My Favourite Formation (4-2-3-1)
In football there is no ultimate formation. There are a number of questions you have to ask yourself when choosing
what formation you would like to play.... Are the players in your team suited to the roles and responsibilities you are
asking them to carry out? What are the strengths and weaknesses of your formation in comparison to your
opposition's formation? How adaptable is the formation if you are winning/loosing. These are the types of questions
a good Manager/Coach should be asking themselves when choosing their starting eleven, and what formation they
would like to play.
Having said that, each Manager/Coach will have a preferred formation they would like to play if they could. The
formation I am very intrigued by at the moment is a 4-2-3-1 formation. I feel this formation (with the right
personnel) has many advantages. I feel it has a good balance between attack and defence, it allows the player on the
ball to have many different passing options, and if carried out correctly, makes it very difficult for the defending
team to mark a number of different players. This formation also allows a number of your attacking players to receive
the ball in between the opposition's defence and midfield line where maximum damage can be caused.
Roles and Responsibilities
In a 4-2-3-1 formation you need a GK who is comfortable with the ball at his feet. The GK should be able to play out
from the back when he receives a back pass. They should also be a good reader of the game as they will need to be a
sweeper for any potential through balls the opposition try.
You are looking for two athletic full backs who are capable of getting up and down the pitch throughout the game
providing options for their team. They should be comfortable with the ball at their feet when attacking and have a
positive attitude to beat an opposition player when they are high up the pitch. They also need to be a very good
defender in a 1v1 situation as they will sometimes have no support from the wide player in front of them.
Your CB's roles and responsibilities in this formation does not really change from any other formation you play. They
need to be good readers of the game, physical, good in the air, and have good positional sense. They will however
like every player in this formation need to be comfortable in possession of the ball, and happy to pass the ball
forward to their centre midfielders.
Centre Midfield/Defensive Midfield
The two players who play in this formation have a massive responsibility for the team. Both players need to be very
confident with the ball at their feet. They will be required to go and get the ball of their defenders and look to keep
the ball throughout the game. Their decision making of when to keep the ball and when to try a more penetrative
pass to their attacking midfield is vital, as if they lose the ball in this position the team is extremely vulnerable to a
counter attack. They should also be more defence minded as they will need to be disciplined and hold their position;
they will not have the freedom the attacking midfielders have. At least one of the players should be especially good
at breaking up the opposition's possession of the ball where possible.
Although I have called these `wide players' they do not necessarily have to be `wide players'. These players should
have the freedom to come inside of the line and try to cause damage or to stay out wide and try and beat their
fullback. These should be intelligent wingers who try to find pockets/space in between the oppositions defence and
midfield. They should have good athleticism and capable of beating their fullbacks with pace and trickery. They
should also have the opportunity to work of either flank. This will keep the defenders guessing as they will be able to
dribble inside their fullbacks onto their stronger foot. This will also allow your fullbacks to provide you with width by
overlapping if your wingers decide to go narrow. Although they are predominantly attacking players they will have a
very important defensive role by stopping their fullback getting passed them.
This is your `playmaker'. This is the player who will cause damage to your opposition with their intelligent passes and
the positions they take up. This should be a player who can score goals, and be the creator of goals. They should be
extremely comfortable in possession of the ball, capable of working in tight areas, and not afraid to try an eye of the
needle type pass. Their main aim is to take up positions in between the opposition's defence and midfield line. This
will cause all sorts of problems as defenders will not want to come and mark him, and midfielders will struggle to
keep an eye on him as he is working behind them.
This is a very important role in the team as this player can make or break your formation. You require your centre
forward to be an excellent target man for your team. They should be capable of holding a long ball up and waiting
for support while having their back to goal, and also a threat running in behind. The centre forward should be trying
to link up with the attacking midfielder as much as possible. They should have good strength, speed, good hold up
play, and intelligent runs.
Below is a diagram showing the red team using a 4-2-3-1 formation agasint a blue 4-4-2.
The diagram below better describes what I mean when I have said about the attacking midfielders playing in
between the oppositions defence and midfield line. The yellow squares shows the areas you would like you're
attacking players to be taking up when your team is in possession.
This picture shows how your central attacking midfielder can really cause some damage. As you can see red player
10 as taken up a position in between the lines. By doing this a blue defender will not want to go and mark him in fear
of leaving space in behind. The 2 blue centre midfielders will have a decision to make whether to mark him and leave
the more defensive centre midfielder free (red player 8), or to press the red centre midfielder (player 8). As you can
see if you can get the ball to your attacking midfielder in between the lines you have now created a very promising
position in a 4v4 situation.
If like stated in the previous comment the blue central midfielder (player 8) does decide to mark the red attacking
midfielder (player 10) you are then looking for your two defensive midfielders to work the ball out to your full back.
If done quickly the full back should have a lot of space to now go and attack. By the red player 11 being narrow in
this situation this has caused the blue right midfielder to come and mark him, leaving the red player 3 lots of grass to
attack at pace.
In this situation the blue right midfielder (player 7) has decided to go and try to stop the red left back (player 3) from
getting the ball. This has now left a nice pocket of space in between the lines for the red player 11 to take up. Once
player 11 receives the ball, they need to be positive and drive forward. You are then looking for you centre forward
to make an arced run in behind. This will then allow you central attacking midfielder to attack the space the centre
forward has just left.
These diagrams are just a couple of examples of the different options the team has when in possession of the ball in
the middle. I strongly believe that if you have players who are comfortable on the ball and can take up intelligent
positions it will cause the opposition all sorts of problems. They will not know whether to go and mark, to drop off,
who to let have the ball and who to try and stop getting the ball. These problems are all caused due to the
formations flexibility. You are allowing your most attack minded and creative players the freedom to take up
positions where players do not want to go and mark in.
I hope you have found this article somewhat interesting... and has maybe provided you with a few ideas for yourself.
Below is a premiership all star 11 playing in a 4-2-3-1 formation that I have selected. Let me know how you would try
and combat this team.....
My Premiership 11 in a 4-2-3-1 formation
Nemanja Vidic Thomas Vermaelen
Micah Richards Ashely Cole
Jack Wilshere Michael Essien
Daniel Sturridge David Silva Nani
Robin Van Persie
For my premiership 11 I believe I have chosen players whose natural attributes best suit the roles and
responsibilities required for playing in a 4-2-3-1 formation. You may ask how have I left players like Wayne Rooney,
Luka Modric, Theo Walcott and Steven Gerrard out of my team? The reason they have not been selected is I believe
there natural game would not suit them playing in this formation as much as the players I have selected. I am not
saying these players could not play in this formation, I just believe they are more suited to other formations.