Below is a guide that will in theory show how the 4-2-3-1 runs in FIFA 14 and give a thorough description to those still up in the air on what formation to use and if this is the right one for them. Remember, as in previous versions of FIFA, no formation is perfect and much is dependent on the skill of the user and if he is willing to use each member of its alignment to the way it was intended. Much of this depends on you and how you play. If you abuse the AI, or don’t believe in strategy, you may want to move on to the next thread. I should also point out much of this is paraphrased if not copied directly from guides on futhead.com. **Lots of good FAQs and help posts in their forum. So for those of you real geniuses, you may want to head over there for further reading (thanks for the images BTW!). Summary We can all agree that goals are more prevalent in this year’s version of the game, and it’s what makes this formation much more pleasing to those looking for their attacking players to make increased attacking runs. No more is this evident in the 4-2-3-1 than with the central attacking mid. Those with the ability to slot in a playmaking midfielder in this position will be much happier. And if you like playing wide and using the wings, once again you’ll find this to be a very pleasing formation. Gameplay The reason I have used the 4-2-3-1 over the years with this game is the balance it allows you at all times of the match. For my style of play, flexibility is key. Whether you are a possession guy, or constantly trying to hit your opponent on the break this formation really lends itself to multiple styles of play. Long ball, crossing, or short passing, it gives you multiple options. This year, I took a turn from previous versions of the game in my Quick Tactics and began to play more Possession and Counter Attack based on the flow of the game and how situations presented themselves. But when looking at the formation, it becomes obvious that the key to life is your five midfielders and how effective you are at using each of them. It doesn’t take a genius to recognize the fact there are more of them than any other position on the pitch, not to mention the fact that they will see the majority of the ball during the contest, so getting them in sync to move the ball around the main space of the field is critical. Simply put, if you can command these five guys properly, you’ll command the game. The beauty of owners in the TFS not being able to create custom formations is that it allows us to look at how players in this formation form attacking runs (see illustration below). The first thing that should be apparent is the bevy of options of runs to potentially be made by the five in the midfield. These five players once again will be the ones moving the most, therefore they will be the ones expending the most energy. Keep this in mind when you fill your substitute’s bench. So with the midfield containing the most players in the formation, and the group also being the ones running the most, then it would then be key to understand the most effective way to move the ball around utilizing the group properly. With owners not being allowed to press your 18-yard box, you have the freedom of setting up interplay with from the wings with your fullbacks, CDMs, and CAM in this formation. Your success at doing this will dictate your success at maintaining possession against your opponent. In the following illustration we can see for example how you could potential move the ball starting from the back with your right back. Short passes between these four players should allow you to keep possession as one player will usually be open for the pass. If you like to go down the line and cross, rely on the RCAM (RCAM in this case) or the RB (overlapping runs). If you are being pressured and bombarded on this side of the pitch, switch the play by doing one of the following: 1. RCDM lays off to LCDM then LB, or directly to LCAM with long ball (usually works if opponent has no RM) 2. CAM switches play with simple pass to LCAM or initiate run with LCAM and lob through ball (if you time it right the LCAM will bend the run inwards and could be through on goal or in great position to score/pass) Fork in the road At this point, you might have already noticed, the striker not really being in much of the discussion at all. I usually play my striker (and this is an area of personal analysis that I need to improve on) as a target-man or poacher. I usually don’t have a dynamic guy with tons of athletic ability and speed, so here’s where you may want to take a different route (I will punt to guys like shiftee to talk in more detail on how he uses speed at this position to his benefit). But for the sake of this discussion our striker is not going to be heavily involved in link up play but will more likely hold up the ball, sometimes with his back to the goal, and wait for support, using his strength against CDMs and CBs to wait for the rest of his midfielders to catch up and then lay the ball off to what his options are. The striker’s main objective in this formation is to be in the box waiting to pounce on a cross or drawing defenders away from on-rushing midfielders. I don’t often try to lay the ball through to my striker for a run on goal unless he’s got a clear path with minimal obstruction, as he’ll likely be isolated and often outnumbered by the opposing defenders as he is the only forward in the formation. Those looking for more options should probably look at the 4-4-2 of some variety or the 4-3-3. Defending in the midfield and bracing for the counter When bracing for the counter attack, or just merely setting up in your own end, your central midfielders are going to be key. 4-2-3-1 will press quite high up the pitch, and it is very likely that you may win the ball at the half line or just into yours to start a counter-attack. When the opponent has the ball around the center circle, take control of your wide or central CAM to track back and cover passing lanes, while calling closest other CAM to jockey/contain the player with the ball. Once the opponent makes their way further into your half, take control of one CDM and jockey with the other. Same method. If the ball goes out wide than it would be the CDM and fullback. The pass-off is key here. Let’s look at each positioning in detail and what I like in each position. Selecting your Starting XI Now what good is a formation guide without looking at who to select in your lineup. Remember this is totally subjective, and you’ll want to pick what works best for you. GK– Probably the guy who best stops shots eh? Not much to this one. LB/RB– I like taller and stronger fullbacks that can muscle a smaller wing off the ball both offensively and defensively. Pace is obviously a plus but I’d take a stronger defender with pace in the mid-70s. High attacking work-rate is also not a problem, even preferable for me. If the fullback doesn’t make supporting runs, the wide CAM will be isolated without much help. A good crossing attribute is nice to have if that is your cup of tea. It’s always nice to have options. The full back will interchange with the wide CAM on the flanks at times, so if you have a pacey guy, it truly is a dream. CBs - No high attacking work-rates here please, it just keeps you out of trouble unless you are a fan of the David Luiz school of float all over and get burned a lot on the counter. With the fullbacks & CDMs bombing forward already we need the CBs to stay back, especially against those teams that love to exploit the overhead lob pass to the striker up the middle. Pace at least in the 60s is highly preferable for tracking back against faster attackers. We all love strong and tall defenders who can head the ball well. Not only will they be extremely useful in scoring some goals off set pieces for you (sadly where I score 70% of my goals), but they will also be able to rise up and head away and lobbed through balls from the opponent, lowering the instances of having to sprint back to cover the on-rushing attackers. And we know how much folks love to cross in FIFA 14. CDMs– At least one should have a defensive focus (tall, strong, high defensive work-rate). Med/High is good. The other may be more of a box to box player (High/High). However, I’ve had great success with two High/High CDMs. This can of course be dangerous & susceptible when your opponent counters, but I find that High/High players are more useful this year (it was more of a drawback last year). One thing to note about this formation is the CDMs areNOTgoing to sit back even if they have high defensive work rate. TheyWILLrun up and support the attack (both on the flanks and through the center). As such, an all-round player who can dribble & is agile enough to maneuver across the pitch is very useful. Pace in the 70s is sufficient, but higher would obviously not hurt, especially as they have to track back and help defend after supporting attack. Personally, I like them slower as they tend to get in less trouble up-field, but at the same time struggle to get back. Again, there is no perfect formation. J Wide CAMs– They play as semi-wide midfielders (almost like RM/LM) so this is the one position where pace is crucial, and it is a drawback as there aren’t many CAMs who are fast in the game. You may end up having to convert CFs and strikers to CAM. Pace at least in the 80s is preferable. Great thing is, unlike RMs/LMs these guys will sometimes bend their runs (as we see in the illustration above) inward and can get into great goal scoring positions. Dribbling is also key & this is the area to put your skill-move guys. If you can beat opposing players off the dribble, you NEED to insert those guys here. Work-rates are not so much of an issue as long as attack is higher than defense. I like left footed players on the right (and vice versa) if they are going to be your inside forwards (think of the goals Bale and Robben score). If you like to cross more than have the right footed player on the right works well (think how Spurs played this for the last 3 or 4 years with Bale on the left and Lennon on the right). Central CAM– This is your lynchpin of the attack. He’s going to be the one spraying passes around and creating chances for others. For me, he has a high number of assists, not so much goals. Passing, dribbling, as well as strength are important here for me. A small nimble player may be bullied off the ball too easy, so a stronger or taller playmaker is preffered. I’ve never tried High/High but it may work here. High/Medium has been good for me so far. Just make sure the player is attack minded. There are times where he will take up the striker’s position, so it’s nice if he could hold his own in the box, whether it’s for heading or finishing. Striker– As previously mentioned, this formation is built for a strong target man. Finishing, heading, and strength are key for me. Dribbling and pace are nice bonuses of course. The striker will often be isolated up front, using close dribbling moves are key with this player. Don’t try and take on the defense by yourself. Hold the ball up and wait for support. This player’s job is to get in the box and score. Strengths of the 4-2-3-1 Ability to utilize three different types of attacking players up top. Long ball works well either down the wings or over the top to a strong player over the ball. Build up play off the flanks works well with the proper CDMs. Weaknesses of the 4-2-3-1 The formation can be very susceptible to counter-attacks, as not only your fullbacks, but at least one of your CDMs will bomb forward. That can leave you quite open on the break, so they key is to be patient and keep possession. It can be suicidal to lose possession close to the center of the pitch if your players have already pushed forward. Having a spare CDM on the bench is crucial if your opponent likes to use both wings as these two players will tire quicker than others. What are your thoughts on this formation? What works and doesn’t work for you? How do you compare it to other popular formations? I open up to you the experts. Keep it positive and let's build something here.