Often Partisan

Ambrose and a Five Man Midfield

Lee Clark this week spoke about he thought Darren Ambrose had a lot to offer the Birmingham City side still and how Blues fans haven’t seen the best of him. The twenty-eight year old midfielder has made just seven appearances since signing from Crystal Palace for £250,000 and has only scored one goal – on his debut against Barnet in the League Cup.

This season has been a struggle for Darren – his appearances this year have been patchy at times and have belied a midfielder who scored thirty-seven times in his last three seasons in this division with Crystal Palace. Whilst he is currently out injured with a knock sustained in training Ambrose has struggled to get into the team when fit, finding his place blocked by incumbents Hayden Mullins and Ravel Morrison.

Part of the problem is Ambrose hasn’t really looked like he fits in the team. Ambrose is too slow to be a wide midfielder and not tenacious enough to be in the middle and thus Clark has now the conundrum where to play the one player he has actually shelled out cash for. It’s been a massive shame – I for one thought the signing of Ambrose was a good one as I saw him as the creative midfielder who can score we’ve been lacking and it was my hope it would give us more going forwards – as it’s been, Ambrose hasn’t really done anything.

However, I’ve been thinking about Ambrose and the team in general and I think there is a way to play him that not only gets the best out of Darren but also firms up the team. The problem is that it means ditching the usual 4-4-2 and having just one striker up front – something that I think many people have a problem with, particularly at home. It would be a bold decision for Clark to make but looking at the personnel within the squad and the problems it faces I really believe a switch to a 4-2-3-1 could do Blues wonders.

One of Blues chief problems is that because of the lack of pace in the team it’s hard for the squad to offer protection to the back four and to have a midfield that can break at pace with the ball. What Blues have done in the main is to have two wide midfielders who have the job of helping the front two and then a sitting midfielder to break up play and a box-to-box midfielder to get up and down the pitch. However any team with good runners has been able to force the wide midfielders back and too often we’ve seen Nikola Zigic having to drop into midfield to help win the ball and move it around because the middle two have dropped so far back to cover the opposition.

In a 4-2-3-1, I envisage two players from Spector, Mullins, Diop and even maybe Fahey acting as holding midfielders. Their job would be to protect the back four, and to help cover the fullbacks when they’ve pushed on the overlap of the wide players. Unlike as seems to be usual in this formation, I’d make it the job of the wide midfielders in the 3 to support the man up front – players like Redmond, Lovenkrands, Burke and Hall would play in those slots. Their job would be to break with the ball, supported by the fullbacks and to become the “second striker” when an attack comes in from the opposite side. The middle man of the three (Ambrose or Ravel) would be the playmaker – the one creating the plays, moving the ball from side to side and making slide rule passes to beat the defence. Another key would be that the man up front (King or Zigic) wouldn’t be played as a targetman per se; rather than firing the ball up to them to win and then knock down for the men around them, their job would be to receive the ball on the deck, lay it off and then move into forward areas to receive the ball again and create chances on goal.

Unlike a 4-4-2 where Blues are struggling to fill the left midfield slot with a player who is genuinely left footed, this formation would make the best use of wide forwards like Lovenkrands and Hall and their instincts to play up front. It would also mean that Blues could have some defensive solidity and would cope better with a five man midfield in opposition.

With Blues having limited resources I think the only thing that Clark can do to improve the team is changing the way he plays to best fit what we have rather than trying to shoehorn players into positions that they can’t play (for example Spector on right wing). I will admit this is only an idea and that perhaps I might not have the tactical knowhow but I thought it would be a good start for discussion.

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19 Responses to “Ambrose and a Five Man Midfield”

  • tony says:

    I’m told by a workmate who is a Palace fan they had players with pace that could run around and do the hard work while ambrose only worked when he had the ball.For us he’s looked lazy ,slower than a slug and he’s contributed very little to the team.All in all a big dissappointed and if some other team was stupid enough to want him i’d let mullins drive him and i’d give them just enough fuel so neither came back.

    • John says:

      Unfortunately,Ambrose was played on the wide left,when quite clearly he is right footed. His left foot,like a lot of footballers,is purely for standing on. Why professional footballers cannot kick with both feet,is beyong me. They should practice every day,like golfers do,perfecting their game.

      • Louise says:

        It’s not that simple.
        Try writing with your left hand if you’re right handed.
        All the practice in the world still would not make your handwriting anywhere near the quality of your dominant hand.

        In my opinion anyway :)

  • James Creedy says:

    Speaking as a Palace fan, I understand how you feel. He is slow, but has a superb touch and shot on him. I think his best position is out wide, because his crossing ability is also brilliant, and he can drift inside to help the attack.

    What you won’t get is a flying winger. You have to accept that Ambrose may be pedestrian for 85 minutes, but can be Premiership class for the remaining 5 and score a blinder. I guess Lee Clark isn’t willing to.

  • Colin Carberry says:

    Left midfield: The answer is Mitch Hancox. He’s not ready to play at fullback yet, but he’s got an “in yer face” attitude, is naturally left sided, puts in a decent cross and has a good shot on him. He’s not ideal, but given the lack of a genuine left winger in the squad, surely Mitch is the closest thing we’ve got? He’d cause the opposition right back more problems than any other current Blues player could.

  • Ryan says:

    4-2-3-1 i think is the best formation around especially with the way teams look to play alot more on the deck now. Its easily adjustable and with versatile players in the attacking third it can be difficult to mark against. The players shud b more confident atm and i can see a win coming against them yam yams

  • Richard Granfield says:

    I agree,playing 4-4-2 especially in away games is asking for trouble as we get outnumbered in midfield.
    LC must be more consistant in his formation and player selection. Playing 4-2-3-1-1 makes sense. My back 4 would be…CADDIS, DAVIES, CALDWELL and HANCOX;
    My holding midfielders…SPECTOR and MULLINS
    My attacking midfielders BURKE, ELLIOTT and HALL
    My player in the hole…MORRISON
    Upfront…….KING.

    Subs…Doyle, Robinson, Diop, Ambrose, Redmond, Lovenkrands, Zigic

    • Richard Granfield says:

      Yes OK in my system we wouldn’t have a goalkeeper,but we would outnumber them on the pitch! LOL.

    • big frank says:

      problem is mate with that formation it makes 12 players including butland.

    • chris says:

      Richard,
      I don’t think 4-4-2 is a problem away from home because our results are ok away.
      Also, the home team tends to push forward more than the away team giving us space to counter attack and because we sit deeper as a unit our defence is not caught out by a counter attack with pace, but at home because we are the one’s expected to take the game to the away team we get caught out by the counter attack due to a lack of pace at the back and the midfield not good enough or strong enough to protect them.
      For me two holding players e.g. Gomis & Diop or Mullins & Spector / Elliot etc would do with Morrison and Burke infront of them with two up front or Hall Morrison and Burke with King up front.

  • sam says:

    Didn’t think he would fit in when we brought him but to be fair he can only get better for us, think a 5 would work with Fahey keeping the ball moving and Mullins deep taking any attacking resposibility away from him. Been really dissapointed with Shabba Lovencrance however he looked a yard quicker and more direct against ‘boro so maybe he’ll improve.
    The desire of Hancox is clear for all to see so more playing time for him would be great and get the crowd and others palyers at it!
    KRO

  • Nichollspj says:

    The leading question for me is when will Fahey return ???
    Will he return ???
    Are his problems behind him ???

  • Carl Lewis says:

    I keep hearing about Faheys problems but i dont know anything can anyone enlighten me please ??

  • Will Wilkes says:

    That is exactly how id play the team! Its not too disimilar to how Blackpool played last season and i think it worked well!

  • Alex Hurley - the voice of himself says:

    funny – i’ve thought 4-2-3-1 has been the way to go for some time. My 3 would be Hall/Morrison/Redmond. Then, based on current form, Elliot,Burke with Ambrose last in the queue. On paper thatwould be a pretty potent, attacking and attractive team to watch. On paper.

    I do wonder if Clark is reticent about using this formation after the dogs abuse (most of it unfair) that our last but one manager got. Clark can’t afford for his relationship with the fans to deteriorate further and I wonder if he’s sticking with 2 upfront partly for this reason ?

  • jazzzy786 says:

    Ambrose needs to play in the hole to be effective. Your formation of 4-2-3-1 sounds good as we’d outnumber them in midfield and offer protection to our defenders. If we could use Caddis and Hancox as our full backs and Hall and Burke/Redmond on the wings that only leaves one spot in mid which would be taken by Ravel,Ambrose, Lovenkrands, Zigic or Elliot. I’d like to see Packwood and Deaman as our defensive midfield pair though I’d fully expect mullins and Spector. At centre back it’d be Davies plus one from Caldwell, Robinson or Ibanez.

    How does the following look?

    Butland
    Caddis Davies Robinson Hancox
    >>>>> Spector Mullins >>>>>>>>
    Burke. Morrison. Hall
    >>>>>>>>> King >>>>>>>>>>>>>

  • Paulo says:

    It’s the formation problem with a few players, not just Ambrose, and I still think he can do a great deal here at blues, if we found out how to play our entire squad with better attacking pace and a lot more presence in the face of the opposing teams. It’s interesting how we always seem to play a certain formation, which does make a few of our players almost redundant at times, but the changes made by LC often add to the confusion.
    Personally, I’d like to see Ambrose get more field time and see him fit in to a certain slot, but right now (with low confidence all around) that could be too risky.
    ..but then again, come January, he could be called upon anyway!


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