Is the 4-2-3-1 Formation Coming Back To the Premier League?

Is the 4-2-3-1 Formation Coming Back To the Premier League?

Last update: 9 August 2019 Tags: Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester CIty, Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool FC. Categories: Premier League.

We are just a few hours from the start of the Premier League season in what is expected to be a campaign of twists and thrills as 20 teams compete for the title.

However, in reality, there are six teams that have a realistic chance of winning the league barring a miracle like the Leicester City triumph in the 2015/2016 season.

Amid the big-money signings that have occurred in the summer, there has been a noticeable tactical trend that has been a major feature in pre-season which is the 4-2-3-1 formation.

This formation was formally introduced to the Premier League by Jose Mourinho during his first stint in England. The Portuguese tactician was able to use two holding midfielders with an attacking midfielder in the midfield with two wide players providing support to the attack.

The formation was largely successful due to the ability of Ivorian forward Didier Drogba to occupy the two opposing centre back and the goal-scoring ability of Frank Lampard.

It was no surprise that after his Premier League success many teams reverted to this formation.

The arrival of Pep Guardiola at Barcelona in 2009 would change things with his possession-based 4-3-3 formation. This meant that the two midfielders were constantly overrun by the midfield three.

Looking at the trend from last season it appears that many teams are switching back to the 4-2-3-1 formation.


Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp regularly used the formation last season against lesser teams where his team was assured of the lion share of the possession. Roberto Firmino or Xherdan Shaqiri were used in the hole behind the forwards.


Chelsea boss Frank Lampard appears to favour the formation which is no surprise considering that he played under Mourinho. Lampard has deployed a two-man midfield usually consisting of Jorginho as the deep-lying playmaker and Kovacic as a central midfielder with Mason Mount in the number 10 role.

The Blues have been largely successful winning 75% of their friendly matches but the 8 goals conceded in their past three games shows how difficult it is to sustain the formation without a dedicated defensive midfielder.

Neither Jorginho or Kovacic are known for their ability to do the dirty jobs. This problem could be rectified when Kante plays as the Frenchman remains one of the best defensive midfielders in the world.


Arsenal have also tried to implement a similar formation with Granit Xhaka and Lucas Torreira sitting in the midfield with Mesut Ozil in the advanced midfield role.

This should work in theory but in practice, it fails due to the indiscipline of Xhaka and the lack of pressing from Ozil.

Manchester City

Manchester City are one of the teams that have the players to play this formation due to the number of creative midfielders in the club.

As seen in the second half of the Community Shield against Liverpool. Pep Guardiola used the formation with Rodri and Gundogan in the midfield two and Kevin De Bruyne in the number 10 role.

Guardiola could use this sort of combination in tough away games in the Premier League or Champions League.

Kevin de Bruyne in the number 10 role will be able to have a free role and this would enable him have more time to wreak havoc on opposing defences without worrying about defending.


The team that is tailored made for this approach is Tottenham. Manager Mauricio Pochettino has assembled a team that is tactician solid and strong on the ball. Record signing Ndombele and Christian Eriksen can easily sit in the midfield two roles.

While Dele Alli could play in the number 10 role which he favours while Korean ace Son can provide width with Harry Kane leading the line. Pochettino used the 4-2-3-1 formation last season with Moussa Sissoko the joker middle with his pace and power.

It will be interesting to see how these teams line-up in their first game of the season but one thing is certain the 4-2-3-1 formation is back.