Film Friday: The midfield diamond

Hello and welcome to another Film Friday!

The last few weeks have seen Nashville improve in both results and performances. Playing at home helped, but perhaps the biggest change has been in formation.

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First, please check out this thread that my friend Logan did while I was on vacation eating tapas and drinking wine.

First let me show you what actually changes in this formation. While the defense stays largely the same, the midfield changes almost completely. The extra man centrally helps the team keep the ball longer and cut out dangerous attacks early on. In the attack, the biggest change happens with the fluidity of the front three. 

The player in the number 10 position can dictate whether they want to play that position closer to a false nine, allowing the two players in front of them to be central forwards, or they can push centrally and overload the penalty area. They can also drift to either side to create a more traditional front three.

Now, let’s talk about why Gary Smith decided to switch to this formation. Nashville SC was found out in previous games. With Shaffelburg or Picault isolated on the side and Teal Bunbury in the middle, there was less fluidity in the attack and everything had to go through Hany Mukhtar.

There was also the injury to Sean Davis, which forced Gary to play with Dax McCarty. While McCarty and Davis play the same position, they each have different strengths and weaknesses. McCarty isn’t able to cover as much ground as Davis, but his control of the game and passing is superior to Davis. Which is why I think huge credit should be given to Gary Smith for realizing that and giving McCarty the help he needs in midfield to control the game. With Muyl and Godoy in front of him, he doesn’t need to be involved in every single duel coming his way. They also give him quick options when going forward. 

This formation plays to McCarty’s strengths, as well as Mukhtar’s. While Mukhtar already played with as much freedom as a player can get, this freedom doesn’t add to that. However, it does move the pieces around him to give him more help. 

So when Mukhtar drops deep, the two players in front of him are more central and closer to each other. This allows for more link-up play, which could be key in transition. And, as we know, Nashville is deadly in transition.

You can see that play out in Nashville’s second penalty against the Fire. Shaffelburg’s run is through the middle, allowing him to combine with Mukhtar and open the space for him to get closer to the goal.

Thanks for watching this week’s edition of Film Friday, and please remember to share and follow.

Author: Valair Shabillamoved to Nashville as a refugee from Iraq at the age of 14. A fan of soccer from a young age, he used soccer to connect with a larger community in Nashville and adapt to life abroad. He's covered Nashville SC since 2019, co-hosting Pharmaceutical Soccer, and analyzing soccer from an audio/video perspective.

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