Running the 4-4-2

Running the 4-4-2

It’s a formation that hasn’t been used heavily of late. Two recognized notable teams in top flight competition use it: Atletico Madrid and Leicester City. It hasn’t held its merit of a dominant formation since Sir Alex Ferguson’s run as Manchester United manager. But the formation is sound, balanced, and capable of being successful if the player instructions are appropriate.

The 4-4-2 lines up with the defensive back four, four lined up in midfield, and two strikers side by side up front. The formation is balanced, and covers every facet of gameplay on the field.

The back four defenders are simply what their positions require. The left and right full backs can serve as pure defenders or can make forward attacking runs through midfield and beyond. The two centre backs in the middle won’t likely make attacking runs and they’ll be aggressive pursuing the ball and attackers should they enter their territory. Coaches will commonly have centre backs play as attackers or in situations of needing goals off of corner kicks and free kicks.

Lined up in midfield are two flanking wingers and two central midfielders. The wingers are best remaining wide and getting in behind defenders. They’re key in keeping attacking runs spread across the opponents territory. The central midfielders are best used if one defender is pure attacking and distributing, while the other purely defends and shields the back four. This is where it is best to play to the strengths of the player where they’re more attack minded or defensive. The attacking midfielder can be called to make forward runs with the partnered winger. The defensive midfielder can feed passes to the attacking midfielder and partnered winger while looking to cut passing lanes or man mark a certain player.

The front two strikers are best when playing together not individually. It is best to pair strikers where one can out-pace and get in behind the defense. Also, you want that player to press the defensive line constantly making sure he’s constantly in their line. This does tend to cause many offside calls but in those moments the player gets a good ball they can already be one step beyond the defender. The other striker can serve in a means of a False 9 role. They can drop just behind the striker and be a distributor first before an attacker. They serve best as a target man in this case as if they choose to move beyond the other striker coming in late can serve as an advantage in catching the defense off guard.

Balance, width, patience, execution.That is what makes a 4-4-2 formation succeed in the game.

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