My favourite formations: 4v4(5v5), 7v7, 9v9

The success of your team not only depends on the skills of individuals, but also on their ability to read the game, make quick decisions, and communicate with their team mates – it all boils down to an understanding of strategy.

Central to this strategy is the shape in which you set the team up – how you position your players on the pitch and how you tell them to play. For example, how many defenders are you going to have? Who’s playing in midfield? Do you want to push wide players forward? Will you have one attacker or two? Or maybe three? All these decisions go into deciding the formation that your team will play in.

Start by getting an understanding of the way teams build up as they progress through the age groups. How teams work up from 5v5 to 11v11 shows you in diagrams the way the two new outfield players are integrated into each formation.

For the Under 6, Under 7 and Under 8 age groups who will play 4v4 (without a goalkeeper) or 5v5 with a goalkeeper the 1-2-1 formation works on a diamond shape that gives support in defence and attack. It relies on the coach being able to get across to the two midfield players the importance of both getting back into defence and supporting the striker.

If you are a coach working with Under 9s and Under 10s the 7v7 formation begins to work on other factors. The 2-1-2-1 formation is ideal for advancing 7-a-side teams to a more tactical attacking game with the ability to go with three upfront, which makes it hard to defend against.

And for coaches of Under 11 and Under 12 teams playing 9v9, with the extra tactical difficulties involved, here are my two “go to” formations:

1-3-1-2-1 is a very strong formation with diamonds from back to front, it is solid in the middle and excellent on the counter attack. It also offers plenty of support from midfield to attack.

3-3-2 is similar to the traditional 4-4-2, and sets up a good, solid base from which to defend and attack.

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