Numerical Formations / Shape / Support

I have been involved in a rather lively debate about the 1-4-3-3 formation and its many variations.  To be honest, I instigated the debate by proclaiming the 1-4-3-3, the 1-4-2-3-1, the 1-4-1-4, and the 4-5-1 are all the same basic formation.

The 4-3-3 most often employs a triangle midfield with 1 defensive mid and two attacking mids or the inverse with 2 defensive mids and a lone attacking mid.  There is then a center forward and two wings.

The same is true in the 4-2-3-1 and the 4-1-4-1 and the 4-5-1.   The differences in these formations is mainly in how the wingers are deployed.

Our spring team ran all of the above.  Not always intentionally, lol.  We played to the strength of our players.

In my opinion, many people get too caught up in the numerical designations of a formation. 

As in the above example a 1-4-4-2 can easily morph into a 1-3-4-3, a 1-4-1-4 or even a 1-2-4-4 among other variations.

So, what's the big deal about numerical designations of formations? 

The numerical designation of a teams formation defines its defending shape. All the other variations can define a teams attacking shape. When defending a team needs to be disciplined. When attacking a team needs to be creative.  Two entirely different philosophies that require two very different attitudes about formations.

I recently watched a U17 youth match that saw both teams maintain their formational shape whether defending or attacking.  Two "blocks" of players "moving" up and down the pitch in sync with one another.  Most of the match was played in the middle third of the field.  It was a boringly ugly game of ping pong on grass with neither team threatening goal, let alone actually scoring.  From the coach's sideline calls of "keep your shape" and "hold your positions" could be heard. It was not unlike 1770's formational battles or WW I trench warfare.

These two teams obviously confused the term shape with the term support.  Support is a necessity for both defending and attacking.  Support on defense is defined by discipline whereas support in the attack is defined by creative based mobility.  They are entirely different from one another as is a teams shape when defending or attacking.

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