Hyundai A-League explainer: tactical analysis

All ten coaches are busy putting the finishing touches on their sides' preparations for the Hyundai A-League 2017/18 season.

At the heart of their tactics is the formation they choose for their team.

Here's our simple guide to three of the most common football formations...


The 4-4-2 formation is one of the more traditional systems in world football and can be quickly adapted to function effectively in possession or without the ball.

One of the two central midfielders normally sits deeper than the other, screening the back four from roving opponents.

The other central midfielder is more likely to link with his team-mates in wide positions or the front two.

One of the two strikers will often play furthest forward as a true centre-forward with the second striker looking to feed off his lay-offs and flick-ons.

The second striker doesn't have to stay central though; these players may also regularly drift wide into a winger's position or could play in the 'hole' behind the main striker with a more creative brief.

The fullbacks have a mainly defensive role, but can also be employed as attackers, stretching the opposition defence into wide areas and delivering crosses into the penalty area.

Victory boss Kevin Muscat making some tactical tweets during last season's Grand Final.
Victory boss Kevin Muscat making some tactical tweets during last season's Grand Final.


In the 4-3-3, the back four play an identical role to the 4-4-2 formation with two centre-backs and two fullbacks.

Within this system, the three midfielders will often play in a triangle; when they're on defence, two of them will shield the back four and the third will play higher up the park, while in possession, one will sit deep while the other two lend a hand to their attackers.

Having three players in a tightly congested space in midfield helps a side dominate possession and quickly shut down the space of opposition midfielders.

Up front, there is one clear centre-forward and two wide players who may switch sides during the game.

The wide players are key to the attacking success of this formation and must be able to cut in and shoot, rather than just provide crosses. Think Cristiano Ronaldo and you've got the perfect wide man in a 4-3-3.

Sydney FC players organising their defensive wall.
Sydney FC players organising their defensive wall.


Inside this system, there are three central defenders who operate approximately between the width of the penalty area which makes them very sound in central areas, but potentially vulnerable to opposition wingers.

To alleviate this, the wide midfielders have a stern defensive brief, needing to track opposition attackers to ensure they can't move easily into wide areas.

Out of possession it often looks like a team playing 3-4-3 has five defenders.

The two wide midfielders need to be extremely fit as they are heavily involved on attack too.

There are plenty of attacking options in the 3-4-3 formation with up to seven players (everyone apart from the three centre-backs) able to play a role in the front third.

The two wingers can come inside to allow the wide midfielders to overlap, or can become more traditional wingers themselves, as in the 4-3-3 formation.

Adelaide United players celebrate a goal during the Westfield FFA Cup.
Adelaide United players celebrate a goal during the Westfield FFA Cup.