I am part of a team that plays in an amateur league that also has a playoff at the end of the season. Our team is consisting of fit players that are not very tall but can run around a lot. However, not everybody can show-up to all of the games and sometimes there are some new players. The opposition teams are mostly fit and good ones.

The team is performing as seen below:

 Pos.   | P  | W | D | L | GF | GA | PTS | YC | RC |  Last 5   |
  5.    | 10 | 5 | 2 | 3 | 19 | 20 |  17 | 9  |  0 | W-W-W-L-D |

Our success percentage is quite low, however, considering that we are a new team we are still doing OK; we have only 2 points difference with the 2nd team. We play on a field that is quite narrow but a little long, so horizontal passes cannot be made too much, whereas vertical passing is very easy.

We play in a 3-2-1 formation:

                              ---- Goalie ----

                               RB -- CB -- LB

                               LW -------- RW

                                  -- CF --

This is a practical, defensive approach; the RB and the LB often move a little forward but do not really help the offense, while the LW and RW need to move around a lot and help defense contain any attacks. The CF on the other hand is single and needs to move around a lot and look for goals.

However, as you can already see, our goal average is not high enough, while the number of goals we conceded is not high either (we rank as the best defensive team).

After the previous two games (L and T), I suggested the 4-1-1 formation:

                            ------ Goalie ------

                            RB -- CB -- CB -- LB
                             |                |
                             V  ---- MC ----  V 

                                  -- CF --

With this formation, I think that the RB and the LB have to run back and forth a lot, while the MC has to be able to deal with playing alone. However, I find this strategy good for both offense and defense; when counter-attacking, the team can help the CF up to 3 extra players, whereas with the previous strategy, a maximum of 2 players can help. With the kind of players we have the new strategy of running more should not be a problem.

I should say that I am not the captain of the team, and therefore cannot add much to the team strategy other than simple suggestions. Yet, I am still curious about how we can improve.

What would be your thoughts on implementing this approach?


Just to update, we kept the 3-2-1 approach but managed to play more and more as a whole team unit; attack and defend as a whole. The CB, GK and CF were essentially very very quality players, especially the CB managed to keep the whole defense in shape. I almost exclusively played RB and enjoyed the season very much.

What we sometimes managed to do was have the CF pull back and almost have the following formation:

                              ---- Goalie ----

                               RB -- CB -- LB

                               LW ---MC--- RW

That when we have the ball launched to:

                               ---- Goalie ----


                               LW ---------- RW

                                LF -- CF -- RF

We changed our play style according to the team we were facing, having gotten familiar with them.

Here is the final table:

     Pos.   | P  | W | D | L | GF | GA | PTS | YC | RC |  Last 5   |
      2.    | 21 | 14| 3 | 4 | 57 | 44 | 45  | 16 | 2  | W-W-W-W-T |

We went on to the final of the playoffs and beat #1 to win it! Really happy the results and having contributed to this team!

  • 3
    I don't have a conclusive answer for you. but think about why use 4 players on a horizontal line, where you said the field is very narrow? if the field is long, why no take advantage of it?? to win, you have to make more goals than your opponent. unless you have a great striker, you will have problems making goals.
    – gbianchi
    Commented Jan 16, 2013 at 17:32
  • @gbianchi good point, I was thinking of leaving no space to the opposition and also having an extra defender when there are long vertical passes thrown by them.
    – arin
    Commented Jan 17, 2013 at 4:40
  • @arin I am glad that your season was a success, it sounds like you guys had a blast! Well done :)
    – posdef
    Commented Feb 10, 2014 at 23:22

2 Answers 2


I have to agree with @gbianchi's comment. If the field is narrow but rather long, you most likely won't be need a 4-man defensive line.

As soon as I read your question, and looked at the first formation graph (which is awesome btw) I came to think of the games I've played with my team. I recall that we almost always ended up playing in a 2-3-1 formation: 2 CBs which are solid in their build and good in their passing, one midfielder who'll be the joker being practically everywhere he's needed, 2 wingers who're quick (especially when playing counter-attack) and good in dribbling, and finally one forward who's up for some roughing, challenging the defenders as much and as often as he can.

This formation has the benefit of being very versatile; given some pressure from the opposition the central midfielder can fall back to triple the D-line, and you can play "wide" midfielders (3-2-1). Given an attacking situation, you can triple the offense instead putting the pressure on the opposition defense, while the central midfielder can have a free role, or picks up the cleared balls/takes the long shot.

No matter which formation you end up using, it's good to keep in mind that modern football is going away from solid formations towards a more fluid teamplay. Essentially your backs will need to step up, while your CF will need to come to midfield to help out. In my experience the most valuable skill for a team in amateur leagues is to be able to handle pressure high up in the pitch. You should have a good strategy to get the ball out from defense without much fuss, and also keep a high pass completion ratio.

The fact the field is narrow doesn't really mean much, other than you won't have to worry much about diagonal crosses. Short and quick passes between the CF and the left/right winger should be enough to distress the opposition. If not you can always try to sneak in the central midfielder behind the defenders with through passes from the wing, in that case however the other winger should be ready to fall back in case of a missed pass.

  • 1
    The formation graph is Football Manager/Championship Manager (old school) style. Thanks for the good response, I will definitely consider the 2-3-1, which I have not yet.
    – arin
    Commented Jan 17, 2013 at 4:38
  • Hope it works out, I would be interested in any feedback you might have btw :)
    – posdef
    Commented Jan 17, 2013 at 15:22

Our team has been playing 7v7 for a few years now and we use a kind of 2-1-2-1 formation. This formation is heavily dependent on strong communication between the left and right backs. The left and right backs obviously have the most defensive responsibility. If the opposition tends to send a third attacker in a more forward position, the CDM has more defensive responsibilities, and it can almost turn into a 3-2-1. If not, he's higher up the pitch, checking back to LB and RB as a passing option out of the back. LW and RW have to work hard. We tend to have a big forward up top who is a very good hold-up player but lacks speed. In that scenario, you need streaking players out wide who can play off the forward. The forward gets his goals on crosses and tap-ins, while the wide players score on give-and-gos and by creating chances on their own.

If you have a forward who tends to play less with his back to the goal, you can rely less on the runs of both the wingers. Another variable is whether you're more of a long-ball team or a tiki taka team. Playing long-ball with a forward who can physically overwhelm a defender is helpful, especially when you have one winger that is supporting him with an option.

It's not very common for our backs to make runs the length of the pitch. Frankly, it would be nice if our players could do that, but we're getting on in age and the ability to recover isn't there.

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