The 4-5-1 formation in soccer requires a versatile crew of midfielders and a dominant striker up front. The formation gets its name from the fact that it lines up four defenders, five midfielders and one forward. According to Soccer Portal, English Premier League teams Arsenal and Liverpool employ the formation, which requires strong technique, accurate passing and protective ball-handling.
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Defensive Versatility at Midfield
With five midfielders, the 4-5-1 offers coaches a strong defensive presence. The formation allows 10 people to protect the goal, including the goalkeeper. Soccer instruction site Goal Den says the 4-5-1 offers more trapping opportunities, where multiple players can press an offensive ball-handler into losing possession.
Maintain Possession and Tempo
The 4-5-1 calls for athletic midfielders who can switch between defense and offense quickly. Midfielders in this formation must be able to work out of traps on offense and find the forward scoring opportunities. The central midfielders in this formation are typically the most offensively minded.
Five players are on attack in the 4-5-1, as one of the players must drop back. Typically, this leads to faster players at the two center flanking midfield slots. These players can create numerous problems for defenders, who must also deal with the outside midfielders and striker. Many of the attacking opportunities in the 4-5-1 come as the result of crossing passes from wings to the center midfielders or striker.
Exploits Slower Defenders
Goal Den writes, "Because the wingers and fullbacks are stretched so wide, play must go up the flanks and be crossed in." Slower defenders on the outside are at a disadvantage, as the ball will almost always be played on the outside and crossed to waiting attackers in the middle of the field.