Talking Tactics: Breaking Down The 4-2-3-1 Formation


4-2-3-1, a formation which is quickly becoming the new 4-4-2, consists of a flat back four, two centre defensive mids (CDMs), a left midfielder (LM), right midfielder (RM), and centre attacking midfielder (CAM), and a striker (ST). I’m gonna do the best I can to break down the role of each player and who I think in football today does it the best.

Goalkeeper (GK) – How can you not go with David De Gea. Extremely acrobatic, phenomenal shot stopper with not only his hands but feet too. Has been crucial for Manchester United in their success these past three to four years.

Left-back (LB) – The LB is responsible for marking the opposing teams right sided attacker. While supporting the left sided CDM and CB. Going forward this player must make overlapping runs of the LM but be able to track back. Typically you’d look for a good defender with a bit of pace and decent dribbling to play this position. I’m torn between Leighton Baines and Matt Miazga as to who plays this position better. Leighton Baines has proven it on the highest levels that he is an ideal LB but for anyone who knows who Matt Miazga is, you know that kid can play.

Centre-back (CB) – With the help of the two CDMs cutting some of the passing lanes through the middle of the park, the CBs have to mark the opposing strikers and win everything in the air. Going forward they have many passing outlets with both CDMs, fullbacks, and goalkeeper as outlets which normally means less turnovers in the back as long as the CBs are paying attention and don’t rush the ball movement. The two best CBs in world football have to be Jerome Boateng and Chris Smalling in my opinion.



Right-back (RB) – The same responsibility of the LB but on the opposite side of the pitch. Currently the best RB in the world at doing this has to be Philip Lahm when he does play RB but if you want a true RB I’d have to say Dani Alves. Explosive down the line but also an exceptional defender.

Centre Defensive Midfielders (CDMs) – My favorite position in football as to how highly under-appreciated this position is especially in this formation. The CDMs act as the transition from the defensive third to the offensive third. They have defensive and offensive responsibilities like cutting off passing lanes as previously stated. They much also kill off opposing teams counter attack and allow for the rest of the team to get back. CDMs tend to have high passing accuracy as they have the most passing outlets than any other player on the pitch. Some of the best CDMs in the world are: Jack Cork, Dax McCarty, Sergio Busquets, Grzegorz Krychowiak, Michael Carrick, and Sami Khedira.

Left Midfielder (LM) – Responsible for creating opportunities going forward on the left-side, this player has to be comfortable taking players on and a good crosser of the ball. Needs to finish chances and create them from a wide angle. The best in the world at this is Eden Hazard (he’ll refined form under new manager), Yannick Bolasie, Cristiano Ronaldo, Frank Ribery, Marko Arnautovic, Julian Draxler and Marco Reus.


Centre Attacking Midfielder (CAM) – Arguably the most important part of the entire formation. CAMs have to pick up the transition into the attacking third, create chances out of nothing, excellent vision, and control the tempo of the game. There defensive responsibilities are very slim which allows for more freedom to roam and drop as far as they want for the ball or stay up and wait for it. The best CAMs in the world are Dimitri Payet, Mesut Ozil, James Rodriguez, Santi Cazorla, Alex Teixeira, Cristian Maidana, Wesley Sneijder, Angel Di Maria and Ross Barkley.

Right Midfielder (RM) – The same responsibilities as the LM just on the other side of the pitch. Some of the best in the world at doing this are Riyad Mahrez, Willian, Juan Mata, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Arjen Robben, Juan Cuadrado and Lionel Messi.


Striker (ST) – The goalscorer, the poacher, the man responsible for finishing off all the chances creative if they fall to him. A striker in this formation must be somewhat big, strong, and a quality finisher. Very few strikers in the world fit this role perfectly in my opinion. That list includes Robert Lewandowski, Romelu Lukaku, Robin Van Persie, and Thomas Muller.
So there you have it, the 4-2-3-1 broken down. I want to hear your opinions though. Send all your comments towards @FutbolNetwork on Twitter and make sure you drop us a follow. If there is another formation you wanna see broken down I’ll be more than happy too, just let me know by tweeting @FutbolNetwork.


2 responses to “Talking Tactics: Breaking Down The 4-2-3-1 Formation

  1. How do you have Matt Miazga, Chris Smalling, and Dax McCarthy on the list? You kind of lose all credibility with them included on the lists.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s