In this formation analysis, we take a look at a playing shape of the 4-4-2. This shape is excellent for overloading the central area of the pitch and also a good way to get lots of playmakers in the team or players that are very good on the ball. The shape your team plays will always depend on the ability & qualities of your squad and also that of the oppositions strengths and weaknesses. These points are a guide to highlight the key areas of a 4-4-2 Diamond formation and give you an insight on how you can play it with your group of players.

What are the Strengths?

  • Numerical superiority centrally in centre Forward positions, causing problems for many centre backs dealing in 2v2 situations.
  • Provides a good attacking threat, certainly with either controlled possession through the pitch, or even when playing more direct as numbers can get around for the second balls.
  • Creating opportunities to score from wide areas with good well timed and positional play from the full backs.
  • Numerical superiority centrally in midfield positions, 4v2 or 4v3 often in midfield.
  • Combination play between the two forwards and midfield players can provide goal scoring opportunities.
  • Defensive unit of four providing good width of pitch coverage.
  • Easily slip into forming two ‘banks’ of four players provides good pitch width coverage in a compact shape out of possession.
  • Can easily slip into a 451 formation without the ball.
  • High pressure can be utilised against teams.
  • Compactness and less space can make it more difficult to break down.
  • Defending deeper to counter attack teams.

What are the Weaknesses?

  • Has the potential to be overloaded down the sides of the pitch with opposition full backs creating 2v1 situations.
  • With the overloaded issues quick switches of play and crosses can pose a problem.
  • Central midfield players (Right/Left) can have a lot of ground to cover by pressing the opposition full back.
  • Often leaves a weak side with switches and diagonal passes causing problems.
  • Relying on the width of your full backs you risk leaving spaces behind them where centre half may need to go cover, stretching your defence.

In Possession –Attacking Build Up

The shape can help with build up play and the sitter at the bottom of the diamond can drop into the back central position to help secure, support and switch the play.

The midfielders on either side can pull out into wide positions asking questions of the opposition midfielders and hence, pushing their own full backs higher. The ‘extra’ man in the middle of the pitch is the spare man that needs to be found by being patient and switching the ball when the opportunities to play forward are not there.

Playing more direct is also an option in this shape whether dispersed or compact. The fact there are two forwards who can pull the centre backs around also creates problems in they drop into midfield ares or play on shoulders. More direct play off the front two will be aided by the fact that the midfielders can get numbers around the second ball.

Out of Possession – Defending Shape

Defending central areas and compacting the play can be a little easier, however not trapping opponents down the sides can lead to switches of play and plenty of sliding to cover spaces, the extra numbers centrally can also mean that showing opponents inside can lead to regains.

Defending in this system can make it difficult for opponents to break down, particularly with a lower block of 4 and 4 should the diamond collapse into this banked shape. This can then often lead to counter attacking situations if the out ball can be secured and supported well.

However defending the central areas is priority and with more situations to regain particularly against teams who try to play though can give good numbers around the ball on transitions to counter direct or a faster built counter.

Transitional Moments

The system can be utilised upon regaining possession by defending deeper and nullifying spaces to be able to intercept and break on the opposition. Also the two centre forwards can play split to occupy the opponents two full backs who may wish to push on leaving spaces to exploit on regains.

Upon losing the ball the system can be easily dropped into two solid banks of four, or stay in the diamond shape with the protection of the central midfielders. The full backs would need to provide width but more than likely not at the same time, unless the midfielders either side would cover these spaces on attacks.

Types of Players

  • Central defenders who are capable on the ball and comfortable with good forward distribution both shorter and long.
  • Full backs comfortable and athletic in terms of utilising the flank with a good delivery to supply their two forwards with crosses.
  • Midfielders who are not only disciplined out of possession to sometimes drop into the back unit, but also in possession, thinking of supporting distances to forward players, and also security centrally when attacking.
  • Central midfielders who are dynamic and with a little athleticism to cover distances and players with the technical ability and intelligence to receive and play in tight areas.
  • The two centre forwards must work together with their movement to effect the centre backs decision making and pull them into uncomfortable areas, also to create space for themselves to get into good attacking positions.