The 4-4-1-1 is a variation of a more common set up. The beauty of this formation is you can have several players playing more than one role on the pitch. All depending on the talent you have to work with. If you're trying to fly like eagles and you're working with chickens, you might have some issues.
You can compare this formation with professional sides that line up the same way and see what works for them and what doesn't. Many sides use this formation when you have a second striker who is an extremely hard worker and knows how to put the ball on a silver platter for the post to finish. Below are the options, variations and responsibilities of everyone on the pitch that line up this way. No matter what, it's going to come down to how you manage each player in this position so be flexible and make it work.
Isn't This the Same as a 4-4-2?
Yes, with one small difference. The attacking center midfielder that sits above the midfield line has a bit more defensive responsibilities and has all the freedom to roam offensively.
This can prove to be an effective adjustment if you don't have two pure strikers that can play as a pairing up top. This way you still have the defensive shape you want with a play maker that sits in that role and just does his thing. His thing better be creating a bang offensively because he's not there for his D that's for sure.
Every team has that extremely talented lazy player who can change the game with one pass or strike. This is the ideal position for them. They don't have much to think about, the position has complete freedom, you'll take what you can get defensively and your team now has that threat to be dangerous frequently.
If you're not getting what you want from your strikers this may be your simple fix.
The Defensive line can play:
-Flat back four (2 center backs, 2 outside backs straight across)
-Flat back three with sweeper in behind them to assist and protect the back line
As a unit the back four should:
-Be able to be aggressive in their tackling particularly in open field areas
-Organize team shape and discipline as they see fit in front of them
-Be a stuck in selfless unit
-No one ball should beat both of them in the air or on the ground, one steps one provides cover
-Anticipate formation changes of the opponents and communicate and adjust accordingly
-Able to get stuck in and break up plays as they develop
-Ability to join the attack with their outside midfielders (give and go's, overlaps and balls in behind)
-Ability to provide width in possession and a constant outlet for the central midfielders
The Midfield line can play:
-Flat 4 across the middle (common in such a formation)
-Flat 3, 1 behind as a defensive center midfielder
-Flat 3, 1 in front as an attacking center midfielder
-Diamond, 1 holding, 2 more wide, 1 above attacking
-Control and change tempo of the match as things progress
-Ability to link forward and keep possession of the ball until attacking opportunities present themselves
-High level of work is necessary to hold the middle of the park on both sides of the ball
-Generally effective when one carries more of the offensive responsibilities and the other the defensive. (piano carrier and a piano player)
-Give width to the formation and team shape
-Ability to attack in wide areas of the pitch and in behind the back line of the opponents
-High work rate and ball pressure for the outside fullback who is providing the cover
The Forward line can play:
-Generally the 4-4-1-1 is only played with one striker in front of the other.
-Also any variation of staggering them in wide areas or central areas
Strikers Responsibilities in a 4-4-1-1
-Provide a fairly high line of ball pressure to the opponents
-Funnel the opposing defense to go forward rather than retain possession going backward
-Play off of one another particularly if one strikers assignment is the target player and the other has more pace and playing off of them
-Make the fans get out of their seats with balls in the net, the 4-4-1-1 can create several goal scoring opportunities if executed properly
Sometimes it's the little things that make a huge difference in a successful team. Although having your forwards play this way may seem like such an insignificant change, it can pay huge dividends if you can find the right player to fill the role.
You don't need to live and die by this formation and jump ship as soon as you aren't getting what you want. The 4-4-1-1 can be a variation of your teams system when needing a bit more punch forward in a game which you're missing that little extra spark.
Do you have a great story or tip about this formation?