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I've been following, playing and managing (in FM) football for quite a while now. Just recently though, when watching games especially in the English Premier League, I've noticed that teams are starting to use the 3 defender + 2 wingback (or 5 at the back). Those formations rose to prominence in the 80's. I'm just wondering though why we're seeing a resurgence. And why they're not so common in Spain.

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Herd mentality and the historiography of the English game.

Most managers aren't innovators and there is still a tendency - now beginning to change - for English managers to attract banal clichés such as 'passionate', 'authoritative' and so on, rather than be respected for their methodology, systems or tactical approach, It is rooted in the deep conservatism of the English game, highly suspicious of change and which, therefore, ensures change is slow to take root.

Speaking for my time watching football, say 25 years for sake of argument. In the '90s the 442 was the dominant formation, generally speaking. The success of Mourinho ensured that the 433 (or whatever derivative you want to call it) wormed its way into public consciousness in the '00s. The 442 became a dirty term; you need only look at general punditry (itself poor, but that's another story) over the last decade and a half to understand the British mentality. Nearly all talked about the 'midfield 3', how you needed a three to be successful. A 3-man backline has been roundly mocked over that time, the usual refrains of 'it can't work' always to the fore.

This conservatism affects many levels > inculcating the general fan that there is only one way to play > affecting coaching where certain attributes have been highly favoured at the expense of others > affecting managers, most afraid of ridicule if their methods deviate widely from the norm. Generally managers need a trigger point to begin to think differently. It is no coincidence that the 442 underwent a mini-revival last season once Leicester began to be successful, nor is it any coincidence that the 523 (or whatever derivative you want to call it) has seen attitudes change this season, once Chelsea started dominating. Naturally there are exceptions to the rule; Koeman had used a 5-man backline at Southampton at times, but you are now seeing others begin to use it, some I never imagined.

The 523 will slowly grow in popularity if it remains - broadly - successful, until someone else comes along with another idea that becomes the vogue. But change will still be relatively slow until the 'English mentality' changes from total appreciation of pace/power/running aimlessly and starts to favour other more abstract qualities (itself another debate entirely).

If the evolution of tactics is of interest, I'd recommend reading Jonathan Wilson's 'Inverting the Pyramid', which speaks heavily on why certain things have become the norm in English football.

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