What Are Some Of The Best Formations In Soccer?

formations in soccer

Formations in soccer, Soccer Tactics and Soccer Strategy from professional training grounds.

Does 4-4-2 sound like a pizza place near your house?

Take the pepperoni off your eyes and uncover them to all the strategies you've been looking for.

Are you a player wanting to understand the game as well as your coach and know your teams soccer system inside and out? Or a coach wanting to deepen your understanding of the game and strategies of the game?

Then get off the couch and do something about it, kidding of course, click below for all you need and more.

Overview Of The Best Formations In Soccer You Should Know

Think you're the kind of player that fits in a 3-4-3? or maybe sitting back and countering in a 4-5-1 is more your style. Whichever you see your team playing find out the benefits and pitfalls of each of the formations in soccer.

Goals? or no goals against? Compare and contrast different soccer formations:

There are so many different formation variations it would be impossible to list them all. Here are the basic offensive minded and defensive minded formations we see most commonly in world soccer.

Think of formations like templates, they have a great framework and overall foundation in place but there is a lot of custom work and specific tweaking. Although a formation may seem like it has strict setup remember you are the artist and the formation is merely a type of brush, not what the final painting is going to look like.


| 4-3-3 | 4-5-1 | 4-4-1-1 |

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

The formations in soccer you choose should not just be based on your own pre-conceived notions of if it works or not. You must judge the formation you play on several factors such as:

1. The opponents style of play

2. Your players ability

3. Your players physical preparation

4. The pitch

5. The weather

6. The strengths and weakness of the opposition.

Most Common Formations In Soccer


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The 4-4-2 is the most common and known formation in today's modern game.

Depending upon your mentality of play this formation can be an offensive minded or defensive minded formation depending upon certain tactical choices.


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Start with a 4-3-3 if you want to catch your opponent on their heels and apply some early offensive pressure.

This formation may be just what you need. Being able to pressure with a high line of strikers may get your opponents out of their rhythm early. You need a strong middle of the park if you're planning to use this set.


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The 4-5-1 isn't for every team but if you wanna win the middle of the park, then it is for you.

Defend in numbers and attack off the counter more your style?

Then the 4-5-1 may be the perfect formation for you. Patience, unity and taking your chances when they come is this formation in a nutshell.


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The 4-4-1-1 allows you to be strong in the back, not give anything easy up and play it fairly safe to start with.

Can be commonly used when your talent consists of a clinical finisher and a facilitator instead of two pure strikers, hence the withdrawn forward.


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The 4-2-3-1 screams THE MIDDLE OF THE PARK IS MINE!!! Or at least you're thinking it. Two holding center midfielders in front of a back four really solidifies the middle of the pitch.

If you have a Kante and a Casemiro killing each other for this spot in training this is a nice way of making them both happy and being able to sleep peacefully at night if you're a coach.

If you're looking for a deeper dive into this formation have a read at this article that discuses A Tactical Comparison of the 4-2-3-1 and the 3-5-2 formation.


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Protecting a lead? Welcome to the 5-3-2. It eliminates the offside trap allowing strikers of opposing sides to be more dynamic in your danger areas.

Giving up your flanks and staying very defensive is this formations basic concept.


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Well well well, look at you 3-4-3 Mr. Offense. No risk no reward eh? Attacking minded football, possession oriented play and goals are what soccer formations like the 3-4-3 are all about.

You better capitalize on your chances because you could be exploited in the back if you don't pocket your opportunities with so much committed forward.


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More offence you say? 3-5-2 it is then. Again fairly offensive minded, this time five midfielders which would promote keeping the ball and using your play makers on the park as much as possible throughout the midfield line.

The three in the back must have pace to compensate as well. This is one of the stronger offensive oriented soccer formations used in professional soccer.

If you're a player in this formation and you see something worth mentioning feel free to let your coach know. Sometimes valuable information of the way your team lines up can be invaluable to a coach trying to make the entire system run smoothly.

Experiment with several formations and variations of them depending upon what you're working with to find the best soccer formations suitable for your side.

Is Knowing Different Formations In Soccer Important Or Just Overrated?

If you've ever wondered how to get an edge as a player the answer might understanding how your position works in the bigger picture of a team formation. Several players become even better players when they start to coach on the side and start seeing the game from a different wider lens.

When you are playing you are playing in first person, seeing the game from the ground level and really only understanding your position and what is happening right in front of your eyes.

When you watch yourself on tape or start coaching you begin to realize and see how you or one player operates in the grand scheme of things.

So if you get the chance to review video or coach think about these things while watching yourself play in a team formation.

Top 5 Things To Think About While Reviewing Your Role In Any Of The Formations In Soccer

1. Relationship

  • You should ask yourself what is the relationship between me and the person directly in front of me, behind me and beside me.

2. Space

  • You need to think about where is the space before and after I receive the ball.

3. Danger

  • This time you need to know where the danger is when you receive the ball.

4. Off The Ball

  • Are you in the optimal space off of the ball to exploit the defence and which sorts of movements can you create space for yourself and others.

5. Joining Vs Retreating

  • In which situations should I be looking to join the attack versus helping out and defending.
  • Which part of the field am I in and what is the current situation of the game. Up a goal? Down a goal? etc.

Should You Learn To Play In Different Formations In Soccer?

A flexible player is so incredibly vital to any coach. A player that can step in to several different roles is incredibly valuable to any team. If you are a central midfielder and you can play as a holding center mid, play flat with just two center mids or even sit behind the striker right away you have give your team more chances to win.

Whether it is with your club team or friendly games always look to see if you can play in a slightly different role and formation to expand your knowledge of the game. I've seen top clubs at training and exhibition games switch players (winger and fullback for example) so they can feel what it's like to be in the other person's shoes in that particular formation.

Highly recommend you explore beyond your position and formation, the more you learn the more your IQ as a soccer player will begin to rise.

While you're watching your youtube videos have a look at pro players with the same qualities as you play in different formations and see what their affect on the game is, watch and learn.

What Are The Most Common Formations In Soccer At The Pro Level?

Different formations are always coming in and out of fashion. In the past it used to be the classic 4-4-2 that everyone played, and before that teams used to always play with a sweeper!

As you probably know a lot has changed. So these days the in vogue formation seems to be the 4-2-3-1 and the 4-3-3.

Why? Formations usually have to do with the times and the generation of players and coaches and the formations that now coaches used to play in. They take what they like and add to it to take on different formations and systems.

Other times it's just completely random and one famous coach or team starts playing a certain way and everyone worldwide wants to follow.

What Are The Best Formations In Soccer

I hope you weren't expecting me to actually choose just one while reading this question. The answer is of course, it depends. If there were one best formation everyone would play it and whoever lost would say this isn't the best formation. The best formation is the one that suits the players of the team to get the most out of them win or lose.

Now we've all been on teams that had talented players but just never clicked or seemed synchronized. This obviously could be a lot of different factors but it could also be not having the right people in the right spots aka your team formation.

The first question a coach should ask a player is what is your preferred position, after that the coach needs to assess all of the players qualities and then see formation that will get the most people in their best spots which in turn will get the most out of the group.

So which formations in soccer are the best? Say it after me, the formation which gets the best out of the group.

Do Formations In Soccer Change When You Are Defending and Attacking?

Now you're thinking! You need to ask yourself (or your coach) what is my role in this formation when we have the ball and when the opponent has the ball.

The positioning of where you are playing may differ and change the formation completely so a simple yes is the answer but you also need to be thinking deeper about what is my role when situation x is happening in the game.

Top 3 Ways Players Get Pulled Out Of Position

1. Dribbling Too Much Into Foreign Areas

  • Stick to your channel relative to your position, the more you go all over the place the more it unbalances your teammates and your teams formation.

2. Set Pieces

  • Corners, free kicks and long throw ins get players from both teams all mixed up and out of synch, remember to recover quickly after the set piece is over.

3. Chasing The Ball

  • Defensively don't try and pressure the ball all over the field like a mad man.
  • Wait for your moment relative to your position and then do the work, trust your teammates to do the same.

What Are The Hardest Formations In Soccer To Play?

Well that's easy, the one you've never played in of course! Well if you're a defender then most of you have probably played in a back four majority of your youth so anything different from that (a back 3 for example) I'm sure has posed it's challenges for you.

Now if you're a central midfielder the less center mids you have (2 vs 3) there will be obvious challenges defensively so I'm sure that was a difficult formation to perform in. Strikers always want a partner in crime so playing in certain formations in soccer where the striker is all by themselves has its obvious hurdles as well.

The easy answer here is the formation which gives you less support from your teammates (less defenders, center mids or strikers) and playing in a position which is foreign to you no matter the formation is the most difficult set up for any player.

This is why educating yourself on different formations and being open to play and try different set ups can really pay long term dividends for your overall soccer IQ and game.

So next time your coach is looking to play you in a wide area, part of a back 3 or higher up the pitch be flexible and open to it and take it as a chance to learn a side of the game you didn't know.

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