Millwall boss Rowett on his 5-2-3 system – and why that isn’t deciding factor in matches

Millwall manager Gary Rowett has provided insight into playing a 5-2-3 formation at The Den – and reckons that set-up can never be blamed as the key factor if his side do not perform.

Some sections of the Lions fanbase have claimed that going with three central defenders on home turf is too cautious.

But Rowett, who celebrates two years in the Den hotseat today, has steered Millwall to within three points of the Championship play-offs.

They have comfortably stayed clear of the drop during his tenure and narrowly missed out on the top six a couple of seasons ago.

Asked about favouring wing-backs and three centre-backs, Rowett said: “It’s very, very simple. The easiest way to explain it this season is that West Brom were, before the other night, top of the league. And they play 5-2-3 – exactly the same system. It’s how you play that system and how effective you are in that system.

“We’ve won games playing a five at home and we’ve won games playing a four at home. We’ve lost games playing a five at home and we’ve lost games playing a four at home.

“I took over the team two years ago and it had been playing as a 4-2-3-1 and not winning the games they wanted to. There is no right or wrong answer. You’ve got to do what you think is the right answer. You’re always going to be judged on whether you win or lose the game.

“If you start the game poorly – whether that is a five or a four – people are going to be critical, because that’s just the nature of being a fan. I get it. You want to see your team playing really, really well. I never try or look to criticise that. Our job is to give our fans something to be pleased with, to see a performance they like. So when we don’t do it that it has got nothing to do with formation. But of course everyone will always have their opinion on that.

“I’ve seen teams win the Premier League with a back five, I’ve seen an England team playing very well with a back five. It’s how you play it and the players you’ve got. Whatever formation we play, we’re always going to have to find a way to punch above our weight – because we haven’t got more individual players than the opposition with far greater quality to do whatever we want. That’s just a fact. We always have to work harder and find a way to win – it’s never as simple as one way or another.”

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