With the shake up of managers across Europe this summer, the presence of the true 4-2-3-1 is threatened among the big clubs.
The 4-2-3-1 has come a long way from it's begginings as a concept introduced by France, Valencia and Deportivo to provide an alternative to the extreme passing of La Liga in the early half of the last decade. Over time, it became more and more popular, leaching into foreign lands as a more pragmatic approach to the kind of passing that Barcelona made the rest of Europe want to do. Rising clubs like Borussia Dortmund and Manchester City took it as the philosophy that would support their economic or idealistic change. With their successes in the early part of this decade, the bigger clubs took it under their wing and it became more popular than the 4-4-2 and the 4-3-3.
Bayern used it to great effect to shift the balance of power to Germany by destroying Barcelona, and subsequently played the match that heralded the greatest moment for the 4-2-3-1, the champions league final against Dortmund, which saw the 4-2-3-1 line up on both sides of the most important match in European football. At the end of last season, Chelsea, Arsenal, Real Madrid, Bayern, Man Utd, Man City, AC Milan and countless others played it.
But with the shake up of managers across Europe this summer, the presence of the true 4-2-3-1 is threatened amongst the big clubs.
Whilst Mourinho played the 4-2-3-1 during the last two campaigns at Real Madrid, he has previously deployed a 4-3-3 when at Chelsea in the first reign. Also, he used the 4-3-1-2 to win the champions league with Inter, a similar formation to the 4-2-3-1, and had even used the 4-2-3-1 in important champions league matches.
- Bayern Munich
Guardiola's arrival hails the most ironic shift of mentality in football in recent years. The 4-2-3-1 that they deployed to revolutionise tiki-taka and end Barcelona's dominance may well become the same 4-3-3 form of tiki-taka that they had defeated, because it is Guardiola's trademark. There is the chance that Guardiola may try to show versitility by maintaining this form of tiki-taka in the 4-2-3-1, but even in day-to-day coaching the mentality will surely be more biased towards Spanish Tiki-Taka than German.
- Real Madrid
There is a certain ambiguity regarding Ancelotti's tactical approach. He is perhaps the most versatile manager that has shifted around this summer, having deployed everything from 4-2-3-1 to 4-3-3 to 4-2-2-2. Whilst we will have to wait to see the players that he brings in over the next month or so before we get a better idea, but the signing of Isco could suggest a 4-3-3 with the little man out wide. There is more chance that the 4-2-3-1 will not be deployed than there is that it will.
- Man Utd
The arrival of Moyes sees the end of Fergie's versatile adaptations, the key to his ability to consistently perform with the best. Moyes prefered a sort of counter attacking 4-4-1-1, 4-2-3-1 hybrid when at Everton, but the question is whether or not he will maintain this approach as he takes the reigns of an extremely talented but seemingly unstable squad. Surely a 4-4-1-1 is too naive for use by a modern top-flight team that has to out-wit more teams than any other big team in Europe?