It’s All 4-4-2 – Part 1

Looking to try a new formation with your side? Here are my thoughts on how you could make the transition easier with some basic instructions and individual player challenges.

(This is a post I wrote back in 2015 for a friend’s [now extinct] blog. I’ve update it a little and thought it was a good place to start my posts. It will be broken into a series of ‘mini-posts’ to avoid an overload – Kez)

The Problem

In this day and age of sofa experts, Football Manager aficionados and Twitter stats, formations have become one of the most discussed aspects of the game, analysed to the finest detail by almost all who follow the game.

From the Premier League all the way down to Sunday League, coaches are becoming more and more experimental and copying the trends of the top coaches that they admire. Whether it’s a wing-back system from LvG’s Dutch at the 2014 World Cup (revived in popularity by Conte’s slightly different wing-back system with Chelsea in late 2016) or the beautiful chaos that is Pep’s ‘inverted full-backs’, coaches at all levels are trying to exploit new information and ideas that could just make the difference for their U15 junior side in their cup game or their pub side in a relegation scrap.

The problem, more often than not isn’t the players rather it is their understanding of what they’re meant to be doing (just ask Pep!) and sometimes that comes down to how the coach conveyed the message. Hopefully, this idea can support that, by making everything as “simple” as a 4-4-2.

(*Please bear in mind that this is just a suggestion, I’m open to questions and challenges as I am sure there are many.

**GOALKEEPER DISCLAIMER. I Like to write my formations as 1-4-4-2 to include the goalkeeper, but for the sake of sanity and numbers I won’t do it in this piece**)

It’s All 442

The reason I have chosen 4-4-2 is that realistically, it is still probably the most popular system in England, particularly at grassroots level. 99% of people who play football will have been a part of a 442 at some point and I’m sure will have a fair level of knowledge of the roles and responsibilities of each position. In fact, in his book ‘Quiet Leadership’, Carlo Ancelotti declared it; ‘the most simple starting place‘ for a new club and the place he often starts before developing his new squad.

For those of you that aren’t so sure (is that anyone?) here it is:



The theory surrounds the idea of INDIVIDUAL RESPONSIBILITIES, rather than the team as a collective. Within this idea, each individual is set a target to try and reach or a task that you wish them to undertake and focus on without them having to worry about where everybody else should be. In theory, you’re not asking them to play in a way they haven’t before, you’re just asking them to try new things.

Challenges are great for supporting young players, in particular, to do something different in their role. I have tried this in terms of developing young players and in fact it proved just as useful in explaining the game to them as it was in defining expectations to their parents too, which any grassroots coach will tell you certainly helps!

The Test

Over the next few posts, in an attempt to demonstrate my trail of thought with this, I’ve picked a number of formations that you’ll regularly see deployed (or at least attempted) at varying levels of the game. They are:

  • 4-4-2 with a ‘Diamond’ midfield
  • 4-3-3(often 4-5-1 or 4-3-2-1)
  • 3-5-2(Like Van Gaal)
  • 3-4-3 (Like Conte)

I’ll look to explain the ‘role changes’ that you’ll be making and how you can pose them in that form of ‘challenges’ rather that a new position in attack or defence. I hope it makes sense!

Here is the first attempt

Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. Part 4. Part 5.

Don’t Stop Here

More To Explore

Serialised Dissertation Pt. 8 – Discussion

Here’s Part 8 of my dissertation breakdown, which begins to review what we’ve looked at so far. Be sure to check back next week for the final instalment! DISCUSSION TRAITS AND CHARACTERISTICS In interesting element within these strategies is to