A 4-2-3-1 formation is made up of two central defenders, two full backs, two central defensive midfielders (but one will act as central midfielder), one central attacking midfielder, right/left midfielders and one forward player(striker).

The diagram below shows the basic set up


Advantages of the 4-2-3-1:

  • The central attacking midfielder (CAM) acts as a supporting striker during attack.
  • The CMD is usually given a free role.
  • The right midfielder (RMD) and the left midfielder (LMB) are encourage to move forward and put in crosses.
  • During attack, there are usually about five players in the opposing half.
  • The defensive midfielders (DMD/CMD) act as interceptors/destroyers when the team is defending.
  • When attacking, it switches from 4-2-3-1 to 4-1-4-1.
  • There is balance when teams adopt this formation, they are not easily broken.


The diagram below explains better what happens when attacking in a 4-2-3-1 formation:


Disadvantages of 4-2-3-1 formation:

  • It requires lot of tracking back for the RMD and the LMD when defending.
  • Because it’s a lone strike system, that makes it difficult to unlock tight opposing defence.
  • The RB/LB must be fit and willing to run with or without the ball.
  • The two CB must be good in the air.
  • The DMD must be intelligent enough to read the game.
  • The DMD must have the strength of a stallion to cover enough ground.
  • The CMB must be a player with great vision ( e.g. Cesc Fabregas)

The diagram below shows the positional play of the players when they are without the ball:


On Saturday 19th November,2016; Manchester United used this formation against Arsenal.  As highlighted on the disadvantages, because Rashford couldn’t cover for Blind, Chamberlin was able to whip in a cross for Giroud to score. Again, the centre backs failed to head clear.

Every Monday, we will be discussing tactics and various formation with well labelled diagrams to help us understand the basic of football/soccer.