When a player gets sent off and the team is down to 10 players can be a challenging scenario to deal with, in this tactical analysis piece we give you some ideas and recommendations to consider! As coaches do we plan enough or rehearse this situation enough so our teams can overcome the challenge of adversity? Do you have a plan to implement when your team loses a player to either protect the current score line or chase the game? Firstly lets look at somethings that you need to take account of:


  • Does degree of control needs to be established in the game?
  • How long is left in the match?
  • Decisions of where to attempt to regain the ball higher or lower can be influenced by the state of the game or the momentum.
  • What the plan is when the team has possession, are you going to play on the counter attack and try and win set pieces to create chances or are you confident to build play 10 v 11?
  • Physical & psychological factors that can effect the game.
  • Opportunities on restarts attacking and defending.
  • Game intelligence, when to speed up or slow down/


  • Has the potential to be overloaded down the sides of the pitch with opposition Full Backs creating 2v1 situations.
  • Opponents have potential to overload the central areas, dependant on the defensive system of your team.
  • Opponents have an opportunity to place more prolonged stints of attacking pressure on the team.
  • Often leaves a weak area in the side due to the underloaded nature.
  • Relying on the width of your wingers and full backs can risk leaving spaces behind them where centre half or centre midfielder may need to go cover, stretching your defence and the team.

Different Formations to Use

Adapting a 4-4-1

Adopting this system can help defending central and flank areas with compactness and tight distances between the players. Two banks of 4 players can limit the spaces for opponents to attack through and the two banks of four can more easily cover the width of the pitch.The system can be utilised upon regaining possession by defending deeper and nullifying spaces to be able to intercept and break on the opposition. Potentially picking and choosing the better moments to break by finding a useful out ball and good support can help the team progress up the field. The transitions in the game can be common if your team cannot get out on the regains, thus patience and enjoying moments without the ball are needed.

Adapting a 4-4-1 (Diamond)

Adopting this system can give good strength centrally and potentially a numerical advantage in central midfield. Playing this way may also help press and trap teams down the sides from slightly higher up the pitch. Upon regaining the ball the team will have more numbers around the regain to play a shorter game if needed to control the midfield area and progressively build an attack. This system also gets a player closer to the forward and can help support any play up to this player more quickly.More control can be had with the possession in building play with the central defensive midfielder dropping into the back line and the full backs pushing on to give width if the team needs to produce attacks down the sides. Playing more direct is also an option in this shape whether dispersed or compact as the numbers are closer together to support the play.

Adapting a 3-5-1

Adopting this system can provide a good defensive shape centrally and deep if needed to soak up pressure or potentially chase the game and push an extra forward thinking player on the pitch. The team can utilise width from the two wing backs, whilst having a midfield 3 players centrally to secure and limit the transitions and provide support to attacks. If more pressure is required on the oppositions centre backs, this system can get two forwards up high to continue to place pressure on the other team should this be required.