Tactics Tuesday: Is Charlie Davies a Tactical Dinosaur?

Bob Bradley still hasn’t announced his Gold Cup squad. But it looks pretty unlikely Charlie Davies  will be on it. The striker picked up a hamstring injury over the weekend and will be out a number of weeks.

The injury allows Bob to put off making an immediate decision regarding Charlie’s National Team future, but if Davies ever makes a complete return to health, USA’s gaffer is still going to have to make a tough choice at some point.

Given how inspirational Davies’ play was in the 2009 Confederations Cup, the goal he scored in Estadio Azteca, and his formerly burgeoning partnership with Jozy Altidore, it seems a no-brainer to say that Davies would be an automatic lock to return to the team if he recaptures his 2009 form.

We here at FFG don’t think it’s such a clear-cut decision.

Below we present two opinions as to whether or not Charlie should be on the National Team. Give it a gander and let us know what you think.

Davies has no place on Team USA

Charlie Davies, even a fully fit Charlie Davies, shouldn’t be a starter for the USA. Heck, he might not even have a place on the team. Bob Bradley has gradually been moving away from the 4-4-2 and toward a 4-2-3-1, a move that makes Davies something of a tactical dinosaur.

Davies is reminiscent of England’s Michael Owen. Both posses(ed) blistering pace, outstanding technical ability, and a classic nose for goal. They each also produced their best form when playing off of another forward. Neither fits into the archetype of the modern lone forward.

Jonathan Wilson – author of FFG’s favorite book, Inverting the Pyramid: The History of Football Tactics – noted how Owen’s impact declined as top clubs began shifting away from the 4-4-2 . A series of injuries may have precipitated Owen’s waning influence, but his decline was all but inevitable. He needed someone to play off of, a big man to occupy center backs while Owen darted behind them. When teams dropped that target forward, Owen wasn’t a good enough passer to function alone up top.

Wilson wrote that article two years ago.

If anything, his point is even more valid now. Top teams, club or international, rarely field more than one striker. And the ones that do – like Manchester United – almost always use one of the strikers as a midfielder.

Charlie Davies, like Michael Owen, isn’t nearly a good enough distributor to play in the hole, he’s not big enough to function as a lone target forward, and he doesn’t possess the right skill set to function as a false-nine either.

He shouldn’t be anywhere near Bob Bradley’s team sheet.

Are you crazy? The USA still needs Charlie

Ok, so maybe Charlie Davies can’t play as a false-nine like Lionel Messi. And he probably won’t turn into a midfielder like Wayne Rooney any time soon. But who cares?

Bob Bradley’s job is to field the strongest team possible, taking into account the available players. Messi and Rooney don’t play for the United States. So Bob isn’t beholden to the same tactical trends influencing their managers. And, let’s be clear, the USA’s best formation is still some type of 4-4-2.

Maybe if Stuart Holden was healthy Bob could play a formation with 5-midfielders. But what’s he going to do, play 3 holding midfielders? We saw how well that worked out.

Since the World Cup, Donovan and Co. have played well in exactly one match, a better-than-it-looked 0-0 draw with Paraguay. That Paraguay team was a World Cup quarterfinalist. Spain struggled to beat them 1-0.

USA, though unfortunate to score, dominated the South Americans from start to finish. And what formation did Bob play in that Paraguay match? A 4-2-2-2.

Charlie shouldn’t be starting over Jozy Altidore. And, yeah, Juan Agudelo is probably a bit better than him right now. But is anyone else?

The USA needs to play with two strikers. We need Charlie Davies.

Gringos, what’s your take? To Charlie or not to Charlie?

3 Comments Post a Comment
  1. Gringo_Primal says:

    Put me squarely in the need column.

    I think your more rosy point holds more water. As much as I’d like to see the US play a 4-2-3-1, we don’t have the personnel for it without Holden.

    That leaves a 4-4-2 and if Charlie gets his form back, he has to be in the picture.

  2. AdamFromMich says:

    The USA still needs Charlie. But we can wait ’til he’s healthy, and he may not be an automatic starter when he does get back in form. How much he plays may depend a little on the formation, but it will also depend on Charlie. An in-form Davies would be tough to leave at home, or even on the bench.

    You could say the 4-4-2 is a tactical dinosaur, but I think we’ll see a bit of it at the Gold Cup. I’d like to see the US be able to play both a 4-2-3-1 and a 4-4-2. That way we can adapt to different opponents, as well as adapting to the different players we have available. I’m pretty sure that Coach Bradley is looking to develop this flexibility. He hasn’t stuck with the 4-2-3-1 like its our only choice, or abandoned it at the first sign of trouble, so I think he sees it as a long-term project.

    • Blake Owen says:

      You know. If I had to do the article over again, I think in the ‘Pro Charlie’ section I’d draw a favorable tactical comparison to Chicharito. He doesn’t fit into the false-nine archetype either but he’s still excelling.

      If either Dempsey or Holden could be successful in the hole (a la Rooney), Charlie could easily make runs off their excellent distribution.

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