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    Formation Guide by hopkinsdoc2007

    Updated: 10/30/09 | Search Guide | Bookmark Guide

    FIFA Formations Guide
    by M Datiles (playmakerno10), arsenal4cesc@gmail.com
    I am writing this guide on 10/28/2009, as FIFA 10 is just coming out. 
    The basis for this guide was the experience  that I got from playing 
    FIFA 07 for a year after it came out. I have played 08, 09, and 10, 
    and I think that, although the gameplay has changed significantly for 
    the better, the understanding of the formations in the game still hold 
    true whatever game version you are playing. However, I just wanted to 
    say in advance not to get mad at me if you are playing one of the more 
    advanced versions and you think my tactics donít work anymore, because 
    my notes that I am writing up are based on FIFA 07.
    Also, I will be drawing heavily on the history and evolution of real-
    life football formations and tactics, so if football history bores 
    you, I apologize in advance. On the other hand, you are probably here 
    because you like that sort of thing, or are interested in football 
    formations and getting better at FIFA, so hopefully you will find this 
    guide useful. 
    I also am assuming a basic understanding of how to play football, and 
    how to play FIFA. I'm not going to bother explaining which button is 
    cross and which one is shoot, or what a cross is in the first place.
    As shown below, I am only going over the 4 most common formations, not 
    only because they are common; the reason they are common is because 
    they are also the most effective. I consider any formation with only 3 
    defenders ineffective by default and will not be talking about any of 
    I.   Introduction
    II.  Formation 1: The 4-4-2, 
           The Englishmen
    III. Formation 2: The 4-1-2-1-2 (or The "4-4-2 Diamond"), 
           The Argentines
    IV.  Formation 3: The 4-2-3-1, 
           The Brazilians
    V.   Formation 4: The Modern 4-3-3 (also known as 4-1-4-1, as well as 
           Barcelona of 2008, Arsenal of 2009, Spain of Euro 2008
    VI.  So what is the "Best" formation?
    I. Introduction - The importance of formations in FIFA games
    In the FIFA video games, formations are much more important than in 
    real life. Formations are also very important in real life; however, 
    in FIFA they are absolutely critical to your success. The reason is 
    simple. In real life, a manager can count on his players to create 
    plays, to have moments of brilliance, to fire rockets from long range 
    when they see that small gap. Arshavin, Messi, Torres, Joe Cole, 
    Ribery, and countless playmakers make the game so enjoyable to watch 
    because they create their own magic on the field.
    In FIFA, unfortunately, your computer teammates behave nowhere near as 
    spontaneously or intelligently. Most of the time, they stay in the 
    formation you chose, and make runs when you trigger them. This is 
    painfully obvious if you have ever tried Be-A-Pro mode, where you play 
    as one player the entire game, and you see your computer-controlled 
    teammates charge headlong into a mass of 4 opponents and lose the 
    ball, over and over again. 
    In normal team mode, your computer-controlled teammates - that is, 
    every single player except the one you are currently controlling - are 
    positioning themselves on the pitch where the formation tells them to 
    be, as well as how to behave. A defensive midfielder versus a center 
    forward, even if placed in the same spot, will behave very 
    So in FIFA, your formation is arguably more important than (most of) 
    the players you have on your team. After all, the worldís best players 
    have basically been reduced to a combination of statistics - 
    acceleration 84%, long shooting 78%, sprint speed 82%, etc. So while 
    in real life, an individualís brilliance can make the difference in 
    the match, individual attributes are much less emphasized in FIFA. I 
    donít blame the game designers, because it's not really possible to 
    encode different intelligence and behavior for individual players, so 
    this emphasis on formations versus actual player ability probably will 
    never change. Thus, the need for this Formations Guide. Moving on...
    II. Formation 1: The Classic 4-4-2
    4 defenders, 4 midfielders, 2 strikers
    This formation is so common that nearly every major team has used it 
    at some point, including Real Madrid, Liverpool, Manchester United, 
    Arsenal, Inter Milan, etc. It is especially popular in England, where 
    the majority of teams use it, and the young players play in this 
    formation from the very first time they touch a ball.
    It is easiest to teach kids because it is arguably the most balanced, 
    with every player operating in a well-defined area of the field, and 
    symmetrical lines helping a new player to remember where he is 
    supposed to be. 
    Good to start off using if you have no idea where to begin.
    ***Key Points:
    (a) The midfield unit moves together as a line. This helps you keep 
    possession, since when one of your midfield players is placed under 
    pressure by an opponent, there is always a player to both sides of him 
    that he can pass to. However, this means that if the other team gets 
    the ball and lobs it over any part of your midfield, your defensive 
    line is immediately under attack, and your whole midfield line must 
    turn around and track back. 
    (This is why the holding midfielder / "central defensive midfielder", 
    or CDM, was created - to sit in front of the 4 defenders, and break up 
    the opponent's counter-attacks. We will come back to this soon.)
    (b) The center midfielders are the focal point of this formation, 
    where the battle is won or lost. Use the two together to defend the 
    center, by using the secondary pressure button (where your closest 
    teammate will attack whoever has the ball). On attack use them to 
    distribute the ball to the wings, and if there is no opening, pass 
    back to the CMs. You need to use them to probe for openings by 
    repeatedly passsing to your forward players and seeing if you have a 
    gap in the defensive line; if not, pass back to the CMs to hold 
    possesion. You can also try layoff shots - move forward with one CM, 
    and let the defenders get closer to him, then immediately pass to the 
    other CM and take a long shot, since he should now have some 
    separation from the defenders.
    (c) It's nice to have two strikers since this means each is 1 vs 1 
    with an opposing CB, whereas in formations with a lone striker, the 
    striker is up against 2 CB's and really can't do much on his own. In 
    4-4-2, you can pass to a striker and try to make a quick diagonal run 
    (either way) past your marker and take a quick shot at goal. Sounds 
    simple, but strangely effective, in FIFA and in real life. Watch 
    Fernando Torres when he receives the ball with his back facing goal 
    and then uses his momentum to sprint past the final defender, he's 
    very good at it.
    Normal crossing in FIFA 07 is abysmal and rarely if ever works. The 
    lobbed-through-ball works much better, as does the ground-cross. (What 
    I mean is that for some un-explainable reason, probably computer AI 
    programming, normal crosses rarely succeed in reaching your teammate, 
    but from the same positions, ground crosses and lobbed thru balls 
    succeed far more often.)
    ***Summarizing 4-4-2: ***
    Don't be afraid to use your CM's to shoot long, to keep the ball and 
    pass back and forth, side to side, to strikers and back, if you don't 
    see an opening. Work the ball and keep possession. Try not to get your 
    whole midfield line caught upfield or your defense will be under 
    unwanted pressure with no midfield support. So probably don't try 
    using Counter-Attacking (CA) tactics. 
    Don't know what I'm referring to when I say CA tactics? Have you ever 
    noticed that when you press on whichever right-side pad does not move 
    your players (differs on different controller setups), sometimes you 
    see "CA", "WP", or "BO" appear on your screen? These are tactics 
    modifiers you can use to set the overall behaviour of your entire 
    team. BO = box overload, your players will all surge into the box at 
    every opportunity and try to get in shooting positions. WP = wing 
    play, players will make runs to the outside more and focus on the 
    wings. CA = counter attack, you will notice your players moving faster 
    to counter-attack. OT = offside trap. Dangerous for getting caught on 
    the break, don't bother in this game.
    (For 'right side pad', what I mean is, for example, if you have an 
    xbox controller and you move players using the joystick, then the 
    digital 8-way pad will be for tactics modifiers.)
    CA is the only one I use, but while the increased attack speed of your 
    teammates is definitely noticeable, it also leaves you much more 
    vulnerable if you lose the ball, since it stretches your formation and 
    your players can then be caught upfield and too far away. Also it 
    tires your players much faster and this can hurt your chances for 
    later in the game, so don't forget to turn it OFF if you turn it ON 
    for a corner kick you're hoping to counter-attack on! It's happened to 
    me many times, when at the end of a game I wonder why all my players 
    are in the red-zone for stamina, and then I realize I left CA on.
    III. Formation II: 4-1-2-1-2, or "4-4-2 Diamond"
    (hope that came out looking ok)
    4 defenders, 4 midfield, 2 strikers. Note that instead of 2 center 
    mids, there is 1 central defensive mid (CDM), and 1 central attacking 
    mid (CAM).
    *** History / Why this formation was created: **
    This formation really took hold in Argentina, and all Argentinian club 
    teams still use it today. If you are going to watch them in the World 
    Cup 2010, you'll see Mascherano as the CDM and Messi or perhaps 
    Riquelme as the CAM (if Riquelme resolves his spat with Maradona, the 
    manager and the original CAM in the same formation when he played for 
    Basically, this formation was created as a way to accomodate a 
    playmaker, a player who can set up goals and score them himself, but 
    who has limited to no defensive ability. Thus, the creative CM stepped 
    forward and became the CAM, and the other CM dropped back and became a 
    CDM, with little responsibility to attack, but double the duty to 
    This is a double edged sword, since although this frees the CAM to 
    attack and not have to worry about defending, it also means he has no 
    second CM to pass back to if he gets in trouble. It also means almost 
    all the attacking responsibility is on his shoulders; when Argentina's 
    legendary CAM Maradona would have an off day, Argentina would usually 
    However, against teams that played 4-4-2, such as England, the CAM 
    slips in nicely between the two defensive and midfield lines of the 
    opponent. Since the defenders are tied up with the 2 strikers, often 
    nobody knew who was supposed to be marking the CAM, since he was ahead 
    of the other 3 midfield players, and the English players were assuming 
    their opponent's midfielders would move in a line, just like them. 
    The result? The CAM can turn and shoot or slide through balls to his 
    strikers. In "the hole", the space between the two lines of midfield 
    and defense, the CAM can "dance" and craft attacks.
    England (4-4-2) vs Argentina (4-4-2 Diamond), Quarter-Final World Cup 
    1986. Argentina wins, 2 - 1. And who scored the two goals? The CAM, of 
    course, Diego Maradona. 
    This formation was really meant to build a team around the "enganche", 
    the #10 playmaker who usually plays as a CAM. The problem with this is 
    that it brings the attacking flow to a single point - so if this 
    playmaker is nullified, the team has almost no other means of attack.
    The CAM is nullified by opposing CDMs. This is the precise reason how 
    the 4-2-3-1 formation (next!) was created. That formation has 2 CDM's 
    who shut down the playmaker and defeat this formation. (However, this 
    formation (4-4-2 diamond) is still good against 4-4-2, since that 
    formation has no CDM's.)
    Case in point: http://www.football-lineups.com/match/9149/
    On Jul 15, 2007, Brazil (4-2-3-1) 3 vs 0 Argentina (4-4-2 Diamond)
    Even though Argentina had Riquelme as the CAM and Tevez and Messi as 
    the two strikers, they lost 3-0 to Brazil, with Brazil's two CDM's 
    admittedly playing dirty but effective, with 37 fouls (!) called 
    against Brazil. We will come back to 4-2-3-1 next, and how it was 
    designed specifically to stop the CAM/CF/withdrawn forward/support 
    striker (all the same thing).
    ***For FIFA Play: **
    (a) The diamond shape means that your LM and RM wingers are tucked in 
    closer to the center and do not provide as much attacking potential 
    down the wings - again, the attacking impetus is focused through the 
    CAM. However, this makes the midfield more solid defensively, just 
    less creative in attack.
    (b) Again, the CAM is the crown of this formation. Usually he is a 
    very gifted player, like Riquelme, Totti, someone around whom the team 
    was built, so you should use him to shoot long, or to give-and-go with 
    the strikers and then take a shot.
    (c) This can be a good formation to use in Be-A-Pro mode, where you 
    choose to play as the CAM. It guarantees you will see the most time 
    with the ball and you can shoot and also try to release your strikers 
    with through balls.
    ***Summary of 4-1-2-1-2, or "4-4-2 Diamond" ***
    This formation used to be used to great effect but has become outdated 
    with the paradigm shift in modern football to the 4-2-3-1 with two 
    holding midfielders (CDMs). 
    It is still very effective against an opponent playing 4-4-2, because 
    that formation lacks a CDM, allowing the CAM to slip unmarked between 
    the defensive and midfield lines and create attacks. (This was the 
    original use of the formation.)
    *** Edit to this section! ***
    After finishing this guide, I realized some people might ask about 
    AC Milan's 4-3-2-1 formation, affectionately known as "The 
    Christmas tree". It is basically a 4-4-2 Diamond, but instead of two
    strikers and one CAM, there are two CAMs and one striker. The two
    CAMs sit on either side of the striker, and just behind him.
    It is very similar to the 4-4-2 diamond so I didn't see the need
    to talk about it much. It was used at AC Milan because their best
    player, Kaka, was more comfortable as a CAM than as a striker, 
    so they let him drop back into midfield. It allowed him to have the
    space to start his run and build up momentum so he could pass the 
    defenders with speed. It also let him do short give-and-go passes
    to Seedorf, the other CAM, who was also an excellent long-range
    shooter and also preferred to play as CAM rather than striker.
    In terms of FIFA play, it's not so good, because as I've said, 
    in modern football the space is on the wings, so adding a second
    CAM only marginally helps to create attacks down the throats of
    the CDMs, while it makes the lone striker's job harder and also
    makes the wingers have to drop back to midfield to defend more.
    IV. Formation 3: 4-2-3-1, or 4-2-2-2 (FIFA 07)
    -x--x---x--x-   4
    ----x---x----   2
    -x---------x-   3
    ------x------   1
    4 defenders, with 2 CDM's in front of them as a shield. 2 Attacking 
    Mids / CAMs (but on the wings now), with one center forward in between 
    the AM's, and 1 striker.
    You can probably see how this began as a variation of the 4-4-2. The 2 
    center mids retreat and protect their defensive line, playing 
    defensively. This leaves a big hole in front of them, so one of the 
    strikers moves back and becomes a center forward. The wingers move 
    forwards and form a line of 3, if you count the center-forward, and 
    these 3 play behind a lone striker.
    (Note: In FIFA 07, there is no center forward; instead there are just 
    2 strikers up front)
    *** For FIFA play: ***
    This means that 
    (a) Now that the CM's are playing defense, the main attacking threat 
    must be created by the wingers. The RM and LM must fly down the wings 
    and link the ballplay from defense to the forwards. If you want to win 
    using this formation, you absolutely must have good wingers, and must 
    use them.
    (b) If you have one of the newer game versions where you can edit 
    formations, you should convert the LB and RB into RWB and LWB, so they 
    can help attack down the wings. Since there are 2 CDM's now, even if 
    your new RWB and LWB get caught too far upfield during an enemy 
    counter-attack, your CDM's should defend the space. After all, 2 CB's 
    + 2 CDMs = 4 defenders, even without the wingbacks. Also, enable 
    wingplay tactics. (As I said in the 4-4-2 section, use the joystick or 
    direction pad that controls tactics.)
    (c) This formation almost seems designed for counter-attacks. 
    Basically, your CDMs will win balls, feed it to the winger, your 
    winger should break forwards down the wing on the counter-attack, and 
    either shoot themselves or send a ground cross, lobbed thru-ball, or 
    thru-ball to one of the forwards streaking down the center. Since both 
    of your center mids are CDMs, they will only slowly trudge forwards to 
    help attack. Turning on Counter-Attack tactics should help very much, 
    *** History / Explanation of Formation ***
    Back to our story! So England had the 4-4-2, and Argentina trumped it 
    using "4-4-2 diamond" where the CAM wreaks havok in between the lines 
    of 4-4-2. What's Brazil to do? Well, when Argentina deployed a CAM, 
    then Brazil decided to assign a player to follow him around, becoming 
    a CDM. When the CAM got frustrated, he would drift wide to try to 
    avoid opposing markers and get space to attack, since the center was 
    now crowded. The CDM would follow him, leaving a hole in the middle. 
    So then what could Brazil do? Fill the hole with a second CDM, of 
    course, who would foul the crap out of the CAM even more, and make the 
    central channel impossible to penetrate.
    This led to the rise of the use of CDMs; now, every team has at least 
    1. At Arsenal, Vieira and Petit were a wall in front of the defense. 
    Brazil had Emerson, Gilberto Silva. AC Milan, the snarling Gattuso. 
    Chelsea, Makelele, then Essien and Mikel Obi. Real Madrid, Diarra and 
    now Lassana Diarra. Liverpool, Mascherano. Man United, Hargreaves, 
    Now, using CDM's, we have taken care of the pesky CAM, but now both 
    center mids are defensive and the team needs a way to attack. Thus, 
    the wingers are pushed forwards and given much more freedom to attack. 
    Also one striker drops deep, becoming a center forward who can hold 
    the ball and wait for his teammates to arrive, and then give 
    penetrating passes.
    This formation became almost the standard, especially when a team 
    could not afford to lose. 
    There was France, with Vieira and Petit (again) as the CDMs, with 
    Zidane as the CF and Thierry Henry as the lone striker. (They won 
    World Cup 1998 and Euro 2000.) 
    Brazil had Gilberto and Emerson as the CDMs, with Ronaldinho, Robinho, 
    or Kaka given the freedom to attack from the wings. (They won World 
    Cup 2002; sometimes they didn't play a strict 4-2-3-1, with Cafu and 
    Roberto Carlos as Wingbacks sometimes almost being midfielders, but 
    they always had the two holding midfielders to keep it together.)
    In 2008/09, Liverpool under Rafa Benitez used a 4-2-3-1 with 
    Mascherano and Alonso as CDMs, although Alonso was a great passer as 
    well. The center-forward was Liverpool's captain and talisman, Steven 
    Gerrard, and in front of him was the lethal Fernando Torres. This was 
    a break from their usual 4-4-2. The result? 2nd place in the Premier 
    League, their highest finish since the EPL was created (in 1992).
    At Real Madrid from 2006-2007, Fabio Capello took over a team that had 
    not won La Liga since 2002-2003. He changed the formation to 4-2-3-1, 
    using Emerson and Diarra as his CDMs. On the wings were Robinho and 
    Beckham. For all the animosity many show towards Beckham, this 
    formation let him shine - he didn't need to defend, and his highly 
    accurate long balls from the wing were perfect for counter-attacks and 
    for linking the defense to the forwards in this counter-attacking 
    formation. Robinho, with his ball control, trickery, and speed, 
    offered a different form of attack down the other wing. The result? 
    Madrid were again La Liga champions, in 06/07.
    (Beckham - long range assist from right wing to Ronaldo - 
    (Beckham - wide run behind the LB, assist to Donovan - 
    It is important to mention that Capello was fired after the season 
    ended in 06/07, even after he won La Liga with Madrid. Why? Because 
    the football "was not beautiful."
    And if you understand this formation, you can see why. Basically, 
    there are 6 defenders who form a wall. Once the ball is won, it is 
    sprung up the wings, where more often than not, the winger tries a 
    cross. Anyone who has ever played football can tell you that crosses 
    tend to miss, more often than not, and are hard to control, imprecise, 
    and usually hopeful more than intentional. Beckham was valued so 
    highly precisely BECAUSE his crosses and long balls (and free kicks) 
    were abnormally accurate.
    Also, when in possession and not able to execute a swift counter 
    attack, a team playing 4-2-3-1 ends up passing the ball sideways and 
    eventually it gets to a winger, who again will usually end up 
    crossing. The two CDMs protect the back 4 defenders very well, but 
    also wholly eliminate the creativity of central midfield. Changing 
    your LB and RB to be more attacking helps to create more attacking 
    options, but this is still a defensive formation.
    Teams who have succeeded with this formation usually owe it to a 
    world-class center forward, who can take on defenders and create space 
    for his teammates to attack. If this playmaker can draw more than one 
    defender, he frees one of his teammates to attack. France had Zidane; 
    Arsenal, going unbeaten in the EPL for an entire season, a feat which 
    has never been repeated yet, had the legendary Dennis Bergkamp as the 
    CF. Liverpool in 08/09 had Gerrard at CF with Torres in front of him, 
    both of whom were individually capable of carrying the entire team to 
    victory. Madrid had Raul and Van Nistelrooy, both of whom regularly 
    created goals out of nothing. 
    (Bergkamp, CF, holds off 3 players until Ljungberg, the right winger, 
    can make a run and score the goal: 
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rYBUdi7ezHg )
    (Bergkamp, surrounded by 3 Newcastle players, scores the classiest 
    goal you will see in your life:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8DNfgibZO5o )
    *** Summary: ***
    This is a very common, and very defensive formation. If you like to 
    play possession football, using short passes to probe the opponent's 
    defense until you can slip in the killer pass, you probably will get 
    frustrated at the lack of men forward, and lack of attacking options. 
    If, however, you like to counter-attack immediately when you win ball 
    possession, you should like this formation. This is also seen as a 
    "safe" formation since it is defensive, so many lesser teams use it 
    when playing better teams. Remember to enable Counter-Attack tactics 
    to help. If you have the newer FIFA games, customize the formation and 
    make your RB and LB into wingbacks to help with the attack, and maybe 
    have one of your CDMs make a forward run (in "forward runs" section of 
    Create Formation).
    If you are in possession and the other team has tracked back so you 
    can no longer counter-attack, try passing to one of your CDMs, and 
    then running forwards with him (basically, you are trying to force 
    your CDM to participate in the attack and give you an additional man 
    to play with). You may end up being forced to cross alot, so try to 
    pick wingers who can cross well and have the pace to beat a defender 
    or two. If you have the newer version of the game, where you can 
    customize runs, you can have one of your CDMs make a forward run in 
    attack (although, I would argue that if you are going to do that, you 
    should just leave him forward permanently, and play a 4-1-4-1 
    formation... which is next!).
    V. Formation 4: The 4-3-3, the 4-1-4-1, the 4-1-2-3
    The 4-3-3:
    The 4-1-2-3:
    The 4-1-4-1
    As you can probably see, the reason I grouped these as one formation 
    is because when a team plays one of these formations, they end up 
    actually interchanging between all three of these very often, so it's 
    hard to give a definitive label to it.
    The common theme among these formations: 4 defenders, 3 mids, 3 
    strikers with two of the strikers playing as winger-forward hybrids. 
    Usually, one CM plays as a CDM and the other two mids play as CMs.
    You can see how flexible this formation is:
    In defense, it collapses into the 4-1-4-1, which is basically the 
    classic 4-4-2, but with a CDM between the midfield and defense lines, 
    which nullifies the CAM like the 4-2-3-1, but without sacrificing 
    central midfield fluidity of passing. 
    Then, when the team regains possession and goes on the attack, the 
    wingers spring forwards, joining the lone striker, and making it now a 
    4-3-3, or 4-1-2-3 (if the CDM noticeably drops behind the other two 
    *** FIFA Key Points ***
    (a) The wide players are the key to this formation, if you play the 
    two wing forwards more advanced, like Barcelona do with Messi and 
    Henry. They pin back the defensive line, allowing the CM's to advance 
    into the center, where the wingers can pass back to them for shots and 
    thru balls.
    (B) With 3 CMs (well, 2 CMs and 1 CDM), who is going to play winger 
    when the wing forwards bomb forward and don't defend? The LB and RB, 
    of course, who should be converted (in the newer versions) to LWB and 
    RWB if you find you need someone to defend the space on the wings, or 
    your midfielders are over-matched in man-power. 
    This is necessary if you are playing more of the 4-3-3 / 4-1-2-3 
    (c) If you don't want to have attacking LWB and RWBs who leave holes 
    in the defense, then you'll have to move your wing forwards backwards 
    and make them more traditional LM and RM midfielders who you can have 
    make attacking forward runs (in the Create A Formation section, newer 
    versions of FIFA). 
    This means you are playing more of a 4-1-4-1, with a CDM.
    ** Tactics Key Points:***
    (i) You need to use the wing forwards to get behind the opposing 
    fullbacks, so they can either shoot themselves or ground cross/thru-
    ball/square-ball it back to the onrushing center forward or central 
    (ii) If you are playing more of the balanced 4-1-4-1, where your 
    wingers are behaving less like forwards and more like normal wide 
    midfielders, then you can attack more with your CMs - take long shots 
    and layoff shots (use one CM to draw a defender, then quickly pass to 
    the second CM and take a shot in the space left open by the drawn 
    (iii) In all cases, the single CDM can get pretty lonely and isolated 
    (aka, ineffective) if everyone goes forwards to attack, and then your 
    team loses the ball, and all of a sudden its the one CDM versus 2 or 3 
    opponents in midfield.
    But this is the danger, the risk you take, if you are going to have  
    team with 3 strikers - you weaken the midfield in order to strengthen 
    the attack.
    In FIFA 07 in particular, this 4-1-4-1 formation is not really 
    available. The 4-3-3 is available, but the way it is structured in the 
    07 game is with 3 CMs, and NO CDM. This leaves the midfield very 
    vulnerable to getting caught all upfield and leaves the defensive line 
    exposed to attack with no midfield support. And since in 07 you can't 
    change formations and add a CDM, you are basically toast. Also, you 
    can't make the LB and RB into wingbacks either, denying you any width 
    or support in midfield as well. Finally, the RF and LF cannot be given 
    defensive runs back, and never behave like midfielders, only forwards, 
    again denying you the ability to gain width and better defense by 
    tweaking the formation.
    Basically, therefore, I consider this formation totally non-viable in 
    the FIFA 07 version of the game. This is really unfortunate since I 
    consider it one of the best formations in the newer versions.
    *** More History (if you want it) ***
    So where did all this talk of 4-3-3 come from, and who uses it?
    Here's how it happened. Teams all started using the 4-2-3-1, with 2 
    CDM's. This got very boring because everyone had their 2 CDMs who sat 
    and protected the defense while doing nothing creative in attack. 
    To compensate for the lack of creativity and attacking power in the 
    center, as I mentioned in the 4-2-3-1 section, the left back and right 
    back defenders became "flying wingbacks". These defender-wingers 
    attacked down the wings and acted as second wingers. The Brazilian 
    fullbacks Cafu and Roberto Carlos would fly down the flanks and fire 
    in crosses, then tirelessly track back to defend. Philip Lahm is 
    Germany's flying right back; Gael Clichy, is Arsenal's and France's 
    LWB. Sergio Ramos is the flying right back for Real Madrid and Spain, 
    often putting in more crosses than tackles in a game. Patrice Evra and 
    Rafael, for Man United. Barcelona has Dani Alves who scores as much as 
    he tackles. Nearly every team now has flying wingbacks, as a result of 
    the now-standard deployment of two CDMs.
    So of course, the game has evolved again.
    Now that the wingbacks are consistently bombing forwards in attack, 
    there is at least one wing open and undefended in a given opponent's 
    defensive line. This is the new area of attack; having built up a 
    stone wall in the center, the wings are now the weakest channel.
    Now, the best players, the playmakers, no longer play in "the hole", 
    where Bergkamp, Zidane, and Riquelme used to play. Driven by the CDMs 
    in the center, they have moved to the wing, where there is space to 
    receive the ball, and space to run and build up the speed and momentum 
    to attack.
    Who is now the best player in the...
    German Bundesliga? Frank Ribery, right winger.
    English Premier League? Cristiano Ronaldo, right winger, before he 
    left for Spain. 
    (FIFA World Player of the Year, 2008)
    Italy Serie A? It was Kaka, right attacking midfielder, before he left 
    for Spain. 
    (FIFA World Player of the Year, 2007)
    Spanish La Liga? Lionel Messi, right wing-forward. 
    (I am betting on Messi being FIFA WPY 2009, on account of his club 
    Barcelona winning not just La Liga 2009, but also El Copa Del Rey 
    2009, as well as the Champions League Final 2009)
    And there are many other examples - the Dutchman Arjen Robben, Theo 
    Walcott, Joe Cole, Robinho, Silva, etc.
    This is the reason behind the 4-3-3 formation - it specifically 
    assigns two wing-forwards to attack the space left open by the 
    opposing wing-backs. The wingbacks must either stay pinned back to 
    defend the space, greatly reducing their team's attacking threat and 
    width in midfield, or else must leave the space undefended. And even 
    if they stay back to defend, this gives the wing-forward a much more 
    favorable 1 vs 1 situation against the wingback, whereas in the center 
    there are two central defenders and two CDMs, making it almost 
    impossible to navigate.
    The other strength of this formation is its ability to collapse into 
    4-1-4-1, which again, is basically 4-4-2 but with a CDM shielding the 
    defense. It allows the team to have the best of all worlds - the 
    defensive solidity of 5 midfielders and a CDM to mark any CAM and 
    shield the defense, whilst being able to convert into a system with 3 
    strikers, and also to attack the vulnerable space behind the enemy's 
    It has been used to great success by:
    Jose Mourinho while at Chelsea - won the English Premier League twice 
    04/05, 05/06, with Makelele as his CDM and Ballack and Lampard the 
    roving CM's.
    Frank Rikjaard and now Pep Guardiola at FC Barcelona, Champions of... 
    basically everything possible in 2008-09 (La Liga, Copa del Rey, 
    Champions League), with Keita or Busquets as the CDM, Xavi and Iniesta 
    as the roving CMs, and Messi and Henry on the wings, with Eto-o as the 
    central striker.
    Arsenal FC, in the new 2009-10 season, use a 4-3-3 with Song as the 
    CDM, and Fabregas and a second player (Denilson, Rosicky, or Nasri) as 
    the CM's, with a front three of Arshavin, van Persie, and Eduardo da 
    *** Summary of 4-3-3 ***
    Not available in FIFA 07 :)
    In other versions - be sure to set one of your CMs as a CDM. You can 
    either go for a brazen attacking 3 strikers, or rein them in a little 
    to make it more similar to a 4-1-4-1. You can also assign forward runs 
    and defensive runs as you see fit for your wingbacks and winger-
    forwards, to bring balance to your formation.
    Personally, I like playing with more of a 4-1-4-1 because it gives me 
    a chance to attack with my CM's and fire long shots, as well as play 
    possession football, using short passes to increasingly pressurize the 
    opponent's box until I can pierce the line. If you use the more 
    attacking 4-1-2-3, your most effective attack is usually counter-
    attacking so you can get your winger-forward behind the defensive line 
    entirely. This can be exciting but I enjoy build-up play more 
    personally; I consider it more precise and satisfying.
    VI. So what is the best formation?
    You didn't just scroll down to here from the top of the document, did 
    you? Heh, I hope not, because it won't make any sense for you if you 
    It'd be a bit like trying to skip to the end of a Calculus problem and 
    seeing the answer is "integral of f[f(x)]dxdy." Meaning that, it means 
    nothing to you even if it is technically correct.
    The best formation is...
    (1) The one that highlights the best players on your team, giving them 
    the most time with the ball, and the most freedom and space possible
    (2) The one that best counters the formation of your opponent (as we 
    talked about, 4-4-2 vs 4-4-2 diamond vs 4-2-3-1 with 2 CDMs, vs 4-3-
    (3) The one that suits the way you like to play.
    Alright, let's expand:
    (1) What team do you like the best? Emphasize your best players - if 
    you have top-class forwards, pick the formation where they get the 
    most space and chances. If you have Ronaldo or Messi on your team, use 
    them! Play them as wide wing forwards, and then pass them the ball as 
    soon as possible and use them to flank the opponent's defensive line. 
    If you have Gerrard, pick a formation that gives him as a CM the 
    opportunity to come forward and take long shots, since he's good at 
    them. For example, the 4-4-2 or 4-1-4-1 where CM is key. If your team 
    has tons of top defenders but few good forwards, you could try a 5-3-
    2, but with 2 flying wingbacks to function as basically midfield 
    wingers. Use your best players as much as possible!
    (2) Counter your opponent's formation. Basically, as we have discussed 
    exhaustively, CAMs bypass midfield lines and traditional CM's, but 
    CDMs counter CAMs, while wing-forwards in turn allow you to bypass 
    CDMs entirely. What counters the wing forward? We should find out in a 
    few years, when the game evolves again! For now, Messi, Ronaldo and 
    Kaka continue to terrorize opposition wingbacks into submission.
    (3) Play so you enjoy yourself. If you love turning on counter-attack 
    tactics and bombing forward on the counter, pick a team with fast 
    players, place them on the wing, and do yourself a favor and set at 
    least once player as a CDM to give your defensive line a break. If you 
    love patient build up, short passing and possesion play, consider 
    packing your midfield or playing the 4-1-4-1 like I do, or a 4-2-3-1 
    with the CDMs making forward offensive runs. If you like long 
    shooting, push your CM's forward in the formation so they're in a 
    position to shoot, and be sure to bring your wingers backwards to 
    compensate and balance.
    A great example of a team built to maximise each players' impact was 
    Manchester United of 2007-2008, when they were totally dominant. Alex 
    Ferguson, the manager, had Rooney and Tevez as strikers, and Giggs and 
    Cristiano Ronaldo as his wingers, while Carrick and Scholes sat in the 
    center. But Ronaldo loved attacked and never defended, while Giggs was 
    getting old and slow as a winger. Rooney was amazing as a striker but 
    had the work-rate of a midfielder and the anger and toughness of a 
    CDM. What to do?
    Ferguson let Carrick and Scholes sit tight as CDMs / CMs (they came 
    forward to attack sometimes). He let Giggs, old and slow but very 
    intelligent and skilled on the ball, to stay on the left but drift 
    inside and play like a CAM. Rooney, full of energy up front, would 
    also attack wide left, and right and switch places with Giggs (L) or 
    Ronaldo (R). As for Ronaldo, Ferguson let him loose on the right wing, 
    and we all know what happened then - he went on to score 42 goals in 
    one season, more than entire teams scored in a year, and he won every 
    individual award known to the the footballing world.
    Ferguson let each player maximise on their strengths, somehow got them 
    all to get along and sacrifice for each other, and as a result they 
    won everything. The same is happening at Barcelona. Their 4-3-3 works 
    because Xavi and Iniesta are so incredibly skilled, they basically 
    count as 3 players, not 2. This allows Barcelona to field 3 strikers 
    instead of two, and by exploiting that vulnerable space on the wings 
    of the defense, they have demolished every obstacle they came across.
    VII. So seriously, what is the best formation? (Summary section)
    Well, here's the condensed list - pick what kind of style you want to 
    (A) 4-2-3-1, with 2 CDMs, with CA enabled, if you have great 
    CAMs/forwards to fly down the wings and want to counter-attack rush 
    the craps out of your opponent. Focus on using the lobbed-thru-ball 
    command or the ground cross command.
    (B) 4-4-2 with the focus on the center mids, using them to pass short 
    and work the ball around, (try practicing using the pace-control 
    button, the button that makes your player walk slowly) taking long 
    shots as well. You can also have fun using your strikers the old 
    fashioned way and have them try to immediately sprint diagonally away 
    from their marker and take a shot.
    (Try the long shot while holding the 'finesse' button for beautiful 
    35-yard curlers into the top corners!)
    (C) 4-1-4-1 with one CDM holding, and use custom formations to have 
    your wingers make surging forward runs from midfield, or use your CMs 
    to weave balls through the middle or shoot long.
    (D) 4-1-2-3 with again, one CDM holding but really letting those wing-
    forwards push forwards and attack the wingback space. You'll need to 
    convert your fullbacks into wing-backs to cover the space the wing-
    forwards are leaving undefended, which can stretch you defensively, 
    but thats the price you have to pay if you want 3 forwards at once.
    Under no circumstances should you try a 4-3-3 withOUT a CDM unless you 
    enjoy watching opponents slice through your midfield like a katana; 
    you should also be very wary of using CA if you are using any 
    formation with 3 strikers since you are already defensively stretched.
    Personally, I believe the 4-1-4-1 formation that Chelsea uses is the 
    most tactically sound. 
    I am an Arsenal fan but it pains me to see them use the 4-1-2-3 
    formation and then see Song the CDM painfully exposed on the break. 
    Several times the opponent has scored because the Arsenal wingbacks, 
    Clichy and Sagna, are always flying forwards, leaving that space on 
    the flanks. Poor Song doesn't know which flank to defend since both 
    are wide open, and then it becomes 3 defenders (Song + 2 CB's) vs 3 
    attackers, which usually ends badly. For better or for worse, Arsene 
    Wenger's Arsenal is like a Lamborghini with no brakes on it.
    Chelsea's midfield is much more solid, as much as I'd hate to admit 
    it, and Barcelona uses the very similar 4-1-2-3. They get away with 
    the 3 full-blown forwards, whereas Arsenal does not, because as I said 
    Xavi and Iniesta are (arguably) the best CM's in the world, among 
    other reasons.
    The end. 10/29/09, written in 1 sitting and in 1 day.
    Thanks for reading, hope it gives you a greater understanding of 
    football formations and tactics, and I hope you enjoy FIFA more than 
    you did before. I also hope it helps you enjoy watching live football 
    as well as playing on the real pitch, if you are lucky enough to. 
    Great additional sources to read:
    A great site with formation analysis of every major match played on 
    Great articles on football tactics and evolution by John Wilson
    Inverting the Pyramid: The History of Football Tactics, by John Wilson
    If you like his articles, you might as well buy his book, it was very 
    illuminating for me
    contacting me - arsenal4cesc@gmail.com

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