Football Formations And Tactics Explained

Posted on December 3rd, 2019

Besides huge bonuses like the promotion for Ladbrokes for soccer punters, one of the greatest things about football is that there are thousands of ways to play. As such, it’s the team manager’s job to mold how a team plays, and you can note a massive difference between how elite teams play compared to amateurs. Each side can employ different tactics and formations to maximize their efficiency and improve their chances of success. 

In this article, you’ll find a coach’s guide to the best tactics and formations that teams use, highlighting their most crucial weaknesses and strengths.

The Classic 4-4-2

As one of the earliest formations in football, the 4-4-2 formation is regularly used in English football today. The formation has been used by lots of teams all over the globe, though employing it in big clubs with huge ambitions is seen as an indication of a club’s inability to pull off more advanced tactics.


  • With two dedicated strikers, the midfield needn’t delay trying getting the ball to advanced positions.
  • The primary attackers can drive the ball forward without waiting for midfield support.
  • Playing two midfielders can contribute to flurries of crosses driven into the box.
  • It’s ease of execution, and clear structure makes it great for teams under pressure.


  • Highly rigid and predictable
  • The central midfielders face enormous pressure to defend and attack continually
  • It can be hard to retain the ball against a three-person central midfield


With this system, Jose Mourinho was very successful during his first spell with Chelsea. The system is still prevalent in the world today, benefiting teams with players who are incredible at passing the ball. The formation also allows the players to express themselves in a system prioritizing intelligent ball movement to create scoring opportunities.


  • Playing two advanced wide forwards limits the opponent’s attacking options against you.
  • With two midfield players taking an all-round role and one focusing on the defense, a team can dominate in midfield possession against an opponent with two players in the middle.
  • The system can be easily altered to a defensive 4-1-4-1 in case there’s massive pressure in a game.


  • For maximum success with the 4-3-3 formation, a team must possess players capable quickly when it comes to distribution and positioning.
  • The central striker has a considerable responsibility to possess the ball regularly and bring the attacking players in the game from their wide positions.


Sometimes, it may seem like every team in the world has tried the 4-2-3-1 formation. It’s the system of choice for many top-tier clubs today, with the Premier League teams seemingly falling in love with it due to its power to trump over the classic 4-4-2 formation. 


  • It involves passing the ball in triangles, which is more effective in breaking down the opponents compared to moving in straight lines.
  • The formation’s great flexibility makes it hard to get overrun in the midfield.
  • Having several attacking players means that the players can drop deep without losing the offensive threat in case there’s a chance on the counter-attack.


  • The physical exertion can be a problem sometimes.
  • The attacking players face tremendous pressure
  • The consistent physical strain might lead to sub-optimal and tired players towards the end of the season.

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