Soccer Formations - Coaching Soccer Formations & Tactics

May 26, 2021 5 min read

Soccer Formations - Coaching Soccer Formations & Tactics

One of the greatest freedoms that coaches and team managers have is the soccer formations to adapt for the match. The soccer lineup or soccer strategy refers to how you position the players on the field and their roles. The goal is to maximize your team’s efficiency and increase the chances of winning.

What is the Best Soccer Formation in Soccer?

There has never been a single best soccer formation in the history of this game. Several factors usually inform the decision on the types of soccer formations that coaches take. These include the type and abilities of the players and the type of game that you want to portray (defensive or offensive?).

Your choice of soccer strategy should also be dependent on the opposing team’s formation and the strengths and weaknesses of the players. That’s to say that you can’t afford to rely on a single lineup for all matches. Your players should always be ready to give up a predetermined configuration for another one depending on the opponent’s tactics. That’s why it’s critical to ensure that your players can comfortably play in different soccer formations and positions.

How to Describe the Makeup of a Typical Soccer Team

Soccer formation numbers represent how many players are in each row. They are described in 3 or 4 numbers and are read from the defense to the most forward. For instance, the 4 3 3 soccer formation means that there are 4 defense players, 3 midfielders, and 3 forwards. On the other hand, a 3 4 2 1 soccer lineup will consist of 3 center-backs, 4 midfielders, 2 forwards, and 1 striker. In each formation, the goalkeeper is the 11th player.

7 Most Popular Soccer Formations Explained

There are tens of soccer configurations that a team can use. For this soccer tactics post, we’ll explain 4 of the most common lineups that most professional coaches and managers go for. We’ll explain their strengths and weaknesses and the role of the players in each soccer positions diagram.

1. 4-4-2 Soccer Formation

The 4 4 2 was among the most dominant basic soccer tactics in the 90s and early 2000s- and it’s slowly coming back. This formation is mainly preferred because it has clear and specific instructions for each player.

While there’s no specific situation when the 4-4-2 formation can be used, it’s considered one of the best defensive formations. It’s particularly effective when playing against a possession-obsessed team.

The first row in this soccer tactic consists of 4 defenders (a sweeper and stopper in the middle and a right-back and left-back). The second row consists of 4 midfielders and consists of a right and a left midfielder and an offensive and defensive midfielder. Lastly, we have 2 strikers who need to stay linked. By being linked, we mean the strikers should stay within close proximity to each other to work the ball effectively.

2. 4-3-3 Soccer Formation

The 4-3-3 game setup has been the go-to formation for Liverpool since Klopp arrived. This configuration consists of two center-backs, two fullbacks, three midfielders (central, right, and left), one center-forward, and two wing players.

While this setup is popular with most teams today, you may have realized some subtle differences in the attack and defense lines. Some teams tend to adopt a narrow forward line, especially when they want to emphasize attacks. Others prefer to keep the forward line wide to ensure more space is covered. We recommend the latter.

You can also vary the midfield line by taking an attacking, defensive, or flat approach. Either of these will work, depending on what you want your players to accomplish.

3. 4-2-3-1 Soccer Formation

FC Barcelona is known for morphing its system between 4-2-3-1, 4-3-3, and 3-5-2 depending on the players and the prevailing circumstances. Other top clubs that have had success using this system include Arsenal, Bayern Munich, Inter Milan, and Real Madrid. This is the same strategy that Spain utilized to win the 2010 world cup.

The 4-2-3-1 soccer formation consists of 4 defenders, 2 midfielders, 3 attacking midfielders, and a center-forward. Most top coaches prefer it because it employs the 4-4-2 diamond strategy with the added advantage of having wide players.

4. 3 5 2 Soccer Formation

The recent popularity of the 3-5-2 formation makes it look like a recent invention, which isn’t the case. This system was pioneered way back in 1986 by Carlos Bilardo, who led Argentina to its 1986 World Cup win. Already dubbed the soccer formation of the future, other historical wins that can be attributed to this system include Brazil’s win in 2002, Egypt in 2008, and Juventus from 2011 to 2014.

In a 3-5-2 soccer lineup formation, you’ll have a 3-man defense, 2 defensive midfielders and 3 offensive midfielders, and 2 forwards.

5. 3-4-3 Soccer Formation

With 3 defenders at the back, 4 midfielders, and 3 strikers pushing forward, it’s pretty clear that the 3-4-3 soccer formation is mainly attack-minded. This system’s popularity peaked in the ‘80s and ‘90s. It has evolved into various variations over the years, making it ideal when setting up a strategy that’s well balanced on offense and defense.

In its basic design, this formation has a flat-4 in the middle with the wingers spread out to give you width and balance. When attacking, you can have the two fullbacks move slightly forward. When you do this, the wingers have to tuck in a bit to create space for the fullbacks.

Note that success with the 3-4-3 heavily relies on your players’ tactical awareness. Each position requires a player who clearly understands his/her responsibilities with or without the ball.

6. 4-5 1-Soccer Formation

The 4-5-1 is a classic defensive soccer strategy. Most coaches mainly resort to this format when they want to set up a strong defense structure that also allows solid counterattacks. With 5 players in front of 4 defenders, this formation mainly aims at dominating the center. This makes it challenging for the opponent team’s attackers to penetrate.

The pressure-oriented structure of this formation also means that you’re most likely going to outnumber the opponent in the center of the pitch. With hard work, your players can get the opponents to make deadly mistakes. If you have several sprinters in your team who can easily get out of deep situations, it will be very easy to leverage your opponent’s mistakes to launch counterattacks.

7. 4-1-4-1 Soccer Formation

This soccer formation is a variation of the famous 4-4-2 system. The 4-1-4-1 comprises 4 defenders, a pivot (central midfielder who sits deeper than other midfielders), 4 midfielders, and a solo striker.

Compared to the 4-4-2, the 4-1-4-1 sacrifices one striker in favor of a holding midfielder who bridges the gap between the defense and the midfield. This alteration offers the midfielders extra freedom when attacking. It also encourages creativity between the midfielders and the strikers.

Some people view the 4-1-4-1 soccer formation as an overly defensive strategy. While it’s defense-oriented, this system has an incredible distribution of players when playing offense. With disciplined players, the 4 1 4 1 creates many open spaces that can be used as passing lines. Because there are players spread across the pitch, it’s difficult for the opposing defenders to predict which player will fill the space to recover the ball.

For any of these formations to work, your team players need to have a good balance of coordination, strength, speed, power, and reaction, in addition to other basic soccer skills. All of these are skills that you can sharpen using the predefined drills in the Blazepod system. Powered by the Blazepod App, this is a reaction light training kit that makes your soccer training drills challenging and fun while enhancing endurance and agility.