midfielders and 2 strikers. Liverpool are by no means the only one to utilize this however, for example Chile has experimented with this at times with 3 at the back, with the clever duo of Sanchez and Vargas. Van Gaal has begun to use it at times with man united also.
In this description of the diamond, what has been seen to occur is the use of a withdrawn forward as well as two wide forwards while still maintaining a structure of a diamond in midfield. Diamonds have been set out like this before, but now it seems a deliberate strategy moving throughout a season. It’s advantage lies in still maintaining a modern high pressing strategy on fullbacks, while possessing two strikers.Furthermore it also allows domination of the central midfield but preserve an completely offensive no 10 or second striker role.
Liverpool’s style, to which Hodgson has tried to replicate involves a horizontally fluid 4 in midfield, who shift with the ball. The front two’s job is to harass the opposition’s back four. Then to cause havoc for markers while acting neither as wingers nor as strikers but still causing damage in both zones. The key player in this however, despite the regista’s (Gerrard in this scenario) playmaking role, is Sterling. The no 10.
Sterling has been used by both England and Liverpool in this role. It’s one of the reasons it has been used is to get the best out of Sterling’s mold of a player. It has given him complete frontal freedom, and more space to utilize one of his key assets-his dribbling. His mobility allows him to move away from most holding midfielders with ease, while the two strikers create spaces for him and for themselves out wide. While his finishing is something to be improved to say the least, it seems he is flourishing in this tactical development and it may be used by teams in the future especially with mobile strikers and a talented no 10.