HOW DO YOU EVALUATE 4 1/2 + 2 1/2?


The following is the first part of a mini-series in which Jake Askham takes a look at the common formations prevalent in football today. This piece focuses on the 4-1-2-1-2 formation.

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The 4-1-2-1-2 formation is a variation of the standard 4-4-2 and there are two versions of this formation. In both versions, the back 4, central defensive midfielder, the central attacking midfielder và the two strikers stay the same. The main difference is the role of the two extra midfielders. In one variation, they play as wide midfielders & in the other, as central midfielders. This slight difference in positions has a large impact on the roles of the other players & the team’s overall style of play.

R) and Narrow 4-1-2-1-2 (R->L)" width="795" height="575" />

Wide (L->R) & Narrow 4-1-2-1-2 (R->L)


One of the main strengths of this formation is that it accommodates two strikers. In modern football, many teams often sacrifice a striker for a midfielder lớn try gain control of games và to increase defensive strength. By sacrificing control in a certain area of the pitch, it allows a team lớn play two strikers which will often be against two centre backs thus reducing the battle lớn that of individual skill.

During Liverpool’s rampant 2013-14 campaign, Steven Gerrard said “If teams want to play 2 v 2 against these two, Sturridge & Suarez, all the best”. The 4-1-2-1-2 formation allowed Liverpool to get the best out of two very good strikers; their goals fired them lớn a 2nd place finish even though they conceded 50 goals, only 3 less than Hull thành phố who finished 16th.

It also allows for a central attacking midfielder (CAM) or number 10, which somewhat forces the opposition to either play a defensive midfielder or lớn press high/drop deep, in order to restrict the space and prevent the number 10 from receiving the ball and being able lớn turn và run at the defense or play a through ball to lớn a striker running behind the defense.

Strengths of the wide 4-1-2-1-2 

The wide version of this formation ensures attacking presence in the wide areas, with two strikers to cross the ball to. With good attacking play down the sides, the opposition’s wingers will have to lớn work hard defensively which in turn will limit their opportunities khổng lồ attack. Furthermore, it is very easy for this formation khổng lồ be turned into the standard 4-4-2 which when deployed effectively can be very hard lớn break down & is a tactic often used by coaches in difficult away games.

Strengths of the narrow 4-1-2-1-2

The main strength of this variation is in central midfield. With the 4 midfielders, teams will often outnumber their opposition which will give them greater control of the game & a large share of possession. This control in midfield will then give the full-backs the opportunities khổng lồ push forward further to lớn try và contribute to an attacking move. Therefore the supply to the strikers will not only come from the central midfielders but also the full-backs giving the attacks more variety & therefore making the entire attacking unit harder to defend against.

General weaknesses

A common occurrence when playing a single defensive midfielder is the centre-backs splitting, the full-backs pushing up the pitch và the defensive midfielder dropping in between the centre-backs to lớn receive the ball and start the attacks. Problems with this approach occur when teams figure this out as it’s fairly easy to lớn counter. All a team has to vì chưng is man-mark the defensive midfielder và press high on the full-backs.

A great example of this is Steven Gerrard at the start of the 2014-15 season. The year before he had re-invented himself as the deep lying player maker, his legs were not what they once were và this forced him to lớn adapt his style of play. By moving further back he could showcase his laudable range of passing, dictate the tempo of the games và in general, he had a great influence on Liverpool’s performance. But teams realized that if they pressed Gerrard and didn’t give him time on the ball he no longer had the physical ability lớn make space for himself, which meant he was often being bypassed & had little impact on games. The team’s performances as a whole suffered in the 2014-15 season, the main reason was of course the departure of Luis Suarez but teams nullifying the impact of Gerrard certainly played its part too.

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Weakness of the wide 4-1-2-1-2

The main weakness of this formation is the lack of a central midfield, which in turn could lead lớn the opposition gaining complete control of the game. The defensive midfielder will often find himself outnumbered by the opposition’s midfield, which may lead lớn the wide midfielders being pulled out of position khổng lồ cover the central positions. This formation is usually quite attack minded, especially if the fullbacks push too far forward, which increases the chance of them being caught on the counter attack.

Weakness of the narrow 4-1-2-1-2

The main weakness of this formation comes in the wide areas. The lack of wingers or wide midfielders means the fullbacks are very exposed to attacks down their side and also it means the when they bởi push forward khổng lồ help with an attack they can be exposed on the counter attack. The lack of width also means the attacks can become somewhat predictable and if the opposition play two defensive midfielders, there will be very little space in the middle of the pitch and no options in the wide areas thus limiting the focus of the attack.

Successful implementation in recent times

In recent times, the most notable success of a team using this formation is Liverpool’s 2nd place finish in the 2013-14 season. The success was based around 3 important factors: Suarez và Sturridge playing alongside one another, Sterling playing in the number 10 role and Gerrard operating as a deep lying playmaker.

The deadly duo scored 52 goals in the league alone; while Steven Gerrard và Raheem Sterling chipped in with 23 goals between themselves. This clear strength in attack meant that their defensive frailties didn’t really matter. The conceded 3 against Cardiff city but scored 6, they conceded 2 against Manchester city but managed to score 3. They conceded 50 goals và finished in 2nd place, whilst Chelsea in 3rd only conceded 27. Brendan Rodgers clearly identified his squad’s strengths, & found a formation that suited them perfectly in a highly successful season.

Key Player Roles

Defensive Midfielder: The two most important qualities for defensive midfielders are positional awareness và accurate passing. Their job as the sole defensive midfielder is khổng lồ start attacks by playing the ball forward towards the more creative players và to protect the back four from oncoming attacks. Their role allows the full-backs to lớn push forward into attacking positions & when they do that they must be very disciplined và not push too far forward as this may lead khổng lồ them being xuất hiện and vulnerable to a counter-attack.

Attacking midfielder: The attacking midfielder has two main roles; to liên kết the midfield & the attack by finding space between the opposition’s defense và midfield whilst also making runs in behind the opposition’s defensive midfielder lớn cause problems. In order for them to lớn fulfil their role the attacking midfielder must have great trò chơi awareness as they must know when khổng lồ run in behind and when khổng lồ drop deep to receive the pass from the midfielder.

Strikers: Their role in this formation is quite simpy to lớn score goals. They must work well with one another & often sacrifice personal glory for the sake of the team, for example one striker might pull wide khổng lồ offer a different angle of attack even though they might not be totally comfortable in that role. The most successful striking partnerships often are a result of two players with different capabilities. For example, Thierry Henry was fast & often ran behind the opposition’s defense while Denis Bergkamp could find space & thread through balls khổng lồ his partner. The same could be said about Ian Rush & Kenny Dalglish, Kevin Keegan & John Toshack and Peter Beardsley and Gary Lineker.

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This formation can work wonders especially if a team has two excellent strikers. Attacking wise, with the correct players they can be very dangerous and hard khổng lồ play against but they are often very vulnerable in the wide areas if using the narrow version of the formation or vulnerable in the centre of midfield is using the wide version. When it works it can be exciting, entertaining & very successful but when it doesn’t teams can struggle khổng lồ get any control of the trò chơi at all. It’s often a risk to use either of these formations, but a good manager will know when & where to lớn use it.