After another heavy away defeat, albeit an expected one against an excellent Arsenal side, I pose the question ahead of a crucial run of games: is it time to return to Wagner’s fully-fledged philosophy?
Heading into this season, there were some predictions that Town would stubbornly stick to David Wagner’s front-foot philosophy and ultimately become undone because of it.
Instead, we have seen that David Wagner’s side are capable of adapting which has allowed Wagner to fluctuate the game plan, dependent on the opposition.
However, whilst this has worked excellently at home, away from home has been a different story.
The focus of this piece is on the formation changes that Town have undertaken and the absence of Kasey Palmer as well as looking at the quandary that David Wagner has faced in recent weeks.
Already, away from home, we have seen a variation of: the 4-3-3, the 4-1-4-1, the 5-4-1 (3-4-3) and Town’s traditional 4-2-3-1 formation. These formations have all been used to differing effects.
It seems an age since Town steamrolled a hapless Crystal Palace side on the opening day of the season. It was Town’s last away win and the last time Town scored away from home.
It was also the last time that Town played the 4-2-3-1 formation away from home with Kasey Palmer deployed in the number 10 position.
Since then, Wagner has had to look for potential alternatives to the 4-2-3-1 formation due to the absence of Kasey Palmer.
The England Under-21 international picked up a sustained hamstring injury on international duty and since then, his absence has been telling.
As Town’s only natural number 10, Palmer has proved by his very absence that he is integral to Town and integral to Town playing the 4-2-3-1 formation.
Without him, the side has often looked lopsided and unbalanced to the point that Wagner has attempted to find a solution by using a variety of different formations.
However, this attempt to find a solution has actually revealed a contradiction.
David Wagner’s philosophy and the playing style that he advocates is best suited to the 4-2-3-1 system and over the course of two seasons, he has built a squad around this formation.
One prime example of this contradiction is the likes of Collin Quaner and Elias Kachunga who have predominantly played for Town as inside forwards.
When, this season, they have been asked to play as more orthodox out and out wingers in a variation of the 4-3-3, they have struggled.
Therefore, in recent weeks, David Wagner has been left in a quandary.
Wagner has had to decide whether to use a different formation, even though it contradicts his own philosophy that Town’s success has been built upon, or to take the risk of rushing Kasey Palmer back into the fold at the soonest possible opportunity.
David Wagner, in my opinion, has correctly elected to choose the former. However, after a number of appearances for Town’s development side, now may be the opportune moment for Kasey Palmer’s immediate return.
Against an Everton side riding on a crest of momentum following the appointment of Sam Allardyce, it will be yet another tough away day test for David Wagner and his side.
However, a brave and bold reversion back to Wagner’s fully-fledged philosophy and the 4-2-3-1 formation could be the solution to Town’s difficulties away from home, especially if Kasey Palmer is back, fit and available.