Learn the best formations from the pros!
From long shots to short passes, we’ve taught you the best ways to win with the help of Red Bull Malaysia-sponsored Team Infinite – but how are you going to score goals without a good formation?
Izzal “SamOrai” Syazrul of Team Infinite together with Red Bull Malaysia is here again this week to talk about picking the right formation for your team. Things are going to get pretty technical this week, so grab a can of Red Bull to keep your energy levels up, and let’s get this started!
We’re sure you would love to ask SamOrai the two common questions when it comes to formations: “What’s the best formation in the game?”, and “Is 4-4-2 still relevant even though it’s not being used in real-life football?” According to SamOrai, there’s truthfully no “ultimate formation” in the game, but there will always be a formation that suits you best.
Before knowing the best formation for you, you first have to ask yourself what’s your natural play-style? Do you prefer a possession-based style with slow, calculated build-up play, or do you prefer a faster buildup with a heavy emphasis on counter-attacking? Do you rely on wingers to feed your strikers by crossing the ball? SamOrai advises players to pick formations based on their natural playing styles, as different formations provide different benefits and drawbacks depending on playstyle.
The most common style of play is possession. Teams that favour possession-based football are usually teams with quality and skillful passers on the midfield like Barcelona, Arsenal, and Juventus, and tend to favor formations heavy on midfielders. This playing stylesrequires a lot of patience, as you patiently move the ball from player to player until the right opportunity arises. Teams that play possession-based football will usually end the game with a bigger percentage of possession – sometimes exceeding 70%. Formations that give an advantage to a possession-based playing styles are:
The 4-5-1 overloads the midfield, giving the team with this formation more options for passing and recycling possession while waiting for a goalscoring opportunity. The obvious downside to this formation is that the lone striker up front can (and most likely will) get isolated from the team for extended periods of time.
The 4-3-3 is a modern variation of the 4-5-1, which sees the two Wide Midfielders (RM/LM) move up into more advanced positions as Wingers or Wide Forwards (RW/LW). This allows a team to maintain a midfield trio while being more threatening in attack, as well as linking up better with the lone striker up front. The wingers are usually expected to contribute far less defensively in this formation, so your fullbacks stamina and performance will be the key to success when using this formation.
The narrow cousin of the 4-4-2 (Diamond), the 4-1-2-1-2 concentrates all your players into central positions. This results in you having near-complete control in the center of the pitch, but also leaves the flanks exposed to your opponent’s wingers as your only wide players are fullbacks. This formation functions best if your opponent’s Striker(s) aren't as tall as your Central Defenders, meaning that your team can confidently deal with all the crosses coming in.
The 4-2-2-2 is a highly defensive formation that is rarely seen in both FIFA and real-life football. Featuring a tight midfield of 2 CDMs and 2 CMs, your opponents will have a hard time penetrating your defense, but you'd probably face the same issue, as this formation provides few options going forward.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United were famed and feared for their brutal counter-attacks, as he almost always set up his teams to counter-attack efficiently – and effectively. Sir Alex’s lineups almost always feature pacey wingers like Cristiano Ronaldo and Ryan Giggs, and a dangerous long-range passer in the form of Paul Scholes. As the key to counter-attacking is to get the ball into the opponent’s final third before their defenders can react, SamOrai says that the secret is to look at Sir Alex’s teams of past: Pacey Wingers alongside a CDM who can launch deadly long passes from deep to start a counter-attack, like Luka Modric, Xabi Alonso, Toni Kroos, and Andrea Pirlo. If you prefer counter-attacking, the best formations for you are:
The 4-3-3 is probably the best counter-attacking formation there is. Keeping in the line the formations and tactics of the king of counter-attacking football, the 4-3-3 allows a team to have a “specialist” player like Andrea Pirlo at CDM to start counter-attacks with long passes to the pacey Wingers. The two CMs will play in a more box-to-box role, contributing both offensively and defensively to cover for the weaknesses of the “specialist”.
4-2-3-1 & 4-2-3-1 DM
Arguably the most popular formation amongst top teams for the past 5 years or so, the 4-2-3-1 is one of the most versatile formations to have emerged in modern tactics. The 4-2-3-1 DM is virtually identical to the 4-2-3-1, with only one minor change – your two CMs are now CDMs. The 4-2-3-1 DM is a safer choice for teams with shakier defenses, as the two central midfielders now bear a heavier load of the defensive work, but also limits your choices moving forward.
5-2-1-2 & 5-2-2-1
The 5-2-1-2 and 5-2-2-1 are nearly identical formations favoured heavily by Italian teams. Both formations are identical in defense and midfield, with three CDs, two WBs, and two CMs, but are different in offense. The 5-2-1-2 has two Strikers (CF/ST) and a Playmaker in the #10 role (CAM), while the 5-2-2-1 has two Wingers/Wide Forwards (RW/LW) and one Striker (CF/ST). Both formations rely on having the three CDs absorb pressure from the enemy’s attack, while looking to the attacking players and WBs to be on the receiving end of a long pass to start counter-attacks.
This tactical formation was well famed during the 90’s. As dated as a crossing-based tactic and formation may sound, it can still be brutally effective against an unprepared opponent in FIFA ‘16. A crossing-based formation and playing style, requires two pacey wingers with a high crossing attribute, and at least one striker with high physicality, first touch, and heading attributes. Teams such as PSG with the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Arsenal with Olivier Giroud, and Real Madrid with Cristiano Ronaldo (though you’d have to move him from his usual LW position to ST and bench Benzema) are suitable for crossing-type of play. Liverpool also has Christian Benteke who can fill this role. Formations suitable for a crossing-based playing style are:
The golden child of modern footballing tactics, the 4-2-3-1 an extremely well-balanced formation that allows teams to transition quickly between a counter-attacking style and a crossing-based style. The attributes of the Wingers (RW/LW) in the 4-2-3-1 determine the team’s capabilities and preferred play-style, so be sure to pay attention! For example, players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, and Arjen Robben would prefer to cut in and take a shot on goal while players like Kevin de Bruyne and Pedro Rodríguez would prefer to cross it in.
The versatile 4-3-3 rears its head for the third time, as subtle tweaks of tactics and player orders allow it to be adaptable to all three major play-styles highlighted today. The success of the 4-3-3 in a crossing-based playing style requires your striker to be almost able single-handedly take on the opposing defense, and find space to be on the receiving end of crosses.
The 4-4-2 (Diamond) is SamOrai’s personal favorite formation and a variation of the classic 4-4-2. The midfield four in the 4-4-2 (Diamond) is spread out in the shape of a diamond (CDM/RM/LM/CAM) as opposed to the flat four of the classic 4-4-2 (RM/RCM/LCM/LM). The 4-4-2 (Diamond) excels when the team focuses on wing play and crossing, but also leaves a gaping hole in the center of the field for opponents to exploit.
Team Infinite’s TI_Samurai prefers a fast-paced, possession-based play-style with Real Madrid using 4-4-2 (Diamond). Sounds interesting, right? When we questioned his choice of 4-4-2 and the relevance of that formation in football, he answered, “Due to the robust nature of the current trend of football in real life, 4-4-2 may be irrelevant. In FIFA ‘16, however, you can still win games using the 4-4-2 formation, and it is my favorite formation to go for”.
While SamOrai’s choice of formation and tactics may sound unconventional to most players, he has won numerous competitions with it and is still one of the nation’s best. This proves that winning is more than just the selection of the formation – but doesn't mean it’s unimportant. Setting up your team with the right formation enables your players to play to their strengths, while also compensating for their weaknesses. It takes hours of practice and experimentation to discover which formations are suited to your natural playing style, according to Samurai. With the right team, the right players, and the right formation, there are #NoLimits to what you can achieve.
Join us again next week on RBEZ for the latest tips and tricks, and remember, Red Bull, Energy with #NoLimits.