Viktor Maslov: The Pioneer of 4-4-2

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Viktor Maslov
WIGAN, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 20: A tactics magnet board inside the away dressing room prior to the Sky Bet Championship match between Wigan Athletic and West Bromwich Albion at DW Stadium on October 20, 2018 in Wigan, England. (Photo by Adam Fradgley - AMA/West Bromwich Albion FC via Getty Images)

Viktor Maslov is the creator of the 4-4-2 lineup and as a result, is one of the most influential managers ever.

He developed a 4-4-2 formation that caused a seismic shift in the way coaches set their teams up. The revolutionary Maslov is one of the all-time great managers as his impact on the beautiful game is undeniable.

Born in 1910, Viktor Aleksandrovich Maslov grew up in Moscow in the Russian empire. The majority of Maslov’s playing career was spent at FC Torpedo Moscow, who he later went on to manage.

Viktor Maslov: The Pioneer of 4-4-2

Maslov, an innovator of tactics, formulated a style of play that was a counter to the culture of football tactics of the time.

In 1958 Brazil’s national team won the world cup using a 4-2-4 formation, which became popular in the early sixties. Maslov’s vision was to bring two forwards into midfield and play a tight press. Maslov was also a fan of zonal marking. The team’s zonal marking helped cut off passing opportunities for the opposition and gave Maslov’s team the positional advantage. This style is the precursor to what many top teams use to this very day. The speed at which the tactic was played also required high fitness levels.

Maslov joined Dynamo Kyiv in 1964, and the disciplinarian set in place his new way of playing football. He introduced dietary plans; his team was notably fitter for the standard of the time. The dietary plans and fitness regimes introduced by Maslov are commonplace in the modern game but for his era were seen as rigorous. His pressing style incurred opposition from the Soviet press, with one newspaper printing a photo of Dynamo players pressing the opponent with the caption reading ‘we don’t need this type of football’. Soon, Maslov would prove them all wrong.

His hard work paid dividends as manager of Dynamo Kyiv he tipped the balance of soviet football on its head. He went on to win three league titles in a row from 1966 to 1968. After leaving Dynamo Kyiv in 1970 Maslov returned for a third managerial spell at FC Torpedo Moscow. The third spell was not as successful as many hoped. The great manager went on to manage FC Ararat Yerevan until retiring in 1975. Just two years after retiring Maslov passed away but his legacy lives on through his football philosophy.

Maslov’s Work Influences Innovations

We see 4-4-2 in use every week however its popularity in the upper echelons of the sport is admittedly waning. Nevertheless, the formation has been used for decades and is still prevalent. The longevity of the formation falls down to its simplicity, effectiveness, and flexibility. Arsene Wenger states that playing in a 4-4-2 is mathematically efficient due to the positioning of the players, giving coverage across all areas of the pitch. Even Jurgen Klopp uses the 4-4-2 against certain opposition in order to nullify certain teams. The formation can still hold its own at the top level and it is unlikely to fade away completely.

All of this is stems from one man’s work, Viktor Maslov.

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