Keegan Admits Going 4-3-3 Was Big Gamble

Kevin Keegan has told the Shields Gazette this morning that he took a big chance when he fielded a 4-3-3 formation at Birmingham, and certainly in the first half, it just didn’t work.


Kevin Keegan with assistant coach Chris Hughton

Kevin told the Gazette:

“I just saw them in training, and just wanted to get some more goals into the side.”“I just felt I’d like to play the team I’d like myself to see play.”

“Had it been pre-season, it wouldn’t have been in any way a risk, but it was at Birmingham, where had it backfired, it could have been disastrous for us.”

“But sometimes in our situation, where we were up against the wall a bit, you have to take what looks a bit like a gamble.”

But just importantly, the new 4-3-3 formation has seen Newcastle keep two clean sheets and has no doubt brought the best out of our midfield trio of Nicky Butt, Geremi and Joey Barton.

But it was a master-stroke by Keegan, and it’s working very well indeed. It’s still an open question as to what formation Kevin will play next season, but that will depend on exactly who Kevin brings in for our midfield and attack reinforcements during the summer.

We’d like to see him keep a 4-3-3 formation because it allows us to field more strikers, and seemingly to score more goals.

What do you think?

Comments welcome.

22 comments so far

  • Leo

    Apr 9, 2008 at 1:06 PM

    Comment #1

    us geordies like strikers so 433 suits us.

    442 also suits because it means that we get wingers…

    either way under keegan things will be exciting thats for sure.

  • sam gardner

    Apr 9, 2008 at 1:06 PM

    Comment #2

    i would love to see a four three three formation next season its working innit

  • Nick

    Apr 9, 2008 at 1:19 PM

    Comment #3

    I think the point Keegan has been making it that we need flexibility in the squad to play a number of formations. 433 will suit situations that 442 might not. A few additions in the summer and we will have the flexibilty that Keegan has been craving.

  • maggpie

    Apr 9, 2008 at 1:39 PM

    Comment #4

    I like the 433 format and nobody can argue it hasn’t been a great success.
    A word of caution though. I think we’d get overun in midfield by one of the top teams, but because KK does have the tactical nous few credit him with, he will also see that and adapt accordingly.

  • DarrenMac

    Apr 9, 2008 at 1:52 PM

    Comment #5

    I’d love a 5-4-3. But what do I know!!!

  • HeronMag

    Apr 9, 2008 at 1:53 PM

    Comment #6

    It’s Keegan man. Lets play 1-1-8!

  • HeronMag

    Apr 9, 2008 at 1:56 PM

    Comment #7

    Seriously though, I don’t think we can play 4-3-3 permanently unless Owen can drop deeper, which perhaps isn’t the best option.

  • ToonUSA

    Apr 9, 2008 at 2:38 PM

    Comment #8

    The 433 has a big test this weekend. Lets see how it stands up to a team with a solid back 4. its passed with flying colors so far and i hope it passes on sunday as well. the way the team plays is just mesmorising please don’t change it KK.

  • Ed Harrison

    Apr 9, 2008 at 2:39 PM

    Comment #9

    Nick – that’s a very good point you make.

  • clinta

    Apr 9, 2008 at 2:47 PM

    Comment #10

    footballs about taking chances some times especially when it’s not going well for you so credit too KK for being brave enough as well as wise enough to do something about our dilemma.

    Time and time again when BSA was in charge and things weren’t going well whether during a match or between games he did nowt about it!

  • Punk Skunk

    Apr 9, 2008 at 2:48 PM

    Comment #11

    Well we won’t know if 433 works against better teams unless we try it, so let’s try v portsmouth…
    …it’ll be a good test!..
    …But saying that, it worked perfectly v spuds, & reading were looking quite dangerous ’til we played them…Also, the team are really starting to settle into it now, so no change, go for it!..

  • Punk Skunk

    Apr 9, 2008 at 2:51 PM

    Comment #12

    Aye, y’gotta hand it to KK, he’s got a fat pair of…
    …Don’t fix what ain’t broke, but conversely, if something ain’t working, try something new!..

  • joel

    Apr 9, 2008 at 3:18 PM

    Comment #13

    Punk Skunk-have a look at my website tell me what you think of it ( )

  • chuck

    Apr 9, 2008 at 3:30 PM

    Comment #14

    Four, three,three or 4-4-2,or 4-5-1, there are ,as we all know ,horses for courses, 4-3-3 will not work with any of the top teams, it`s the ability to not only know what type of formation to employ, but also which players fit into which formations and roles.
    Hopefully with some good additions this summer United will be able to match up with various teams through both platooning players and use of the appropriate formations.
    Sure we all loved the last two games and yeah we all love an entertaining high scoring game, but its not a recipe for success and this club needs success more than anything else, a little tactical nous is the prescription.

  • Punk Skunk

    Apr 9, 2008 at 3:53 PM

    Comment #15

    Hey chuck, that’s fair enough bro’, but do you think that worrying too much about what the other team’s doin’ is a good idea?..After all, isn’t that what fat sham was guilty of & what did for him?..It seems to me that other teams have to defend more with us playing 433, which puts ’em on the back foot from the get go!..
    …i just think that reverting back to 442 at this point makes no sense?..

  • Punk Skunk

    Apr 9, 2008 at 3:54 PM

    Comment #16

    joel, aye mate, i’ll check y’site out!..
    …Why not?..

  • Punk Skunk

    Apr 9, 2008 at 4:06 PM

    Comment #17

    joel, y’site looks kool man, like the black background, ez on the eye!..I’m sure i’ll visit now i know it exsists, keep up the good work mate…
    …Toon, Toon!..

  • Michael

    Apr 9, 2008 at 4:20 PM

    Comment #18

    The top teams are very flexible within their formations. Provided our 4-3-3 on the pitch can mix it up in attack and keep its formation in defence, we should be ok against all comers. It will get a good test against Chelsea and Everton.

  • Vsevolod

    Apr 9, 2008 at 4:29 PM

    Comment #19

    I’ve been reading a lot of bollocks about Keegan having no sense of tactics. They all seem to miss the point. It’s not that Keegan can’t do tactics – it’s that he doesn’t seem to believe in tactics as normally preached.

    The attacking strategy that he plays undermines the tactics of most opposition. Attacking in itself, of course, defends the back four. But the extra ingredient that Keegan adds is imbuing players with self-respect and thereby responsibility. Through that the players each and collectively start to read the game better, and are not afeart of tackling and passing, and looking for opportunities. You only have to read the consistent comments from all the players: KK’s teams play better because the players believe not only themselves, but all their team-mates can play better. They go for the chances because they believe the team can carry them off. In short, he trains good players to read the game, and to trust each other. Geremi says there are now 11 mini-captains on the field, and it tells. (Check the tackle success ratios in the last three games against those of the opposition – it’s very striking).

    BSA wanted a team that simply nullified the opposition and stopped them playing. KK wants a team that stops the opposition playing by showing that opposition that wherever they cover one threat, another opens up. That’s why Reading regretted trying to mark Owen.

    Keegan was only a poor England manager because in those conditions (not “at that level”) his methods can’t work. The players simply don’t know each other well enough. But he was a great producer of England players, because he trained players to read the game.

    Of course, tactics and shape matter, but if you let them matter too much (BSA and McLaren) you diminish intelligent players and become too easy to play against.

  • Obafan

    Apr 9, 2008 at 6:57 PM

    Comment #20

    It was a risk, but I think it was necessary because things needed to change ASAP. SA and KK in the beginning both played in a similar formation with always the same players who could not make a step forward (Smith, Milner, …) Before the Birmingham game things were not going very good and we needed points before being in the middle of the relegation zone.

  • Punk Skunk

    Apr 9, 2008 at 7:41 PM

    Comment #21

    Vsevolod, excellent comment mate, absolutely bang on the money, couldn’t have put it better myself!..
    …Ho’way the Lads!..

  • marcus owen

    Apr 10, 2008 at 12:46 AM

    Comment #22

    No doubt 4-3-3 is working very well at the moment. We can have one extra striker and we never feel like short of any midfielder. The credit must go to players like Butt and Barton.
    They are just superb for the last few games.

    However, team formation should change from time to time depend on what kind of players you have. Nobody can guanrantee they are forever available.

    As a manager, KK should know who are those key players have made the 4-3-3 so successful and must not stick to 4-3-3 blindly.


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