Roles of the 4-2-3-1

#1 Goalkeeper

Goalkeeper is a position that unsurprisingly doesn't really change with different formations, however, certain tasks may be required more often in certain formations or tactics i.e. sweeper keeper when pressing high or acting as "libero" when looking to possesses out of the back. 

  • In Possession:

    • Distribute effectively. Scan forward when you have secured the ball and kick or throw early with pace if it is an advantage to do so. Play short to defenders/midfield if your forwards are matched up.

    • Be an option when your team is in possession of the ball.

    • Communicate clearly and early with purposeful instruction.

  • Out of Possession:

    • Starting position relative to the ball and in line with the ball and your goal.

    • Be prepared to play as a sweeper/keeper when the defence pushes up.

    • Shot stopping - ready position, decision whether to catch, punch or parry. React to second chances.

#2, #3 Fullbacks

  • Player Attributes:

    • Good 1v1 defender​

    • Excellent dribbling skills

    • Willingness to run entire length of the field

    • Desire to get into offense on overlaps

  • In Possession:

    • Stretch the field and stay wide

    • Recognize when to get forward to support the attacking play and when to stay back

    • Recognize when to come inside & when to overlap

    • Look for forward passes which break lines into #9, #10, and #11, or possesive passes into #6, #4, or #5

  • Out of Possession:

    • Try to be close enough to the opposition wide player to pressure their first touch

    • Force play wide until support is available, then force them inside before penalty box

    • If backed up to penalty box, always force outside

    • Pinch close to #5 or #4 in transition

#4, #5 Center backs

  • Player Attributes:

    • Good defensively​

    • Strong in the air

    • Excellent passing skills

    • Ability to lead and organize the defense

  • In Possession:

    • Be prepared to receive the ball from the goalkeeper

    • Try to play angled passes behind the opposition. Play sharp, quick passes to FB & CM

    • Support midfield to help maintain possession

    • Attack aerial balls with power, purpose & timing

  • Out of Possession:

    • Recognize when to follow opponents short and when to hold your position

    • Be comfortable playing 1v1 and 2v2, practice marking goal-side and ball side

    • When full backs show wide, move deep and centrally to defend crosses.

#6, #8 Holding Midfielders

  • Player Attributes:

    • Good defensively, able to win 50/50 challenges consistently​

    • Excellent forward passing and vision

    • Can cover a lot of ground

    • Good spatial awareness

  • In Possession:

    • Link play from the defense to attack

    • Be brave enough to want possession and run or pass the ball forward

    • Be the pivot of the attack, switching the ball across the field

    • Recognize when your partner has advanced and maintain positional discipline

    • Recognize when to create space in front of center backs, when to drop deep, and when to allow skipping lines

  • Out of Possession

    • Recover to a defensive position as quickly as possible​

    • Screen passes into opponents striker

    • Be prepared to defend 1v1 against players dropping in between lines

#10 Center Attacking Midfielder

  • Player Attributes:

    • Should possess excellent technical skills with both feet

    • Good vision, awareness, and is able to read the game well

  • In Possession:

    • Be comfortable rotating with #7, #11, and even #9

    • Try to position yourself in between the opposition's lines of defense to get on the ball

    • Try to break lines with your passes or run at the defense to cause problems

    • Provide support for the striker when he is in possession & recognize when you need to run in behind

  • Out of Possession:

    • Recover goal side as soon as possession is lost.

    • Try to make the midfield congested, pressing the DM when he has the ball

    • Track midfield runners until you are sure they can be passed on (communicate)

    • Work with the #9 to press and make opponents passes predictable

#7, #11 Wide Attacking Midfielders

  • Player Attributes:

    • Technically proficient, especially in 1v1 dribbling

    • Able to play standard or inverted 

    • Fast and willing to take players on in the final third

  • In Possession:

    • Be comfortable rotating with #7, #11, and #9

    • Stay in opposite lane as #2 or #3, either pinching in or going wide (half-space or flank)

    • Look to receive the ball in between the lines and in half spaces

    • Work with fullbacks on overlaps

    • Play give and goes with #9 and #10 as well as through balls

    • Drive into the box to shoot on goal

  • Out of Possession:

    • Press FB when he has the ball

    • Force play wide until support is available, then force them inside

    • Cover defensively for overlapped fullbacks

#9 Forward/Striker

  • Player Attributes:

    • A large player who is strong on the ball and is able to hold up play OR

    • A fast player who can exploit gaps in the defense and run onto through balls in behind

  • In Possession:

    • Show for passes into feet and receive on the half turn or hold up for support

    • Be mobile and challenge the defenders in keeping track of movements

    • Play give and goes and layoffs with supporting players

    • Make smart runs in behind defense

    • Score goals

  • Out of Possession

    • Pressure defenders with the ball and make them play predictable or risky passes

    • Try to prevent passes into the midfield