Switching to a 4-2-3-1

There is no one formation that will work for all teams. Most coaches understand and accept this. But I also believe that no one formation is always best for a team.

Prior to the start of the season my U16 girls team experimented with a number of different formations: 4-3-3, 4-2-3-1 and 4-4-2. The 4-4-2 formation proved to be the best fit for us given the talents and qualities of our players.

The team had a fairly successful fall season. They finished second in their league and competed well in tournaments. In the winter league we were placed in a division with teams that were simply more talented. The girls played hard and to the best of their ability but we were simply out classed.

The last game of the season we played a team that was a three time State Champion and Regional Runner up. The girls and I both knew that it would be a difficult game. To give us the best chance of competing I decided to change our formation to make it as difficult for the other team and keep us in the game as long a possible. The 4-2-3-1 seemed to best suite our needs.

We had only played this system once, in a preseason game, so the girls didn't have an understanding of how it should work. Rather than try to explain an entire system in the pregame instructions, I focused on two main differences between the 4-4-2 and 4-2-3-1. Trying to keep it simple and limit the amount of thinking the players would have to do gave them the best chance to use the system effectively.


We had always played the 4-4-2 with a diamond midfield. The first difference I explained is that we would be playing with two defensive center midfielders rather than one. They would split the field, right and left but cover for each other in one on one situations. This was easy for the players to understand an implement without a lot of explanation.


The second difference I explained was that we would pull one forward back to play as a central midfielder. This player would move forward to support the lone forward in attack along with the outside midfielders.


Our outside midfielders had always tucked in to help in defense so there was no need to focus on this. Our forwards were good at receiving balls with their back to goal and bringing other players into the game so this also suited us well.

Making the adjustment to this formation kept us competitive in the game and gave our players the experience of playing the system. We ended up losing the game but we kept it close and scored a goal of our own so the girls walked away feeling good about it.

Have a Great Day!


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