Understanding football – Most commonly used tactics
One of the beautiful aspects about football is that there just so many ways to play it. Tactically, the game has evolved so much that teams are now expected to switch between multiple formations within a game to account for the different phases of play.
From having specialists in every position to having players be confident in every outfield position, coaches are defined by their tactical imprint they bring to their sides.
We take a look at some of the most common tactical schemes in the modern game.
The 4-4-2 is one of the most basic forms of football strategies that has been around for a while. The formation involves a flat four backline, pacy wingmen and two strikers up top. While this formation reaped success in the 90’s and the start of the millennium, the advent of aggressive pressing and a focus on possession based football meant that coaches looked to create lanes and triangles that moved away from formations having a flat line. That’s not to say that this formation is dead and gone, as proved by Atletico Madrid’s and Leicester City’s successes. A simple strategy of having hard working box to box midfielders, pacy wingers that can deliver crosses into the box and strong strikers that can finish means that teams with limited resources can reap success from this formation.
Made famous by the Dutch teams that preached Total Football, the 4-3-3 was made famous by Johan Cruyff and more recently Pep Guardiola. The formation made attacking trios popular, with most of the big clubs currently using this strategy to steamroll their way past opposition defences. This formation requires tireless wingbacks in the mould of Marcelo or Dani Alves, a strong midfield that can contain opposition attacks as well as launch their own and two advanced wide forwards that are positioned high up the pitch. This formation has been reaping rewards with Barcelona, Bayern Munich and currently Real Madrid all using modifications of this formation to dominate European football. However, this strategy requires at least one winger to track back and a tactically strong defensive midfielder to maintain balance on the pitch.
4-2-3-1 / 4-5-1
This formation is famed for its use of the ‘double-pivot’, two holding midfielders that allow the creative players to run amok. Jose Mourinho loved using this formation as it allowed him to break opposition attacks and quickly spring on the counter attack. The pivot usually had one pure defensive midfielder or the destroyer tasked with breaking down attacks and the other would be a playmaker who would build play up from deep. Jurgen Klopp in his spell with Dortmund, too used this formation to counter Bayern’s possession based style. Besides creating more passing opportunities as compared to a flat formation, the 4-2-3-1 also allows teams to create overloads offensively or defensively without compromising on balance
Born in Italy, this formation is making a comeback thanks to the likes of Antonio Conte and Louis Van Gaal. Conte especially, swept away sides with Juventus and now with Chelsea too. Coaches like Zidane, Luis Enrique and even the tactically stubborn Arsene Wenger have discovered the benefits of having this tactical scheme in their armory. One of the best systems to beat the counter-attack, the three centre backs will technically ensure that any combination of opposing forwards will be dealt with. Width is provided by rampaging full backs and defensive
structure is built by a defensive midfielder who sits deep. The three midfielders and two wing-backs offer plenty of potential attacking variety for the opposition defence to worry about, while playing two strikers means it’s possible for the frontline to create and score chances with minimal assistance