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.

  • In terms of a historical perspective of tactics used in various time periods, "Inverting the Pyramid: The History of Football Tactics" by Jonathan Wilson is a very good source.
    – tomasblog
    Commented Mar 5, 2012 at 22:05

3 Answers 3


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: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Formation_(association_football).

Liverpool (for one) are still using the 4-4-2 formation and dominated English football especially in the 1980s; here's another interesting link: http://thebeaveronline.co.uk/2012/03/15/the-death-of-the-4-4-2/. (If the URL worries you, it is about soccer, I promise!)

  • Since the start of the 2012-13 season Liverpool have played more 4-3-3 than 4-4-2.
    – DaveP
    Commented Dec 14, 2012 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


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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