Soccer Formations For Dummies

Everyone who follows football might have come across the following jargon:

“We played with a 4-4-2 but were being outnumbered in the middle so we changed back to 4-2-3-1 to pack the midfield”.

Ever wondered what’s up with these numbers and what’s it got to do with those players on the field. Well, these are called Formations. The formation decides which player plays in what position on the field. The first digit in a formation indicates the number of players playing in defence. The second one indicates the number of players playing in midfield and the third digit indicates the number of forwards. So a 4-4-2 indicates that the team played with 4 defenders, 4 midfielders and 2 forwards. This is a basic explanation of what a formation is and there are a lot of nuances with each one of them. Let’s take a look…

1.) 4-4-2

4-4-2 is a classic formation used by a number of teams across the globes. The most basic of formations, it involves playing 2 central defenders, 2 full backs, 2 central midfielders, 2 wingers and 2 forwards. Here’s what it looks like:

This formation relies heavily on wing play. The wingers and overlapping full backs make it a point to put crosses in the box for the forwards to attack them. The central midfield pairing usually involves a defensive midfielder and a box-to-box midfielder, to break up play and spread the passes to team mates, respectively. On the defensive side, it is important for the wingers to cover for their supporting fullbacks because the system is prone to counter attacks.

A little tweaking in 4-4-2 can change it to a 4-4-1-1 where one of the two forwards takes up the role of a support striker and sits a little deeper than the other to link up play between midfield and attack.

Teams Using 4-4-2: Tottenham, Manchester United

2.) 4-5-1

The safety first formation. The formation basically involves packing the midfield with 3 central midfielders and 2 wingers. The idea is to keep possession in the middle of the park and nullify any threat from the opposing full backs or wingers. While attacking, the lone forward holds up the ball until support arrives from the midfield. Defensively, it is a strong formation because there are banks of 5 and 4 players for the opposition team to pass through.

 This formation is widely used by managers when playing away in European competitions, because of the Away goals rule.

Teams Using 4-5-1: Chelsea(Mourinho era)

3.) 4-3-3

4-3-3 is an attack minded formation that is the rage these days. The midfield usually consists of one defensive midfielder with two box-to-box midfielders. The forward line consists of three attacking players- left, right and centre. The left and right attackers can be traditional or inverted wingers so there are multiple options in attack. The success of a 4-3-3 depends on quick passing between the front three and midfield and an urge to keep possession in the tightest of situations. Due to the emphasis on attack, the defence is prone to counter attacks or balls played over the top.

4-3-3 is guaranteed to bring goals but can be carried out by very few teams because of the quality of players required to play it.

Teams Using 4-3-3: Spain, Barcelona, Arsenal

4.) 4-2-3-1/4-2-1-3

A rather modern formation which is capable of morphing into many others while in play. The system basically involves using 2 midfield anchormen who break up play and support the other 4 attack-minded players. The central attacking midfielder acts as the link between the midfield and forward line. If the right players are involved, this can be one of the most dynamic of formations capable of turning into a 4-5-1 while defending to a 4-3-3 while attacking.

The central attacking midfielder is the most important link in this formation who can be capable of dictating play because of his position. However the whole attacking threat can be nullified by tightly marking the CAM.

Teams Using 4-2-3-1/4-2-1-3: Real Madrid, Manchester City

5.) 3-5-2/3-4-3

The most radical formation of all. The system involves playing 3 central defenders who act as sweepers. The 2 wide men in midfield are required to track back while defending to act as wing-backs. Counter attacks can be carried out very lethally with this formation because there are always a number of options to pass the ball upfront.

Teams Using 3-5-2/3-4-3: Napoli

6.) 4-1-2-1-2

Also known as the Diamond. The midfield is arranged in the form of the diamond where the central attacking midfielder plays at the tip of the diamond and the base is occupied by a defensive midfielder or a deep lying playmaker. The remaining two midfielders can either act like wingers or central midfielders depending upon the situation. If employed effectively, this formation can act as a lot of trouble for the opposition because of the movement and interchange that can happen in between the diamond.

The formation suffers from a lack of width and is easy to attack against if there are speedy wingers and full backs in your team.

Teams Using 4-1-2-1-2: AC Milan, Paris St. German


Why David Villa’s Injury Can Be A Blessing In Disguise For Spanish Strikers

David Villa and Barcelona suffered a major setback at the Club World Cup in Japan this week when the striker suffered a broken leg that can keep him out of action for a minimum of five months. Although the striker is expected to recover before Euro 2012, but doubts will still remain regarding his match fitness.

Any injury is sad, but this one can prove to be a blessing in disguise for the other Spanish strikers who now have to force themselves into Vincent Del Bosque’s reckoning for a starting place at the Euros. Before Fernando Torres’ woeful loss of form, the front of Spain’s 4-4-1-1 would usually be made up of Villa and Torres. However, because of Torres’ failure to recapture his goalscoring mojo, Del Bosque has made changes to his plans by moving Villa in the middle, flanked by two attacking midfielders or wingers.  Now with David Villa seemingly out of the equation, the central striking position is up for grabs. Fernando Torres, Fernando Llorente, Roberto Soldado and Pedro are the players who will be licking their lips at this chance.


Amongst the four names mentioned above, Fernando Torres remains the most high profile name and will probably make the cut, but seriously needs to start putting in more effort to get over his lack of confidence. The Chelsea striker has struggled to get going at Stamford Bridge since his mega money move from Liverpool, and has now fallen down the pecking order under Didier Drogba. If Torres wants the starting spot at the Euros he needs to make the most of the chances that come his way at Chelsea.

Fernando Llorente is not a player in the typical Spanish tiki-taka mould, but adds a different sort of attacking threat to Spain’s play when “Plan A” fails. Llorente is more like a typical English centre forward, able to bully the defenders with his height and strength advantage. The Athletic Bilbao striker will definitely be on the flight to Polkraine, but is more likely to appear as a substitute rather than a starter.

Roberto Soldado has been banging in the goals this season at Valencia, but has failed to reproduce that form at the international level whenever he has had the chances. If Del Bosque picks players based on form, Soldado has to be the first player on the list. Meanwhile, Pedro has also been going on quietly at Barcelona. He has seen his playing time reduced due to the arrivals of Alexis Sanchez and Cesc Fabregas. Pedro would certainly like to have that changed if he wants to go to the Euros and is certainly a handy option to have because of his work rate and technical ability.

All these players will probably make the cut along with David Villa himself, but have a mountain to climb if they want to nail down the starting berth at the Euros. If Villa regains his fitness and form before the tournament, their chances get reduced considerably, but his injury has also opened a window of hope that they will exploit to the maximum.

Soccer Tricks For Dummies

What’s that one moment in a football match that makes you sit up and take notice. Is it a long range goal, or a team goal coming at the end of 20 odd passes. Or is it some stunning piece of skill that leaves the opposition player for dead. Or should I say a dribble. Throughout the years, the most succesful players have also been the ones who are good dribblers. After all, if you can create space for yourself by fooling your opponent and then have considerable time and space to pick a pass, you are always going to be better than the ones who can’t do it. This article focusses on the different dribbling techniques, which enable these players to be called  genius. The below techniques are one of the most basic techniques used by footballers and does not take into account bizzare trickery from the likes of Ronaldinho or Henry.

1.) The Stepover – This is one of the most common dribbling techniques. In fact, it is so common now that defenders aren’t even fooled by this one. Still, if done at a quick pace, can leave a defender unsure as to which way the ball is going to end up. Basically the technique involves stepping over the ball multiple times without actually touching it. Over the years, players such as Robinho and Cristiano Ronaldo have perfected the technique, causing headaches for the defenders.

2.) The Roulette – Perhaps the most difficult trick amongst all. The player performing the trick stops the ball with one foot, puts the other foot over it, turns his body a full circle against the ball and uses the placed foot to turn the ball back into his way, all this within a couple of seconds. Zinedine Zidane and Juan Roman Riquelme were the players who could do it with effortless ease, sometimes performing a double roulette in one fluid motion.

3.) The Shoulder Feint – Perhaps the easiest trick to do. Drop your shoulder to one direction pretending that you are going to go that way, and when the defender is committed to that direction, swiftly change your direction to the other. It is a simple trick used by most players with varying degree of success.

4.) The Cryuff Turn – Invented by the inventor of Total Football, the Dutch master Johann Cryuff, it is a simple but extremely effective trick. This is perhaps the only trick which can be done either while running with the ball, or while receiving it. Fake a shot, but instead of shooting the ball, turn the ball the other way using the inside of your foot.

5.)  The Nutmeg – This is one technique which looks extremely simple, but at the same time, is extremely hard to master. Timing is everything in this technique as the player has to put the ball through the opposition player’s legs.

6.) The Elastico/Flip Flap – The coolest trick of them all. This one is bound to fool the opponent. In one single motion, the player takes a faint touch to one direction, puts the foot outside the ball and drags it to the opposite side. Ronaldinho and Zidane were the ones who could do it with unerring consistency and style.


Honorable mentions : The Rabona, Backheel pass