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The 4-2-3-1 is KING!

Discussion in 'Coach' started by Twenty26Six, Dec 18, 2008.

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  1. Twenty26Six

    Twenty26Six Feeling Sheepish...

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    This is a good history of some tactical evolutions in the game.

    Why has the 4-4-2 been replaced by the 4-2-3-1?

    Credit for the above article to:
    Jonathan Wilson is guardian.co.uk's east European football correspondent. He also writes regularly for the Independent, the Independent on Sunday, FourFourTwo magazine and anybody else who waves money in his direction. He has written two books - Behind the Curtain: Travels in Eastern European Football and Inverting the Pyramid, a book on football tactics.
     


  2. CCSC_STRIKER20

    CCSC_STRIKER20 New Member

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    Couldn't you just generalize and say that the 4-5-1 is king?

    Because some teams play 4-3-2-1, some play 4-2-3-1, some play 4-1-2-2-1, etc, etc.
     
  3. Twenty26Six

    Twenty26Six Feeling Sheepish...

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    Not to be pedantic. But, what was the purpose of your three responses to these articles? It's obvious the guy is taking a deeper look into the nuance of each formation.

    The 4-2-3-1 is completely different from the 4-3-2-1 or others.
     
  4. CCSC_STRIKER20

    CCSC_STRIKER20 New Member

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    I don't know. I was bored.
     


  5. Grinners89

    Grinners89 BigSoccer Supporter

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    Kids these days ;)
     
  6. snolly g

    snolly g Member

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    26,

    i've been enjoying these posts of yours on tactics.

    and i've been wondering if there might be a more fundamental way for players and coaches to think of formations. your post about 4-6-0 (and the comment about total football and the idea that forwards are being given more responsibilities--which makes them more like midfielders and wingers) got me thinking...

    it's intuitive to refer to 4-4-2, 4-3-3, 4-5-1, 3-5-2, etc., because these are spatial representations of where players end up on the field. but another way to think about these numbers is to say that they are shorthand/abbreviations for the (attacking) roles and (defensive) responsibilities of each player.

    what i'm getting at: instead of talking about where to be, it's probably more useful for coaches to talk about what to do.*


    *it's not that coaches don't do this. it's just that, if you start with "where to be", you can wind up with inefficient formations. i've been noticing this on a couple of the random teams i'm playing on now--where players will play a very literal "zone" and as a result, end up guarding empty space, when they could be more useful/helpful by providing support.
     
  7. Twenty26Six

    Twenty26Six Feeling Sheepish...

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    Good point, Snolly. Also, you need to take into account the attributes of each player. For example, United is playing a 4-2-3-1 (or 4-3-3) at times. However, the _way_ each attacker plays and moves causes it to be called a 4-6-0. Conversely, someone might watch Liverpool's 4-2-3-1 and call it a 4-4-1-1.

    Obviously, it doesn't matter what you call it. I think it's important to look at these sorts of things as stimulating to the soccer imagination and fun.
     
  8. uniteo

    uniteo Member+

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    no, actually they're not, there all very similar and come down to what choices you ask the players to make on the field...far too much getting warpped up in numbers, I think, when the real difference between a 4-3-2-1 and a 4-4-2 for example, is whether you want a second forward to drop back into midfield to retrieve the ball or help defending. Is there some magical percentage of time below the attacking third that makes a forward a midfielder? What's the difference between a deep-lying midfielder and a central defender pushed up into the stopper role?

    4-3-2-1 is king only until you run into a team with a central defense that can deny the ball to your lone striker and has defenders with speed who can deny service to the deep runs for your withdrawn forward/high midfielders.

    Like you said, If you're talking about specific personnel then yes, you make the case of one lineup being preferential to others, but in general the discussion can't be "this is the best" it should be about the advantages and limitations of space and tactics.
     
  9. Grinners89

    Grinners89 BigSoccer Supporter

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    Generally, in the 4-3-2-1, the width is provided by the full-backs while in the 4-2-3-1, the width is provided by the fullbacks and wingers.
     
  10. Twenty26Six

    Twenty26Six Feeling Sheepish...

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    Actually, they are - hence the distinction via the numbers used.
     
  11. snolly g

    snolly g Member

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    i joined up with a couple of "indie" teams (the league puts people who signed up as individuals on one team) and it's been really interesting.

    usually, the indie teams are terrible. this time, one of my teams is terrible, but the other is actually quite good--not only in terms of skill but also in terms of tactics. being able to play with and watch both teams is a lesson in contrasts.
     
  12. CCSC_STRIKER20

    CCSC_STRIKER20 New Member

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    I am really wish my high school head coach that I coach under would think about going with the 4-2-3-1.
     
  13. ranova

    ranova Member

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    What system are you using? You can adjust the existing system in a similar fashion. 442? Have the wing halfs play aggressively on attack, the two center mids play as holding mids and one of the strikers play a playmaker role. 433? Use a two-back-one-up midfield (two holding mids, one attacking mid). Have the wingers play both ways and start the attack deeper so they have more space to work with like wing halves. 352? Have the three backs play a little wider instead of as three CBs. Use three holding mids and two winghalfs. One of the holding mids falls back as a second CB when needed. Have one of the strikers act as the playmaker.
     
  14. CCSC_STRIKER20

    CCSC_STRIKER20 New Member

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    What if we are playing a 3-4-3? I don't like this formation at all, but this is what it looks like.

    ------------Striker-------------Striker--------------
    ---------------------Forward----------------------
    Winger------Center Mid------Center Mid-----Winger
    ---------Left Back--------------Right Back---------
    ----------------------Sweeper---------------------
    ----------------------Keeper-----------------------

    I don't really have the authority to change it anyways. My head coach doesn't like four across the back for some reason.

    We have a good defense, but we concede too many goals because we don't have enough defenders back there. The midfield is the problem, mainly because of the way we have them set up. The wingers are lazy in defense, but good attackers. Very frustrating to watch.

    I would be willing to bet that we would have made the state tournament this year if we would have had the defensive block that the 4-2-3-1 provides.
     
  15. ranova

    ranova Member

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    I am making some assumptions here so correct me if I am wrong. The coach probably prefers the three backs because you are probably playing on relatively narrow fields and opponents are not usually showing you more than two forwards. He probably likes three up front because opponents probably expect to only see two. The way you are organized defensively is probably that the winghalfs are expected to cover endline to endline on the flanks. You probably use a high pressure defense and mark zonally in the back. (The two strikers stay central and the forward acts like a playmaker on attack.)

    I am assuming that the winghalves are being asked to do more than they are capable. There are several approaches to reducing the workload on winghalves.

    Subbing is one.

    Another is to define one winghalf as responsible for defending and supporting (shortening the runs into the attacking third) and one winghalf as responsible for supporting and attacking down the wing (shortening the runs into the defensive third). So one of the strikers takes up the wide attacking role and a back takes up the flank defense role on the opposite flank. In other words one of the winghalfs functions similar to a wingback while the other plays like a winghalf with a fullback behind him.

    A more complicated equivilent would have the weakside winghalf drop back into a full back role while the strongside winghalf pressures the attack. The winghalves' role would vary depending on where the ball was so there's more chance of a mistake.

    A third is to use the two CM as holding mids. The three backs play a little wider while one of the CMs falls back into the stopper/CB role as needed. Then you have functionally four backs without the need for the winghalf to track all the way back.

    Personally I favor a 343 under the assumptions made above. It can play very similar to a 352 (playmaker gets forward) or a 433 (stopper in midfield). The key to successfully advancing the fourth back into the midfield when facing only two forwards is making sure the midfielders pick up opposing midfielders running into the attacking third so that your defense always stays numbers up. Overloading the defense occurs faster with two marking backs than when you had three marking backs. In addition to supplying depth in the midfield, the three forwards have to make sure the opposing fullbacks are likewise marked when making an attacking run.
     
  16. CCSC_STRIKER20

    CCSC_STRIKER20 New Member

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    All good ideas. I think the head coach has tried to implement some of these ideas, and myself and the other assistants have given the players hints and tips on how to better excel at their position.

    There are two reasons he plays three at the back. One, there are usually only 2 opposing strikers, and two, our head coach says we don't have the "horses" to play a flat back four. That statement is ludicrous considering he expect our outside midfielders to cover the whole length of the pitch.

    You are right about our players up top. One plays as a playmaker, but he is essentially a third striker, because none of them drop back at all. They play only very, very minor defensive roles.

    The problem where our formation breaks down is in the midfield. The outside midfielders are expected to do too much, and their subs are just not as good as the starters. The center midfielders aren't expected to do a lot, but they don't do their jobs. They are very static, rather than being dynamic up and down the field. We usually end up with too much space in front of the midfielders or too much space behind the midfielders.

    It's a hard thing to fix, as I am only the assistant. I am considered more of a technical coach than anything else. Next season, I am supposed to be the keeper coach.
     
  17. IASocFan

    IASocFan Moderator Staff Member

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    The 4-2-3-1 looks a lot like the 4-2-4 that was popular back in the 70s when I started playing and coaching soccer! Both the top 4 and defensive 4 played in a diamond.
     
  18. ranova

    ranova Member

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    Which is not much different than a 343 with a diamond midfield :)

    The numbering convention is convenient for talking about a system of play, but the convention does not begin to describe the details of the system. When you start mixing players and coaches from different places you begin to run into confusion. Most players don't have a lot of exposure to different systems and assume that everyone plays a 442, etc., the same way.

    I don't like the trend to describe systems as having four or more lines instead of just backs, mids, and forwards. Since Holland's total soccer in the 70's the trend is toward more compact shape, say as little as 25 yards depth for the 10 field players in attack as well as defense. Conceptually there is little meaning in describing systems as having more than 3 lines in such a tight space, while back, middle, and forward lines serves the purpose well. I don't see a reason to change what is only a general label anyway.
     
  19. Twenty26Six

    Twenty26Six Feeling Sheepish...

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    I agree that it is superficial. But, that's not a reason to NOT do it. You just need to understand that it's only a tool in the bag to illustrate the style for your players.

    The use of 4 lines 4-2-3-1) is just a natural progression to show where the emphasis is being placed these days.

    In the last 10 years, the focus has been on the space "between" the lines. If you're a (professional) coach that concentrates between play "between the lines", then it's contradictory to label your formation as having 3 "rigid" lines.

    Instead, you want to place extra emphasis on different things when talking to your players. You're training them properly, but also pounding home the "image" of what you want to accomplish.
     
  20. CCSC_STRIKER20

    CCSC_STRIKER20 New Member

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    I agree.

    Technically the 4-2-3-1 could be described as a 4-3-3 or a 4-5-1. However, some players may get mistaken what is expected if you tell them that you want them to play a certain formation, without better describing what the formation entails.

    I know that if I told my U-12 team to play a 4-5-1, they would think I would want them to play straight across, because that has been what they have been exposed to.
     
  21. ranova

    ranova Member

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    We really see things almost the same way. This is where we diverge. You see having a three-line convention as implying more rigidity (I assume you see the fault as less movement between the lines during play and not depth within a line). I see having more lines as promoting rigidity in a system. In other words a back running into a wing position conceptually moves up three lines now instead of two. On the field it may be no further distance, but it is a further distance within the system.

    (While recognizing that systems have to fit the players) I favor systems without role players. For instance in a 433 I like to have three CMs and three forwards. (Plus one of the CBs usually moves up on attack). The players within a line interchange freely. And ideally the forwards and midfielders have the skills to interchange between lines as well. This type of system (if you have the people for it) makes the 433 deadly. Its very fluid. It encourages diagonal runs. You can press or you can play any number of players behind the ball on defense. Any mid or forward can be making an attacking run anywhere on the field. With three CM's the play is very unpredictable. Its a holding midfielder's nightmare. In reality on a good day I only have two midfielders with the skills to do it all. Some people are not comfortable in a CM role regardless of skill. And often I only have one that can do the job, so its RM CM LM most of the time. But with enough good all around players the 433 shines.

    This fluid type of 433 is so closely related to most of the 4-line descriptions of formations with four backs that I consider them different variations of the same system. I think how you play the system (call it either tactics or style) makes a bigger difference from team to team than that indicated by any number used to describe the system.

    CCSC_STRIKER20: Obviously I can't expect to talk to U12's like they were former college players, but I think a more fluid system, i.e., more generalists and less role players, encourages skill development. The more role players in the system, the more rotation through positions required for the kids to get the full experience of attacking and defending. So its something to consider before deciding to use holding midfielders in your U12 system.
     
  22. Twenty26Six

    Twenty26Six Feeling Sheepish...

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    You're right. I didn't think of it from that perspective. :)

    Perhaps, I made a poor choice of words. I think that people can get sucked into thinking that a 4-3-3 would not have anyone playing "in between the numbers".

    With younger kids, 15 and below, I always call it a 4-3-3 and allow my "in between" or "role players" to develop naturally with as little prompting as possible.
     
  23. galaxynut

    galaxynut Member

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    Wow, some excellent tips in this thread! I'm moving into the over 10 work later this year and your guys' advice is valuable on formations, if you know any good links where I can learn more about basic formations let me know! I'd like to study now for later this year.

    Thanks!
     
  24. rca2

    rca2 Member

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    NSCAA articles on formations:

    http://www.nscaa.com/subpages/20070308110823559.php

    NSCAA index page to their on line materials--a gold mine of information

    http://www.nscaa.com/coachingtips.php

    I like this web page too. The NSCAA materials are pretty far ranging. This page might be aimed more for a coach transitioning from U-littles to 11-a-side.
    http://www.bettersoccermorefun.com/dwtext/tablecon.htm

    You might not be playing 11-a-side at first. Maybe 8v8. For that I like a 331 which in my thoughts is just a scaled down 442.
     
  25. Twenty26Six

    Twenty26Six Feeling Sheepish...

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    We usually play 9v9 here with the U11s/12s and below in league play.

    In a few months, I need to go to a competitive tournament :)rolleyes:) and see what we can do.

    Any experience with the 331 vs. different types of formations or playing styles? I'm expecting to see all sorts of unique things - like 133, 232, 322, 241, etc.
     
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