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Formations 101

Park the bus or all out attack, it's your call.

Read our formation guide below.


In a traditional 4-4-2 formation the midfield foursome must support the defensive back four and the two attackers. Often the job of one of the central midfielders will be to support the attackers whilst the other helps shield the defenders in a 'holding role'. The midfielders in wide positions will swarm forward to support attacks, as well as pulling back towards defence when needed. This formation is still used widely across Europe but is slowly being overtaken as the formation of choice by one of the other options on this page.


This formation can take a more attacking or defensive stance depending on how it's setup. This 4-3-3 allows for 3 forward players (for a more defensive 4-3-3 formation look at the 4-5-1 option instead) so they can spread the attack across the width of the pitch, whilst also mark the opposition full backs. Playing a 4-3-3 with three forwards in this way can encourage expansive passing and wide play when used from the start of a match. Many teams that use a 4-3-3 will use a defensive midfielder in the central midfield role and use two more attacking midfielders either side.


This is a defensive formation; however, if the two midfield wingers play a more attacking role, it can be likened to 4-3-3. The formation can be used to grind out 0-0 draws or preserve a lead, as the packing of the centre midfield makes it difficult for the opposition to build up play. Because of the "closeness" of the midfield, the opposing team's forwards will often be starved of possession. Due to the lone striker, however, the centre of the midfield does have the responsibility of pushing forward as well. The defensive midfielder will often control the pace of the game.


Considered an attack-minded formation, the 3-5-2 will usually comprise two attacking wingmen who'll break forward to support the other attacking players. With five across midfield it can be a hard formation to break down but offers less in defence if a team does manage to pass the ball through. Often a defensive midfielder or the central midfield three will sit back more than the two wide midfielders to compensate for this. Balls crossed in from the wing are a common feature of a team playing 3-5-2 as well as attacking runs from midfield positions.