The debate between whether Leeds United’s default 4-5-1 formation, or the flatter 4-4-2 Simon Grayson has reverted to in our last two games is the better option is approaching ‘Mike Bassett – England Manager’ territory, so before it gets too out of hand we thought we’d take a look at the evidence supporting both options and let you make up your own mind.

The obvious place to start is with how many points each formation produces on average.

Statistically speaking…

G Av. GS Av. GC Av. PPG
4 – 5 – 1 22 2 1.45 1.72
4 – 4 – 2 8 1.357 1.875 1.357

A clear win here for the 4-5-1 formation. However, things aren’t all that black and white as Leeds United have switched to 4-4-2 in losing positions several times this season to go on and earn points from a game.

Starting out with 4-5-1, we’ve switched to 4-4-2 when behind against Portsmouth (A), Burnley (A), Crystal Palace (H) and Millwall (H). In all four of these games we were behind when the switch took place and between the four games we went on to turn it around and secure a total of 10 additional points.

If we were to argue that without the change in formation the games would have ended as they were, the average amount of points Leeds would have secured using 4-5-1 drops to 1.27 – less than the average points won starting with the 4-4-2 formation.

A little more subjective…

The debate here switches to the different points of views the fans have expressed. The general consensus seems to favour a 4-5-1 formation because of the holding midfield role that helps out our leaky defence.

However, Saturday’s 1-0 win over Coventry City was only the second time this season we’ve won 1-0 at home (the other being v Sheffield United) and on both occasions we played 4-4-2 with Becchio and Somma partnered up front.

Coincidence? Maybe so, but on Saturday’s evidence alone I would have to point out that the defence looked a lot more organised than we see most weeks and seemed to get the support they need from midfield. There are notable contrasting results however, such as the 4-6 embarrassment v Preston, but the 4-5-1 also suffered a 5-2 defeat against Barnsley so it may be fair to chalk these up to the unpredictability of football in general.

The problem, as I see it, with 4-5-1 is that the full-backs seem to think their default position is in the oppositions half whilst the holding role in midfield has yet to be affectively used. I’ve joked several times this season that Leeds’ formation is closer to a 2-0-9 than it is a 4-5-1 and whilst it was said a little tongue-in-cheek, there was some reasoning behind this remark.

The benefit of 4-5-1 is that Jonny Howson can play a supporting role to Becchio upfront which is a position he’s absolutely thrived in. With no shortage of service from Killa, Johnson, the two wingers and the two full-backs, the goals have been flowing at an inordinate rate.

However, with so many attack-minded players on the pitch, where does that leave our defence? On the evidence of how many goals we’ve conceded so far, I think it’s fair to say that the consequences of committing so many players forward has been a comical defensive line-up that every team will expect to score by.

So is 4-4-2 a more balanced alternative to 4-5-1? Does it favour the defence with Howson and Johnson playing more orthodox midfield roles that give the centre-backs the cover they’ve so desperately required? It’s a formation that seemed to serve us well last season when we finished with the best defensive record in the league, so what exactly changed this time around? Vote for your preferred formation and add your thoughts below.

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