Football Tactics: 4-4-2 diamond formation
Overview of the 4-4-2 diamond formation
The 4-4-2 diamond formation is usually an attacking formation, with two central defenders and two full-backs completing the defensive line.
In midfield, there will be a holding midfielder at the base of the diamond, two central midfielders operating on the sides of the diamond and a central attacking midfielder on the tip of the diamond. Two strikers up top completes the formation.
How it works
When the team has the ball, the full-backs are the primary source of width down the flanks because the midfielders are packed centrally. The right-back and left-back usually push into the opposition half for that purpose.
In central midfield, the holding midfielder at the base of the diamond has to sit in front of the central defenders to compensate for the absence of the full-backs and protect the centre-backs in case of a quick transitional play from the opponents.
The central midfielders can push forward and support play through the middle while the central attacking midfielder operating at the tip of the diamond can link up play between the midfielders and the strikers.
Up top, the two strikers can alternate with one forward assuming the supporting striker role of running the channels and providing crosses to the other striker who provides a target through the middle. This partnership can be modified in couple of ways depending on the type of strikers in the side.
When out of possession, the diamond will often adapt to defend in a 4-3-3 formation with the central attacking midfielder joining the two strikers in leading the pressing, while the two central midfielders drop alongside the holding midfielder to provide three midfielders to press in front of the defensive line.
Most teams usually play with three or sometimes only two central midfielders, so the four central midfielders in this system allows a team to outnumber most teams in the centre of the park while retaining the threat of two strikers up top.
This formation lacks numbers in wide areas since it does not include wide midfielders.
In attack, the absence of wide midfielders may not be felt as much if the full-backs in the team can compensate with pace, energy and quality crosses into the box.
Defensively though, there is usually nobody in the team who can tightly track back with opposition full-backs. That usually allows them too much time on the ball. Modern full-backs are increasingly becoming offensive-minded so that could eventually be a huge price to pay in certain games.
The other problem arises when the four central midfielders get trapped on one flank and the opposition suddenly switch play to the other flank. It is very difficult to defend in this system when the opponents keep switching play well.
Which teams have used the 4-4-2 diamond formation successfully?
Liverpool’s tremendous success last season was mainly due to the 12-game winning run they recorded towards the end of last season when they used this formation. Liverpool had Jon Flanagan and Glen Johnson flying down the flanks providing good width.
The two forwards, Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge, were quick and mobile enough to stretch opposition defensive lines, allowing Raheem Sterling the space in between the lines to effectively operate at the tip of the midfield diamond.
It was also a perfect system for Steven Gerrard with his exceptional passing range, which allowed him to float dangerous long balls in behind defences to release Suarez, Sturridge and Sterling.