Shortly after the home defeat to Millwall, who played an effective four-four-two formation, Blues boss Steve Cotterill made it clear that he did not feel that the same system would suit his Blues team. No problems with that as the manager he has the right to play the formation and tactics he wants to as he knows his players better than anyone else. 

In many ways I admire his doggedness and self-belief which confirmed how confident he was in his own ability.

However in my opinion it sums up perfectly how some modern day managers/coaches can at time over-think and over-complicate what is a simple game of “put it in one goal and keep it out of the other”. Yes I know that is a simplification but that is the objective of the game during the 90 minutes. What goes on between the two goals is usually just the opinion of the man in charge which he hopes will put the ball into one goal more often and keep it out of the other goal by at least one less. Of course that opinion is the most important because while we are down the pub playing fantasy football with our team selections he has to do it for real.

Let’s be fair about it Steve Cotterill knows more about coaching in the professional game than I ever will. He has more coaching badges than most people in the game and I understand he is an elite coach who coaches the coaches.

In my opinion one of the most important strengths of any manager or coach is getting the best out of every individual under their charge. That also means playing a way that suits them rather than forcing them into a formation and way of playing that they cannot do or at least are not comfortable with. The likeable Gian Franco Zola found out to his cost although it was hard to argue with how he wanted the team to play they were obviously not comfortable doing it.

Garry Monk arrived and played a four-four-two formation that is simple with every player knowing what is expected from him under that system. Now I don’t know if he did that because it is a system he prefers or because it was the easiest way to get two strikers up front.

That is not to say that he will always play that system and with a different set of players might change to a formation that suits that particular group of players.

Sean Dyche at Burnley plays a four-four-two formation and they sit seventh in the Premier League?

I am not saying any system/formation is right or wrong; just that you have to find one that gets the best out of your players be that four-four-two, or a four-two-three-one, Christmas tree or whatever. The game is and always will be about players’ end of story. While coaching will always be about knowing how to get the best out of those players.and finding a formation/system that suits them rather than forcing them into a formation/system that suits the coach