In this tactical analysis feature I explore the progression from 7 a side into 9 v 9. The format of 9v9 is one in which we start seeing a more adult version of the game. The bigger pitches, off side rules and increase number of players on the pitch are introduced at a crucial age in child development.

At 11 and 12 years of age we will start to see the increase growth and maturation of some children, which can result in a significant physical gap between players. Therefore, often those that have matured earlier will be able to cope better with this transition, but may also benefit from being introduced into 11v11 earlier. When considering the 9v9 format, look at your players and think about what they need to help support their development. Here is a guide that may help you with this:

(1-3-3-2) – Links to a 1-3-1-2 in 7 a Side


– This formation allows you to cover the full width of the pitch. Typically, you’ll play across three channels (thirds) both horizontally and laterally, this formation enables you to have balance both in and out of possession.

– By having 3 players in the defensive and midfield unit, this can help your team have a solid base out of possession.

– With two players up front, this will help support you in pressing as well as creating goal scoring opportunities

– Full backs are able to join into the attack and help with creating width, the introduction of wide players helps them to develop understanding of overlaps/underlaps etc.


– Spaces can be left between the units as you have only one central player, which may be exposed if your team doesn’t cover distances quickly

– In central areas you can be played through due to only one midfielder

– With more players behind the ball, it may become more difficult to get players forward to join the attacks

Out of Possession (Defending)

– The two forwards will help you with pressing from the front, particularly if you’re playing against a back two. If opponents have a back 3, this will help you with teaching pressure/support between the two forwards.

– The midfield must remain compact when out of possession and in recover to their shape quickly in transition, otherwise, space can be left between players which will help opponents break lines.

– As you have an advantage in wide areas, force teams wide and keep them wide.

– Make sure CM tracks back and follows runners into the box if required.

– In wide areas, defensive unit to have open body shape ready to deal with deliveries into the box as well as being aware of opponents

In Possession (Attacking)

– From GK’s, CB may look to receive one side to push full back higher which may help with creating an overload one side.

– CM to try and receive at opposite angle from where ball is played, likewise may drop into quarter back space to help with playing out from the back too. This will encourage rotations between players.

– Full backs to create width on both side of the pitch, making sure that they create a passing line with wide player.

– Work with CF’s movement, with one looking to come short and one making runs in behind etc. This may help with introducing a No.10 / False 9.

In Transition (In & Out of Possession)

– Team must recover into shape quickly and get compact not allowing space between the lines and forcing opponents away from goal.

– When possession is won, forwards look to provide depth and wide players and full backs width. This will help the team in building possession as well counter attacking.

Benefits for Players (per position)

– GK’s will have options to play into forward players, or wide players with more direct passes. As well as being given options to break lines with passes and play out from the back through full backs and CB. The teams width will support the GK in being able to receive outside of posts and switch play. Due to larger pitch, you will be able to start introducing starting positions due to increase in length of the pitch.

– Increase space for full backs will increase the physical demand of playing in this position both to join in attacks as well as recover into shape too. 9v9 for them will also help them with understanding how to combine and work in a partnership with a wide player, as well being given more opportunities to receive to play out from the back. The team shape, when compact will force play wide which will increase the number of 1v1 duels in wide areas for full backs.

– CBs will be given more responsibility to lead the defensive unit and organisation shape, this will also introduce more aerial duels from opponents playing in behind as well as crosses from wide areas. In possession, there will be more opportunities for them to step in with the ball when playing out from the back.

– The CM will now have more space to receive and play in this shape, with options in front, wide and behind them. There is a greater emphasis on them creating angles to help support their team from playing out from the back. In addition, more space will increase the distance required to cover both in and out of possession.

– CF’s will be able to combine between them by exploring how they will move and rotate to create space. This will help with them looking to run in behind, or receive between the lines. This will help support their combination play, 1v1s as well more opportunities to score from crosses as well.

Against Other Formations:

– 1-3-2-3 will mean you have an under load when opposition is playing out from the back. To play against this, you may want your CF’s to be narrow and make play predictable. This will mean you will have a great chance of setting a trap and looking to win the ball in the midfield area. Likewise, when you’re playing out from the back, if opposition start with a high press, your wide players or CF may look to move into space centrally to help create an overload for you to beat the press. Due to 2v1 overload in central areas, it’s important your wide player are narrow, or you encourage one of your CF to drop slightly deeper when out of possession.

– 1-2-4-2 will give you an opportunity an opportunity to have an overload when playing out from the back. In transition, you will have success in playing into your wide areas due to a 2v2 with your CF’s and their CB, but as well as your wide players who can join into the attack.

(1-3-2-3) – Links to a 1-3-2-1 in 7 a Side


– With three at the back and two central midfielders, this will help the team be compact and central areas.

– Your full backs will be able to join into attacks, with two CM’s that will be able to cover spaces if they both go forwards.

– With three attacking players, this will help you to have width in the attacking 3rd, but also give you the option to retreat into a 1-3-4-1 out of possession as well.

– With two CM’s this will help you in playing out from the back and encourage them to rotate to receive and play.


– Due to distance between the wide players and full backs, there will be more 2v1 situations against your full backs in wide areas.

– Central midfielders may have more distance to cover, particularly in wide areas if 3 attacking players stay high.

– If team returns to a 1-3-4-1, your CF can be left isolated and make it more difficult for you to get up the pitch.

Out of Possession (Defending)

– By playing with a high press against a back two or a three, this formation will enable you to put opposition under pressure in their third. Pushing on your full backs to press may leave you with a 2v1/1v1 at the back, but will help to enable you to win the ball back higher up.

– Alternatively, dropping and being compact may mean that you drop into a 1-3-4-1, getting plenty of players behind the ball.

– I would recommend being aggressive with pressing in this formation, particularly against teams that look to play out through the thirds.

In Possession (Attacking)

– From GKs full backs to go high and CB to create an angle. Both CMs will be able to rotate to get on the ball and play between the lines. Likewise, this will help you with teaching a partnership of one CM pushing forwards and one sitting. In addition, these players could also be utilised to cover space from full backs when they push on.

– Full backs to create width on both sides of the pitch and to join the attack

– CF can look to drop deeper to receive between the lines and trying to create space for wide players to run in behind. Also, they may wish to rotate as a front free making it difficult for opponents to mark and follow their man.

In Transition (In & Out of Possession)

– Wide players are critical when possession is lost either to press to win it back again, or recover into their shape to support the full backs.

– When possession is won, they can create width and depth in the attacking third which will help you have plenty of attacking options.

– If full backs join into attack, CM may look to cover space left to provide balance at the back and to help deal with counter attacks when possession is lost.

Benefits for Players (per position)

– GK’s are able to break lines more regularly with two central midfielders but also have options to be able to switch play

– CB will develop leadership to lead their unit, also have to deal with potential 1v1 situations if both full backs attack. They will have opportunities to step in with the ball and have forward options in wide areas, but also through both CMs.

– Full backs will have significant distances to cover with wingers in front of them, this will help teach basic partnerships between those positions. In addition, in transition they will have to deal with 1v1 and being outnumbered if wide players don’t recover quickly.

– CM’s will be able to learn how to work as a pair with one supporting in advance of the ball and one behind, as well as developing an understanding of covering spaces left by full backs. Due to having wingers, this will mean they will have a lot of distance to cover, particularly in wide areas in transition.

– Wingers will be high which will put a big emphasis on them beating their full back in 1v1 situations as well as rotating and combining in a front three. This formation will also require them to recover over bigger distances to help support their full back when possession is lost, or help with their pressing to win the ball back high.

– CF will learn how to drop off and move defenders to create space for others, as well as learn how to rotate with wingers too. This will enable CF to have lots of

opportunities to receive in tight areas, as well as make runs in behind. This will also support the CF to press high and consider how to press in and force play a particular way.

Against Other Formations

– 1-3-3-2 when pressing you will be able to go man to man against defenders. This may leave space in wide areas, so full backs will need to be ready to press too. CM’s will either have an overload or 2v2 which will help support them on getting on the ball and building attacks for the team. In transition, it’s important wide players recover quickly to support full backs otherwise they will be left with 1v1/2v1 situations.

– 1-2-4-2 against this formation you will be able to drop and have a 4v4 in midfield as well as a 3v2 at the back when opponents are in possession. Alternatively, when pressing you will be in a strong position to force play one way and encourage your full back to lock onto the wide player. On switches of play, you will be exposed so you will need to prevent long passes from one side of the pitch to the other.

(1-2–4-2) – Links to a 1-2-2-2 in 7 a Side


– You will have a strong base to be able to attack and defend with wide players being able to either be a back four, or join into the attack to have four in attacking areas.

– This formation leads nicely into a 1-4-4-2, as only players that are missing are both full backs

– Width and depth are created by two forwards as well as wide players, this may also help with dominating centrally due to numbers if compact


– Centre backs will be exposed to 1v1 situations

– Big distances for wide players to cover both to join attacks as well as recover to defend

– Space can be left on opposite side of the pitch when CB presses wide

Out of Possession (Defending)

– CF’s to force play one wide and put pressure on defenders switching play

– Wide players to tuck in alongside CM to prevent balls being played through and either side of CB

– CBs to work as a pair to pressure and cover

– If CB is forced wide to press, opposite wide player or CM to drop in and provide balance along defensive unit

In Possession (Attacking)

– Width to be created by wide players who will be able to create overloads in wide areas

– CM to look to switch play and work as a pair to support ahead and behind the ball

– CF’s to work as partnership to drop short/run behind as well as combine with CM & wide players when ball is in attacking half

– Opposite wide player to join attack to get more bodies into box when crosses are being delivered

In Transition (In & Out of Possession)

– Wide players must recover into shape quickly and support their CBs otherwise they will be left to defend 1v1. Opposite wide player to cover round and get inside when CB is forced to press on opposite wide channel.

– When possession is won, wide players are to join the attack and provide with

– CM’s will need to retain possession and look to switch play to find the overload, which will often be created in wide areas

Benefits for Players (per position)

– GK’s will have options either side of them as well as centrally. This will help encourage them to break lines but also be available to switch play

– CBs will be forced to defend 1v1 and make good decisions of when to press. This will also require them to work closely as a pair when pressing & supporting

– CM’s to create angles and space as well as receiving on both feet and deal with the ball under pressure

– Wide Players are critical in this shape due to the distance required for them to cover, particularly in transition. They must work back to help CBs as well as look to join attack.

– CF’s to work as partnership to drop short/run behind as well as combine with CM & wide players when ball is in attacking half

Against Other Formations

– 1-3-3-2 in transition you will be able to have overloads in wide areas due to width created by wide players. Also, a 2v1 in CM will help you with switching play and dominating possession. The risk will be a 2v2 at the back, therefore, wide players and CMs must look to cover space, as well as your CF’s when pressing ensuring opposition don’t play direct passes either side of your CB.

– 1-3-2-3 In wide areas there will be a big risk when the opposition switches play of play to their wingers, therefore, your wide players must recover quickly to support CBS. This formation will be difficult to play against in a 1-2-4-2 due to them having overloads in key areas of the pitch.