Formations are certainly not everything, with top managers such as Mauricio Pochettino expressing that it’s how the players play and interpret their positions, with the numbers being less important; the formation we choose to play is not important – most important is the animation and how we move the ball.

Tottenham’s crushing victory over Stoke was a game where, from the outside, we can see the players were enjoying playing football on the pitch. Most important is the idea, the philosophy, and what we want to do with the ball.

However, the formation and tactics a team set up with play a crucial role in the outcome of matches and outsmarting the opposition. Here are, in my opinion, the three most effective formations in world football currently:

4-4-2:

The 442 to is traditionally an English formation, with the majority of EFL teams implementing it, due to it favouring a big striker who is good in the air.

However it has recently made a resurgence in the top tiers with continental sides such as Monaco and Atletico Madrid relishing its compactness as well as it’s ability to counter attack quickly.

Leicester and Atletico especially have benefited from playing 442 as it  by forces the opposition down the flanks and having central defenders who are good in the air, such as Diego Godin, Wes Morgan and Robert Huth to deal with crosses – it is a smart system to use. 

Furthermore, all three teams have industrious strikers who harass the opposition’s defenders and win the ball back high up the pitch as well as central midfielders who can execute long balls over the top, allowing them to break quickly.

This tactic means that the 442 is a perfect formation for underdogs, who are out of possession for the majority of the game, to frustrate their opponents and score goals with limited chances.

3-4-3:

The 343 has recently grown prominent in world football due to managers such as Antonio Conte and Jorge Sampaoli using it to great effect at Chelsea and Sevilla.

Chelsea have been unstoppable this year with their defensive solidity and attacking speed troubling every side they’ve come up against.

The wing backs are crucial when creating overloads out wide in attack and working back and getting into a back five in defence, with Victor Moses and Marcos Alonso’s work rate and quality on the ball crucial to Chelsea this season. Moreover, the two central midfielders must be dominant and industrious in the middle of the park with players such as N’Golo Kante and Steven N’Zonzi proving vital to their respective sides. 

The 343 can be utilised as a quick counter attacking unit, however is also good at retaining possession with good ball playing centre backs such as David Luiz and Toby Alderweireld pivotal in the formation.

Overall, the 343 is growing in popularity due to its attacking qualities and it’s ability to return to a back five in defence.

4-3-3:

In recent years, the 433 has been one of the most popular formations in the Champions League, with football superpowers such as Barcelona and Real Madrid dominating world football in this formation.

The formation emphasises expressive and skillful wing play with Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi and Lorenzo Insigne among others terrorising opposition full backs.

There are many variations of the 433, however the most effective has been with a defensive midfielder breaking up play and acting as a metronome in front of defence, for example Sergio Busquets, Casemiro and Amadou Diawara are paramount in their respective teams.

The 433 provides a good balance between defence and attack and puts more emphasis on individual quality and intelligence in attack with world beaters such as Neymar, Messi and Ronaldo flourishing.

Oliver Walsh

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