Tactical Drills

Tactics: The ultimate guide to mastering the 4-5-1

4-5-1 tactic

You have just suffered one defeat too many. Your matches are not satisfactory. Do you feel something is wrong? Do you want to try the 4-5-1 but are afraid of doing it wrong? Discover our complete guide to the 4-5-1 game system.

You have just suffered one defeat too many. Your matches are not satisfactory. In short, you feel that something is wrong. Your midfield is going into a tailspin, your defense is a mess and some of your players can’t put two passes together.

In a word, you feel bad. You have your own idea, your game system is not the right one. And you want to try the 4-5-1 . But you’re afraid of doing it wrong. You don’t know how to play with it. And you don’t know if this training is for you.

We tell you everything about this playing system, which differs from a 3-5-2 formation or a 4-2-3-1 playing system . Come on, a quick overview of the composition used by Domenech with the French team in 2006!

  1. What is 4-5-1?
  2. 4-5-1: offensive animation
  3. How to defend well in 4-5-1?
  4. The advantages of a 4-5-1 playing system
  5. What are the weak points of the 4-5-1 pattern?

What is 4-5-1?

The 4-5-1 is a fairly simple system which consists of:

  • 4 defenders, 2 central and 2 full-backs.
  • 5 backgrounds.
  • 1 single attacker.

Note that some nuances are made in midfield . You can position your 5 backgrounds in several ways. You have the possibility to use, among others, these 3 training courses :

Flat midfielder with 3 central midfielders and 2 wide midfielders

Flat midfielder with 3 central midfielders and 2 wide midfielders

Play in V: 1 defensive midfielder, 2 central midfielders and 2 wide midfielders a step above.

Play in a “V”: 1 defensive midfielder, 2 central midfielders and 2 wide midfielders a step above.

Place 2 defensive midfielders and 3 central players

2 defensive midfielders and 3 central midfielders

Yes, there are many options. And this is where 4-5-1 differentiates itself from systems similar to it. The environments are close to each other.

We’ll give you an example. The 4-5-1 in “V” can be reminiscent of a 4-3-3 . But the full-backs of the 4-5-1 do not play as high as the wingers of the 4-3-3.

There you go, you now know how to place your players. Now you want to know how to score goals with this device. Normal… in the next part, we explain how to properly exploit offensive animation when you use a 4-5-1 playing system .

4-5-1: offensive animation

The offensive animation of the 4-5-1 mainly passes through your central midfielders . Indeed, they will (generally) be the first to receive the ball when recovering. The latter keep and circulate the ball. They therefore offer several transmission solutions : back or deep passes, centers, etc.

Depending on their positioning and style of play, your midfielders play several roles:

  • Relaters to ensure transitions between defense and attack.
  • Laterals , with the aim of widening the play, centering or transplanting into the axis.
  • Offensive , to support the attacker, play with their back to the game or create a surplus.
The role of midfielders in 4-5-1

The role of midfielders in 4-5-1

The 4-5-1 attack is not limited to your midfielders, far from it… your full-backs contribute enormously. How ? By replacing your full-backs who set out to conquer the opposing goal. Or better, by spilling over to the side in order to accentuate the work of the full-backs. They thus participate in the conservation and circulation of the ball.

And the attacker? Yes, we’re coming there. So, let’s be frank, your attacker must know how to do (almost) everything. Normal, he’s alone. He’s going to get all the balls, and they’re all different.

Try to find a player who has a bit of: Giroud, Lewandoski and Haaland. Let’s explain.

Does your attacker receive a cross? He must be able to score with a header.

One of your midfielders sends him a through ball? He must be fast enough to reach it.

Oh yes, he must also be able to play with his back to goal in order to participate in the circulation of the ball.

And now ? Defense. You’re bound to lose the ball, right?

How to defend well in 4-5-1?

To be frank with you, you’re lucky. The 4-5-1 is a defensive monster if played well. An impenetrable wall. For what ? Because everything is double protected!

Your central axis is guarded by your 2 central defenders with 2 or even 3 midfielders as reinforcements . Your sides are covered by 2 full-backs, the defender and the midfielder. When you lose the ball, you always have a player to fill the imbalances. Central or defensive midfielders replace the attacking full-backs. Conversely, the full-backs can replace the midfielders if they struggle to find their place.

On the other hand, your players will have to be patient. Facing a wall of 9 players, your opponent will keep the ball… for a long time. They will have to maintain the pressure and maintain their positions.

You have seen how to position your players, how to attack and how to defend. And now ? We weigh the pros and cons of 4-5-1 .

The advantages of a 4-5-1 playing system

The incredible asset of this formation is its defensive solidity . You potentially have 9 players to protect your goals. Spaces are almost non-existent for your opponent.

Then this composition is easy to understand. Your players find their way easily. Its structure is clear: 4 defenders, 5 midfielders and 1 attacker . And the roles are not complex: full-back, central defender, recovering midfielder. Many players are familiar with these positions. In addition to being clear, this game system has another advantage: the space is reduced between each compartment of the game . What does this change? Transitions and ball circulation are simpler!

The 4-5-1 also has the benefit of surprising offensively. Your opponent may think that you only have your central striker to score… as we have seen, your attacks can come from the midfielders or the full backs.

This game system also gives you another advantage: counters . You’re going to have quite a few. Indeed, faced with your numerical superiority in defense, your opponent will play high. When recovering the ball, you benefit from enormous spaces and a surplus in attack if your players project quickly enough.

Finally, the 4-5-1 is very flexible, it can easily transform. For example, your 2 full midfielders can move up a notch to become wingers and play in a 4-3-3 . In short, you have a game system that easily adapts to the different scenarios of an encounter.

And unfortunately, there are not only advantages. Just below we list the disadvantages and pitfalls to avoid when setting up your 4-5-1 .

What are the weak points of the 4-5-1 pattern?

You have certainly guessed it, the Achilles heel of this composition is its sole attacker . And that poses two problems for you. The first ? You’re going to have few opportunities, a few shots, no more. You must therefore be as effective as the French team in 2018. The second? Your attacker must be multifunctional and this is not easy to find.

And since you only have one place, many of your attackers stay on the bench without playing.

Another problem with the 4-5-1 is the amount of effort required . Offensively or defensively, your players run a lot. They recover when they lose the ball, constantly press the opponent and rush to attack when they recover it.

Also, this game system requires rigor and concentration from your players . Particularly to manage their positioning in midfield.

Finally, you may have difficulty projecting forward quickly; transitions will be short, because the space between your midfielders and defenders is reduced .