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There are a handful of sites (example) discussing formations and their popularity, but few discuss what is popular in certain periods in specific leagues. What I'm looking for is an overview of what formations (i.e. 4-4-2, 4-3-3) were popular in the English football from 1992 to today.

Note: Wiki provides general information about the use of specific formations, and occasionally cites specific matches.

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That's awfully generic for an SE site question. – wax eagle Feb 21 '12 at 16:34
I recognize the vastness of the question, but I was being optimistic. Any suggestions as to how I can improve the scope to make it more SE appropriate? Perhaps focusing on just one team? – stevvve Feb 21 '12 at 16:43
I'd focus on one formation. Ask how it came to be, how it rose fell and was renewed again and again :) – wax eagle Feb 21 '12 at 17:15
I like that idea much more than mine. Focusing on one team may be TOO specific. I'll do some more investigating and reword the question. Thanks! – stevvve Feb 21 '12 at 17:57
@waxeagle While info about a specific formation may be useful, and it's a question worth asking, I don't think rewording will help me learn what I'm specifically interested in. The point is that I'm not curious about 4-4-2 or 4-3-3-- I'm curious about how strategy has evolved. If an answer describing the 1930s as a '3-3-4 decade' is too broad, then this question should probably be closed. Unless you can think of a compromise? – stevvve Feb 21 '12 at 20:21
up vote 7 down vote accepted

It is certainly 4-4-2 as almost all teams in England were using that formation back then.

Of course the English Premier League didn't exist in the 1980s as it started in 1992, but I have assumed the question relates to the top-flight English league, so that would be Division One (the First Division) pre-1992.

One reason often cited for the poor performance of the English national football (soccer) team is that the club sides play the predictable 4-4-2 formation and this isn't effective at the international level. So often the England national team plays a variation of this, 4-3-3 for example, but as the players are not used to it this gets used as an excuse, rightly or wrongly, for their underperforming.

Wikipedia has a lot of information on this topic and you can see 4-4-2 has been popular in many countries until recently:

Liverpool (for one) are still using the 4-4-2 formation and dominated English football especially in the 1980s; here's another interesting link: (If the URL worries you, it is about soccer, I promise!)

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Since the start of the 2012-13 season Liverpool have played more 4-3-3 than 4-4-2. – DaveP Dec 14 '12 at 14:55

I think it was the 4-4-2. it had slighter modification like 4-1-2-1-2 and 4-2-2-2. 4-3-3 was used in attacking situations when in search of plenty of goals. 4-2-2 was more of a normal formation. Wingers were the most important part of English football strategy. in 4-3-3 there is no Wingers and therefore not very widely used in EPL

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Echoing what everyone else has said but 4-4-2 is probably the most commonly used formation since the Premier League was founded in 1992. Since the influx of overseas players over the past few seasons the 4-2-3-1 is becoming quite popular with Chelsea and Arsenal both favouring this system.

Chelsea playing with Oscar, Hazard and Willian as the 3, and one of Torres/Ba/Schurrle as the lone striker. Similarly, Arsenal play with Ramsey, Ozil and Rosicky/Oxlade-Chamberlain, with Giroud/Podolski upfront.

This style is becoming increasingly attractive to watch as opposed to the rigid 4-4-2.

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