Activities Sports & Athletics The 5-3-2 Formation A Look at the 5-3-2 Formation and How It Is Implemented Share PINTEREST Email Print Chris Brunskill - AMA 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 May 24, 2019 The 5-3-2 formation was used heavily a few years ago, but most coaches in world soccer now opt for different formations. It contains three central defenders, with one often acting as a sweeper. The onus is on the two wing-backs to make regular forays forward and give the team attacking width. The formation ensures good strength in numbers when defending, and makes it hard for opposition teams to counterattack. Strikers in the 5-3-2 Formation As with other formations which feature two strikers, there is often one target man partnering an out-and-out goalscorer. The target man should be a big, physically imposing striker capable of holding the ball up and bringing others into play. Some teams opt for a more creative player to partner the out-and-out striker, and he plays in a slightly withdrawn position, just off the main striker, whose job it is to get into the penalty area and finish off chances. The main striker needs to have a keen eye for goal, while speed is also an asset as he’ll be asked to chase after balls in behind defenders. Midfielders in the 5-3-2 Formation It is usually the job of one midfielder to sit back and act as a screen in front of the defenders. Three of the best defensive midfielders currently in the game are Michael Essien, Javier Mascherano, and Yaya Toure. It is players such as these that allow the team's more attacking players to push forward as they provide an insurance policy if possession is lost. There will always be at least one midfielder in this formation who must regularly join in his side's attacks. But they will also have defensive responsibilities, and it is common to see all three midfielders back defending at corners. As this formation has a strong defensive backbone, it gives more license for the midfielders to get forward. It is imperative they do this because, otherwise, with the formation heavily weighted by defenders, the team will lack numbers when attacking. Wing-backs in the 5-3-2 Formation In such a formation, the wing-backs must have supreme fitness as they are asked to both defend and attack. High energy, dynamic performances are the order of the day from this position. Wing-backs must work the full length of the field, making penetrating runs into the opposition's defensive third and delivering crosses into the area. But they must also be strong in the tackle as they look to nullify the threat from opposition wingers and prevent crosses going into their own box. Central Defenders in the 5-3-2 Formation When three defenders are fielded, one is often used as a sweeper. It is the sweeper's job to play behind the other two central defenders, mopping up loose balls, passing/dribbling the ball out of defense and adding more security. Franz Beckenbauer and Franco Baresi were both fine sweepers in their day, but the position is less common now. The other two center-backs must carry out their usual job of tackling, heading, marking and generally repelling opposition attacks. 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. A sweeper is not mandatory, and it is common for three central defenders to be fielded at once.