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4-5-1 Formation in Soccer


There are a plethora of choices in the football world. So it depends upon the available talent to select a specific tactic. The 4-5-1 is a secret weapon for those looking to solidify their defense. If you are hunting for tactical formations that prioritise defense being a soccer player or a coach then 451 soccer formation is most suitable for you.

In this article, you will learn about this strategic setup, from player breakdown to advantages and disadvantages. This guide will assist in knowing how to dominate the pitch.

What is a 4-5-1 Formation? 

The 4-5-1 soccer formation also known as the “flat midfield” or “diamond,” is a classical football tactic. Four defenders formed the line – two center backs and two full-backs and five midfielders – three central midfielders and two wide midfielders. A lone striker or center-forward operates as the foremost player within this tactical structure.  This strategy is famous for its tactical flexibility and defensive solidity.

3 Ways To Play in a 4-5-1

Three ways to play in a 4-5-1 soccer formation are given below.

h3 Flat 4-5-1

The flat midfield line of this formation stifles the attack of the opposition effectively. It allows for quick transition and counterattack by coordinated pressing and support mechanisms.

4-2-3-1 Setup

This tactic is popularized now and offers flexibility with an additional playmaker in midfield who is adaptable to 4-3-3 and 4-5-1 setups. It is ideal for counterattack and offensive transition and is favored by Jose Mourinho.

4-4-1-1 Setup

This formation stresses defensive solidity and counter-attacking favored by Sean Dyche. It provides ample defensive cover with opportunities for long-ball strategies while suiting teams with a rugged playing style.

Positions of 4-5-1 Soccer Formation

The positions of the 4-5-1 soccer formation are given below.

4-5-1 Formation in soccer

Defence  Player

This formation consists of four players – two center-backs and two outside-backs. Centre-backs players should be tall and strong and outside-backs players are often quick and agile.

Midfield Player

Midfield players are known as Holding Midfielders, they attack by possessing the ball and short passing. Such players must have great ball-handling skills.

Forward Player

The forward player receives the ball and guards it against two defenders for 10 to 15 seconds. This type of player should be a strong man as he needs only one chance to score.

The Origin of the 4-5-1 system

The 4-5-1 soccer formation is a defensive variation of the 4-3-3 shape. It was first used in Brazil’s 1958 World Cup when the winners converted their 4-2-4 system into possession. Then coaches started to favour a 4-3-3 shape. This evolved into a 4-1-4-1 with wingers who dropped to create a flat 4-5-2 shape.

In-possession Responsibilities of a 4-5-1?

Here are the key in-possession responsibilities of a 4-5-1 soccer formation player.

  • Shifting to 4-1-4-1 or 4-3-3
  • Ball holding and play linking with runners
  • Forward run-making and attack-supporting
  • Creating double pivot
  • Providing support in wide areas
  • Distributing passes.

Out-of-possession Responsibilities of a 4-5-1?

The out-of-possession responsibilities of players are here.

  • Forcing the ball into wide areas
  • Utilizing zonal marking
  • Supporting the forward player in locking down the ball
  • Tracking runs and blocking crosses

Case studies of 4-5-1 formation

There are some most notable examples as a case study.

Jürgen Klopp’

Jurgen Klopp Liverpool is famous for its dynamic attacking and high-pressure style. The midfielders and winger have the freedom to defend and attack and create space for Trent Alexander-Arnold to exploit.

Eddie Howe

Eddie Howe implemented a 4-5-1 mid-block, remaining instrumental in revitalizing Newcastle. They provided defensive cover to prevent Kieran Trippier and Dan Burn from being overwhelmed.

Benefits of playing with a 4-5-1?

There benefits of playing with 4-5-1 are mentioned below.

  • Distribution of space
  • Pressing in 4-1-4-1
  • Build-up play and creating scoring opportunities
  • Counter-Attacking Excellence: allows for quick transitions and exploitation of opponents’ gaps.
  • Tactical Flexibility: adaptable to different situations in the game.
  • Domination in Midfield: midfield players are capable of outnumbering and outmaneuvering opponents.
  • Strategic Management of Resources: offers a practical solution to enhance the resource potential.
  • Defensive Resilience: shines bright in a situation requiring defensive solidarity.

Disadvantages of playing with a 4-5-1?

There are some disadvantages of playing with 4-5-1.

  • Ball dominance can be challenging because of the flat structure of the midfield.
  • When one player initiates counterattacks with a direct pass he/she may be isolated.
  • It can be difficult to establish rhythm due to many players focused on defense.
  • If the team does not support attack the number nine may lack passing options.



What is a formation in soccer?

Soccer formation refers to the position of the players. There are two types of formation: defensive and offensive.

What are the 451 formations in football?

This formation consists of 4 defenders, two center-backs and two full-backs, 5 fielders and one lone.

Is 451 Formation the best?

Soccer formation is best or not it depends upon your team setup and style of play.

How does a 4 4 1 1 formation work?

This setup consists of 3 structured units: defense, midfield and attack.

Is 4-5-1 shape a defensive formation?

Yes, it is a pretty defensive formation.

What is the best possession formation?

The best possession formation is 4-3-3.

What is the weakness of 4-2-3-1?

The disadvantage when the team uses this formation is that the single center can be isolated.

What is the difference between 4141 and 433?

The 4141 shape has more flexibility than the 433.

What is the most common defensive formation?

The most common defensive formation is 4-3.

Why is 4-3-3 so popular?

It can afford the three midfield roles that’s why it is so popular.

When to use 451 formation?

It is primarily used when the team desires to be hard to beat.


In brief, the 4-5-1 formation excels defensively. It provides a secure foundation to build upon. However, the attacking potential of this tactic is limited and the effectiveness depends upon your team setup. We have provided all details of this setup from its origin to its strengths and weaknesses.

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