3 Best Formations For Possession In Soccer

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Keeping possession of the ball enables a team to stay in charge of the game, meaning that a team will be able to set the tempo and control the flow of play.

With fluid versatility and different formations becoming more and more essential in today’s game, soccer coaches are also switching from the archaic ways of setting up their team to a more effective and proficient one in terms of possession that depict a modern and well-coached side.

Soccer formations are like bikinis, they come in a different format which a team adapts to serve different purposes on the field, with well-tailored strategies, effective techniques, and efficient tactics of a well-coached team.

There is absolutely no wrong or right way to set up your team against an opposition, what matters most is achieving success with the kind of tactics you go with as a manager at the end.

3 Best Formations For Possession In Soccer

Although certain formations may be designed for counter-attacking, or to mount an all-out offensive in search of a late equalizer, it’s important for teams to strike a balance between their attacking and defensive play.

Relying on a formation where all players sit back and defend can actually work against a team’s objectives.

Inviting the opposing team to constantly attack for the entire game can lead to a loss of confidence, and if the opposition manages to break through, it can spell trouble for the team.

The focus of this article is on analyzing three of the best soccer formations for possession.

4-2-3-1 Formation

3 Best Formations For Possession In Soccer

The 4-2-3-1 is one of the best-possession formations that a manager could adopt to achieve success with a team.

The formation often operates with a four-line defense, two deeper central midfielders who operates ahead of the backline to help in shielding from troubles, three attacking midfielders, and a lone striker upfront.

The strength of this formation is that it helps the team maintain a high level of possession with the help of their five central midfielders who are in defending and attacking.

With the 4-2-3-1 formation, the work of the two defensive midfielders is to help in shielding the four backlines when they’re caught in trouble, but when attacking they can also serve as a box-to-box midfielder who gives the attacking third enough room to hurt the opposition.


  1. Defensive solidity: The two holding midfielders provide a solid defensive shield in front of the back four, making it harder for the opposition to penetrate the defense. This makes the formation well-suited to teams that prioritize defensive stability.
  2. Possession football: The three attacking midfielders can create passing triangles with the central midfielders, which allows the team to maintain possession and control the game.
  3. Attacking flexibility: The attacking midfielder behind the striker has the freedom to roam around and create chances, which makes the formation well-suited to teams that want to play an attacking brand of football.
  4. Counter-attacking potential: The attacking midfielder behind the striker can also be used to launch quick counter-attacks, especially if they have pace and good ball control.


  1. Lack of width: With only two wingers in the formation, there can be a lack of width on the flanks, which can make it easier for the opposition to defend against the team.
  2. Over-reliance on the attacking midfielder: If the attacking midfielder has an off day or is marked out of the game, the team can struggle to create chances and score goals.
  3. Vulnerability to the counter-attack: The two holding midfielders can sometimes leave gaps in the midfield, which can be exploited by opposition teams looking to counter-attack.
  4. Limited defensive cover for the full-backs: With only two central midfielders, there can be a lack of cover for the full-backs, which can leave them exposed to attacking opposition players.

As with any formation, it’s important to carefully consider the strengths and weaknesses before deciding whether this formation is the right choice for your team.

It’s important to know that no formation is foolproof, and a flexible game plan that can adapt to changing situations is often the key to success on the field.

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4-4-2 Formation

3 Best Formations For Possession In Soccer

Before Spain and Barcelona went on to dominate the soccer world with their swashbuckling possession style of play under Pep Guardiola and De Bosque, the 4-4-2 formation was the norm, particularly for the English teams who prefer setting up their team with two attackers.

Being the principal formation for some teams back then, it usually revolves around a make-up of back-four defenders, a midfield four that comprised of two central players and two traditional wingers, and two attacking players up-front.

The 4-4-2 formation is best utilized for gaining possession and most importantly counter-attacking with aid of its solid defensive line, attacking width, and ability to ensure players can quickly maneuver their way to the attacking areas to hurt the opposition.

Defending throughout against a brilliant team can be a bit difficult because it would be extremely difficult to maintain your composure as a defender without being pressed or closed down by the two attackers up-front.


  1. Defensive solidity: The formation offers a solid defensive structure with four defenders, two central midfielders, and two wingers who can drop back and defend.
  2. Balanced attacking: With two strikers up front, the formation provides a balanced attacking approach, giving two players who can play off each other and create goal-scoring opportunities.
  3. Flexibility: The 4-4-2 formation can be adjusted to suit different oppositions and situations, such as moving a midfielder forward to support the attack or dropping a striker back to provide extra defensive cover.


  1. Vulnerable in midfield: This formation can leave the central midfield area exposed, as there are only two players in the middle to cover a large area.
  2. Lack of creativity: The formation relies heavily on the wingers to provide the creativity and width, which can be a problem if they are not in form or if the opposition manages to neutralize their threat.
  3. Limited flexibility: While the formation can be adjusted, it can be difficult to make significant changes without disrupting the balance of the team. This can be a problem if the opposition changes its tactics or if the team needs to chase a game.
  4. Requires a specific type of striker: The 4-4-2 formation requires two strikers who can work well together and complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Finding two strikers who fit this mold can be challenging.

It’s worth noting that this is just a brief list and that there may be additional benefits and drawbacks depending on the specific team and circumstances.

As with any tactical decision in soccer, it’s important to carefully consider all factors before deciding on a particular formation.

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4-3-3 Formation

3 Best Formations For Possession In Soccer

Before the turn of the millennium 4-4-2 also known as the diamond formation was what highly technical teams and managers opted for when setting out against a low-block side.

However, in recent times it has become one of the most adaptable, accepted, and favored formations in soccer.

With the formation, you can win back control of the game because of the resilience, workaholic-like, and brilliant qualities of the three midfielders in the middle of the pack and likewise the three attackers up-front.

With the 4-3-3 formation when defending one of the most important components of the team is the defensive midfield role, so when the team defends the defensive midfielder automatically drop-deep to play as a defender preventing the team from conceding.

It is a fact that the 4-3-3 formation has its own strength and weakness, however, the good thing about the formation is that it’s absolutely one of the best formations to gain high possession against an opposition.


  1. Attacking potential: The 4-3-3 formation is an attacking formation that emphasizes fast transitions and counterattacks, making it effective in creating scoring opportunities.
  2. Versatility: It can be adapted to suit different playing styles and situations, making it a versatile formation that can be used in a variety of game situations.
  3. Balance: It offers a good balance between defense and attack, with three midfielders providing additional defensive cover and support to the backline.
  4. Wide play: The formation encourages wide play, with wingers providing width and stretching the opposition’s defense, creating more space in the middle for the midfielders and strikers to exploit.


  1. Vulnerability on the flanks: This formation can leave the team vulnerable to counterattacks down the flanks, as the full-backs are often required to push up to support the attack.
  2. Overcommitment to attack: It can sometimes lead to over-commitment to attack, leaving the team exposed to quick counterattacks.
  3. Need for a strong midfield: This formation requires a strong and disciplined midfield to control the game and provide defensive cover to the backline.
  4. Dependence on individual brilliance: The 4-3-3 formation relies heavily on the individual brilliance of the forwards to create scoring opportunities, making it less effective if the team lacks talented strikers or wingers.





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