Strategy Guide
PES and FIFA Formations Guide (Part II)

We welcome you back for Part 2 of our soccer formations guide. 


The 4-5-1 is my personal favorite, mainly because of its incredible fluidity. At its most offensive, it can turn into a 4-3-3, with the wingers pushing forward.Other times a 4-1-4-1, where a defensive midfielder is deployed to shield the back four and also to quarterback attacks.

I find the 4-4-1-1, where I deploy an attacking midfielder instead of a second striker, and the 4-1-4-1 formations to be my most used variation of this tactic in video games. I like these two slightly more defensive minded formations because in both PES and FIFA, it is still easier for players to move forward than it is to get them to track back. Overall, all the variations of 4-5-1 all do one thing really well: keeping the ball. By packing the center midfield with three players, it ensures that most of the time it will almost never be outnumbered in the midfield, which makes keeping the ball that much easier. On defense, depending on how you set up your midfielders, it can also give your backline a valuable shield with the presence of a defensive midfielder who can break up attacks early, and start a quick counter from there.

The 4-5-1 is also ideal for teams with inside out wingers like Arjen Robben and Ashley Young who play on the "wrong" flank, as in a right footer playing as a left winger. These wingers can be deadly when they cut in from wide and cause confusion between defenders.

Good for: Slow, methodical teams that pass the ball around.

Bad for: Teams that like to cross, as theoretically you only have one striker in the box to aim for.

Try the 4-5-1 with: Arsenal. Some may refer to it as a 4-2-3-1, but either way, with the technical players in Arsenal's midfield, this will allow you to dominate possession and tippy tappy your way into the opponent's goal.

Try the 4-3-3 variation with: Barcelona, and attack attack attack.

Try the 4-4-1-1 variation with: Manchester United, where Wayne Rooney can drop back to free himself up and either ping through balls towards his wingers and Chicharito, or go for a shot himself.



This is a risky one, especially in video games. Depending on how you arrange the two wide players, the 3-5-2 can be configured in a few different ways: with wing backs who push forward at every opportunity; giving them heavy duty workloads both offensively and defensively; start them further up the pitch so they become wingers, and drop one (or potentially two) center midfielders into defensive mid. Either way, the 3-5-2 is highly dependent on defensive players moving intelligently and as a unit. This is why I think it's risky: AI defenders are still not intelligent enough to assess danger and move away from their assigned positions if necessary, to cover for out of position teammates. The few times I've tried the 3-5-2, my center backs would get their signals cross up when trying to defend against a wide player.

So basically, when your full backs get caught high up the pitch, all bets are off. The 3-5-2 in video games, in a way, becomes a very attacking formation whether playing with wing backs or wingers because going forward, you can theoretically swarm the opposition in the final third and create a lot of chances. But lose the ball up high, and a quick pass through your midfield will make your team very vulnerable to a counterattack.

Good for: Attacking teams that press high up the pitch.

Bad for: Playing against speedy, counter attacking formations; and teams that play down wings.

Try the 3-5-2 with: Napoli, where you can pack the midfield and free Marek Hamsik to push up and do his thing.



Perhaps even more gung ho than the 3-5-2, the 3-4-3 is purely about attacking and nothing else. Those growing up watching Ajax play will remember Cruyff’s team playing some really mesmerizing football. But that was back in the 80s, and for good reason. The 3-4-3 will, simply, leave your backline more exposed than Hope Solo’s body in ESPN the Magazine. Still, if you have the players do to so, this can be an incredibly fun formation to try out. Three attackers will create all sorts of headaches for backlines, and if you’re ballsy enough to play an attacking midfielder — and why not? If you’re playing a 3-4-3 balance is probably not your first concern — he’ll get chances to pick up assist after assists.

Good for: Teams that throw caution to the wind.

Bad for: Any sort of defending. Period.

Try the 3-4-3 with: Barcelona. I know, I said they play the 4-3-3 earlier, but the thing with Barcelona is that Sergio Busquets is so adept at sitting in front of the two center backs he almost functions as a third one, and their two fullbacks are so attacking in nature that many times it seems like they're playing the 3-4-3 anyway.


On the other side of the spectrum, we have the 5-3-2. It’s the sibling of the 3-5-2, and while the differences between the two are subtle at first glance, the gulf between their respective mentalities are drastic. Instead of wide players who look to go forward, the 5-3-2 is played with more defensively responsible full backs. The advantage of this formation is obvious: it’s ideal if you want to park the bus. And this rings true for pretty much any formation that plays five defenders, as you will never — unless the opponent plays an utterly unrealistic formation — be outnumbered in the final third. 

Offensively, the 5-3-2 relies on quick, incisive counters. While you may never be outnumbered defensively, the opposite is true on attack -- it’s really hard to play any sort of possession game when you only commit five men forwards. Therefore, your best bet when playing with the 5-3-2 is to choose speedy players that can break with pace rather than slower, craftier players whose skills will be negated by the lack of support.

Good for: Parking the bus and defending a lead.

Bad for: Possession play.

Try the 5-3-2 with: Barcelona. I'm just kidding. Try it with any team when you want to sit on a lead.

What formation do you prefer to play with?

FIFA Soccer 12 Videos
Member Comments
# 1 venga @ 11/01/11 11:09 AM
one word: BRILLIANT!

# 2 BIG CAROLINA @ 11/01/11 12:31 PM
Thank you Kelvin, this will help a ton with PES. Especially when I have a lead.
# 3 globalbeats7 @ 11/01/11 01:42 PM
its not brilliant...this is soccer 101.

nicely written though.
# 4 nas7ybuttler @ 11/01/11 10:21 PM
Anyone had any luck with the 4-5-1 as shown? I tested it out this evening as arsenal and i'm getting some strange behavior. Defense is what I would expect, i've got my CDM set to fall back on defense which basically creates a 5-3-1. However, on offense, I get very unpredictable behavior. My wide attacking wingers almost hug the touchline, and even when I set them to cut in and crash the box on offense they do virtually nothing.
# 5 gigadkc @ 11/02/11 09:14 AM
perfect team for 4-5-1 (4-2-3-1) is Bayern Munich, they're likely the best 4-5-1 team in real life.
# 6 eyeamg0dly @ 11/03/11 12:04 PM
I run 4-5-1 when I have sit certain players in my 4-3-3. I have mine setup differently tho, the side midfielders are moved inside more.
# 7 Knickerbocker @ 11/05/11 09:58 AM
Will try the 4-5-1 with Juventus. I probably lack a good CDM for it. But having Marchisio and Pirlo as CM should get Pirlo a bit more involved than in the default juve formation where Pirlo sits back too much and thus not using his Playmaking skills to the fullest. Also Elia and Krasic on the wings should wreack havoc. Don't know which attacker to use though, any suggestions? Toni and Amauri obviously if I want to play a cross game and for a more creative striker Del Piero, Qualgiarella (Del Piero a bit slow). There are also matri, Iaquinta and Vucinic available. What are your thoughts?

Oh also for CDM what do you think of Vidal and do you think that Chiellini is best used as a LB or in the Central position?
# 8 daley9 @ 11/06/11 05:15 AM
I like that camera view at the top of the post.which one is it ?
# 9 pablo1989 @ 12/02/11 01:41 AM
I think that the best formation to play FIFA is 4-3-3 and for PES 3-4-3 at least that is the way I play and it works well

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