The return of the classic 4-4-2

Barcelona and Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich faltered in Europe, while Liverpool and Atletico Madrid shone by using a traditional 4-4-2 formation.

As Vincent Kompany’s tap-in secured Manchester City’s second Premier League title in three years, you could excuse Liverpool fans for failing to see the positives of what has been a truly successful campaign.

The Reds finished second, just two points behind the eventual champions, and were in the title race until the final day. One key reason for the Merseyside outfit’s success was manager Brendan Rodgers reverting to a 4-4-2 formation - the traditionalists’ setup that is enjoying resurgence across Europe.

Football is a fickle sport rife with trends. Just last year pockets of analysts declared that German teams had usurped Spain’s stranglehold on the game, only for Real Madrid to eclipse Bayern Munich 5-0 on aggregate this season en route to an all-Spanish Champions League final. Similarly, the tiki-taka style that was heralded as the future of the sport after Barcelona executed it to perfection has now seen teams struggle. Bayern Munich waltzed to the Bundesliga title, yet failed on Europe’s biggest stage with unnecessarily grandiose tactics.

Liverpool and Atletico Madrid have both championed the 4-4-2 system. Each have used two narrow wide men (Raheem Sterling and Philippe Coutinho for Liverpool; Koke and Arda Turan for Atletico) behind effective striking partnerships. Of course, Luis Suarez has been absolutely unplayable at times, but this is not limited to just two teams.

Paris Saint-Germain romped to Ligue 1 success this season alternating between the 4-3-3 and 4-4-2 systems, while Real Madrid, who have already won the Copa del Rey and face Atletico in the Champions League final, have employed a counter-attacking 4-4-2. Even Manchester City, the team that piped Liverpool to the top spot, have utilised a modified 4-4-2.

Any well-rounded squad should be capable of adapting to an array of formations and styles. In this age, however, it is refreshing to observe the resurrection of a much-maligned system that is of such fundamental importance to the beautiful game.

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