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Walter Mazzarri’s Watford comprehensively beat Manchester United 3-1 at the weekend. While the result is an impressive feat, the system he employed is just as fascinating.
The 54-year-old Italian is a devotee of the 3-5-2 and it is a shape which should suit the Hornets and secure them their goal of finishing in the top half of the league.
The system is an anomaly in the Premier League on multiple fronts: its ‘Italian-ness’, the use of a back three and the presence of a strike partnership up forward.
Formations in the Premier League are homogenous. Round 5 saw 10 teams employ a 4-2-3-1 and another five use a 4-3-3. There are outliers like Southampton’s 4-1-2-1-2 and Chelsea’s 4-1-4-1 but the recurring theme is the presence of a back four.
The use of three central defenders and wing backs in the midfield is usually reserved for experimentation purposes or for a shake up halfway through a match. It is rarely the consistently chosen shape of choice, but Mazzarri has used the 3-5-2 in all five league games so far and is unlikely to deviate from this.
Up the other end of the park, the use of a front two is just as unheard of with the notable exception being Leicester’s 4-4-2.
The prevalence of front threes and lone strikers has seen the game change. Using two strikers has the potential to cause problems for centre back pairings who have grown accustomed to marking one man.
Watford’s strike duo of Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo have started slowly with their combined three goals all coming in the last two games.
But they, along with Etienne Capoue, will be pivotal in ensuring Watford’s season is a success.