9v9 formations: 1-3-1-2-1

With more teams playing 9v9 at U11 and U12, Dave Clarke takes a look at the formations your side could play for this team size. This is the 1-3-1-2-1 formation.

PROS: A very strong formation with diamonds from back to front, it is solid in the middle and excellent on the counterattack. It also offers plenty of support from midfield to attack
CONS: It relies heavily on the covering defender and if players are not funnelling back quickly enough the team could be caught out. The covering defender has whole of backline to cover and therefore must be a quick player.


The defence forms a diamond in front of the goalkeeper with a solid centre. When organised the defence presents a compact centre that will only be broken down by good wing play. When disorganised and recovering to combat the counterattack it relies heavily on the sweeper at the back to read the attacking move.


The midfield forms a diamond with the attacker and is very compact when under attack, but at risk from tricky wingers, so care must be taken not to be too narrow in defence. In attack, the midfield is great for sweeping moves with players running from all angles to support, which makes it a difficult formation to defend against.


The single player in attack is only a problem when quick counterattacks are wanted. The formation relies on the lone attacker to hold up the ball and wait for the supporting players. This has the potential to be a very potent attack with such strong midfield support.


This formation is great for player awareness, as it needs players to move within the two diamond shapes for width and penetration. The diamond idea helps them to keep their positions and recover to the right areas. It also helps the attacker to see he is the top of the diamond and shows him that he must try to keep his position when the team is under attack
It is vital that players switch through all the different positions so they have a clear idea of what players have to do in other positions, making it more likely they will support in attack and defence.

Attacking 1-3-1-2-1

9v9 formations

    1. Note the diamond shapes that the formation creates giving strong coverage in the heart of the pitch
    2. Playing in a sweeping role, the lone defender has to cover the backline and read the game carefully to be on the right side of the pitch when threatened by a counterattack
    3. With plenty of support behind, the midfielders can push up behind the attackers and provide another outlet to attack from. One midfielder will push on and the other covers
    4. With a lone attacker reinforced by two supporting attacking midfielders, the attacking options are many. The team can have three going central, or two going central, or play with a target man and two wingers
    5. The formation lends itself to playing out from the back with lots of strength in the defending third of the pitch, giving the keeper plenty of options to make the first pass. Defenders and midfielders can go short on both sides of the pitch if the keeper wants to throw out

Defending 1-3-1-2-1

9v9 formations

    1. When defending, the team should keep the diamond shapes but they should be much tighter
    2. The back defender will cover across the pitch to double up with the wingbacks on any attacks from the wings
    3. The midfielders must communicate with their team-mates to pull the diamond shape into a tight formation, squeezing space out of the centre of the pitch
    4. The players can make a tight tortoise-shell tactic to repel all attacks, but they must press outwards and high up the pitch
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