How to play the 4-4-2 soccer formation with a diamond midfield
When it comes to soccer formations that are commonly used all across the world, the 4-4-2 formation is the most popular.
This is due to the fact that it is very flexible and can be easily tailored to suit your requirements on any given day and you will always be able to find players who can fit into this formation, as it does not require any specialist positions.
There is a lot of strength found in the midfield portion which allows there to be plenty of width when attacking. In this article, we will focus on the diamond variation of this formation as opposed to the flat four configurations, a formation tweak favoured by people like Louis van Gaal.
Depending on the desires of the manager at hand, the full-backs and central midfielder’s roles can be altered depending on whether the focus is going to be more on attacking or defending. In the more modern iterations of this formation, the full backs are generally a lot more attacking than they previously would have been.
Goalkeeper role in the 4-4-2 formation
When it comes to goalkeepers in the modern game, they are becoming more and more versatile. As there is a lack of a sweeper in this formation, the goalkeeper often acts as one.
They integrate themselves a lot more into the general passing game of the team and will sweep up and break up any long attacks by the opposition.
Defenders role in the 4-4-2 formation
The back four stands wide across the pitch in front of their goals. The two central defenders keep the opposition danger men away from the danger zone by having a strong presence in the middle of the defence.
They can either employ zonal marking where they defend within a certain area or they will man mark a certain opposition player. They need to keep things simple and distribute their short passes well.
The full backs will be there to defend against the opponent’s wingers and those other players that are attacking from wide. They have to be good tacklers and need to communicate well with the central defenders, especially during set pieces.
They also provide a great attacking platform and so full backs who have pace, power and are able to cross the ball well are preferred. This means that they can stretch the team’s defences and provide accurate balls into the box.
For attacking corners, the full backs often sit back in their own defence to ensure that the opposition don’t catch them on the counter attack.
Midfielders’ role in the 4-4-2 formation for the diamond midfield
As opposed to having a flat line of four across the midfield like the traditional 4-4-2 formation, this will have more of a diamond shape.
There will be two midfielders who are central, with one extra midfielders playing in front of them both in a central attacking position and the other directly behind the pair in a defensive position.
The defensive midfielder in the diamond can act almost as a sweeper for the team, allowing the attacking midfielder to roam. This attacking midfielder needs to be very creative and have great vison to spot even the smallest of chances.
With this formation, a lot of the play will be narrow and go through the centre of the pitch due to the lack of wingers.
The diamond can be vulnerable to counter attacks when the ball is lost, as the opposition will be able to spread into the wide areas of the field unopposed. This means that the players need to be willing to work very hard and sprint back into defence to aid the teams defensive efforts.
Strikers’ role in the 4-4-2 formation
Usually one of the two strikers will be pushed far up the pitch with the aim of receiving and holding the ball up while the supporting players arrive, allowing others to play off them.
They will usually be a large target man who is physically strong, allowing them to hold off defenders and bring others into play.
Sometimes there will be one striker positioned in the hole behind the main striker, acting as a playmaker. They will usually be a very creative type of player, such as the Arsenal legend Dennis Bergkamp, who used to play this role to a tee.
Pros of the 4-4-2 formation with a diamond midfield
- Gives the manager plenty of options depending on the opposition
- Very flexible in its approach and easily tweaked
- Provides a good balance between defence and attack
- Most players are familiar with this formation
Cons of the 4-4-2 formation with a diamond midfield
- Requires a lot of hard work when under counter-attack
- Play can become very narrow and condensed
- The central midfielders need to be very disciplined when it comes to their roles
- You need to have a very creative player in attack in order to create chances