Will the 3-5-2 formation work for Walsall?

Saddlers fans have been crying out for a new formation this summer and they finally got their wish.

The 4-2-3-1 formation of last season was found out fairly quickly. Romaine Sawyers, a man always capable of controlling play and feeding balls into Tom Bradshaw and the wide men, was often marked out of games and so the only real goal threat, Bradshaw, was left to feed off scraps.

It was all change at the Banks’s on Saturday though. Bradshaw was partnered upfront by Jordan Cook and the wing backs – Rico Henry and Jason Demetriou – had the freedom to push up whenever possible.

The wing backs pushing up obviously left the Saddlers a little bare at the back at times which the three defenders, Andy Taylor, Paul Downing and James O’Connor must get used to. Quickly. 100% attention and the ability to cover when needed will be vital for the side.

In an attacking sense though, the formation certainly worked better. Bradshaw finally had the support up front that all Saddlers fans had craved and Romaine Sawyers looks as though he will finally contribute to more goals – just as Dean Smith has ordered the former-West Brom man to do.

His goal against the Latics eight minutes in is possibly a sign of things to come in the future with the new formation. The touch by Tom Bradshaw put the ball on a plate beautifully for the onrushing Sawyers who smashed the ball into the top right corner excellently.

Another two pluses were Jason Demetriou and 18-year-old Rico Henry. The pair, and in particular Demetriou, looked increasingly dangerous going forward. The Cypriot played a number of great balls in towards the Oldham area, some of which were dealt with by the physical Oldham defence and others poorly finished off by the Walsall forwards.

Of course, all of this positive attacking play with wing backs going forward at every opportunity can leave you short at the back should the opposition pick up the ball and launch a counter-attack of their own. This was the case against Oldham Athletic as they grabbed a deserved equaliser against Walsall with a few minutes left on the clock.

Should the Walsall boss stick with the 3-5-2 formation he may find himself having to rein Henry and Demetriou in a little bit.

A more counter-attacking approach would probably favour the Saddlers away at the City Ground on Tuesday night. After all it was whenever Henry regained possession and launched a counter-attack that he looked at his best. His pace and quick feet will cause problems this season as he develops into a settled Walsall first team member.

Failing to take that approach may see Dougie Freedman’s Nottingham Forest take full advantage of the wing-backs urge to get forward. With the likes of Michael Antonio, Jamie Ward and ex-Walsall winger Jamie Paterson, amongst others, more than capable of making that advantage count, surely the man dubbed ‘Ginger Mourinho’ by the Walsall fans will realise this threat.

So, should Dean Smith stick or twist? More importantly will he stick or twist?