But while the club’s working-class identity remains consistent, that doesn’t mean their tactics do. On Matchday 16, the League deployed a 3-5-2 formation that has become increasingly common for Philadelphia in 2023 after years of playing almost exclusively with a 4-4-2 checkerboard.
Their inspiration? Another club, albeit from abroad, achieving consistent success without big names or the biggest payroll: Brentford FC, who finished ninth in the 2022-23 Premier League.
“Look, we all want to be like Man City, right? … Pep [Guardiola]has almost made it a false thing for people to chase, because it is impossible to do what they do. So I look at a team like Brentford and I look at what Brentford do,” said Curtin.
“And when they play at home they play in a way similar to how we play: 4-4-2 diamond, where we go and we get after the game, and we press certain teams. When they go on the road, and they play against the top six teams, if you look at it, they play in the back five teams. They are a little more consistent, take a little less risk, but they also get points against the top teams. So I’m not saying we’re a lower team, but I also know we’re a team we can go to.”
According to Curtin, what makes the set-up particularly useful is having three centre-backs – Jakob Glesnes, Jack Elliott and Damion Lowe – who can cover space comfortably: “We have three centre-backs that I will put one against each group. of forwards, and we can just let them be, which is, I’m just saying, a luxury that a lot of teams don’t have.”