This is actually a big part of the reason we have struggled defensively this season, no doubt. It's not just about age, tiredness etc. We've changed from a midfield of 3 work horses, doing the hard yards to provide the platform so that our front 3 + fullbacks can do the attacking, to having a (on paper anyway) more creative midfield 3. With Thiago and Elliot in there plus 1 DM, the balance of midfield is completely different to what it was, and it's not surprising the midfield isn't giving the back 4 as much protection, and isn't as good at the high press.
Obviously that has been exacerbated by the fact that Fab has been off form and Hendo is struggling to play enough games. (And by the loss of Mane, who was our best high presser. And by the fact our back 4, Robbo apart, have been slack etc etc) But a big lesson of this season, I think, is that we need at least 2 defensively strong, engine room type CMs starting every week, if we want to keep playing our high pressing, high line, high fullbacks style of play, otherwise we are too open. I'm not blaming Jürgen for trying to shift the balance. A lot of us were calling for a more creative midfield. But basically it looks like we've found out that we need at least 2 guys in the centre who are good at the ugly stuff or else the system just doesn't work.
Tbh don't see that much has changed since the back and forward in the FSG thread in the summer.
We needed to sign midfielders of the type/quality of Hendo/Gini/Fab, before last summer even, and still do. And we still haven't.
We lean on Hendo/Fab/Thiago every season - how can we not expect that, over time, unless we refresh, performances won't start to dip eventually.
Also don't know that people were looking for creative midfielders, just quality to refresh those goto CMs.
The kids have shown they are not ready to compete at very top level consistently, AOC and Keita are fit, Jones coming back, Bajcetic could be promising - but we 'still' need to start games with two from Hendo/Fab/Thiago.
Sure there is a long way to go and we can still make top4.
But it's not like previous seasons because every window we fail to properly replace Hendo/Fab/Thiago, they get older, put more miles on the clock and more at risk of injury.
Imho the defense have put in some poor individual performances, but the fact that they don't have the cover in front of them that they used to have, is a big factor.
Bit strange that we signed another attacking winger and not a midfielder of the type we need.
Dunno, guess it's good to sign any player with potential - but would have thought the priority by a country mile was a quality midfielder.
Fair enough, maybe the CM guys we want aren't currently available.
But until we strengthen in CM, can't see us put any consistent run together playing the 4-3-3.
A 4-2-2 with Mo and Nunez as a front 2 might give more defensive cover - but then we loose attacking edge in games we need to break team down in.
It's papering the cracks cause we didn't do the CM business we should have, but until that 'is' done it's hard to see how a formation change at least in some games won't be needed. We've been lucky to get 3 points in some recent games.
If Nunez could start hitting the target, hit some goal form, think that would make a difference - but we're not talking the title anymore, it's top4, which is a bit crap, but so be it, obviously it's very hard to properly challenge for the big one every year. And there's other trophies to play for.