9v9 is the closest form (or simulation) to the normal 11 a side in soccer! That’s why those who do well at this form are the ones that are the most eligible to player soccer at a professional level …
… In this article, I breakdown all possible 9v9 formations that you should be aware of. I provide a clear description about each one of them, the needed skills as well as the pros & cons.
Hopefully, you will find this post useful.
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The 3-2-3 formation is the most used playing formation in 9v9 soccer. It consists of three defensive players, two players in the middle, and three attackers with two of them playing at the role of wingers.
This playing structure provides adequate balance and enough depth up front. It is extremely useful for teams that base their game on ball possession tactical approach.
It is quite offensive structure due to three players in the attack, with two midfielders joining. On the other hand, 3-2-3 formation gives defensive security and stability, due to having three defenders in the back line.
It is considered a basic formation for preparing 4-3-3, 3-4-3, or even 4-2-3-1 formation in 11v11 soccer.
This formation includes two wingers that help the middle striker in the attacking phase. When defending, these players must return and assist two players in the middle of the field.
Key here is to establish balance in the midfield area, so midfielders and wingers both must have the skills necessary to achieve control and keep ball possession.
The essential skills here are ball control, positioning and tactical knowledge. With wingers having to react swiftly and adapt to changes in pace and tactics, these must be fast players with powerful first step.
They also must possess endurance and stamina, as they have a big playing area to cover.
- With being a wide formation, it provides great balance and allows the players to make use of the playing space, especially in the front.
- Players are positioned in a way that enables them to always have several passing alternatives in all directions, which grants them to keep the possession of the ball.
- Due to having three players in the attacking part of formation, with two midfielders joining the attack, it is considered quite offensive structure.
- Flexible formation, easy to transform to 3-4-1 when there is a need for defending.
- The striker can be too isolated from the rest of the team, especially if wingers are positioned too wide.
- When wingers do not achieve to return and help midfielders with their defensive tasks, there is too much space for opponents to use.
- The massive amount of responsibility lies on only two midfielders, so their positioning must be played perfectly.
- There is often a case of defenders failing to join the attack.
This formation consists of two defending players, with three midfielders and three attackers. It is the tactic used by many soccer academies, such as Barcelona and Ajax.
The popularity among youth categories is the result of players having enough room to express their creativity.
It gives the team a lot of freedom in the attacking phase, as they have a variety of options available.
The 2-3-3 allows them to play through the middle or through the flanks, to play the counter attack or ball possession game.
It is a truly flexible structure and represents the basis for practicing 3-4-3 or 4-3-3 formation in 11v11 soccer.
The role of side midfielders and wingers is the key of success in this playing formation.
They are not only responsible for creating a surplus of players on the flanks, but also have to help defenders, as there are only two of them in this structure.
Having adequate ball control and technical skills is the necessity for the attacking phase, with endurance and stamina due to a lot of running to help the back line.
- Easy to transform to other formations, depending on the conditions on the field. It can be adapted to 2-1-4, 2-3-1-2 or 2-4-2 formation. If needed to defend, it can easily transform to 4-1-2-1.
- Due to its flexibility, it gives the team quite a lot of tactical stability and balance.
- With wider playing structure, it allows the players to make use of empty space up front.
- When side midfielders return to help the back line, it provides defensive stability with four players in the defensive line.
- Too much space for opponents if side midfielders do not return to help the defensive line. In addition, if wingers do not make a return to the middle area, it allows the other team to establish control over the midfield.
- If the center midfielder is more defensively oriented, it will not be adequate for teams that base their play on the ball possession.
- When facing the team with three strikers, they have a lot of space in the back to use and can result in confusion among defenders if the communication is not on adequate level.
The 3-1-3-1 formation gives many possibilities for the player in the front to use the space and express their creativity. It was created based on the innovative thinking of Pep Guardiola.
The teams playing offensive mostly use this formation and their game is based on the ball possession tactical approach.
Having three players in the middle, with one defensive midfielder, allows the team to establish a control over the middle part of the field and keep the possession over the ball.
Midfielders are the core part of this formation, and they have to be strong in the duel game in order to regain and protect the ball possession.
In addition, they must have good ball control and passing game to make these tactics successful.
- Allows the team to establish the dominance with possession and create a lot of chances to score.
- It is offensively oriented playing philosophy, with players having enough room to express their creativity.
- Having a defensive midfielder provides additional stability to the defensive line.
- Four midfielders provide adequate balance of the entire team.
- If side midfielders and wingers are not able to return and help defending, that can make defensive midfielder overloaded and create too much space for opposing strikers.
- The only player controlling the middle is the defensive midfielder and he can often be outnumbered.
- Having four players in the front makes this formation too offensive oriented that can sometimes be costly.
This is maybe the most used formation in 9v9 soccer and the basis for 4-4-2 formation in 11v11 soccer. It gives great balance and stability to the team.
The 3-3-2 formation consists of three defensive players, three midfielders and two strikers. This tactical approach is quite difficult to play against.
The attacking duo is the most important part of this formation. They must have a high level of understanding and communication when the ball is in their possession, in order to be able to build up an attack that can endanger the goal.
Midfielders are there to provide support to attackers and join the attack when needed.
- The structure of players allows playing possession based soccer.
- Players can cover all the areas of the playing field.
- Players that practice this formation can easily adapt to 11v11 playing formations with two strikers.
- Players are positioned close to each other, which is helpful in situations where the players have to cover their teammates.
- Players do not have enough freedom to roam, as the formation is well balanced and rigidly structured.
- If any player moves away from his position, that endangers the balance of formation.
- Midfielders can create a gap for their opponents to use, due to constant moving up front to support the attackers.
- As this formation is wide and covers the entire playing field, and players cannot roam from their positions, you must have creative players in order to use the space.
This formation is focused on the middle of the field, having four defenders. Teams that tend to play possession soccer mostly use it.
It is extremely helpful for the development of center backs, center midfielders and strikers, because this kind of playing structure teaches them to play in pairs together.
Good communication and cooperation of center players of all the lines is the necessity in order for this formation to be successfully implemented.
Key responsibility here lies on two center midfielders, as they must be completely flexible. They move in both directions all the time, supporting the attack and helping the defense.
The proper combination would be to have one more offensively and one more defensively oriented midfielder.
- Teaches the players to play in pairs with their teammates.
- Four midfielders provide stability in the middle.
- Perfect for possession based games.
- Only two defenders makes the team vulnerable, especially against offensive formations, as they are often exposed to 1 on 1 game.
- Midfielders must have good positioning and tactical knowledge.
- Having no fullbacks leaves a lot of space for the opposing wingers to exploit.
This represents the best formation for adapting to 11 v 11 soccer. Most teams play with four defenders in the back line. In addition, modern soccer coaches tend to play with three midfielders.
Although this formation looks defensive, actually it is quite flexible and can quickly transform to players’ structure that is more offensive.
Four players in the defensive line are the core part of this formation. These players must be strong and endurable to handle duel games.
Defenders on the side, full backs, have the role to support the midfielders and strikers, and they are actively involved in the building of the attack.
A huge responsibility lies on one attacker. He plays the role of target man, and has to handle a lot of pressure from the opposing defenders in order to keep the possession of the ball.
Physical preparation is necessary for this formation to be effective.
- Helps the players easily to adapt to four defenders formations in 11v11 soccer, where these formations are the most used formations.
- Teaches the team to play with three midfielders, who have a lot of responsibility and are the crucial part for creating a scoring chance.
- It is a great formation for players to develop and improve their endurance and physical preparation.
- Compact formation that is hard to play against, because of four players in the back line.
- Striker is often too isolated if midfielders do not play deep up front.
- If midfielders and full backs do not join the attacking movement, this formation is extremely defensive.
- In order for players to be flexible on the playing field, they must be physically well prepared.
Different from playing formations with three midfielders, where we have one defensive midfielder, in 3-4-1 formation we have two center midfielders.
This is a more defensive tactic than 3-1-3-1, which has wingers that play more offensive.
Here we have two center midfielders with two side midfielders, so the team is more balanced.
Two center midfielders must help defense and actively participate in its organization. On the other hand, they have to help in building the attack and support attackers.
Side midfielders have the task to make a cross on the flanks and provide wider attack.
As this formation has only one attacker, having enough midfielders in the attacking phase is necessary.
Without appropriate support from them, the striker will not be able to create a chance to score.
This means that endurance, positioning and technical skills are the most important skills to acquire.
- Gives the stability to a team in defense, with adequate threat in the offense.
- Players are tightly positioned, which does not give a lot of available space to opponents to use.
- Due to support of center midfielders, wingers are not so burdened.
- Striker is too much isolated from the rest of the team in the case of absence of help from wingers and center midfielders.
- Players must constantly conquer the space and push forward, which demands a high level of endurance.
- If the players are not able to press forward, this formation can be too defensive.
Extremely offensive formation. Attackers have a lot of freedom and space up front, and additional security provides one defensive midfielder behind attacking midfielders.
This kind of structure is effective for preventing counter attacks. The most important part of this formation are three attacking midfielders positioned between defensive midfielder and attackers, as they have a significant role in both offense and defense.
Attacking midfielders are the most important aspect of 2-1-3-2 formation. They must possess speed and quickness of reaction, in order to move effectively down the field.
These midfielders connect the defensive line with strikers, and they must have adequate passing skill to send the ball toward empty space up front.
In addition, a lot of responsibility lies on defensive midfielder, as he must cover the space behind attacking midfielders and prevent counter attacks.
- Three attacking midfielders and two strikers have many possibilities to pass the ball among themselves, and exploit gaps in the defensive line.
- Extremely offensive formation for teams that wish to score many goals.
- A lot of freedom and flexibility for offensive players.
- Defensive midfielder provides additional support to defense.
- Without the support from defensive midfielder, all the burden of defense is laid on only two defenders.
- With defense consisting of only center backs, this formation is vulnerable to attacks on the flanks, as there is too much empty space for opposing wingers to exploit.
- Defensive midfielder and wingers must be extremely disciplined and cover the gaps between other positions on the field.
Final Thoughts …
Hope you’ve enjoyed reading this article as much as I’ve enjoyed putting it together! Indeed, getting through all these 9v9 soccer formations and breaking them down was really fun …
… One more thing I would like to add, is that you shouldn’t commit to only one formation! That is to say, in the same match you can try 2, 3 or even 4 different formations at the same match depending on the situation until you find the one that fits you and works for you the most!
Lastly, if you are interested about other formations, then I highly invite you to check those: