The offensive game focused on reaching the rival’s box to create chances and score goals. It creates a pleasant viewing for the spectator and is a path that some managers consider the appropriate one. Others, having a more romantic perspective, see it as the correct way to practice this sport.
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Although historically there have been attacking formations in football much more offensive than those that we are going to explain below, they are tactics that have been in disuse, which used 4, 5 or 6 strikers.
Our list focuses on the attacking formations in football that are applied today. Here are the 10 most popular attacking formations:
Possibly the most popular attacking formation, it’s deservedly discussed at the top, because the flow of attacking football in 2022 passes through this formation! Following the success of Guardiola’s FC Barcelona, the 4-3-3 began to have a new golden age.
In addition, managers such as Ten Hag at Ajax, and Klopp at Liverpool, are exponents of this formation. And results of the teams under these managers in the last few years are quite evident in all of our’s lives. So what makes this formation great? Here’s how:
Why is the 4-3-3 a good attacking Football(Soccer) formation?
The formation has a classic line of 4 defenders with 2 full backs that they usually use offensively simultaneously, taking advantage of the fact that one of the midfielders, the deep-lying playmaker, is delayed to help in defense. This midfielder is usually the link between defence and midfield.
The other 2 midfielders have mixed characteristics to support the 2 wingers who play open in the attack. One of the variants that are usually included is to use inside forwards instead of wingers. That is, placing a left-footed player on the right and vice versa so that he is well-placed for the shot.
A particular case that took the 4-3-3 to the extreme in terms of attacking formations in football, was Zdenek Zeman. He was a manager who spent most of his career in Italy. He was always known to deploy teams that were very offensive and that scored many goals but also conceded many.
Versatility & variations:
Furthermore, the 4-3-3 is very versatile. It could transform from a 4-3-3 to a 4-5-1/4-2-3-1 if needed. This totally depends on the situation of the game.
For example, the 4-3-3 transforms to a 4-5-1 when defending or protecting the score. A 4-2-3-1 is used to protect a score, however, maintaining decent attacking power with the 4 attacking players.
This formation, widely used at the beginning of the century, was, in part, the “culprit” of the disappearance of the classic enganche.
The enganche is a player who occupies the space between midfielders and strikers. Recently, the Portuguese manager Jorge Jesus used the 4-4-2 with the Brazilian club Flamengo.
With this formation, he won the 2019 Copa Libertadores along with all the local tournaments in a period of one year. In the Rio de Janeiro club, Jesus lined up a line of 4 defenders who supported Diego Alves.
This was a section of the team with a lot of experience, meaning they could interpret when to go up to attack and when to maintain position.
Why is the 4-4-2 a good attacking Football(Soccer) formation?
This 4-4-2 can be considered a solid formation thanks to the solidity of the players with defensive responsibilities that allow the attackers to have the peace of mind to fulfil in the offensive facet.
However, it does have its downsides in today’s football. It’s a bit bland and outdated in today’s football. Having said that, as discussed earlier this could be evolved quite good when attacking.
versatility & variations:
The 4-4-2 usually has 2 attacking faces. It transforms from a 4-4-2 to a 4-2-4 (or 4-2-2-2). This offers great attacking maneuverability however, it creates a bit of a stagnated hole between the Central Defensive Midfielders (CDMs) & the Central Forwards(CFs).
4-2-4 is usually used when focusing on crossing and depending on central forwards – you can read a more in-depth guide here.
In midfield, one of them had a more defensive and recovery-based role. This role gave attacking freedom to Gerson, De Arrascaeta and Everton Ribeiro who enabled 2 strikers.
The 4-2-3-1 Attacking Formation
Another of the most common attacking formations in football, that has been used by managers like Mauricio Pochettino in his last spell at Tottenham or by Hans-Dieter Flick at Bayern Munich, champion of the 2020 UEFA Champions League.
Along with the line of 4 defenders, there are 2 midfielders with similar characteristics to those mentioned in a 4-4-2.
Why is the 4-2-3-1 a good attacking Football(Soccer) formation?
This is a very solid formation, a go-to formation if I had to say. If we look at how today’s football is being played this is one of the most balanced formations out there. It could be looked at as a 4-3-3 (wingers) when attacking, with a no.10 playing a free role in the middle.
versatility & variations:
There are 3 players who can be 2 wingers and an advanced playmaker. Very versatile and a go-to in today’s age.
A great example is that of Bayern Munich with Gnabry, Perisic and Muller. Another variation of it is the use of 3 advanced playmakers as in the case of Tottenham, where Eriksen played along with Dele and Lamela. The striker is usually a classic forward as we can see in the aforementioned teams with Lewandowski and Kane.
The 4-4-2 Diamond (4-1-2-1-2) Attacking Formation
This formation is less common than the rest of those mentioned in this list of attacking formations in football. However, we get a recent example of its successful use in Europe.
More specifically, in Real Madrid a couple of years ago, when Zidane was lining a back four with 2 center-backs who know how to build up the attack like Varane and Sergio Ramos, the Spaniard is a specialist in the offensive facet. The fullbacks, Carvajal and Marcelo, also with a marked offensive vocation.
In front of the defense was Casemiro, who had a defensive midfielder function that made him the most important player in the scheme since he was the one who covered the spaces left by the rest of his teammates.
In midfield, Toni Kroos had a more static position next to Modric who was the one who supported the most in attack, and Isco behind the strikers who were Cristiano Ronaldo, who had freedom of movement and Benzema.
Why is the 4-4-2 Diamond (4-1-2-1-2) a good attacking Football(Soccer) formation?
Looking at it from a far, critics might think that this is a weak formation in today’s age of football. However, if played well they are massively wrong. It’s quite hard to play against a combination of 2 Central Forwards(CF).
versatility & variations:
The build-up of 4 Midfielders in a Diamond Formation creates a very versatile build-up. However, we have to keep in mind that you need to have very technical players with decent vision and awareness.
These midfielders could create runs and join the attack, making the midfielders very hard to defend against. Furthermore, on the defence side, you’ve got quite good coverage, however, you’d need players with very good stamina.
The 4-2-2-2 Attacking Formation
It is one of the least used on the list, although very useful for goal-scoring. In essence, it is very similar to a 4-4-2. The only difference is that 2 of the midfielders are advanced playmakers who play behind the strikers.
Why is the 4-2-2-2 a good attacking Football(Soccer) formation?
They tend to play in a more centralized way, which leaves the sides free for the fullbacks. In 2006, the Brazil national team used this formation with Roberto Carlos and Cafú as fullbacks. Attacking-wise, Ronaldinho and Kaká as advanced playmakers, and Ronaldo with Adriano in the attack.
While there is a traditional defense line of 4, the midfield plays an integral role along with the two center-forwards upfront.
There are two pairs of midfielders, the back two may act as the double pivots while the advanced pair is the one responsible for the attacking build-up. These players must be creative, and closest to being the traditional number 10s who can create chances and break lines for the center-forwards up front.
versatility & variations:
If executed properly, the ‘magic rectangle’ of midfield can come in handy for advanced attacking play, as the defense is covered up quite neatly with the presence of 2 center-backs and 2 deep-lying midfielders.
This also allows the full-backs to get into advanced positions on the wing and help the team from wide areas in attacking scenarios.
The 3-3-4 Attacking Formation
It is one of those attacking formations in football that are markedly related to a particular manager, in this case with Marcelo Bielsa, the Argentinian who currently coaches Leeds United, recently promoted to the Premier League.
Why is the 3-3-4 a good attacking Football(Soccer) formation?
With the 3-3-3-1, Bielsa takes advantage of the numerical superiority in most areas of the pitch. It allows a rapid recovery of the ball and in turn gives his players more passing options. Meaning that it favors his idea of a fast, vertical game.
The 3-4-3 Attacking Formation
Arsenal’s new manager, Mikel Arteta, has implemented this system as the tactic he has used with the Gunners.
In their back three, one of them is Tierney, whose natural position is that of left back, which allows the team to change from a back four or a back five.
Why is the 3-4-3 a good attacking Football(Soccer) formation?
Additionally, the Scottish player takes advantage when the left wing-back, who is usually Kolasinac or Maitland-Niles, centralizes his position, which allows him to go up on that side of the pitch.
This along with the backward movement of one of the midfielders allows an element of surprise without modifying the 3-4-3.
In attack, they play 3 forwards whose main characteristic is speed, such as Aubameyang, Pepe or the recently signed Willian. Ole Gunnar Solksjaer has also used this formation at times at Manchester United as well as Rudi Garcia at Olympique Lyon.
The 3-5-1-1 Attacking Formation
Why is the 3-5-1-1 a good attacking Football(Soccer) formation?
Although it looks like a defensive formation, this is one of the attacking formations in football. This formation has a big supporter in current Lazio manager, Simone Inzaghi. The Italian manager uses a scheme where the back three remains fixed with 2 relatively static wing backs.
The Serbian Milinkovic-Savic plays a very important role as a Box to Box midfielder. Further forward, Luiz Alberto plays an advanced playmaker supporting Joaquín Correa who plays freely behind the sole striker, Ciro Immobile.
With this formation, Lazio was the third team that scored the most goals in the last season of Serie A, above champions Juventus.
Also known as the Christmas tree, it is a formation that AC Milan used at the beginning of the century. It has also remained within the rich tactical world of modern Italian football.
Currently, Maurizio Sarri has been the one who has used it most frequently at the highest level of European football. Sarri uses a line of 4 more advanced than usual with a deep-lying playmaker.
Why is the 4-3-2-1 a good attacking Football(Soccer) formation?
This player is the one who dictates the team times (Jorginho in his time at Napoli and Chelsea). Having a populated midfield allows the team to have many touches and retain possession, as the Italian manager prefers.
Why is the 4-3-1-2 a good attacking Football(Soccer) formation?
Unless you have creativity flow in your team, the 4-3-1-2 formation can be challenging in attacking football. If we notice, it is a bit defense-oriented version of the famous 4-3-3 formation. There are two Centre-forwards or wide strikers with a presence of a media punta, or a traditional number 10.
When attacking, the midfield should be creative in breaking the lines, with the responsibility of attacking distribution on our attacking midfielder behind the strikers who can then finish off the chances.
Also, the full-backs can further advance on the wings and create attacking threats from the wider areas. Or even pull opponent’s players wide and create spaces for the midfield in the center.
If constructed properly, the 4-3-1-2 can be a great attacking option for teams with highly creative players with great positioning sense.
What is the greatest attacking formation in football/soccer when losing?
This is highly situational. If you’re starting the game to fully attack you could start with a 3-5-2. Very well rounded but need to have very technical players.
If you need to attack but you’ve got less technical prowess, use the 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1.
If you’re losing and you need to go all-out attack, the 3-3-4 formation is the best. Nothing to lose; all to gain.
What is the greatest attacking formation in football/soccer when winning?
When you’re winning and you want to protect the score, the 5-3-2 formation is the best of the bunch. Great counter-attacking ability and very good coverage overall.
Naglesmann’s Attacking Formations & Tactics
This is a very interesting case that is difficult to locate within an attacking formation, mainly because of what Julian Nagelsmann does. He adapts his tactical scheme to the rival. His team manages to go from a 3-5-2 to a 3-4-3 and then to a 4-4-2, within the same game and without making any substitutions.
This means that each player must be prepared to play in various positions. It is reminiscent of what Total Football in the Netherlands was in 1974. Nagelsmann’s team counteracts the rival attack, and at the same time develops fast-paced football.
It is not up on us to choose a formation as the most offensive or the most appropriate to play offensive football. This will depend on the idea of the manager and the players they have, as well as other factors such as the competition where it is played.
There are always nuances that end up changing the perception of a certain attacking formation in football. At the end of the day, it’s as Alfio Basile, former Argentina and Boca Juniors manager, says:
“I place the players correctly in the formation but then the match starts and they move.”
Here are Some of our Favourite Football (Soccer) Cleats
Here we will be giving more of an opinion, rather than facts. Are the cleats worth the price that they are being sold at? Should you upgrade from your current cleats, depending on what boots you own? What features stand out in these cleats? If any. Does it do the job? Speed, control, stability etc. Depending on your needs/preferences. We can also mention its durability, if we have collected enough data on the specific cleats.
What did we expect vs. what we got. Is it maybe overrated/underrated?
Here’s our pick from the very best of the bunch.
On your way to the pro leagues? Here’s our pick.
Want something to start with? Have a look at our pick.