see also "Changes To The Offside Rule" at
Modern Origins of the Game
for details on older formations

Oct 17, 1994    Various formations (Babajide Oyabayo)
Jan 20, 1996    The registas (Massa Sugano)
May  6, 1997    English vs. French formations (Steve Jones)
Oct  1, 1997 	Striker/Forward (Marco Paserman)
Jan  8, 1998	Libero/Sweeper (Paul Mettewie, Steve Jones, Gaborzinho, Marco Paserman)

From: (Babajide Oyabayo)
Subject: Re: 4-4-2 vs xmas tree vs diamond etc(?)
Date: 17 Oct 1994 11:19:41 GMT


D1    D2    D3    D4


      M2    M3


     S1      S2

Midfielder 1 links the defence with the midfield and also picks up any
attacking midfielder from the opposing team. Midfielder 4 links mf with the
attack. M4 is often given a roving (free) role (to play anywhere his/her
heart desires within mf and attack). Strategically, M4 is very important,
because he arrives late in the penalty box that he is difficult to pick up
(D. Bergkamp does this so well).

(1) It is said to encourage neat football and good passing.
(2) Strategic importance of M1 and M4.

(1) The team is wide open to attack from the wings.
(2) The scope of attack is usually limited to the middle.

So if the opposing team has two very good central defenders, one defensive mf
and two good wingers, the diamond team would almost definetely be slaughtered.


 D1    D2    D3    D4

M1   M2   M3   M4   M5


The xmas tree basically means that you have five across the mf and a lone
striker up front. When attacking, two midfielders usually joined up with the
lone striker, to give support. Note that for this system, you would need a
very good, strong, pacy striker.

(1) Good for the away games. Gives defence a cover.
(2) It can effectively counter a highly creative midfield.

(1) Attacking mfs usually don't arrive in time to support the striker.
(2) It tires out the striker.
(3) The opposing team usually has more posession of the ball.

IMHO, I think the diamond formation is a tactical codswallop. The xmas tree
formation is very useful in the away game.

4-4-2/ 4-2-4 FORMATION

D1   D2   D3   D4     or     D1   D2   D3   D4

M1   M2   M3   M4                 M2   M3

     S1   S2                 S1   S2   S3   S4

I much prefer these formations. One of the M2, M3 is defensive and the other
attacking mf.

(1) The wingers. If they are on top form, I can guarantee that the opposing
    defence will have a very difficult day. Putting the ball in the net is
    another matter entirely.

(2) If your strikers are tall (relative to opposing defenders) then your
    wingers can vary their crosses, according to opportunity, to a high or a
    low ball.

(3) This is a more balanced formation.

(1) The wingers. If they are not playing well, it will overburden your

(2) You are open to counter-attacks.

(3) If strikers are short, then the opposing defence is only threatened with
    a low cross.


This merely concentrates on the defence:


D2   D3    D4   D5

The midfield and the attack can be shaped as the manager sees fit. D1 is the
sweeper. In most cases, he plays the ball out of the defence, linking the df
and the mf. He's often part of the attack. D2 and D5 overlaps to the "wing"
area to get crosses in.

(1) Tighter defence.

(2) The overlapping defenders (D2, D5) leave gaps in the defence.

From: Massa Sugano
Subject: In defense of Paulo Sousa
Date: Sat, 20 January, 1996

ba793@cleveland.Freenet.Edu (Hamid Dastkar) wrote:
>At his position as a defensive midfielder (as esagerato argued below), I
>can safely say Desailly is better *and* rated higher if you look up
>the player ratings in europe (just for a sample).  As a generic midfielder,
>then Paulo Sousa's case becomes even weaker, as there are other midfielders
>who can take up spots ahead of him. (again let say Desailly :-)

Well, you are off. (Don't get offended.)

A defensive midfielder is not exactly what Paulo Sousa is.  He is what Italians
refer to as a "regista."  A regista has a more complex task than a defensive
midfielder--he must also serve as an auxillary playmaker serving long and short
through-passes to the forwards.  Often, a regista is used when only three
midfielders are fielded.

Let's take an example from a four-manned midfielded team to see a difference.
The second (for now) milanese squad Inter has Paul Ince and Benny Carbone in the
central midfielding spot.  Ince is the defensive midfielder who jams enemy
advance serving as a preliminary barrier for the defense.  When he takes a ball,
he more often than not passes the ball up to Carbone, who then seeks to launch
the forwards Maurizio Ganz and Marco Branca, or possibly get help from the
wingers.  Ince used to be also a good playmaker in England; however, the greater
technical level of the opponents makes him more suited to concentrating to the
defensive midfielder position.  Ince now is probably the #1 in this position
along with Marcel Desailly.

On the other hand, Paulo Sousa, like AS Roma's Falcao--the greatest of the
registi to have played in Italy, must combine the roles of Ince and Carbone, or
in Milan equivalents, Desailly and Demetrio Albertini.  Simply put, Sousa is
worth Albertini + Desailly.  Presently in the world, Dunga (Shimizu S-Pulse),
Redondo (Real Madrid), Sforza (Bayern Munich), Guardiola (Barcellona), and Thern
(AS Roma) are good examples of "registi," or a complete and self-reliant
midfielder.  And since Dunga is too old, Redondo doesn't play (Hierro plays),
and the latter three has accomplished less than Sousa, Juventus' Paulo Sousa
should be considered to be at or extremely near the pinnacle of the world's

>We know that generally when it comes to awards then there will be
>other players ahead of Paulo Sousa or other Portugese players (hence
>my statements).

Awards are biased, hey everyone claims so one time or another.  Desailly is
lucky to be French and a milanista.  His contributions in the 1993-'94 season
was immense, but last year he played as if he didn't play, the only decent match
being the EC1 final against Ajax, which Milan anyways lost.

>Actually, I like Paulo Sousa's style of play, but
>when I see him, but he is overshadowed by the Juve attack.

It's totally the opposite.  Juve has the-the-the best non-foreigner attack in
the world, but it doesn't function well without Paulo Sousa's launches.  This
season so far, Sousa has been maligned by pains in the left knee, and the
attacking potential of Juventus has consequentially suffered.

BTW & IMO, the best midfielders of the world, on a 4-man midfield:

Regista / Defensive Midfielder
  1.  P. Sousa  (Portugal, Juventus FC)
  2.  Hierro  (Spain, Real Madrid)
  3.  Guardiola  (Spain, Barcelona FC)

Right-side / Winger
  1.  Zanetti  (Argentina, Inter)
  2.  Finidi  (Nigeria, Ajax)
  3.  Boban  (Croatia, AC Milan)

  1.  Davids  (Netherlands, Ajax)
  2.  Zinho  (Brazil, Yokohama Flughels)
  3.  Figo  (Portugal, Barcelona)

Offensive Midfielder / Playmaker
  1.  Litmanen  (Finland, Ajax)
  2.  Bergkamp  (Netherlands, Arsenal)
  3.  Moeller  (Germany, Borussia Dortmund)

Subject: Re: Top Five Reasons Why Preki Doesn't Play for US Team
Date: 06 May 1997 13:26:53 +0200
From: Steve Jones - JON (Dennis Wayne Rodriguez) writes:

> The problem with SOME English fans that I have talked to is that
> they will watch a game and see things very differently than
> non-English fans.  They seem to suffer from NLE disease (Not
> Like England).  They seem to be locked into some mindset about
> how the game must be played, ignoring all the possibilities
> that the game invites.  "The ball must be passed around very,
> very quickly, one touch always.  The play must develop down
> the wings, ending in a cross and head on goal.  The keeper must
> boot the ball downfield 75 yards (to the other team).  There
> will be no dribbling.  Midfielders can only make long passes
> down the wings.  Wingers must only cross the ball.  Defenders
> must only thrust the ball forward 50 yards (to the other team --
> see Lalas).  All play must develop in straight lines, and only
> forward.  There are only two types of passes: the long ball and
> the through pass."  Then there are others amongst the English
> fans that do watch more than the Premiereship.  No, not just
> Benny.

And this is English football ? One touch quick passing of 50 yards ?
Bloody hell I didn't think Vinnie Jones was capable of it :-)

The fact is that English football has just as large a range of styles as
most of the other European Leagues.  I would argue that the "great" Milan
side and the Juve side of today play what is in essence an "english" style
of football.  What I see as traditional English football is

1) Heading the ball, the team requires at least 2 players who are good at
   this, one at the back and one towards the front.

2) Speed, a couple of shit of a shovel players who can make the runs in
   behind defenders.

3) Two strikers, the mold can differ but at least one of these should
   be of the pure bred finisher types (eg Rush, Fowler, Lineker, Greaves etc)

4) The midfield hardman, his job is to stop the creative player from the

5) The creative midfielder/forward.  This is the player who can either
   sit behind the front two (ala Dalglish, Le Tiss) or play out wide
   (ala Giggs) but what he must have is the ability to do something
   out of the ordinary.

6) The defensive shouter, normally one of the two centre backs, yells his
   head off ordering those about him.

They play 4-4-2 or more likely 4-3-1-2, sometimes the creative player will
be pushed into the front two slot.

The difference between what is the ideal (Liverpool of the 70s and 80s) and
what is normal can of course be large.  But this is the style in which most
of the top sides in England have played since I have watched the game. Is
Schmeichel's 50 yard throw out a mindless hoof ? Was the Dons playing to
Fash's head a pointless thing to do ?  Was AC Milans play it through the
centre and ignore the wings boring and without imagination ?

Having seen alot of French footy I would guess at the ideal being
4-4-2 or 5-3-2 or 5-4-1.  The key players in the team being

1) Midfield genius, this player is the equivalent of the english creative
   player but he is expected to push up more and collect balls knocked back
   by the forwards (something rarely seen in England)

2) Midfield dribbler, another form of creative player whose job is to dance
   past the opposition and lay the ball to the forwards who lay it
   back to the genius or back to the dribbler

3) Midfield distributor, hardly moves a muscle all game but is a great
   passer of the ball, always the "option" for players in trouble.

4) Holder, this player plays up front and his job is to hold the ball for
   the players comming through.

5) Striker, can hit the bal from anywhere good alround forward but not of the
   english poacher mold.

IMO both Monaco and PSG have this, although Monaco play slighty more directly
(english?) by having their best two finishers actually up front, they also
whip crosses in alot.

The big difference is the role of the midfield, in England the forward line
is expected to get the goals, in France it is not that unusual for a
midfielder to be a top scorer, but when a club (Monaco, maybe PSG next season)
has a striker who can score their style adapts to adjust to their new
found strength.

But the idea that Liverpool of the 70s and 80s were a hoof and hope team,
surely laughable.

> :    Never mind the BS, I prefer to trust my eyes..
> :    MLS is poorer than English Division 2 football, and that's
> :    even with the foreigners.
> I'm sorry, but NO it isn't.  Premiereship it's not.  The skill
> level of some MLS players meets or exceeds the level we see in
> the Premiereship, however.   Unfortunately, some MLS players
> are just plain crap.  Defensively, MLS is weak.  Tactically weak
> as well.  But give it a few years and you will see great
> improvements.

Umm the skill level of some players in the 2nd division is better than
those in the top flight, and defensively they are Okay.  Think about it
Stockport County, Chesterfield, how do you think they would fare in MLS ?
As a new league being an English 2nd Division side is a fair old achievement,
a couple of years time maybe less and you'll be first division, this would
give MLS teams a decent chance of beating _anyone_, you wouldn't be
favourites but you wouldn't be written off.  From the little I have seen
at the moment you would be less likely to win than Chesterfield or County
because of the weakness in defence (care to give Shearer 5 yards of space ?).

It looks like quite a good first attempt with teams just beginning to
evolve their styles, that takes a while, especially in defence, and
(as Man City have found out) having skillful players matters not a jot
if you don't have the system to fit around them.

Give MLS another 2 seasons after this one, that is when I would expect them
to be able to give the top European sides a decent game (ala Rosenborg ?),
they may not win but it would be a serious match.

Subject: Re: Top Five Reasons Why Preki Doesn't Play for US Team
Date: 09 May 1997 11:02:35 +0200
From: Steve Jones - JON (Mario Mastrangelo) replies:
> > I would argue that the "great" Milan side and the Juve side of today
> > play what is in essence an "english" style of football.
> You must be joking.....

No not really.  The fact is that the European game has in the last 10-15
years go much much quicker than it was.  One of the main reasons for
this is surely the dominance of the English clubs in the 70s and early
80s over the teams from the continent.  AC Milan had probably the best
forward ever to grace a football field, but they did play pressing
football, they ran their arses off to shut down the opposition. This seasons
Juve are IMO less English than last seasons Juve because Rav is a much
more English style striker than either of the replacements.

Take a look at a video of the Liverpool sides of the late 70s and then look
at most of the football being played in Europe today.  There are differences
but there are also startling similarities.  This is completely logical
because who are coaches going to emulate ? The team that is dominating
Europe or another team in their league who gets beaten by the quick passing
style of the team that is dominating Europe.

The myth that English football is about long balls and no skill just brawn
is rubbish.  Teams around Europe now play at a much quicker tempo than
they did 15 years ago, the reason for this change was because they were
getting tanked by teams that were quicker and fitter than they were.

Subject: Re: Benny's forwards/attackers/strikers etc etc
Date: 1 Oct 1997 13:14:58 GMT
From: (Marco Paserman)

Simon Gleave  writes:

>For what seems like years, Benny has been going on and on about the worth
>of various forward players so that he can form a ridiculous argument which
>states that Ronaldo isn't a great striker....

[rest of good post on Ronaldo and other strikers/forwards snipped]

This is the way I see it: let me just say that I had always thought that striker
and forward could be used interchangeably, but since several sources
have pointed out that this is not so, let me talk of what I think
are the basic skills (in no particular order) that a good "attacker" should have.

1) Aerial skills. This is the classic prototype of the British attacker. Strong in
the air, will fight every cross with defenders, and can transform a mild chip
into a powerful and accurate header. Riedle and Zamorano, Batistuta and Shearer,
excel in this category. In the past, Uwe Seeler, Bettega, Van Basten.

2) Acrobatic skills. The ability to score spectacular goals with volleys, overhead
kicks, scissor kicks and the like. Major figures in this category would
be Vialli, Papin, and Van Basten.

3) Sheer power. beat your defnder by a foot, and blast it at goal from any
position. This is the quality that I personally prefer in an attacker.
The best at this is definitely Batistuta. In the past, Gigi Riva and Preben

4) Poaching ability. This is that very special quality that makes an attacker
"smell" where the ball will be, and enables him to tap it in from inside the 6
yard box. The ignorants will say "what did he do? He just had to tap it in!",
but very few attackers had this sixth sense for the goalmouth. The absolute
master at this was Gerd Muller, but Paolo Rossi and Lineker also deserve special
mention. Today,  Shearer and Inzaghi (see his goal Sunday versus Sampdoria)

5) "Run and Shoot". This is becoming a crucial skill in modern football. This is
how most goalscoring opportunities come up today. The midfield recovers the ball,
and needs to quickly verticalize by sending a through ball to the attacker who
must be able to beat his defender. This is what Ronaldo excels at. Boksic is great
at the "running" part, but absolutely crap at the "shooting" part

You might disagree with this categorization, but I hope that the general idea
is clear. Now Benny hates Ronaldo, because he is very good at ability no. 5, but
rather mediocre at all the rest. If I understand him correctly, a true "striker"
must have abilities 1-4, whereas ability no.5 is the stuff of "forwards".
In my opinion, as long as the ball is in the back of the net, it doesn't really
matter how it ended up there.

I would be more than happy of having Ronaldo on my team, instead of an average
"striker". But of course I am even happier with Inzaghi...

Subject: Re: whats a libero? was Re: 1998 World Cup Probable Starters/Teams
Date: Thu, 08 Jan 1998 16:31:42 -0600
From: Paul Mettewie 

A libero is basically just the Italian term for "sweeper".
A sweeper or libero is a defender with no specific
man to cover, generally present to pick up whatever
man constitutes a threat to the goal, or to go to an area
where his help is needed.

Sometimes, libero is used to define a sweeper that is
more conservative in nature, generally playing "behind"
the wing and central defenders as a last line of defense
before the goal. But this is not always true, as some
liberos actually play in front of the wing and central
defenders. Classic examples of liberos were Baresi and

Sweepers may sometimes be seen as being also able
to come forward to attack, being able to cause par-
ticular problems for an opponents because no other
player is responsible to cover them. The prime and
still best example of this was Franz Beckenbauer of
Bayern and West Germany.

Liberos or sweepers are generally thought to be a
European phenomenon, although there are some
examples of this postion from South American
clubs and players.

-Riff"And Picchi and Burgnich of Inter were great sweepers too"Ster

Subject: Re: whats a libero?
Date: 09 Jan 1998 09:19:35 +0100
From: Steve Jones 

Umm Here we have a cultural divide (whats new) as far as I was
concerned the sweeper _always_ rests behind the defence (cleaning
up what gets through).  A Sweeper (IMO) tends to be a centre-back
who is move further back by a team that doesn't play the offside
trap.  A Sweeper doesn't have to have the same ball skills as a
libero.  For instance England have played using a sweeper (Italia
90 for instance) but haven't had a player capable of playing
as a libero.

Hoddle wants to play a Beckenbaur style libero and was hoping
that Redknapp could develop into that player.

On this side of the cultural divide a sweeper is a last gasp
defender whereas a libero is a defender who is also an effective
creative force.  IMO Baresi wouldn't be a decent example of an
libero but a good example of a sweeper, Sammer or Beckenbauer
would be the two best examples past and present of the libero.

Subject: Re: whats a libero?
Date: Fri, 09 Jan 1998 15:30:58 -0600
From: Paul Mettewie 

Yes there is a cultural divide -- because the term "sweeper"is NEVER
used in Italy. A defender who has no man-marking
responsibilities (and no zone responsibilities beyound the entire
defensive 'zone') is always called a libero, not a sweeper. It
doesn't matter whether he plays in front or behind the back
line defense.

In Italy you have liberos who play defensively, and those
who play with more offense. Generally speaking, being
that it is Italy, defense is stressed. Scirea is the prime example
of a libero with attacking quality. Baresi was definitely defense
first, second and almost always....

Subject: Re: Libero vs. Sweeper
Date: Thu, 08 Jan 1998 23:35:08 -0500
From: gaborzinho 

While it is true that the libero does not necessarily
play in front of defenders, sweeper never plays in front
of them.  Mostly behind or, in case of the flat back four, even.
Incidentally, the role of the libero was defined by Jozsef Bozsik of
Hungary in the late 40-s and early 50-s, when he provided the link
between the defense and Puskas. Actually Hungary had two alternating
liberos then, as the left "half back" provided similar link with Kocsis
on the right side of the forward line. They were called the diagonal
links, but Bozsik's role emphasized offense somewhat more, simply
because of his natural abilities, rather than tactical considerations.
(With the center forward withdrawn, again this was the way Hidegkuti
played naturally, this was somewhat of an instinctive 4-2-4. Later both
Didi and DiStefano played this role more definitely.) In 1958 Zito and
Orlando for Brasil tried to play the way the Hungarians did, but they
were somewhat different type players, with their roles more firmly
defined. In 1962 Zito and Zozimo did pretty much the same. Then came
Bobby Moore and Beckenbauer, thus it became a planned, tactical role
with some players in front of them "filtering" balls for them, taking
the dirty work away from the "star player". Many more later took on the
same role, their success varying with the quality (or lack thereof) of
the supporting players. My apologies if I left anyone's name out, Ernst
Ocwirk, Masopust, Igor Netto and Varela comes quickly to mind also.

Subject: Re: Libero vs. Sweeper
Date: 9 Jan 1998 13:45:19 GMT
From: (Marco Paserman)

Sheen  writes:
> In the case of flat four-man defense, could one of the two
> central defenders be considered a sweeper?  To my knowledge,
> he should not be called sweeper since he is not given as
> much freedom as a sweeper in 3-5-2 (3-6-1, 3-4-3) formation has.

Interesting. It seems that most of these posts are just adding
confusion to confusion. Probably the definition of libero
varies by country. I seem to understand that in Germany a distinction
is made between an attacking defender (a libero) and a purely
defensive player who plays behind the defensive line (an ausputzer
or sweeper). In Italy usually this distinction is not made.
Anyway, here is the definition from an Italian point of view.
(And since italians can be said to have at least invented the
word, if not the role, this should have some value)

First of all, the word "libero" means "free" in Italian.
Therefore a libero is a defender who is free from marking duties.
In the 1950s, when teams started playing with a man behind the
line of defenders, this role was usually called "battitore libero",
which means something like "free kicker away".

But who invented the libero? In the 30s and 40s most teams played
either the "W" (2-3-5) or the W-M (3-2-5) formations. The center-half
would mark the opposing centerforward, the two full backs would mark
the inside forwards or the wings, and the half backs would mark
the other two attacking players. This rigid man to man marking
was one of the reasons for England's famous Wembley debacle against
Hungary. Hidegkuti drew the center-half out of defence, thus allowing
Puskas and Kocsis to wreak havoc. But I'm diverting.

So apparently, a Swiss coach (I think the name is Rappan), thought
it a good idea to pull a half back behind the defense, free of any
marking duties, and there just to help out his fellow defenders if they
were beaten. This system was called the swiss "Verrou".

This system was quickly adopted by some of the weaker italian teams
who needed the extra defender against their more skilled rivals
from the big cities. Nereo Rocco, coach of Triestina and Padova,
perfected the system, and so created the "italian game", or "catenaccio"
if you prefer the pejorative term.

The key tactical innovation of the catenaccio was the libero, the extra
defender behind the three markers. The libero did not need to be
particularly skillful or gifted (as someone has said here), and initially
had no offensive role at all. Many center-halves of the past had been
effective links between defense and attack, as Gaborzinho says,
but they were no "liberi".

Rocco, having moved to Milan, and Herrera at Inter implemented
the "catenaccio" at big teams too, and enjoyed enormous success
at national and international level. Milan's libero was Cesare
Maldini, Inter's libero was Picchi (one of the best in the role).
I believe that by the mid 60s every team in Italy played with
a libero and three man to man markers. It was only Liedholm's
Roma in the early '80s who started the wave of zonal defending.
(Now probably 75% of Serie A teams play zonal defending, and only
25% retain the libero).

So strictly speaking, the libero is simply the "free" defender
behind the line of man to man markers.

But there were variations. I believe that Nobby Stiles played
as a sort of libero in front of the defense for England. He was
free from marking duties, but played in front of the back four.

And then Beckenbauer transformed the role, by making the libero
essentially the first building block of the offensive move. Sure
Beckenbauer was incredibly skillful, but it's unfair to the
original liberi of the '60s (who were mainly cloggers and pure
defenders) to say that a libero must be the skillful defensive player
that creates the link between defense and attack.

The best italian libero was obviously Gaetano Scirea. Just look at
Tardelli's goal in the 1982 WC final to see what I mean. Passarella
also deserves to be mentioned for his leadership.

Baresi is another interesting example. He played as a classic libero
for Italy in WC 90, but his main success was at Milan, where he was
one of the two central defenders in a flat four system. So he wasn't
really a libero, at least not in the Sacchi years. When Capello came
to Milan,  he modified the defense slightly, by making Costacurta
usually tackle the first man, and have Baresi help from behind.
So, in some sense, he restored Baresi to something more
similar to the classic libero role.  Incidentally, Baresi very rarely
helped the attack. He was a great defender (and a nastily dirty one too)
but was more similar to the liberi of the 60s than to Beckenbauer or

To conclude: in my terminology a classic libero plays *behind*
the line of defence in a 1-3-3-3 (the original catenaccio)
or 3-5-2 or 5-3-2 system. There are variations on the role, like
a libero playing in front of the defenders, or one of the central
defenders in a 4-4-2 zonal system being pulled back slightly.
I hope this clarifies things.