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How to Counter a 4-2-3-1?


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That would entirely depend on what 4231 you're talking about.

In reality, you should see the weakness's in the formation when you look at it and the add to this how an opposition team uses it.

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It all depends. However: because of the high default position of the wingers in the 4-2-3-1 and the presence of three central midfielders, i would definately go 'play narrower' and 'exploit the flanks' to minimize space for their midfield and make use of the space they leave on the flanks when their wingers aren't tracing back. If the pitch is narrow i will not play narrower and you might not because the counter strategy is already kind of narrow. Depending on their defensive setup, you should consider whether to play into space or to feet. Usually when I'm under pressure but still need to keep the ball and not waste possession, I will use a direct play whilst also passing to feet.

When playing a narrow game, I'm always wary of the space which I leave on the flanks. Combined with a high defensive line this is possibly dangerous because their wingers will be able to run for the byline and cross the ball. If you're on the counter this shouldn't be a problem, though. You might want to close their wingers down often to prevent them from crossing.

Hope this will help. Remember: hard to penetrate the middle, but you could definately find space behind their wingers and use your own wide men and fullbacks to challange their defenders. If you want your fullbacks to overlap more, shout 'look for overlap' and your wingers will have their mentality slightly reduced and hold up the ball until the fullbacks run from deep. This might or might not help your own possession depending on the pressure being put on your wide men.

Hope this will give you some ideas. Personally I will also use this strategy against the 3-5-2.

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Against team that play 4-2-3-1 Denmark (which I do), I play 4-2-3-1 with 2 DMC to strangle their attack midfielder's space. Depending on how they score goals I also tend to play narrower to constrict space even more.

I then also play attacking mentality on the 4-2-3-1 deep as described above to put their wingers on the back step and that usually turns out well (most of the time).

I think this only works if you have equally skilled team as your opposition though.

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Well, I use a 4-2-4 with two defensive midfielders and two inside forwards in the AMRL slots, and two deep-lying strikers and I rarely have problems with this tactic. 4-2-3-1 Denmark is a rather attacking tactic that sends its full backs forward and leaves a large gap between midfield and defense, so when my wingers remain up front and my strikers drop deep, I tend to have at least two likely four unmarked players up front and a deathtrap in front of my goal. A very good team like Real Madrid will of course not go into that deathtrap thanks to the skill of their players, but less skilled teams do so I normally beat them quite easily.

So exploit not just the flanks generally but the space between their midfield and defense specifically.

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It depends on the variation of 4-2-3-1 you are facing, but I generally play 4-5-1/4-3-3 against it (if I can get away with it I'll also push up higher), I am normally able to control the game and have my attackers take on their defenders without much inteference from my opponent's midfield. If they are playing the deep version your primary aim is to stop the DMs starting a quick counter attack.

In addition I also use a Cover/Stopper pairing in central defence which helps prevent long-balls to the AMC finding anything except the head of Sebastian Coates.

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Before you do anything how the 4231 can be effective. It needs to push up its Full backs, that means it usually plays a reasonably high line. Both variations require this to happen otherwise the attacking line is isolated. What this implies is that the best offense against it involves playing at least standard or higher.Some formations naturally exert pressure like the 424 and the 41221, simply because of their forward line.

The challenge then becomes your backline cos eventually the AI will hit early crosses into space. Or you could end up facing Eden Hazard as I found, if you want to play a high line, you need to exert pressure on their backs and the keeper so play cannot develop. The problem en becomes their two MCs who if given time and space will act as outlets.

How your team lines up and the pressure you create in midfield will play a part. If I use a good side I will tightly mark their more defensive MC so he doesn't have time to pass the ball, I will also OI their fullbacks.

This approach whilst it works with good sides using it will be almost suicidal for an inferior side lacking pace. In cases like that your backline needs to have high concentration, anticipation and acceleration. Chances are a poorer side will only be able to counter it by playing deep and then using the space left behind to launch counters.If you are a good side and you want nuke em like duke nukem, the you pressurize their backline and score off interceptions.

So there are basically two approaches that people will give ya. Which approach you take depends on who you have vs what the AI puts out in terms of attributes.

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How your team lines up and the pressure you create in midfield will play a part. If I use a good side I will tightly mark their more defensive MC so he doesn't have time to pass the ball, I will also OI their fullbacks.

What would you suggest for us poor FMC users who dont have OI's? We can always go into advanced tactics and set specific man marking + tight marking I suppose. I play a 41221 so would you suggest have my AML/R man mark their full backs? who would you then assign to man mark the deeper DMC?

I am normally slight favourite at home so play a standard or attacking strategy (depending on opposition quality/form), so the above instructions might be appropriate then.

Away from home i am normally underdog and play a defensive or counter strategy, so im guessing not a good idea to set man marking but better to sit deep and try and counter (pass into space shout).

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Before you do anything how the 4231 can be effective. It needs to push up its Full backs, that means it usually plays a reasonably high line. Both variations require this to happen otherwise the attacking line is isolated

The challenge then becomes your backline cos eventually the AI will hit early crosses into space. Or you could end up facing Eden Hazard as I found, if you want to play a high line, you need to exert pressure on their backs and the keeper so play cannot develop. The problem en becomes their two MCs who if given time and space will act as outlets.

I have noticed that while AI's 4231 with AML/R does not use the fullbacks in a very attacking manner , it can still be relatively effective with the remaining 4-5 attacking players . The 4231 with 3AMCs on the other hand uses the FBL/R almost as wingers . Therefore early pressure is , indeed , very important . In this variation i usually man mark tight + tackle hard the 2FB and the 2MC s ...if they cant have the ball the opponent's threat is reduced to a great extent
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