The 4-4-2 Pitfall Evident in Sampdoria vs Napoli [Quick Take]

As often discussed, the 4-4-2 is both a classic and still highly utilized formation in football, benefited by clear roles and a simple structure. However, it is also a setup that risks a fair deal of overexposure. The recent match between Napoli and Sampdoria evidences this balance to perfection.

For the first portion of the game, Sampdoria dominated possession and dictated tempo. With crisp forward-back-forward passing often culminating in dangerous crosses, the hosts looked the more likely side to score. Napoli, once having won the ball back in their defensive third, were principally limited to long passes to (or towards) their center forward, sent in with an obvious disclaimer that supporting attackers would be sparse and slow to catch up. Despite this, Victor Osimhen linked up well with Insigne and found the opener. But it was the tactical drift that occurred next which ushered in the ultimate, not-so-close-after all 4-0 score line.

As stated, for the first portion of the match, Napoli were starting their attack from deep within their own half and Sampdoria’s back line took up high positions to try and contain them. Napoli settled for hopeful long balls which most often resulted in a change in possession and yet another wave of Sampdoria attacking pressure. But as the half dragged on, Napoli gradually increased their possession in the middle third of the field. And by the half hour mark, Napoli’s 4-3-3 was finally able to assume its attacking shape; Sampdoria did not condense their 4-4-2 defensive shape well enough in response, catalyzing their collapse. As Napoli passed and moved, the space between Sampdoria lines grew, which we see quite clearly in the second goal: a simple pass from Napoli goalkeeper to a remarkably unmarked advanced midfielder cut between Sampdoria midfielders and defenders with ease and kicked off a brief but effective attacking sequence… 2-0. Napoli’s two other goals boasted similar properties, as the play between lines quickly became too much for Sampdoria to slow or close down.

Ultimately, this is the risk of a 4-4-2. The flat lines, though wonderfully spring-loaded in possession, can be broken and bypassed by composed, skillful opposition. Most sides employing a 4-4-2 compensate for this risk by condensing the space they must defend as significantly as possible, either setting up shop in their own defensive third (“parking the bus” so to speak) or opting for a high press (which may look a little like an “offside trap”). As seen in the quintessential case of Napoli vs Sampdoria, failure to do so can result in scoreboard catastrophe.


Fox in the Box – Mastermind Monthly Magazine – September 2021

In this month’s edition…

-> RB Leipzig 6-0 Hertha Berlin – Tactical Analysis
-> How Ruben Dias Became City Captain
-> Why left-sidedness exists in football
-> All episodes of the Longball Preview Show
-> All episodes of Futbol Masterminds
-> Top 100 Footballers of September 2021
-> Q&A



more quick takes with jeremy barnes

1v1x11: AC Milan 1-1 Inter Milan – [Quick Take Tactics]

“Win your individual battles”. This is the mantra of a manager employing man-on-man marking. Win the battle on restarts, when isolated, and with or without the ball. This is because 1v1 success inevitably increases the likelihood of 11v11 victory. And so, paired with each tactical posturing is this personal pursuit. With the many dynamic, dribbling attackers and foul-catching cameras in the modern era, sometimes these 1v1 situations in dangerous areas are seen as a shortcoming or an ill-advised 50:50 from the defending side. Seemingly, to a certain extent, AC Milan and Inter Milan beg to differ.  

The Flag-Bearers of Football Formations – October 2021 – Quick Take

Although we all love the beautiful game, we may watch for different reasons. Some tune in as a family tradition. Others for personal or professional interest. And still others purely for the sake of entertainment. Here, today, I hope to add one more reason to your list if it’s there already: watch to learn. Specifically, to learn how a football club compiles individual contributions of skill, athleticism, intelligence, and desire, and stations those facets of the game for collective success. This is my working definition of football tactics inherent to formations. 

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Can Newcastle avoid relegation under Eddie Howe?

Newcastle United, after 12 games, are yet to register a win in the Premier League this season, and face the very real prospect of relegation to the Championship. But after securing new billionaire ownership at the start of October, the club is doing everything it can to avoid the drop. With hundreds of millions of dollars being pumped into the club, the Magpies now have a considerable war chest to bolster their squad during the upcoming January Transfer Window. But as January draws closer, Eddie Howe’s team continue to sit rock bottom in the table, dangerously close to making their situation unrecoverable.

Fox in the Box – November 2021

Magazine of November 2021! In this month’s edition of Fox in the Box, we explore Antonio Conte’s Spurs, Ralf Rangnick’s potential for greatness with Manchester United, and a discussion about the Goalkeeper of the Year. Subscribe to our monthly subscription for $1.00 per month or login to your account, to view the magazine.

The Longball Preview Show – Derby Day in Merseyside

On this special midweek episode of the Longball podcast, John is over the moon with Rangnick’s announcement and United’s performance against Chelsea. Meanwhile, Declan is concerned about the Hammers’ recent run of form, and the boys try and get to the bottom of what’s gone wrong with Everton this season ahead of their clash with Liverpool. All of that and a whole lot more on this special episode of the Longball Premier League Preview Show. Submit any questions for the show to themastermindsite.com/contact.

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