In a weekly column that will usually be published on Thursdays, The State of Affairs will examine current debates, issues and news regarding Colchester United. This week, I discuss formations.

Despite limited use thus far this season, it seems that Colchester United seem a more comfortable and creative side when playing a 4-4-2 formation, as demonstrated last weekend in the 4-2 victory over Notts County.  Of course there are many factors that go into the performance of a team aside from tactics, but from viewing the team’s play it is hard to deny that the team look a more fluid and dangerous side going forward. However, there is good reason why this formation has been utilised little, and good reason why that looks to be the case going forward.

John Ward’s more familiar formation this season has featured 3 central midfielders, 2 wide attackers and 1 central striker – a 4-5-1 or 4-3-3 formation.  With talented wingers, a deep core of central midfielders and a lack of depth up front, this formation suits well the squad that Ward has had at his disposal. The problem here however has been a lack of attacking prowess. On the other hand, playing the 4-4-2 brings a problem in that it highlights the holes, and fails to shows the strengths, of the squad on the whole.

With the group of talented midfielders at his disposal, the 4-4-2 presents a tricky task for Ward in deciding who’s names make the team sheet. Last weekend it was Anthony Wordsworth and Andy Bond who got the start in the centre of midfield. Captain Kem Izzet sat on the bench alongside Lloyd James, and not in the squad was John Joe O’Toole. Arguably, all 5 of these players could be starting in the league. Whilst this is a good problem to have, particularly when injuries predictably take their toll, what Ward will want to avoid is a drop in morale for these players if their playing time should drop.

It lies in stark contrast the situation up front however, with viably only 3 true strikers on the first team in Kayode Odejayi, Steven Gillespie and youngster Craig Arnott, the latter of which is yet to make an appearance for the club. Whilst reports earlier this week give hope to help from the transfer market in that respect, Steven Gillespie’s injury last weekend has only served to highlight further that depth at the position is still thin. Wide players such as last season’s top scorer Ian Henderson can fill the role when required, but given that Michail Antonio’s loan ends soon, he will most likely continue to be utilised on the wing.

What remains to be seen then is what Ward can do come January to help improve the depth up front, including perhaps bringing someone like Antonio back to the club (something he discussed in a press conference this morning), but in the mean time it looks as if his tactical options are limited.

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