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5 football teams who struck gold with unique formations

Pep Guardiola
Pep Guardiola's Barcelona revolutionised modern football with their 4-2-4 approach.
Sourya C
Modified 03 Oct 2020, 13:48 IST

Football is, among many things, a game of tactics. Formations are inherent to that tactical side of things in the game.

It is true that football isn't foosball (the board game), and players do not stay stuck to the same position throughout the game. But the way they shape up in their initial positions and the areas they cover have a huge bearing on their team's attacking and defensive plans in a game.

Standard football formations such as 4-4-2, 3-5-2 and 4-4-1-1 have become staple tactical nuggets that any fan or follower of the game knows about. However, sometimes in the history of the game, visionary coaches change things up in a revolutionary manner and achieve great success as a result.

We take a look at some of these great formational innovations that will live on in the annals of the game forever.

5 football teams who struck gold with unique formations

#5 Arsenal 1920s-30s (WM formation, 3-2-2-3)

Arsenal with legendary manager Herbert Chapman (sitting, extreme right)
Arsenal with legendary manager Herbert Chapman (sitting, extreme right)

We get on a time machine, go back to the heady 1920s and meet the Arsenal team managed by Herbert Chapman that revolutionised the game and their fortunes by tweaking their formation following a change to the offside rule at the time.

Chapman introduced three full-backs who stuck close to the keeper and were shielded by two half-backs in front. The two men in front of the centre-backs were typical box-to-box midfielders (known as inside forwards then), followed by three in front.


Employing this formation, Chapman took Arsenal from 20th to second in the First Division.

Despite the change being perceived to be defensive by many football experts of the time, it was actually quite a pragmatic one and reaped dividends. Chapman finally won the league a few seasons later in 1930-31 and followed it up with another triumph the season after as his systemic change stood vindicated.

#4 Ajax 1994-95 (3-3-1-3)

Louis Van Gaal
Louis Van Gaal

Not for nothing is Louis Van Gaal acclaimed as one of the best managers to have ever graced the game. The Ajax team that won the 1995 Champions League was noted for backing home-grown talent as well as for their tactical nous.

The quirky formation used by Van Gaal was a 3-3-1-3. Three defenders were guarded by the astute defensive midfielder Frank Rijkaard with two more midfielders a bit more advanced while Jari Litmanen had a more free-flowing advanced role behind the forwards. Finidi George, Marc Overmars and Patrick Kluivert struck up a great partnership up front.


Ajax also won three consecutive Eredivisie titles apart from that Champions League triumph and a whole host of other trophies under Van Gaal as the Dutchman was hailed as someone who changed football for the better.

Van Gaal
Van Gaal's system
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Published 03 Oct 2020, 13:48 IST
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