Tactical analysis: the 4

The tactics column looks at the 4-2-3-1 formation & how it has become almost the standard in modern football because of its balance và flexibility.

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The 4-2-3-1 splits players inkhổng lồ four bands. The defensive unit consists of the standard centre-backs and full-backs và two defensive sầu midfielders screening them, often called the ‘double pivot".

The attacking unit consists of a b& of three attacking midfielders và a lone central striker. The wide midfielders are generally fast dribblers who like to lớn cut inside or make runs inlớn the box. The attacking central midfielder, often the ‘No. 10", is normally a creative sầu passer who can play balls inkhổng lồ the feet of either the wide attackers or the lone striker.


A good 4-2-3-1 is a formation that has a wonderful ‘springy" chất lượng - it absorbs pressure without breaking and then snaps bachồng with surprising force.

In defence the 4-2-3-1 covers space very effectively, with the bvà of three & the lone striker able to lớn press the opposition high up the pitch while the two defensive midfielders ensure that there is no space left in front of the defence. Then the baông chồng four can either play a high line, compressing the space even further, or drop deeper as preferred.

Video analysis: Jose Mourinho"s 2014-15 xanh wall at Chelsea

Chelsea were dominant in 2014-15 as Nemanja Matic & one of Cesc Fabregas or John Obi Mikel formed a stable ‘double pivot" at the base of the Chelsea midfield lớn release the attacking unit of Hazard, Oscar, Willian & Costa up top.

This Sky Sports analysis of their December 2014 win over Stoke City shows how Jose Mourinho set-up Matic & Mikel lớn win the ball in midfield & then release the attackers. A good example of the 4-2-3-1"s flexibility as Mourinho opted for a more defensive sầu double pivot against a physical side.

Once the ball is won baông xã, often by the defensive midfielders, the 4-2-3-1 can spring into attachồng.

The full-backs can surge up the wings in the knowledge that the defensive sầu midfielders can drop inkhổng lồ the space left behind if needed. As they come up the wings, the wide attackers come inside & they tend to be fast dribblers who look to get inlớn the box. The attacking central midfielder, often the ‘No. 10" who is the most creative player on the team will look to play them or the lone striker in via fast passing combinations.

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Video analysis: Arsenal"s attacking 4-2-3-1 destroys Manchester United

Arsene Wenger loves an attacking midfielder và the combination of Theo Walcott as a lone striker, supported from left khổng lồ right by Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsay ripped Manchester United apart inside 20 minutes in October năm ngoái with their rapid passing combinations.

chú ý for the first goal how first Hector Bellerin provided width from the full-baông xã position but lost the ball và then Francis Coquelin, playing as one of the two defensive sầu midfielders, won it back behind him to lớn continue the attaông xã. A perfect demonstration of the how the 4-2-3-1 covers space.

If the rapid attack fails, the 4-2-3-1 is well set-up khổng lồ either retain possession, with a large number of passing triangles naturally formed by its four bands of players, or khổng lồ press và regain the ball quickly.


While at its best the 4-2-3-1 is a masterpiece of flexibility, when played poorly it can be slow and cumbersome.

If the midfield bands are forced bachồng & compressed into a 4-5-1, the striker can be left isolated with very little support. The full-backs, key khổng lồ modern attacking football, can also be trapped behind their midfield line.

Or the opposite may happen, where the attacking b& of midfielders neglect to lớn trachồng baông xã & help their full-backs, allowing opposition wide players to overload the defence. This is similar to the possible problems in a 4-3-3, if the attacking wide players forget their duty khổng lồ help the team when out of possession. However it can be even more pronounced as the two defensive midfielders are left with a huge amount of the pitch khổng lồ cover.

Video Anaylsis: Chelsea"s 2015-16 nightmare

After dominating the Premier League one season in the 4-2-3-1, Jose Mourinho và Chelsea had a horrific start lớn the season with the same formation. The most obvious problem was the failure of their defensive sầu midfield to lớn cover their back four, as they were left isolated by the attacking bvà of midfielders - as analysed in this Sky Sports đoạn phim of their 3-1 loss to lớn Liverpool.

How the 4-2-3-1 took over the world

Juanma Lillo, former Real Sociedad coach, is generally accepted khổng lồ have sầu been the first khổng lồ consciously use the 4-2-3-1 in pursuit of the best distribution of players across the pitch khổng lồ achieve sầu two key aims - possession & pressing, retaining the ball & regaining it quickly.

Since its adoption by many teams in Spain in the 1990s it spread rapidly in the early 2000s as detailed by Jonathan Wilson of the Guardian here. The switch from a 4-4-2 is relatively easy - one striker drops baông xã lớn become the creative, attacking midfielder, the wingers push forwards & instead of staying out wide and putting in crosses they become dribbling attackers and the central midfielders drop deeper to lớn make the ‘double pivot".

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Since then the extraordinary success of Pep Guardiola"s 4-3-3 ´tiki-taka" at Barcelomãng cầu (see my analysis of the 4-3-3 featuring that team here) has provided an alternative sầu lớn the 4-2-3-1 but the principles that Guardiola adheres khổng lồ - retain the ball và regain it quickly when lost - are the same identified by Lillo and for teams which want khổng lồ achieve those aims while also having flexibility the 4-2-3-1 is still the most popular choice.

More articles in the chienquoc.com.vn Football Tactics Basics series can be found here:

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