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What is 4-1-4-1 formation in soccer? 4-1-4-1 Soccer Formation

4-1-4-1 Soccer Formation

What is 4-1-4-1 formation in soccer?

A 4-1-4-1 formation in soccer is a shaping strategy with four defensive backs, one holding midfielder, four attacking midfielders, and one striker. This play is a deviation from the 4-4-2 formation and is evenly balanced between offensive and defensive players.

4-1-4-1 Formation Roles and Responsibilities


In the 4-1-4-1, the four defensive backs operate as a typical defensive line. While the two side defenders watch the edges of the pitch, the two center defenders should be ready to step in and assist with central defense if the ball gets past the holding midfielder.

Holding Midfielder

The holding midfielder is a key position for this formation because this player has to pivot between offensive and defensive roles. This can be especially challenging because this player might be the only defensive midfielder at times if the four midfielders in front have the ball and working toward a shot on goal.

Attacking Midfielders

The four attacking midfielders rotate between offensive and defensive positions depending on the game’s situation but pivot much less than the holding midfielder. These are usually some of the strongest and quickest players on the team because attacking midfielders are constantly moving and readjusting.


In the 4-1-4-1 formation, there is one striker who is deemed the leader of the offense but relies heavily on the four top midfielders for backup. The center striker should position themselves on the field to be open for a long cross pass or to take a shot on goal from just a few yards out.

Pros of 4-1-4-1 Formation

The 4-1-4-1 is an extremely strong defensive formation. Since there are four defensive backs dedicated to holding the line, along with a defensive holding midfielder providing support, it is very difficult for opponents to create scoring chances.

The 4-1-4-1 is also a very sound offensive formation, as two of the midfielders typically play a more attack-oriented role. They provide support to the striker on the offensive build-up. Thus, the 4-1-4-1 is one of the most balanced formations in soccer.

Cons of 4-1-4-1

One of the main cons of the 4-1-4-1 is that the striker is the one lone player at the top of the formation. There is an immense amount of pressure on the striker, as they are tasked with being the sole finisher. While the attacking midfielders will support, the finishing is usually left to the striker.

It is also relatively easy to find yourself out of position when you are in a 4-1-4-1. This results in counterattacking opportunities for the opposing team when they gain possession of the ball.


There is not much variation within the 4-1-4-1 formation because the attacking midfielders and defensive backs pretty much always separate into two centers and two wide positions to cover the length of the pitch. However, the 4-1-4-1 can easily shift into other formations, such as the 4-4-2 formation where the holding midfielder and three of the attacking midfielders become a more centralized midfield presence while one attacking midfielder and the striker meet up to act as two forwards.