Soccer Formations: 5-3-2

5-3-2, soccer formations, soccer tactics, formation based soccer training, soccer training tips

Protecting a lead? 5-3-2 might do the trick. Not wanting to take too many risks going forward and keeping it fairly tight in the back is this formation in a nutshell.

Got too many John Terry's you don't know what to do with? First, hide your best friends wives, ya I went there. Next sort out your back line by being able to play all of them with this fairly defensive set up.

Compare and contrast pro sides formation that resemble this one and see how to plug into your own team's mentality. Variations and player responsibilities listed help in creating a uniform analysis of the formation.

When to Play With Five in the Back

To be honest you will not see any pro teams these days line up with five in the back, completely unheard of. If anything they will have two holding defensive center midfielders but almost never five in the back.

Putting that many in the back is showing some serious respect for your opponents. Not only respect but you're also asking to be peppered with an attack all game long.

The most common time you'll see the line up of 5-3-2 is if one team is playing another team where they feel they have no chance in heaven of winning. Lining up with five is saying we want a low scoring game and try not to punish us too badly please.

You're better off going for it with an all out attack then sitting back so much. But if you think that this will do it then play with four flat and one in behind. The other team will get the message that you're playing conservatively and are willing to sit in your half with eleven behind the ball for the full ninety.

Strengths/Weaknesses of a 5-3-2


-Defensively secure

-Solid foundation up the spine (Gk, CB, CM, ST)

-Tough to break down

-Ability to hit a team on the counter


-Lack of attacking options

-Lack of wing presence

-Tough to keep a team motivated while defending all game

-Tired legs from chasing around attackers in their own half all game

-Goals win games, and they are tough to come by in a 5-3-2.

Defenders Positioning

The Defensive line can play:

-Flat back 5 straight across (very uncommon)

-Flat back 4, 1 Sweeper in behind the line (allows for lots of defensive protection, again quite uncommon)

Defenders Responsibilities

As a unit the back four should:

-With that many players back should be a solid almost impenetrable line

-Keep the attacking side from generating any offense deep in their third

-Protect the middle of the park

Center Backs:

-Disrupt the flow of the attacking side

-Ability to be aggressive in tackling considering all the cover

-Able to organize and collect team shape

Outside Backs:

-Patrol the entire flank considering withdrawn outside midfielders

-Ability to go forward considering all the protection in the back line

-Service from wide areas to supporting attacking players

Midfielders Positioning

The Midfield line can play:

-Flat 3 across the middle

-Triangle, 1 holding two in front

-Triangle inverted, 2 holding 1 in front

Midfielders Responsibilities

As a unit the midfielders should:

-Retain possession of the ball, the brain of the team

-Play on both sides of the ball, keeping the formation discipline

Center Midfielders:

-Attack in the right situation and take risks going forward

-Combine with the strikers and be creative in the final third

-Be the engine of the team

Outside Midfielders:

-The lack of flank threat in this formation makes it difficult for midfielders to get wide. In the case they get pulled out wide the objective is to retain the possession of the ball and look to play more central or forward.

Strikers Positioning

The Forward line can play:

-Flat 2 playing close and off of one another (most common)

-1 in front of the other or staggered in several variations

Strikers Responsibilities

-All the freedom in the world in the final third

-Take players on all day

-First line of defensive pressure funneling defenders of the opposition to play forward not back

-Put their names on the score sheet even though the 5-3-2 is more defensive the expectations of a striker never changes

This set up gives little attack with the three midfielders and two strikers, but goals can still happen. If the outside backs get involved going forward then you can increase your chances of putting the ball in the back of the net.

Typically (not always) sitting with this many back can pull your opponent deep in your end thinking they have nothing to protect behind them. That's when you hit them with the counter your conservative formation just picked your side up the victory. The 5-3-2 is very rare in modern football but you don't get anything out of being ordinary.

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