What is a basic football formation?  Which formations are the best in the game today?

It is simply the way in which a football team sets up it’s players, within that team, to play a game of football.

How is the basic football formation decided?  Well this is usually done by whoever is in charge of that team.  The Manager or Head Coach.

Why is a formation needed? It is used for team tactics, how they want to play against their opponents.

If a team gets their formation right then it puts them in control of the game.

Formations can be changed within a soccer match, depending on what the opponents are doing, or if they need to go into a more attacking, or defensive formation.

In the earliest ever competitive game ever recorded, they played an all out attack formation with 1 defender and 9 in attack.  This clearly didn’t work as the game ended 0-0.

I would love to see that formation in the modern game but somehow I think the fans would think the Manager had gone mad.

The modern game is fast paced and exciting.  A good team will be flexible and move there players about during a game.

There are many different formations that can be available to the Head coach or Manager.

The Defensive players are in the team to stop the opposition from scoring goals. The midfield players play between the Defence and the Strikers.  They are used in the modern game to get forward (attack) and back (defend). They link players of the team.  The strikers are in the team to score the goals and attack.

Here is my take on 4 of the best football (Association) or soccer formations about and how they work.


A classic formation which has been used throughout time, often embraced by teams as it seems to have a good balance and structure to it. A vast amount of good playing area can be covered by this formation.

The team has four (4 ) Defenders, Four (4) Midfielders and two (2) Attackers.

I don’t see this type of formation going out of the game any time soon as it gives a solid defensive structure, 4 defenders, backed up by 4 midfielders who’s job it is to help the defence and also get forward to help the attacking players.  The 2 attacking players usually play up front or in attack together, side by side, but they can be moved about during the game.




This football formation seems to have become a favourite of the modern day game.  It is based on the wide areas of the pitch being used to create goal scoring opportunities.

The team has three (3) Defenders, five (5) Midfielders, two of these are the Wing-Backs in wide areas of the pitch, one (1) player behind the main Striker, also known as in the hole as this player plays in the gap between the midfield and the striker, and one (1) main Striker.

The Wing-Backs are the key to this formation as they play wide on either side of the football pitch, in the 5 in midfield.

They are given the duties of being a solid defender and also getting forward and creating goal scoring chances for the attacking players. They need to be fast and fit, a lot of running is required to get up and down the field.

The 3 Defenders play in the centre at the back. 1 central back with a player each side of him.  The left centre back and the right centre back.  They play close together allowing the wing back to slot back into there defensive position when needed.

The Main central striker (1) is usually playing up front on his own.  This player is usually good at holding the ball up to bring those five midfielders into play.

The player (1) just behing the main striker, or in the hole, usually has a free position.  Floating about up front looking for ways to be creative and create goal scoring chances.


This formation is slightly more attacking than the traditional 4-4-2. It concentrates on making the central areas of the pitch more compact.

The team has Four (4) Defenders, Three (3) Midfielders, and Three (3) Attackers.

The 4 Defenders generally stick to what their job is, stop the opposition from scoring goals. The 3 Midfielders are the key to this formation as the all play slightly deeper in the center and the other 2 just to the left and right of that player, a bit ahead of that central midfielder. Their job is to make the midfield areas of the pitch very compact which means there is no space for their opponents to play through the midfield.

The 3 attacking players should then have the freedom to interchange positions upfront when needed.  They also play in more central areas with one Striker central and one player either side to the left and right of that player.  Being close together means they can play off each other to create chances.

This formation needs players who are able to pass through the lines.  This means being able to pass the ball in tight, compact spaces.  This is because there is no space in the central areas

If the team moves together forward and back.  This formation can be very effective for keeping the game tight.


This is a more defensive line up and is used when the team knows the opposition team will have more of the ball.

The team has Five (5) Defenders, Four (4) Midfielders, and One (1) Attacker.

The Five Defenders and Four Midfielders play quite close together with very little space between them.  This gives the oppositon very little space to play the ball between them.

The One Attacker is very important in this formation as his job is to work hard for the team.  Across the whole of the front line, left right and centrally. Holding up the ball is a vital skill in this position, as it gives the team a way out up the pitch and a breather from defending all the time.



As you can see there are many different formations that football teams can use to decide how they want to play any game.  How they want their players to line up against the opposition.

Mangers should always be looking to play the best soccer formation they can for any given match.  These are only 4 formations I have picked out.  From the classic and widley used 4-4-2, to the more defensive 5-4-1.

Most teams will start a game with a selected formation but the team should be fluid enough to change football formation and tweak players positions during a game.

This adaptabality separates the average teams from the really good teams.

Which formation do you prefer and why?

Please leave me a comment or some feedback on this topic or anything else football related.

Yours football madly






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