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Football Formations - The Tactical Point Of View
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Football Formations  -  The Tactical Point Of View

Everybody likes to watch a good game of football (or soccer if you live in the United States). The sport is full of passion, speed and intensity. But, do you watch it through the eyes of a soccer coach? Do you understand how the teams are supposed to move across the field? Have you ever asked yourself what is the purpose of football formations?

I am passionate about soccer. I know it is not a perfect sport because the coach doesn’t have a lot of chances to correct things if the team is not performing well. Instead, the players are responsible for putting into practice the coach’s idea which is trained during the week.

This article is a general overview of the tactics and strategy behind soccer. I hope you enjoy reading about this interesting subject.


This formation is the most common and traditional used in soccer. Strictly, the correct way of expressing any formation would be 1-4-4-2 (one for the goalkeeper, 4 defensive players, 4 midfielders and 2 forwards). However, the number 1 is not usually written for practical purposes.

Despite being such an old formation, it is used by most teams nowadays. Perhaps because it is very balanced or maybe because teams are very conservative, the fact is that teams appeal to this formation constantly.

If a team forms this way, it should have a powerful midfield to control the actions. Normally two good side backs who are able to attack and throw long crosses and a couple of strikers that constantly change positions to distract the opponent’s defense.


This formation was originally used by the Netherlands, who were the creators of “Total Soccer”. In modern football it is rarely seen, and one of the teams that uses this formation in a great way is Barcelona.

Since there are only 3 players in the midfield, the ball shouldn’t spend much time here. The purpose of having 3 forwards is to send long passes towards them (usually to the sides) and having them trying to dribble the opponents constantly.

Another important thing about the 4-3-3 is that the forwards take an active part in recovering the ball, which is another great concept dominated by Barcelona. You always see Lio Messi, Villa or Alexis Sanchez helping to recover as fast as they can.


This formation can be seen in a lot of latin teams (Brazilian, Argentinian, Mexican) and despite it presents a lot of interesting features, it is difficult to teach and to put into practice. Therefore, when teams have bad results they usually return to the basic 4-4-2.

Every position is important in any formation, but from my perspective what makes the difference between a team who performs well with the 3-5-2 and one who doesn’t, are the side backs. These players have to run the whole field for the entire game, becoming midfielders and forwards. This means that sometimes you will see a 5-3-2 and sometimes a 3-3-4.

I could keep writing many pages about football formations, soccer formation tactics, soccer lesson plans and more, I really enjoy talking about these!! Instead, I would like you to tell me what you want to find the next time you come here.

And remember that soccer is not just 22 players running towards a ball, the strategy involved behind every play is amazing and very different from coach to coach.

Street Talk

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