The 4-2-3-1 is perhaps the most balanced and universally used formation in the modern game. It provides teams with adequate structure to defend effectively and quickly transition moving forward.
The 4-2-3-1 is most often used in the English Premier League. The formation relies on two defensive minded midfielders providing cover for their defenders and three creative attacking midfielders who can produce chances for each other and the Striker, who is typically the primary goal scorer in this formation.
Defenders in the 4-2-3-1 occupy similar roles to defenders in the 4-3-3 formation. Centerbacks typically remain in defensive positions while the Fullbacks are responsible for contributing to the attack and defense as mentioned before.
The 4-2-3-1 features two Center Defensive Midfielders (CDM’s) as oppose to the 4-3-3 that only has one. These players are share the same responsibility as the single CDM in the 4-3-3 formation and are required to have the same skillset as . The benefit of having two of these players rather than one is more protection for the back line. Having two CDM’s allows one player to pressure the ball and the second player to drop in behind, cutting off passing lanes and serving as second line of defense if the first player is beaten. This makes it more difficult for the opposition to counter attack with speed and bypass the midfield. It also affords the RM and LM more time to recover when they lose the ball than their counterparts in the 4-3-3 formation (LW & RW) who are generally don’t contribute as much in the defensive end.
The Left Midfielder (LM), Center Attacking Midfielder (CAM), and Right Midfielder (RM), are responsible for creating chances in the 4-2-3-1. These three players are typically creative, comfortable on the ball, and skilled dribblers and passers. Although these players are often times interchangeable throughout the course of the game, the CAM is the catalyst for the offense in this formation.
The CAM, sometimes called the “No. 10” is the focal point. In the 4-2-3-1 the most complete and creative attacking player occupies the CAM position. The CAM attempts to get on the ball as much as possible, looking to make passes in behind the oppositions defense to create chances for the LM, RM, and Striker to cross or finish. When the CAM isn’t picking out passes he is beating players with the ball, keeping possession, and even looking to shoot from distance. A prototypical No. 10 in the professional game today is Philippe Coutinho of Liverpool FC.
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