Hyypiä likely to employ a high-risk and high-reward approach

With the opening game of the season hurtling ever closer, there has been much interest in how Sami Hyypiä’s team will line up against Sheffield Wednesday.

ChalkboardWith new manager Sami Hyypiä taking charge of the Albion for the first time in a competitive fixture, supporters are eagerly anticipating a change in tactics. Brighton and Hove Independent caught up with Sam Wilson, who blogs on football tactics, to find out what fans should expect.

With the opening game of the season hurtling ever closer, there has been much interest in how Sami Hyypiä’s team will line up against Sheffield Wednesday.

After a distinctly shot-shy year with Oscar Garcia at the helm, many people are hoping for a much more attacking approach to games.

Pre-season has done nothing to suggest that Hyypiä will move towards a formation with two out-and-out strikers. Instead, it appears we’ll be getting a 4-2-3-1 system with a few key differences to how Garcia operated it.

The attacking midfield trio looks set to be operating much closer to the striker, and more narrow than before. Three attacking midfielders rather than one with two wingers. At times last season the wingers were more central, but they were still too far from the striker which stifled their impact.

One player who looks set to flourish this season, if he can stay fit, is Kazenga Lua Lua. Giving him possession centrally in shooting positions could pay dividends. After the defeat to Southampton in the final friendly, the 23-year-old said: “As wingers, we are playing more inside to support the striker. It’s a good position and I enjoy it.

“I prefer it, as a winger you get many chances because you’re closer to the striker. When you have the ball you are already facing the defender.”

A more direct approach is another aspect that could make a difference to perceptions if not results. Over the last few years Brighton have been criticised by some sections of the fanbase for being too negative and shot- shy, and I expect that to change under Hyypiä. When he joined he immediately highlighted faster transitions from defence to attack as something to work on, and this could help get more out of Craig Mackail-Smith.

The Scottish striker was signed for big money but has always looked like a striker that needs a partner to get the best out of him; a two-striker system that Brighton have never really played at the Amex. It’s unclear if he will be the starting attacker or if new signing Chris O’Grady, the bigger and more traditional target man option, will get the nod but expect Mackail- Smith to look more comfortable with more direct build-up and three players close to him.

One side-effect of having more ttacking players central is the increased responsibility on the fullbacks to provide the width. Right-backs Bruno Saltor and Inigo Calderon have always looked more comfortable attacking than defending, and the rumoured return of Stephen Ward to left- back would be a big boost.

The downside is that, if possession is lost, it could leave the centre backs isolated unless one of the holding midfielders drops in to cover. With neither Gordon Greer or Aaron Hughes being blessed with pace, this is the main negative of a more direct system.

In short, this season could have a ‘high risk, high reward’ emphasis that may see us lose a few more games but be more entertaining to watch. After so few goals in recent years, that sounds ideal.

For more of Sam Wilson’s tactical insights, visit: www.panopticview.wordpress.com