Football formations: Shattering the myth of the 4-2-3-1

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The holding midfielder has become the most fashionable entity in football in the last few years.

He apparently helps a team win the midfield battle and plays a key role in the trendy 4-2-3-1 formation.

The advocates of this much-vaunted 4-2-3-1 formation point to the considerable evidence of successful clubs who owe their success to the defensive guys in midfield who shield the defence.

Bayern Munich’s success is a case in point.

With the great Bastian Schweinsteiger and Javier Martinez playing in midfield, Bayern Munich arguably had the best double pivot in Europe last season.

And while the CDM fashionistas may point to Bayern’s midfield duo as an example that every club needs to follow, an alternative, more prosaic explanation may explain Bayern’s success.

Martinez and Schweinsteiger are just good footballers in a team of good footballers who follow the tactics that suit them.

They are not C.D.Ms, C.A.Ms, C.R.I.A.Ms (Central Right Inside Attacking midfielder for those who are wondering - this term might be in fashion 5-10 years down the line).

Simplistically put, a team does well if it has good players and the right tactics.

The World Cup winning Brazil team of 1970, arguably the greatest team in the history of football, never had a ‘CDM’.

They attacked with aplomb and did a decent job in defence as well.

Brazil were not exactly known for having imperious defenders but just conceding 6 goals in 6 games in the most attack-minded World Cup of all time is a job well done.

Lest we forget, the 1970 World Cup featured an average of 2.79 goals per game, an average not bettered since.

The point is that the all this hullabaloo surrounding the 4-2-3-1 in the last few years that will soon go away.

The consistently successful teams will always be ones that play as a unit.

The 4-2-3-1 maybe in vogue right now, but formations are like style trends - a team might very well win a major tournament with a 3-5-2 and suddenly everyone is advocating a 3-5-2.

The much-derided two banks of 4 with a striker pair up front maybe the most old fashioned formation but there is no reason why a team cannot succeed playing it.

Jose Mourinho is amongst the best tacticians in the world and he has consistently varied his formations depending on the players at his disposal - he played a 4-3-3 at Chelsea and Inter, and a 4-2-3-1 at Madrid.

The key is to play the way that works for your team rather than the way that is the current fashion.

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World Cup
Bayern Munich
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