How the Socceroos can thrive with Ange Postecoglou's 3-2-4-1 formation

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Australia will need to reduce their errors in possession and add energy to midfield if they are to impress at the Confederations Cup


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The Socceroos' controversial 3-2-4-1 formation is here to stay - for the Confederations Cup, at least - barring a dramatic about-face from coach Ange Postecoglou.

So how can Australia's ambitious manager potentially tweak the system to improve his side's performances and chances of victory against Germany, Cameroon and Chile?

The discussion around the validity of playing three at the back without genuine wing-backs is a worthy one, but the reality is Postecoglou has given pundits and fans zero indication he will change his mind in the foreseeable future.

Having a look at the squad he has taken to Russia and the players that have missed out also highlights a lack of depth in Australian football.

Jedinak out of Confederations Cup

So with limited options - particularly in the centre of defence - and no opportunity to change the Socceroos' 23-man squad before the Confederations Cup gets underway, Goal has identified some areas where Postecoglou could make some positive changes in Russia.

Put Milligan in defence

With captain Mile Jedinak withdrawing from the Socceroos squad due to a persistent groin problem, Postecoglou could be wishing - and probably not for the first time - that he had at least two Mark Milligans at his disposal.

WATCH: Postecoglou outlines 'ridiculous' Confeds Cup goal

Milligan has become Australia's 'Bob the Builder' during Postecoglou's tenure, popping up all over the pitch to fix potential problems.

The 31-year-old added energy in the middle of the pitch against Brazil on Tuesday but his defensive focus and incisive passing could be critical as part of the Socceroos' back three.

GFX Socceroos 3-2-4-1 formation

Playing three central defenders over the past four internationals has underlined a lack of quality in that position for the Socceroos, with only Trent Sainsbury - who has played just one club match since October - appearing suited.

If Matthew Spiranovic and Rhys Williams were both fully fit and at their peak, they would have relished the responsibility of spearing passes through the opposition's initial press to find midfield team-mates, but Bailey Wright, Ryan McGowan and Milos Degenek struggle with it.

Bailey Wright Australia v Brazil Friendly 13062017

Bailey Wright, Australia v Brazil

Brazil's first goal at the MCG was a clear example of how the 3-2-4-1 can be ripped apart if the defenders' vertical passes are cut out by the opposition's initial press.

While many will expect Milligan to take Jedinak's regular role in defensive midfield, it could be that the ex-Melbourne Victory skipper would help Australia more in the last line of defence.

Closing speed critical in defensive midfield

Considering the 3-2-4-1 packs the central corridor of the pitch, it was notable how Brazil and Saudi Arabia's opening goals over the past fortnight came through that area.

Socceroos 0 Brazil 4

In Adelaide last week, Jedinak and Aaron Mooy - the dual holding midfielders against the Green Falcons - failed to recover in time as Salem Al Dawsari surged forward from a throw-in, playing a one-two with Mohammad Al Sahlawi to score.

To provide the cover that the back three needs, Postecoglou should prioritise midfielders with the best engines against Germany, Cameroon and Chile.

While Massimo Luongo broke through with the Socceroos as a playmaker at the 2015 Asian Cup, the 24-year-old generally played in deeper roles as a youngster and was regularly used as a midfield screener by QPR this term.

Massimo Luongo Australia v Brazil Friendly 13062017

Massimo Luongo, Australia v Brazil

Jackson Irvine would add even more energy alongside his fellow Championship-based midfielder and also has plenty of experience in a more defensive role, while his greater international experience puts him ahead of Jimmy Jeggo.

The added benefit of playing both Irvine and Luongo in front of the defence is that it will allow Mooy to move further forward, which is where the 26-year-old has had his best moments in green and gold.

Slight tweaks to add balance

Australia unveiled a minor adjustment to Postecoglou's system this week by using Robbie Kruse as a second striker playing off the shoulder of centre-forward Tim Cahill.

Effectively playing two up front would increase the Socceroos' scoring options and take some pressure off the wide players, allowing them to start deeper and make Australia's line-up more balanced.

GFX Socceroos 3-4-1-2 formation

Kruse and Cahill are likely to be Postecoglou's preferred options to play alongside Tomi Juric, but it would be interesting to see the Luzern striker link up with Jamie Maclaren, who would threaten opponents with his runs in behind.

With no genuine right-back options in his squad, Postecoglou would struggle to select a traditional back four even if he wanted to.

But one way to cover more ground in defence could be to set his team out in a lopsided 4-2-3-1 with Aziz Behich as a genuine left-back and Mathew Leckie providing width from higher on the right.

GFX Socceroos 4-2-3-1 formation

Argentina played in a similar way against Brazil at the MCG last week with Angel Di Maria attacking more on the left than Jose Luis Gomez on the right.

Juric: Rogic & Mooy to spark Socceroos

Such a move would essentially require Behich to play more defensively than he has against Saudi Arabia and Brazil, but it would allow Milligan to play in midfield, while James Troisi appears perfectly suited for a narrow left-sided role where he could drift inside to link with Tom Rogic and Co.

Conclusion

Regardless of what you think of Postecoglou's current squad, there are few Australian players around the world that can consider themselves cheated of a spot.

It seems strange that Sydney FC centre-back Alex Wilkinson, who played every one of the Socceroos' games at the 2014 World Cup, didn't get a look in.

Alex Wilkinson Australia v Netherlands World Cup 18062014

Alex Wilkinson, Australia v Netherlands, 2014 World Cup

Craig Goodwin also has his admirers and could have challenged Behich and the injured Brad Smith for the left-sided role, but it's not like there are a raft of Australians playing in Europe's best leagues at the moment.

As such, Postecoglou has to get the most out of what he's got.

Many would argue the 3-2-4-1 formation isn't the way to do that but some slight tweaks could make Australia much more competitive over the next two weeks in Sochi, St Petersburg and Moscow.

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