In the modern game of soccer or football recently, a formation or system 4-5-1 has enjoyed a much higher played ratio especially by smaller clubs or clubs or nations playing away. Here are five reasons why such a formation or system is employed.
A definition of the system is first needed. A 4-5-1 would refer to the deployment of one goalkeeper, four defenders, five midfielders and a striker. An example of a team making a success of the formation is the Greek National in European Football Championships 2004 where they emerge as champions with the deployment of such a system. And now for the reasons.
- Flexibility – Football or soccer is a fast paced game where an attack can be turned into the counter attack by the opposition if possession is lost. Hence the deployment of a 4-5-1 system allows the flexibility in both attack and defense. In attack or possession of the ball, the left and right midfielders would operate as wingers to push up and join the lone striker. Furthermore of the three central midfielders, one or two can also push to join the attack while the remaining midfielder would drop back to assist the defense in case of a break or counter attack by the opposition.
As for defense or without possession of the ball, a five midfield in theory would be able to pressure the opposition to win back the ball. Another example, the five man midfield would add more steel into midfield portion to win or retain possession to ease off pressure at the back.
- Defending a one goal Lead – In some matches, the game can be very close one where a single goal can decide the outcome. Hence some managers would like to employ 4-5-1 formation to defend the lead in the last ten to twenty minutes of the game. The flexibility of the system is already explained under point 1. The system would also enable the team to launch counter attack if needed when the opposition throws caution to wind for an equalizer. The other purpose is to pass the ball around to run down the clock and the best way to do so is to keep possession.
- Playing an Away Game – In the modern league games, a point from a game drawn especially if the game is away or against a strong opposition is crucial. The reason is simple as most home teams would go out to try their best to win at home with their supporters behind them acting as the 12th man. For example, in recent games like Liverpool verses Birmingham City or Manchester United verses Reading, both City and Reading employed a 4-5-1 system to stifle the midfield of Liverpool and United. The system would usually enable a team to come away with a point or avoid a mauling at hand of strong opposition. Such a point usually meant a victory for the smaller clubs.
- Playing against Stronger Opposition – As mentioned in point 3, playing against strong opposition at home, a 4-5-1 system would be employed for the same rationale of getting a point or avoiding a heavy defeat. Such a attitude towards game can be seen as a defeatist attitude, but survival in the top leagues around the world would mean huge revenue for clubs. An example is the English Premiership where millions can be lost if a team is relegated. Hence some teams would rather employ such a formation to ensure of a low scoring defeat or a draw game for a point while a more attacking one when facing opposition of similar status.
- Injuries – This is the least common reason why a 4-5-1 formation would be deployed. The reason is a very simple one. There are usually more defenders and midfielders than strikers in the club. Hence if a club has a striker injury situation, it may be more inclined to employ such a system than others. Furthermore deploying players in familiar positions would be having a much better effect than playing them in an untrained position.
Hence the above reasons should help to explain the rationale behind the employment of a 4-5-1 system or formation.