After being named New York Red Bulls head coach on a permanent basis this past preseason, Mike Petke began deploying a 4-3-3 formation with the idea that it best suited the club’s plethora of talent in midfield and up top.
He’s been disabused.
Speaking to reporters on a conference call Tuesday, Petke admitted that he now prefers to deploy the likes of Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill in the 4-4-2 set-up the club has used in recent weeks, as he believes it gives the Red Bulls a stronger defensive shape.
New York, who started the season in a 4-3-3, have yet to pick up results consistently but the past week saw them win two of three games with markedly improved performances. Part of it comes down to using a shape that gives them little more flexibility, and a little more backbone.
“It was very tough for me but I realized very quickly that defensively, the personnel that we have in a 4-3-3 would have been a lot to ask for,” said Petke. “A 4-4-2 gives us more of a structure and a block system and it’s hard to penetrate. I’m hoping people are seeing a lot of times that it does turn into somewhat of a 4-3-3 or a 4-1-3-2, more of an attacking style. But from the basis of a structure standpoint, it starts out as more of a 4-4-2.”
Petke did not completely rule out reverting to the 4-3-3 later this season, but stated that it would only happen under particular circumstances given the personnel he has available.
“If the game calls for it, I would love to go back into some sort of modified version of that, absolutely,” said Petke. “I just think that it was a lot of me, expectation wise, for certain players to fit into that system, to be honest with you.
“If I was handed the job and was set on playing that system and I had two, three months before the season started to prepare and make moves, this and that, I think it would be a situation that I would look for at least one or two players that were better suited for that system. The players that we have, all of them did not fit in perfectly with that system.”
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached by email at Franco8813@gmail.com.