Matthew Bates talks tactics and reveals why Hartlepool are working on THREE formations

Matthew Bates and Carl Magnay
Matthew Bates and Carl Magnay

Like many things in football, formations often go in and out of fashion.

After Antonio Conte led Chelsea to the Premier League title by playing three at the back in 2015/16, plenty of other teams quickly followed suit.

But while many teams have now ditched the 3-5-2 shape, it is continuing to be used to great effect by Matthew Bates at Hartlepool United.

That isn’t to say, however, that Pools won’t be switching formations in the coming weeks.

Bates has revealed that his side have been working on an additional two shapes ahead of the visit of Sutton United tomorrow.

Such work is part of an ongoing desire by Bates to do right by his squad, and he insists he will not remain stuck in his ways when it comes to tactics.

“In training we’ve worked on different formations, we’ve not just stuck with three at the back,” he admitted.

“I’m always looking at different shapes.

“We’ve worked on 4-4-2 and 4-3-3 in training so we’re quite comfortable that if we need to change it in games, we can and we’ve got the personnel to do it.

“If you were to say will I be playing 3-5-2 for the rest of my career, I won’t be.

“I’m not stuck in my ways. It’s something that I like and that I’ve got the squad to do at the moment, but I have to look at the squad and pick what is best for them.

“As the squad evolves and changes it might change too.”

While wishing to remain flexible, Bates is far from oblivious to the fact that the shape is working well.

And when it comes to clean sheets and creating chances, the tactical choice is certainly paying dividends.

“It gives you that extra defender on, but also keeps two up top which I think is quite important in this league,” added Bates.

“It’s worked well, the formation, in the whole scheme of things.

“We probably haven’t scored as many as we would like but we’re creating chances.

“We’ve got a great record at the back and our midfielders have done well keeping the ball.

“So it’s working quite well, but it isn’t something I’m stuck in my ways over. “

Bates’ willingness to be flexible when it comes to tactics has even seen him try and tweak the current system.

The Pools boss revealed that his coaching team are always looking to evolve the shape.

And in the past week, this has included trying to bring more out of the current starting line-up.

“Even with that system, we’re still trying to do different things,” he revealed.

“We tried something different with Carl Magnay in training the other with getting him further forward.

“We worked on it to get him forward into midfield when they leave one up top.

“We’re always looking to try and do things with it, and we’re looking at other formations as well.”

An especially pleasing aspect of the 3-5-2 system has been the new-found defensive resilience it has offered Pools.

Bates’ side have not conceded in their last three outings, with Scott Loach once again starring between the sticks while the defensive trio of Magnay, Peter Kioso and Andrew Davies continue to excel.

But while happy with that record, Bates - a former centre back himself - wants to extend that run of clean sheets.

He added: “It would be nice. It hasn’t happened for a few years, that kind of run, which is disappointing really.

“You think three clean sheets is goo d but it’s not great for a defender.

“We want to try and build that on to four, five and six because that’s the sign of a good back three or a good back four.”