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4-4-2 3-5-2 4-5-1 4-3-3 3-4-3 5-3-2 5-4-1

A 4-4-2 Formation        4-4-2 Flatback

The 4-4-2 formations are probably the most common formations next to the 3-5-2. The sweeper/stopper version has the sweeper as a "Last Chance Defender" behind the defensive line. The flat back formation is for more advanced teams and requires a high level of fitness. Below are some details about the individual positions.

Sweeper (SW) The sweeper should have a good understanding of the game and be a leader on the field. He controls the defence, always staying behind the fullbacks.
Stopper (ST) The stopper is responsible for marking the centre forward or centre midfielder of the other team. He also has an important offensive part of distributing the ball to the midfielders.
Left/Right Backs (LB/RB) In the flat back formation, they mark the opponent's forwards and are the only real defenders. These players have to be dependable and willing to give up any kind of offensive play.
Left/Right Defenders (LD/RD) They mark the opponent's forwards. In the flat back version, or in more advanced teams these players are used to carry the ball up the outside with the midfielders, allowing more effective crossing.
Left/Right Mid-fielders (LM/RM) They are in charge for the crosses in the offence, and they usually carry the ball up the field, since they have more room than the centre mid-fielders.
Left/Right Centre mid-fielders (LC/RC) Distribute the ball among the offenders and try to stop or slow down opposing plays before they get to the defensive line. Good passing, and ball handling skills are needed to fill this position.
Forwards (F1/F2) In these very basic formations, the forwards do no special work. Runs to the corners need to be only occasional, and dropping back to the midfield shouldn't be the primary way of getting the ball. This position is actually self explanatory.

 

3-5-2 Sweeper       3-5-2 Flatback

The 3-5-2 formations are used by teams whose players know to work together. This lineup is slightly more offensive than the 4-4-2. The defenders need to communicate well, and the midfield has to be included into defending a great deal. Details are below

Sweeper (SW) In this formation, the sweeper needs absolute control over the defenders. The communication between the defenders has to be errorless, since they are more likely to be outnumbered than the 4-4-2 defenders.
Stopper (ST) The stopper has more responsibility than usual. He does mark a forward, but he also organizes the defence.
Left/Right Defenders (LD/RD) Communication is the key to a happy marriage and a stable 3 men defence. These players should be less active in offensive plays unless the midfielders can fill in sufficiently.
Left/Right Centre mid-fielders (LC/RC) Both centre mid-fielders play a defensive part in this lineup. They cover for the centre mid-fielder who leads the offensive plays, and at least one of them functions as a defender when the ball is in their own half.
Left/right Midfielders (LM/RM) Need to call for the ball more than usual, since a team with a central midfielder tends to drive the ball up the middle rather than the outsides.
Centre mid-fielder (CM) This player needs good ball handling and passing skills, for he has the control over the offensive plays, distribution of the ball in the opponent's half, and standard situations.
Forwards (F1/F2) One of these should occasionally drop back to support the centre mid-fielder. Other than that, the forwards' assignment should be clear.

 

4-5-1 Sweeper       4-5-1 Flatback

The 4-5-1 lineup is seldom a starting lineup but rather a formation used later in a game, when a lead or a tie need to be saved over time.

Sweeper (SW) The sweeper should have a good understanding of the game and be a leader on the field. He controls the defence, always staying behind the fullbacks.
Stopper (ST) The stopper is responsible for marking the centre forward or centre mid-fielder of the other team. He also has an important offensive part of distributing the ball to the midfielders.
Left/Right Backs (LB/RB) In the flat back formation, they mark the opponent's forwards and are the only real defenders. These players have to be dependable and willing to give up any kind of offensive play.
Left/Right Defenders (LD/RD) They mark the opponent's forwards. In the flat back version, or in more advanced teams these players are used to carry the ball up the outside with the midfielders, allowing more effective crossing.
Left/Right Mid-fielders (LM/RM) When playing 4-5-1, outside midfielders need to take charge and demand the ball more than usual. With only one forward, offensive plays have to be played over the outsides, since a 5 men midfield can hardly push up fast enough to support the single forward.
Centre mid-fielders (LC/CM/RC) Even though offensive plays should be played over the outsides, quick passes through the middle can be an effective tool. If at least two of the centre mid-fielders are fast enough to perform a counterattack, they can easily involve the forward into this play and either win time or go for the goal.
Forward (F1) The single forward will have to cope with a game with few chances to score, for this formation is usually used to hold the ball and win where offence is ranked only second. The forward will also have to fight for every ball in the offence and do a tremendous amount of running. A substitute should be brought into the game should the 4-5-1 be performed over a longer period of time.

 

4-3-3

Being a rarely used formation, 4-3-3 is not completely defined. The roles of the three forwards, however, are clear. Two should be making runs to the outsides and one either dropping back or waiting for the cross. The midfielders adapt their runs and running paths to those of the forwards. The defence can't count on much support from the midfield.

Left/Right Backs (LB/RB) They are the only real defenders. These players have to be dependable and willing to give up any kind of offensive play.
Left/Right Defenders (LD/RD) They mark the opponent's forwards. These players can be used to carry the ball up the outside with the midfielders, allowing more effective crossing. They also can be sacrificed for a defence with more depth
Centre mid-fielders (LC/CM/RC) Distribute the ball among the offenders and try to stop or slow down opposing plays before they get to the defensive line. Also, the offence depends on occasional crosses and long balls down the lines, since the 3 midfielders cannot work the ball forward. These players have to concentrate on holding possession.
Forwards (F1/F2/F3) Runs to the corners feed the offence, and dropping back is usually the only way of getting the ball, due to just 3 midfielders.

 

3-4-3

3-4-3 is probably the most offensively concerned startup formation. It is used against teams that are expected to play defensively, or in cases when several goals are needed, for whatever reason. The positions are basically the same as in other startups. The only difference might be that the outside forwards need to make runs to the corners, since the outside midfielders are rather busy with defensive jobs.

Sweeper (SW) The sweeper should have a good understanding of the game and be a leader on the field. He controls the defence, always staying behind the fullbacks.
Left/Right Backs (LB/RB) Mark the opponent's forwards.. These players have to be dependable and willing to give up any kind of offensive play.
Left/Right Defenders (LD/RD) They mark the opponent's forwards. In the flat back version, or in more advanced teams these players are used to carry the ball up the outside with the midfielders, allowing more effective crossing.
Left/Right Mid-fielders (LM/RM) They are in charge for the crosses in the offence, and they usually carry the ball up the field, since they have more room than the centre mid-fielders. This time, the defence should be the more important of the tasks.
Left/Right Centre mid-fielders (LC/RC) Distribute the ball among the offenders and try to stop or slow down opposing plays before they get to the defensive line. Good passing, and ball handling skills are needed to fill this position.
Forwards (F1/F2/F3) Runs to the corners are the primary weapons of forwards. The centre forward and the opposite forward should break inside to receive the cross.

 

5-3-2

The 5-3-2 is a rather defensive lineup against teams who are known to have a weakness in the defence center. Due to the lack of real outside midfielders offensive plays are likely to develop through the middle.

Sweeper (SW) The sweeper has a little more freedom in this lineup. He is able to make runs to the midfield since the defence can get along without him. He should avoid becoming the fourth midfielder though, since the opposing offence can easily adapt to this change.
Left/Right Backs (LB/RB) In the flat back formation, they mark the opponent's forwards and are the only real defenders. These players have to be dependable and willing to give up any kind of offensive play.
Left/Right Defenders (LD/RD) They mark the offensive midfielders, making the game easier for the midfielders. In more advanced teams these players are used to carry the ball up the outside with the midfielders, allowing more effective crossing. The 5-3-2 isn't suited for this, though.
Left/Right Mid-fielders (LM/RM) Defence prevails when playing 5-3-2. Through good communication, the midfield can win a man for the offence, if at least one midfielder does the defensive part of the play.
Centre mid-fielder (CM) Distribute the ball among the offenders and try to stop or slow down opposing plays before they get to the defensive line. Good passing, and ball handling skills are needed to fill this position.
Forwards (F1/F2) The forward basically have to do all the work for themselves by themselves. That means hustling after every ball and dropping back into midfield on more than one occasion.

 

5-4-1

The 5-4-1 adds to a 4 men flat back a sweeper, which indicates that this lineup is highly defensive. It is used as a starting lineup for teams that are playing a team with a faster midfield than one's own. As in the 4-5-1, the forward (F1) will have to run tremendously, so that a substitution will be necessary.

Sweeper (SW) The sweeper should be supporting the midfield, since the defence ought to be able to stop or slow down an attack without the sweeper.
Stopper (ST) The stopper is responsible for marking the centre forward or centre mid-fielder of the other team. He also has an important offensive part of distributing the ball to the midfielders.
Left/Right Backs (LB/RB) In the flat back formation, they mark the opponent's forwards and are the only real defenders. These players have to be dependable and willing to give up any kind of offensive play.
Left/Right Defenders (LD/RD) Cover the outsides of the field. If successful, opponents' offensive game is shut down severely. Since the entire 5-4-1 concentrates on defence, these players should not be expected to support the offence.
Left/Right Mid-fielders (LM/RM) When playing 5-4-1, outside midfielders need to take charge and demand the ball more than usual. With only one forward, offensive plays have to be played over the outsides, since a 5 men midfield can hardly push up fast enough to support the single forward.
Centre mid-fielders (LC/CM/RC) Fast centre mid-fielders with a good ball control are essential for counterattacks, usually the only way to score with the 5-4-1 (assuming that the opponent is considered somewhat superior). It is also necessary for the midfielders to hold their positions and not to fall back too much, because that would crowd the space in front of the own goal to such an extent that getting rid of the ball becomes possible only by clearing the ball: a certain way of losing possession.
Forward (F1) The single forward will have to cope with a game with few chances to score, for this formation is usually used to hold the ball and win time where offence is ranked only second. The forward will also have to fight for every ball in the offence and do a tremendous amount of running. A substitute should be brought into the game should the 4-5-1 be performed over a longer period of time.

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Last modified: May 01, 2017