Dealing With The 4-2-3-1

The 4-2-3-1 can cause a few issues if you don’t adapt for the fact you have little cover down the flanks. If I ignore this fact I’ll be punished.

There are many ways to play against this shape as it depends what type of roles the opposition is using. Just because someone might be using a 4-2-3-1 it doesn’t mean all those shapes play the same. One formation might use playmakers wide and another inside forwards, so it best to watch a little bit of the game to get a true idea of what the opposition is actually doing. For this game against Mk Dons I made the following changes;

  • Added the team instruction Higher Tempo
  • Removed the team instruction Retain Possession
  • Removed the team instruction Play Narrower

The reason for this was I have the numbers advantage in the middle of the pitch so wanted to make the most of it. As I’m playing a higher tempo game I expect my possession numbers to go down slightly so that’s why I removed that as I want to attack space faster this time and not have players retain the ball. This makes for faster transitions as the 4-2-3-1 leaves a lot of space behind the two central midfielders and also in the space between the wide attacking midfielders and the fullback. I also removed play narrower due to the reasons given when I wrote about Colchester further up.

You can actually see the effects of faster tempo right from the kick off. I manage to score a goal by being quickly with the use of the ball;

See how much faster my players are moving the ball around and looking to make something happen? This is the change of tempo at work which increases the urgency.

You can actually see it again in another goal from the same match;

I use the width of the pitch to great effect and the players look really snappy like they are trying to make things happen quickly.

In the next screenshot you can see what happens when the opposition has the ball and there is no real passing options;

he has nowhere to go, he could go backwards but there isn’t really a threatening ball he could do because my players are well placed. So what the player tries to do it pass the ball to the other flank;

But my wingback cuts across and deals with the threat. I can defend like this all day long, they can’t really hurt me if players are marked or back in their own half.

Here is a different move where they try and stretch me by using the width of the pitch;

The dotted line shows the ball and were they opposition plan to stretch me quickly and play in the runner from the midfield. It’s actually a really good slick move.

However my players both saw and tracked the run and dealt with the situation brilliantly. You can view the full clip of this here;

The match ended up being 3-0 to me;

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