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Soccer offense formations - 6 ultimate attacking strategies

Jul 07, 2021
9 mins read
Soccer offense formations - 6 ultimate attacking strategies
Soccer offense formations - 6 ultimate attacking strategies

A high-powered soccer offense strategy is indeed one of the most essential assets for your team. The reason is obvious: your team needs to create as many scoring chances as possible to stand on the winning side.

As you well know, scoring a goal in soccer requires the entire team to work like a well-oiled machine. Your players need effective soccer defense formations to avoid conceding goals. They also require offensive soccer drills coupled with the best attacking formation to bury the ball and win matches.

In today’s guide, we explain the most common offensive strategies in soccer. You’ll need to arm your team with different soccer formations to remain competitive. This is because the best soccer formation to go with in a particular match depends on your players’ abilities and your opponents’ strengths and weaknesses.

What Formation do Soccer Coaches Use to Score Quickly?

As a keen coach, player, or soccer fan, you’ll realize that different teams and clubs use different soccer attacking strategies. Essentially, there’s nothing like the absolute best soccer strategy. A big mistake that most coaches make today is to identify a particular formation and force their teams to fit into it.

On the contrary, the best attacking formation in soccer is that which your players are happy with and comfortable playing. On this note, you want to identify a soccer strategy that best fits your team’s and individual player’s abilities.

Typically, a score match formation needs to be reasonably strong at the center. Again, your team will have an added advantage if you can identify a style of play that allows you to have your fastest and highly skilled players in offensive soccer positions.

Attacking Soccer Formations that Your Team Needs

1. 4-4-2 Soccer Formation

The 4-4-2 is a popular attacking tactic and has been used by teams, including Atletico Madrid, Leicester, and Manchester United, with great success. It’s one of the easiest soccer attack formations to learn and play, and the chances are that most of your players are already familiar with it.

This formation is mainly used when there’s a need to play an offensive-focused play. But it’s nicely balanced on both offense and defense. The 4-4-2 requires two central defenders who form the spine of the defense. These are responsible for reading the opponents’ movements to organize an effective defensive strategy. You’ll also need two fast and powerful fullbacks who’ll intercept the opposing wingers besides helping the central defenders protect the keeper.

You’ll need two disciplined and tactically aware central midfielders who should be good at both defending and offending in the midfield. The left and right-wingers can have varying roles depending on the strengths and weaknesses of your team. Typically, they should communicate with the fullbacks and central midfielders to decide whether to stay out wide, come inside, or sprint forward.

The striker position in soccer 4-4-2 format is at the front. You’ll need two physically imposing, lethal, and speedy players for these positions.


  1. It’s well balanced when attacking and defending.
  2. It allows quick counters.
  3. Without the ball, the midfielders can join the defenders to create an 8-man strong wall.
  4. With 4 players in the midfield, the wingers can shuttle along the sidelines to support the strikers and fullbacks.


  1. The 2 central midfielders may be outnumbered when facing 3 opposing central midfielders.
  2. Rigid players may leave huge gaps that opponents can easily exploit.

2. 4-3-3 Soccer Formation

This is another pretty ball-hungry soccer formation that’s been popularized by teams that register a win almost every week. These include Barcelona, Real Madrid, and Chelsea. The arrangement of the players makes this a high-pressure system that’s mainly oriented on scoring goals.

Typically, this formation utilizes 2 center-backs - one of whom needs to have excellent distributive skills and 2 fullbacks to cover wing spaces. Of the 3 central midfielders, most modern coaches prefer having a box-to-box (no. 8), a solely defensive midfielder (no. 6), and a number 10, whose major role is to organize attacks by supplying the striker and wingers with the ball.

There are 3 major variations of the 4-3-3 system that you can take depending on your requirements. The linear is the most basic format and has three central midfielders playing box to box or creative. In a defensive 4-3-3 format, the midfielders stand in a triangle, with the central midfielder standing slightly behind the other 2. Lastly, we have the attacking 4-3-3 arrangement where the number 10 mainly plays attack.


  1. When in possession, this arrangement means that there are up to 7 players attacking. This makes it one of the most overwhelming for opposing defenders.
  2. Having 3 central midfielders, 3 strikers, and the fullbacks pushing up makes it challenging for the opponents to get the ball and keep it.
  3. This format creates numerous passing options, which helps in boosting domination.
  4. From the 4-3-3 system, the coach can easily re-engineer the team to other formats to counteract the opposition.


  1. This format can be potentially dangerous if the midfielders and forwards can’t keep the ball.
  2. You need wide players who can storm up and track back in time. Otherwise, the central defenders will be dangerously exposed.

3. 4-2-3-1 Soccer Formation

The 4-2-3-1 is another highly versatile system that shouldn’t lack in your training book when coaching soccer formations and tactics. This system looks pretty defensive on paper, but it’s reasonably balanced, as we’ve shown in our main soccer formations post.

At the core, the 4-2-3-1 offers the attacking overtones of the 4-4-2 lineup and the midfield strength and stability of the 4-3-3 system. This balance is what makes it so prevalent in the English Premier League.

The 4-2-3-1 strategy features 2 central defenders and 2 fullbacks. The 4 need to work in unison to read the opponent’s game and clear crosses. Excellent communication skills are necessary to ensure that all posts are well covered if, for instance, the fullback moves forward to support an attack. Importantly, the fullbacks need to be good readers and decent dribblers to move the team forward. Additionally, strength and endurance are must-haves because they’ll need to control their flanks throughout the 90 minutes.

Depending on the type of team that you’re playing against, you may have both midfielders playing defensively or only one. All in all, you want highly talented players for these positions as they’ll be linking defense with the forwards.

The 3 forwards are responsible for stirring dangerous situations in the final third, creating space and opportunities, and even scoring goals. The 4-2-3-1 utilizes a solo striker who ideally should be a big target player at the front.


  1. Flexibility- you can have up to 5 players attacking at one moment before rearranging to a 6-man defense the next minute.
  2. The fluidity that this formation allows means that your team is well-balanced when playing both offense and defense.

iii) When playing with a box-to-box midfielder, your team has the numerical advantage of up to 4 attacking players.


  1. It’s easy for the forwards to get stuck alone upfront because the attacking midfielders have to offer support to the defense too. This can affect possession.
  2. The fullbacks will be having a lot of 1v1’s with the best outside players from the opposing team. Deploying your all-round players as the fullbacks may help. But there’s the risk of hurting the offense.

4. 4-3-2-1 Soccer Formation

Also known as the Christmas tree, the 4-3-2-1 joins the list of other popular 5-man midfield systems that we’ve discussed so far. This format starts with 4 defenders comprising 2 center-backs and 2 fullbacks. Similar to the 4-2-3-1 arrangement, your fullbacks need to be players with powerful engines to get them up and down the flanks for 90 minutes.

The 4-3-2-1 employs 3 center midfielders who play both offensively and defensively. They are also tasked with protecting the defenders at the back. This suggests that you need to identify players who can switch from a state of possession to defense fluidly.

With 3 midfielders offering support at the back, the 2 attacking midfielders deployed upfront have enough freedom to roam forward to work directly with the lone striker. The flexibility granted to the attacking midfielders also means that they can score on breakaways. As such, these should be players with strong kicks and reliable endurance.


  1. This format puts a lot of players in the midfield, creating multiple passing angles.
  2. The 5-man configuration in the middle gives your team control of the midfield.
  3. This is a versatile soccer offense formation that can be easily restructured depending on the circumstances.
  4. The nature of this format makes it well-balanced. It’s recommendable if you want to play offensively without losing your focus on defense.


  1. The biggest disadvantage of this formation is the lack of width, which can be fixed by having the AM drift slightly out.
  2. You’ll need strong, fit, and excellent dribblers for the fullbacks.

5. 3-5-2 Soccer Formation

Many teams today are now employing the 3-5-2 system. When you look at it closely, the congestion that this format creates in the middle is among other reasons for its growing popularity. The 3-5-2 is a compact system and one of the go-to soccer formations and strategies for Wolverhampton and Lazio, among other clubs.

It consists of 3 center-backs, 3 central-midfielders, a pair of wing-backs, and 2 forwards. The right and left midfielders replace the fullbacks and are supposed to make frequent sprints forward to supply the attackers with crosses. Considering that there are no fullbacks, the wing-backs need to be quick at decision-making and dribbling. They also need to be confident when tackling opponents in 1v1 situations.

Having only 3 center-backs makes this format appear less defensive. But that’s why you need to deploy destroyers for the defensive midfield positions. Ideally, these should be strong and physically fit players who can dominate the midfield and protect the defenders confidently against attackers 1v1.


  1. A great score matches best formation when playing against 4-4-2.
  2. One of the best soccer offensive plays for coaches who want to field 2 strikers while dominating or matching the opponent in the midfield.
  3. This formation creates loads of passing options, boosts possession, and allows moving forward.


  1. Most of the time, the 3 center-backs will be playing both CBs and fullbacks, which can be pretty tiring.
  2. It might not be easy to get center-backs who combine the qualities of traditional CBs with those of fullbacks.
  3. In case the opponents are using a solo striker, your 3 defenders will be marking one man, which could lead to chaos.

6. 3-4-3 Soccer Formation

The 3-4-3 soccer strategy dates back to the early '90s. This system was initially meant to be an extremely offensive structure. But over the years, coaches have modified it in different ways to make it an offensive- and defensive-minded format.

This soccer offensive formation starts with a 3-player defense line featuring a sweeper between 2 center-backs. The sweeper (or central defender) should be very good at ball control and tackling as he/she will be clearing the ball and protecting the goalie when the other center-backs move forward to tackle the attackers.

The midfield is covered by 2 midfielders (one playing offense; the other defense) and 2 wing-backs. The wing-backs stay out wide, giving the central midfielders enough space and time. They also maintain good communication with the center-back as they are tasked with connecting the players behind with the forwards.

The 3 forwards have several options for line up: in a flat line, one up front, and two upfront. The forwards are responsible for pressuring and interrupting the opponent's defense, blocking passes, and exploiting any available spaces.


  1. With this format, you can overload the wings to destroy the compact structure of your opponent successfully.
  2. Having 4 players in the midfield and 3 others on defense makes it challenging for opponents to penetrate.
  3. The influx of players in the midfield and flanks ensures constant crosses into the penalty box, increasing the chances of scoring.


  1. If the winners can't track back fast enough, the central midfielders may be left exposed, especially on the flanks. A threat to the midfielders is a threat to the back 3 as the former offers the initial defense line.
  2. This formation can be physically exerting, especially to the defensive midfielder who protects the midfield while shielding the defense.

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