Everything you need to know about soccer formations

Soccer is one of those games that requires a lot of pre-planning. Every soccer game requires a strategy, a formation, a plan and so on. Over the years of soccer leagues, soccer managers have tried a variety of soccer formations in order to beat their opponent. This article will discuss these soccer match formations in detail.

What are soccer formations?

Soccer is more than just chasing the ball on the field and scoring a goal. Each team will spread its teammate across all the soccer field and assign them a task to do.

A soccer formation is a description of how the soccer players of a specific team will be distributed on the field. A 4-3-3 formation means that the team will have 4 defenders, 3 midfielders and 3 offenders. 

A team might change it’s formation between matches, and they might even change their formation during the exact same match.

Usually, when you see a soccer formation represented in numbers or dashes, it follows the following formula: x-y-z | x represents defense | y represents midfield | z represents the offence(attack).

However, soccer formations aren’t limited to 3 numbers. Some formations contain 4. For example, a 4-2-3-1 formation is very well known. In this formation, 4 players will be defenders, 2 players will stand between the defense and the midfielders, 3 players will be in the mid field and only one player(usually a striker) will be on the offensive position.

Keep in mind that these formations are for a team consisting of 11 team members. If you don’t already know, the standard number of soccer players on the field in each team is 11.

The number representations of the formations above contain only 10 players. The reason why is because the goal keeper isn’t included in a soccer formation numeric representation.

Each team has one goal keeper on the field, and this goalkeeper will always stay in the same position. With that said, it is completely useless to include the goalkeeper in a numeric representation of a soccer formation.

How are soccer formations decided?

There are many factors that play a huge role when it comes to deciding what formation a soccer team should use. Here are some of the factors:

1- The team coach’s preference

I’ll start this section with an example. Jose Mourinho is one of the good soccer managers out there. He’s very well known for this extensive usage of the 4-2-3-1 formation.

Mourinho has used this formation in most of the teams that he has coached. While his formation worked on some teams, it didn’t work on others.

Mourinho is a great example of when a coach decides that they want to stick with a certain soccer formation no matter what team they coach.

2- The team players’ skills

Even though a team coach might want to use their favorite soccer formation, sometimes they just can’t because the team players’ skills do not fit the formation.

It’s not always the case where you have a player for every position in every soccer formation. There is almost no soccer player that can deliver great results in every single soccer position on the field.

There are players who are very good at being offenders, or defenders, or midfielders, but it’s very hard to find a player that can do all at the same time.

With that said, coaches need to make sure that they are using their team player’s capabilities the best way they can. They need to come up with formations that can yield better results with the available team players.

Thus, the team player’s skills can heavily influence the formation picked for a specific soccer team.

3- The opponent.

Soccer coaches usually have to study the plan of their opponents in order to come up with a plan that works best against these opponents.

With that said, opponents have great influence on the formation that a soccer team decides to use.

This happens during matches between 2 high profile soccer clubs. The coaches of each team go and watch previous games of their opponents in order to figure out the best way to beat them.

Many soccer coaches change their formation when they face big soccer teams in the hopes that the new formation delivers great results against these teams.

4- Injuries or suspensions

Let’s say that a coach uses a 4-4-1-1 formation because they know that their striker is an excellent talent and they can rely on them alone to score goals. What happens when the striker either gets injured or suspended for a few matches?

The coach might have to change their whole formation in order to adapt to the talent loss. With that said, losing any talent on the team for any reason can cause a change in the usual soccer formation that the team uses.

Enough talking about theories and let’s talk about some of the best 11v11 soccer formations.

What are the most common 11v11 soccer formations?

4-3-3 formation

This formation is one of the most famous soccer formations ever used. It is heavily used by huge soccer teams these days.

As you can tell, the formation favors none of the 3 major positions on the field. The players are almost evenly distributed between defense, midfield and offense.

Such a formation requires that a team has enough talents for all of the 3 main positions on the field, else the team will face a hard time during any game.

4-2-3-1 formation

Again, this is a very famous formation in soccer. This formation tries to gain the midfield strength that the 4-3-3 formation offers while making sure that the defense is in good shape.

In this formation, 6 players (the 4 defenders and the 2 defense midfielders) are enough on defense whenever the opponent team has the ball close to the goal. Also, 4 players are more than enough as attackers in order to score goals.

The formation makes good use of the midfielders. The defensive midfielders will have to do both their midfield job and the defense’s job when their team don’t have the ball. The same applies with the attacker midfield players.

5-4-1 formation

This formation completely relies on the defense in order to win the game. Usually, when one of the competing teams uses this soccer formation, the game doesn’t include many goals. 

The reason behind that is because the team using this formation will be heavily defending their goal, and they will only rely on throwing the ball to their striker and hoping that he/she scores.

4-4-2 formation

This is another defensive soccer formation used by great teams. The 4-4-2 formation is a great formation when the team doesn’t have the ball. 8 players from the team will try and block the opponent’s way towards the goal.

Once the team grabs the ball from their opponent, they initiate a quick counter attack and they use the talent of their 2 strikers to score as many goals as possible.

How many soccer formations are there?

There are hundreds of ways a team can distribute their players on the field. The above formations are widely adapted only because they have proven to be effective during professional soccer matches.

However, if you believe that a formation where all players on your field should be attackers, then go ahead and give it a try. There’s nothing preventing any soccer coach from using their own soccer formations.