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Devising the 4-2-4 formation: A good idea for the EPL?

1.26K   //    30 Nov 2012, 12:53 IST

With teams like Liverpool, Newcastle, Sunderland (only to name a few) struggling in this excruciating Barclays Premier League, not getting enough goals and conceding a lot needs to be stemmed as fast as possible. Managers all around the world prefer the classical 4-4-2 formation or the much fancied 4-2-3-1 formation, which had been successfully used by Carlo Ancelotti during his reign with AC Milan. There has been a lot of skeptical talk about the 3-5-2 formation on whether it would work in modern day football. However, I feel the criticism has been unfair. While fans and supporters may want to see the beautiful game, managers nowadays are too cautious not to lose games. To keep their jobs, they are not afraid to play negative as long as they win. You can’t challenge, it can you?

Pep Guardiola, with his world conquering team, have been a rare exception. Not many teams in this world can match Barca’s style and flair. Moreover, not many teams are blessed as they are where players in this current eleven have been playing since they were schoolkids.

Lets get straight down to business regarding tactics. A formation which could be used in  modern day football and with right execution and planning it could be something extraordinary to give results week in week out.

My formation : 4-2-4

This formation has four defenders, two midfielders – one of whom is a defensive midfielder and the other an attacking midfielder – and four attackers comprising two wingers on either side of two goal poaching strikers. Both of the midfielders are important to control possession and recycling balls to the attack minded players.

In the pitch map, it’s important to know that the black arrows are for attack minded football, the red ones are for when the other team counters and the team playing this formation is caught in possession. The blue arrows, however, signify normal passing game which is attractive to watch and at the same time, quite efficient. Now the team which is playing the 4-2-4 formation will mainly try to outnumber the opponents by catching out their defence and using their superior attacking advantage. As the opponents attack, their defenders will be caught out in position leaving the attackers unmarked which will eventually lead to lots of attacking opportunities. This, however, can only take place if the team plays a high tempo passing game moving the ball to one of the wingers on either side, who will surely be in one of the best crossing positions and at least one of the attacking forwards will be one on one which will eventually lead to goals.

The obvious criticism is the poor midfield cover afforded to the defence down the flanks. It’s very important for the team not to get narrow in their own box which might eventually lead to problems. The forwards, being the first line of defence, should close down defenders quickly such that the opponent will not be allowed free flowing possession. Time must not be given to the opponent’s midfielders to spread the ball and run on top of your defence, which will make the formation look silly. Given the fact that quick breaks will eventually be available in vast periods of time during the ninety minutes, this team must take advantage of these breaks and goalscoring opportunities.

The full backs should put enough pressure on the opposing defenders, leaving acres of space for the wingers to deliver delightful crosses. If however, the team is caught in possession and face a counter attack, you can follow the red arrows. The two midfielders will track down with either moving in each direction to negate the counter.The centre backs should be willing to make tackles and make the pitch look as wide as possible, which is shown by the red arrows. A winger who can win the ball in the air and has had good dribbling skills can easily create goal scoring opportunities even if the opposite team is playing well and their defence is well organized.The best part of this formation is the fact that long balls can be eventually played by the defenders and there will be personnel going inside with a view to attack the ball. With wingers changing flanks from time to time, the opposition defence will be chasing shadows.

Players For The Tactic:


The defence needs to be very good in the air, should be able to anticipate the play and should be willing to work their socks off. Often with this tactic, the opposition will try to cut out the defence by splitting passes and pop balls over the top of the forwards. Hence, defenders need to be aware of this. An accurate distribution of balls forward, the right mentality and willingness to thrive in tricky situations will surely pay rich dividends. The Bayern Munich defence and the ever lively defence of AC Milan which had Nesta and Maldini are obvious examples.


These players need to be hardworking. Players like Ballack, Xabi Alonso and Mascherano are perfect examples if you have to make this formation work.


Wingers need to be fast and have good ability on and off the ball. As mentioned before, those who have good heading and dribbling ability are especially very important to give this tactic and formation a right direction. Players like Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo fit the bill. Typical goalscorers like Thierry Henry and Fernando Torres during his time at Liverpool are perfect examples.

But is this going to work in the EPL?

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