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Rotherham United tried out a new 3-5-2 formation on Saturday as they drew 2-2 with AFC Bournemouth, but is this set-up the way to go for the Millers?

Prior to Saturday’s game, the Millers had made a solid start to the new Championship season. They were 19th with 12 points from their opening 13 games.

This start included wins over Wycombe, Sheffield Wednesday and Preston. But they suffered back to back away defeats to Swansea and QPR in the space of a few days in the lead up to the Bournemouth game.


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The performances in their last two outings were disappointing overall, as supporters were starting to grow anxious heading into two testing home games against Bournemouth and Brentford.

These two games were always going to be huge when it comes to player confidence. If they suffered heavy losses, you would think that it would damage the mentality of the players.

So it was a bit surprising to hear that Paul Warne had decided to revert to a 3-5-2 set-up against Bournemouth. After using a 4-4-1-1 formation to start the campaign, this was a brave decision from Warne to change it up when pressure was beginning to mount on his team.

Thankfully, this decision paid off massively as his players put in their best showing of the season against Bournemouth.

Rotherham
RUFC Starting XI vs AFCB

When Rotherham go up against sides of Bournemouth’s calibre – who have superior wealth and quality – all Millers fans can ask for is that their side give their opponents a tough game.

At times this season, Rotherham have shown their opposition far too much respect. But if they are going to cause the big teams problems, they cannot be doing this.

This is why it was so pleasing to see that from minute one against Bournemouth, Rotherham did not give the visitors a minute’s rest. They pressured them throughout and really brought the game to the former Premier League outfit.

The Cherries were not in the mood for this type of game, and they clearly found no enjoyment from that 90 minutes of football.


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In the end, Rotherham were unlucky not to have won the game. Warne’s men could have easily walked away with all three points if it was not for the heroics of Asmir Begovic in Bournemouth’s goal.

Fans have been asking for the Millers to play without fear in the Championship, and this is exactly what they did on Saturday.

Bournemouth are a top side who are bound to be around the top of the table by the end of the season. This did not bother little old Rotherham, though. They battled away and made it extremely uncomfortable for the visitors.

A point was richly deserved as Rotherham did their fans proud at the weekend. Credit should go to Warne and his staff because they were alert enough to change the system after consecutive defeats.

It takes a lot of guts to do this, and it could have easily backfired. Yet this was not the case, and now we ask, is the 3-5-2 formation here to stay?

Defence

When you look at the players that Rotherham have, the 3-5-2 set-up appears to suit them. Much has been made about their strengths at right-back, and this formation allows Wes Harding and Matt Olosunde both to start on the right.

Harding’s immense showings this term has left Olosunde out of the team. The latter is better going forward out of the two, while Harding is stronger defensively.

Olosunde is a perfect fit at wing-back, and his marauding runs down the right will be a big plus for the Millers.

This is while Harding has proven himself to be a calm, resolute defender who can continue his great work as a right-sided centre back.

On the left, Mattock is perhaps not as natural at wing-back as Olosunde is. But he had a fine game against Bournemouth and his experience is invaluable.

With Mattock, you have the option to play him at left-centre back when needed. This allows Trevor Clarke to come in as the wing-back when fit. He did just that at the weekend, as he impressed a lot during his brief cameo appearance.

Rotherham are privileged to have an abundance of depth throughout the team. This will give Warne a few selection headaches, but it will be beneficial during this gruelling Championship campaign.

Midfield

Jamie Lindsay had yet another brilliant game at the weekend. His tireless running earned him the man of the match award in the eyes of most fans.

It is getting to the point now where the Scotsman is becoming undroppable. He is such a great addition to Rotherham’s midfield given his work rate and spite in the middle of the pitch.

He played alongside Ben Wiles and Matt Crooks, who both did well in their own right. Then you also have Dan Barlaser, who will be chomping at the bit to get back in the team as soon as possible.

When Shaun Macdonald returns, Rotherham will have even more strength in the middle. Playing three in there allows Rotherham to get a foothold in the game against high-class opposition and to break the play up when needed.

Strikers

Freddie Ladapo and Michael Smith started up front together again against Bournemouth. Smith’s form has improved a lot of late. We are starting to see the same player who was a nightmare for Championship opponents in 2018/19.

Ladapo meanwhile has improved a lot with what he offers off the ball. He is also starting to add more goals to his game this season, which is doing his confidence the world of good.

Both men are making the two striking spots their own after recent showings. But Kyle Vassell is primed to come in when needed. Vass is a completely different proposition for defenders compared to Smith and Ladapo.

When he has been called upon, he has looked well up for it and he has made a positive impact. Meanwhile, George Hirst is slightly down the pecking order. But he definitely can come in and make a difference if he grows into it in the Championship.

Brentford next…

We are aware that Rotherham have only played once with this new formation, but early signs are positive. It is expected that this set-up will be used again against Brentford on Tuesday.

This is another difficult game for the Millers. Just like Bournemouth, Brentford should be battling for promotion come the end of the season.

But as we have seen, there is no reason for Rotherham to fear any opponent this season. Bournemouth, with a squad that is worth around £100m, came to the New York Stadium on Saturday and struggled.

The Millers need to continue with this attitude. Be fearless and take the game to whoever they face home or away. If Rotherham can play as they did at the weekend against Brentford, they could cause the Bees all sorts of problems.

They might not get the win, but against these teams, all Rotherham fans can ask for is that their team gives it their all and that they make it difficult for their opposition.

This new 3-5-2 formation enables Rotherham to take the fight to teams and strike on the counter-attack. If Brentford turns up with the attitude that they will breeze past the Millers, they will play right into Rotherham’s hands.

Should the Millers pick up at least a point against Brentford, it will make for an impressive few days for the club that would set them up well for the hectic Christmas period.

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