Popular Soccer Formations
The Ones I Used

Popular soccer formations exist in modern soccer today. The ones I used during my soccer career are 4-2-4, 4-4-2-  4-3-3. Numerous variations  have been created from these three traditional.

Soccer formations are a way of strategically placing players in the pitch. This is one of coaching youth soccer techniques.

They concerned defenders, midfielders, and forwards. The goalkeeper was not included because his position remains the same.

At the beginning of each game, each team placed players in the pitch according to its soccer position. It happened before the referee whistled the start of the soccer game.

You were able to tell if which team chose to play offensive or defenses. At that time, without TV, soccer chroniclers were able to identify and report the game strategy of each team. It was fun to listen…

Why Choosing a Particular Soccer Formation?

Tactical choices and reasons led our team to adopt a particular soccer formation. I want to share my experience with each formation I enjoyed in the pitch as player.

I used the same methodology when I coached our soccer team Bocca Juniors.

The style of play” was deciding criteria of choosing a particular soccer formation. Even tough other factors were taken into consideration.

The question was “are we playing defensive or offensive during this game? From there we look at: the opposition team style and our players’ ability to carry the strategy.

We ended-up choosing a defensive or offensive strategy for that specific game. The choice of each soccer formation came with players’ responsibilities in the pitch.

Did you ever ask why we have 11 players in the pitch but some of them have jerseys’ number such as 17, 20, or 22?

It was easy to identify defenders, midfielders, and forwards when I was a player. Defenders’ jersey’s numbers were:  #5 (Sweeper/Libero), #4 (Central-back), #2 (Left-back), #3 (Right-back).

Midfielders used to wear the following jersey’s numbers:  #6 (Defensive midfielder), #8 (Central midfielder), and #7 (Offensive Midfielder).

Most common forwards jersey’s numbers were: #10 (Striker), #9 (Second Forward). Both play next to each other. There were two more players: #11 (Left-forward) and sometimes #7 (Right-forward).

These were common jersey’s numbers of each soccer formation. Things have changed in today’s modern soccer from jersey’s numbers to soccer formations and positions in the field.

 Balanced  4-2-4

This soccer formation included 4 defenders, 2 midfielders, and 4 forwards.

I was used to this formation as player. It was and is still a more balanced strategy between offensive and defensive. Players in our team knew each other and were accustomed to it.

The goal of this formation was to allow our team to quickly deploy a six-player defense or attack system. Both midfielders were moving back and forth to reinforce either the defense or the attack.

I always played as central midfielder and wore the jersey #8. This required from me lot of running during each game. I remembered those days where I was also captain of our team.

I used to remind my fellow teammates to keep their positions in the pitch to make the system works. I continued carrying out our coach’s instructions in the field. It was easy for me to later apply the same system as a coach.  

The 4-2-4 system allowed our defenders to build an impermeable wall of defense. The benefit of this strategy was to immediately launch dangerous offensives from our field side.

The ball was controlled by both defenders and midfielders who moved together to nourish the four forwards. The outcome was always a shot or a goal against the opposition team.

There was an issue with the 4-2-4 formation. We found ourselves with a broken system. Opened spaces in the midfield were difficult to cover during the full game.

We always managed to work as a team and win the game. With our coach in the sideline, we were instructed to change the 4-2-4 to a 4-4-2.

Modern offensive 4-4-2  

Our team switched sometimes to the 4-4-2 system. The formation uses 4 defenders, for midfielders, and 2 forwards. It is called the most preferred formation in modern soccer.

This system was offensive. Our soccer team applied it in different ways. The two left and right outside midfielders were called to support the forwards pair.

One midfielder was moving to the attack. At the same time, the other was going backward to reinforce the defense. The pitch was controlled by the remaining two midfielders.

We used it to move the ball by the four midfielders and pass it to the forwards. The midfielders remained behind the forwards pair to set the pressure on the opposition team.

Outside midfielders played in “boulevards” spaces during offensive. It was on the left and right of the central circle to the 18 yards of the opposition team. This allowed them to create multiple offensives.

The defense was stable. The left and right backs were slightly moving up to cover the midfield during offensives. Their repositioning was quick in case of a reverse attack.

Some professional soccer teams adopt in today’s soccer different variations of the 4-4-2 system. The most common known are the 4-2-3-1 and 4-4-1-1.

I remembered when I was playing; we were able to switch from a 4-4-2 to a 4-3-3 during a soccer game.

Defensive 4-3-3

This formation contains 4 defenders, 3 midfielders, and 3 forwards. Our team applied it to play defensive. It was a modification of our balanced approach 4-2-4.

One of the forwards was sent back to the midfield. He had mostly a defensive mission. Thus he reinforced the whole defensive strategy of our team.

Such change aimed to develop a stronger defense. The 4-3-3 looks like a team playing with double defenses. Three players in the midfield make it harder to the opposition team to create offensive.

When they crossed the midfield, they had to deal with the four defenders. Hence they found themselves out of breath.

Some observers said the 4-3-3 was also offensive. This was a bit true anyway.  Having three midfielders and three forwards gave our team the edge to score goals.

The strategy consisted of playing as a group of six forwards. By out numbering our opponents, it was easier to reach the goalkeeper. The outcome was the ball into their nets.

I personally enjoyed using these three systems. I was more comfortable with the 4-2-4 and 4-4-2. They gave me multiple opportunities to express my talents and skills.

There are multiples soccer formations today. Each team uses the one helping it to win the game. Most of these variations come from the three main soccer formations I just described.

It is hard sometimes to tell which system a team is using. What counts for you as young soccer player, is to be aware of your position and responsibilities when playing in any formation.

Follow your coach instructions to carry the chosen strategy during a specific game. The more you do so, the better your game will be.  You will soon deliver a great soccer with any of these formations.

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