Activities Sports & Athletics The 4-5-1 Formation A look at the 4-5-1 formation and how it is implemented Share PINTEREST Email Print Philipp Schmidli/Bongarts/Getty Images Sports & Athletics Soccer Playing & Coaching Basics Soccer Players Soccer Culture Baseball Basketball Bicycling Billiards Bodybuilding Bowling Boxing Car Racing Cheerleading Cricket Extreme Sports Football Golf Gymnastics Ice Hockey Martial Arts Professional Wrestling Skateboarding Skating Paintball Swimming & Diving Table Tennis Tennis Track & Field Volleyball Other Activities Learn More By Stewart Coggin Stewart Coggin has written about the sport of soccer since 2002. He is an expert, and his articles appear on many sports websites. our editorial process Stewart Coggin Updated April 21, 2018 This formation has been favored by European teams for years. It is often employed when coaches want a safety-first approach from their sides, and observers can regularly witness the formation being used in Champions League matches. Opting to pack the midfield with bodies means more defensive solidity. Striker in the 4-5-1 Formation With only one player up top, there is much burden on this striker to perform. It is crucial that he holds the ball up and brings others into play. Didier Drogba is an excellent example of a player with the strength and awareness to shoulder the burden of a lone striker. Pace is also an advantage as the striker will be asked to run on to balls from the midfield. Target men with good control, heading ability and upper body strength like Drogba can flourish in this position. Playing against an entire defense alone can take it out of a player so it is important that he is fully fit when taking to the field. Midfielders in the 4-5-1 Formation It is crucial that if a team has attacking intent, the midfielders go forward at regular intervals to support the striker. As is the case with most formations, one defensive midfielder will sit back and screen the back four. This player is charged with breaking up opposition attacks, and when the team is on the back foot, acting as an extra member of the defense. But the two around him should be looking to attack as well as defend. A more attacking five-man midfield can be difficult for opponents to deal with as it is hard to pick up advancing midfielders who are making late runs into the box, or passing the ball between them to make space. Wingers in the 4-5-1 Formation While at least one of the central midfielders will be instructed to go forward regularly, this is also the case with the team's wingers. Indeed, if a team is setting out to attack, the formation can look more like a 4-3-3, with the two wingers playing more advanced roles as they look to support the front man, and get into goalscoring positions by cutting in. The orthodox winger's job is to run the line and look to get crosses into the box, but for these to be effective, midfielders must advance into the penalty area. A winger must still be mindful of his defensive responsibilities, with more and more teams fielding marauding full-backs. Full-backs in the 4-5-1 Formation There is more onus than ever before in world soccer on the full-backs to attack, and this still applies in the 4-5-1 formation. How much they go forward is dependent on how attacking a team's outlook may be. The primary role of the fullback is to defend against wingers and opposition full-backs, while helping out the central defenders. Central Defenders in the 4-5-1 Formation Whatever the formation, the job of the central defenders remains largely unaffected. Center-backs are charged with heading the ball away, tackling and blocking. While they are generally free to go up for set-pieces in the hope of heading in a cross or a corner, their primary role is to stop the opposition strikers and midfielders. The two central defenders can mark zonally (zonal marking) or take on man-to-man marking roles depending on a coach's instructions.