I have permission from @Khangaskhan17
to start this thread and have gotten all info and pictures from him. I am really grateful that we can continue this in FIFA 18 as well.
Will edit this a bit later. Just wanted to open this one up in the new FIFA 19 forums.
Feel free to participate with info, player suggestions and custom tactics as well as teams used and I'll do my best to keep this as good as possible.
Will try to edit this as much as I can and keep things up to date.
Hello and welcome to the 4-4-1-1 guide! Since 2011, I’ve been an avid Fifa player who takes pride in recreating styles of football played by various teams past and present in order to find my own. Although I’ve had some success both in H2H Seasons and FUT, the moments I’ve enjoy Fifa the most during the past six years were late night sessions of experimenting with different formations, trying various styles of play, tuning custom tactics, tweaking player instructions, working on passing sequences, practicing skill moves, and finding specific players to fit certain roles or play styles.
Throughout this journey, I discovered that the formation that suited me most was the 4-4-1-1. My favorite aspect of the 4-4-1-1 is that the natural spacing and movement of players allows me to play the most creative football within my ability. The formation also adapts well regardless of the flavor of football you want to play.
For years, it was not always my most winning formation but still the most dynamic. With the 4-4-1-1, both my build up and chance creation have the most variety and creativity, which is something that keeps the game fresh for me. I also feel like the formation keeps me in close games against opponents who are much better by allowing me to retain possession with purpose. The learning curve with this formation is not the easiest but I believe in the potential it has to offer once mastered. Hopefully that day will come before I get arthritis!
II. The Formation's Background
Originating as a variation of the 4-4-2, the 4-4-1-1 became more prominent in the hands of teams such as Fulham, Manchester United, Croatia, and Everton. When playing the traditional 4-4-2, a common problem is that teams end up playing in straight lines. With the 4-4-2, players also tend to get outnumbered in the midfield by the likes of 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1 making the connection from defense to midfield and midfield to attack—difficult at times. "The main reason teams such as United's XI in 1999 switched to the the 4-4-1-1 was purely to assist the midfield, to help maintain possession, and to create a link to the attack"- (SaifR).
MUFC 1999 CL Winners (4411)
Click to see Manchester United's (4-4-1-1) XI in 1999:
With the 4-4-1-1 system, there is more versatility as one of the strikers gets moved back in the hole, acting as a creative center forward. In game, the 4-4-1-1 can even quickly morph into a 4-2-3-1 for more defensive stability or your traditional 4-4-2 to take advantage of width.
In this guide, I’ll do my best to expand on the three greatest strengths of the 4-4-1-1 formation: 1) control and maintain possession, 2) effectively transition from defense to midfield and midfield to attack, and 3) pose a creative and dynamic attacking threat.
Disclaimer: This is my own perspective and framework of how to use this formation most effectively. I do not claim to be a great Fifa player, nor will I ever. This thread is definitely not a "I am good so do this to be good like me; it's more of a I'm decent but let's learn from each other so we can improve together." Please keep in mind I'm mainly a H2H Seasons guy who's working to replicate that footy on UT mode. More importantly, I simply want to contribute to this community that I have been a part of for the last six years.
III. Diversity and Adaptation
As mentioned earlier, there are many adaptions of the way 4-4-1-1 can be played. There in that lies another disclaimer. It would take ages to go over all the different ways the 4-4-1-1 have been and can be used and the styles of football that it can accommodate. Throughout the year, I will add specific details about how the formation can accommodate other styles of play.
For the bulk of it, this guide will explain how I use the formation most often. The style of play and custom tactics in this guide are based on a hybrid of Dutch football and an adaptation of 2008-2009 Barcelona football when they relied on the False 9 more heavily. I feel that this play style allows me to adapt to many different types of opponents by remaining comfortable in possession and ensuring diversity in my attack. That’s the lofty goal, anyways. Often, it admittedly looks like a laggy rendition of 11 monkeys trying to hump a football when going against someone out of my league!
IV. Transitioning From Defense to Midfield
The initial job of the two CMs is to come short and collect passes from the two CBs or the LB/RB. They are supposed to dictate the play and initiate passing triangles with their teammates. They can choose: 1) to use each other and the CF to work their way through the midfield if there is space or 2) link up with full-backs and wingers all along the wings, looking to create opportunities to find space and outnumber the defense on a particular flank. For example, along the right flank, you could work the double triangle and/or rhombus created by the RB, RM, RCM, and CF who will come out wide to collect. Don’t hesitate to involve the RCB again if you need a pressure release. If trapped on a particular flank, you have 3 main options to escape high pressure:
Let’s pretend we are being pressured and trapped on the right flank of the build-up. Here are some things you can do:
1) Use the RB or LB overlap:
From the RCB you can play up to the RCM. The RM will come short and collect. Once the RM receives the ball, you can dribble diagonally backwards towards the RCB while initiating an overlapping run by your RB. Once that RB run is initiated, their widest defender will have to choose to mark him or to mark the ball carrier. If they choose to close in on the ball carrier, play it into space to the RB. If they choose to cover wide, dribble and take the space, or play it back to the RCM centrally and switch the play or attack up the center of the pitch.
Here's a short clip of how to use the overlap:
2) Switch the Pitch:
Another option you have is to switch the pitch along the backline. This can be done by playing from your RM or RB back to your RCB→LCB→ LB or LM. From your LM or LB, try to find the LCM or CF as quick as possible. If they’re marked, take the space or switch play again. If not, play it forward.
3) Cross to Switch:
You can also switch the play and release pressure by using the X or Square button to cross it across the field using 3.5-5 bars of power depending on how close you were to the sideline when initiating the cross. There’s a skill game for this. You can cross from winger to winger, fullback to fullback, or fullback to winger. The diagonal cross from the LB to RM or RB to LM is really effective against high pressure. Regardless of how you do it, switch the pitch often when you see the other team overcommitting to one side.
Once you’ve created a passing sequence that moves the pressuring defenders out of position you should have the opportunity to take it down a flank or to use the central triangle created by your two CMs and either your CF or ST. Remember to stay calm and take the open space even at the cost of moving forward. If you’re absolutely trapped and have no one to pass to, do not randomly pass towards the center of the pitch. Use LT or L2 on the sideline to shield and wait for help or even clear it.
V. Transitioning From Midfield to Attack
There is no perfect formula here and there shouldn’t be. It’s all about keeping it simple but also about knowing when to mix it up to remain unpredictable. The best advice here is to utilize the shape of your triangles and/or rhombuses.
Click to see formation triangles and attacking diagrams of MUFC's (4-4-1-1) 1999 CL Winning Squad:
(Credit goes to SaifR for these graphics. Thanks man!)
Also, do not always look for the immediate through ball to the CF or STR. Counter-attacking football is not this formation’s strength. There's no need to be aggressive unless it’s obvious that you have the advantage in numbers going forward. Usually, one of two things often happen here once you’ve reached near the midway line during your build-up:
1) If your initial build up was done centrally between the CMs and CF, now is the time to involve your wingers and STR in the play going forward. (Sometimes your STR and CF will interchange roles).
2) If your build up was along the flank you can choose to continue down that flank into the final third and do some wing play or switch the field using your CF, a CM, or even STR as a pivot. Your more attacking CM is key in both switching the field and spraying passes that create space in attack as he’s the best passer in the team.
Sometimes you will have a predetermined mentality of which part of the opponent’s final third you want to attack if you noticed a weakness during the last attack. Other times just continue passing to the open man. A tip here is to use the short layoff to place a driven pass forward to the ST or CF. Almost always pass the way your controlled player is facing.
If you’re not facing where you want to pass, turn first and/or dribble that way before playing the ball. To sum up: pass and move.
VI. Creating Chances
This is the hardest part to explain because it’s all about personal preference, knowing your weaknesses, and using your strengths to your advantage. My weaknesses are shooting midrange and taking players one on one. My strength is my vision so I will usually pass, move, and dribble in and around the box using 1-2s, protect the ball, dragbacks, and face-up dribbling until I get a clear run or pass through on goal. If I’m on the wings, I’ll often use skill moves to create space and find a free CM or the CF running into the box. If you notice the defense overcommitting to one side, look for the early cross to the back post. I rarely cross but a well timed cross can make the difference. If the opponent consistently tries to protect the middle, attack the byline, use a skill move if necessary, and find a pass into the box.
Again, don't forget your triangles and/or rhombuses in the attack. They might be smaller but they are still there. Make use of 1-2 passing or 1-2-3 passing.
Also notice which defenders are more vulnerable and easier to attack 1 on 1. If my CF is being marked by Matic, more often than not, I’m going to give up the ball to someone else. If you attack towards a weaker defender, help defense will come, which will free up another player for a scoring opportunity. To quote the Mighty Ducks, “Don’t be careless, but don’t be too careful either…”
VII. Controlling Tempo and Maintaining Possession
The natural spacing of the formation should allow you to dictate the play and control possession both in build up and in the final third. Your more attacking CM will often-average 25-30 passes a match. He is the maestro in the team. It is critical to use players with high passing, ball control, dribbling, and attack positioning in this formation, as your success will depend on how you play as a unit.
There are rarely goals without assists in this formation. Your two central midfielders should boss that midfield, spraying pass constantly to both escape pressure and create space for their teammates. They’ll constantly link up with fullbacks and wingers, looking to create through balls into the channels of open space created by passing your opponent out of position. With your two forwards playing one-short and one-long, your CMs will have frequent opportunities to play more direct passes into those channels between the opposing CBs. Remember that while it is important to keep possession, it should always be possession with purpose. As a general rule, I tend to be reactive in the build up and proactive in the final third.
VIII. Defense and Disadvantages
The defensive shape of the 4-4-1-1 is naturally a bit wide, which can be good when defending wingers but concedes space centrally. You really have to pick your poison here when it comes to creating a custom tactic. I prefer to protect the center of the pitch first so I usually use a defensive width just below 50. If I see that the opponent relies on wingers too heavily, I’ll change the width to ~60. The main worry of this formation is conceding to counter attacks.
This is how I concede most of my goals, especially since I like to have my fullbacks on overlap. It’s personal preference here. If you’re worried about the counter, play a deeper line and don’t overlap your fullbacks as much. However, keep in mind that the possibility of conceding a counter is sometimes worth it to have a more dynamic attack.
I would advise using L2 or LT to jockey in combination with the turbo jockey to defend. I try to keep my defensive shape and prefer forcing my opponent into passing mistakes instead of stepping in for random tackles. I only step in when I know I’ll win the challenge. Overall, your priority on defense should be to protect the center of the pitch since you don’t have a CDM. On the counter, push your opponents wide into sideline traps with your outside mids and fullbacks and give your team a chance to recover its shape. You can even chase back with your CF to try and push the ball carrier into your CMs for a trap. Anticipate what your opponent is trying to do and force him to choose an attacking option outside of his main strengths.
Some Defensive Tips:
Should I Contain?
Right, so about jockeying. I "pump" the jockey trigger when I need it but rarely hold it for lengths of time. Jockeying increases tackling radius but lowers defensive agility.
Defending on the wings:
I never hold the contain button and only use teammate contain sparingly. One button-contain button will only make you a bad defender and overusing teammate contain pulls your team out of shape. I mainly switch players using the right analog.
Sprint and follow them but take the inside lane and don't go in for the tackle until they make a move to cut in. I normally let the opponent keep the ball on the wings and give them a bit of space in order to protect them from cutting inside. I shadow them parallel to the sideline but don't close in until I can anticipate the timing of when they will cut in. Sprint alongside them and let go of sprint if they slow down, following with just left analog. Transition into a jockey or turbo jockey to shadow them if they cut in. If you have help defense behind you, then you can afford to be more aggressive going in for the tackle once they cut in. If not, prioritize covering the space they're trying to get into instead of worrying about taking the ball.
Defending In and Around the Box:
I transition in and out of L2 jockey and normal player movement with the left analog. Protect your passing lanes! Mark closely but don't go in for tackles unless you have numbers on your side. Also don't be stingy with slide tackles. They can easily break up plays if you can anticipate the opponents intention. Don't be a slide-tackling noob though haha.
To mark agile players you have to shadow what they're doing with the left analog but not always with it fully pressed against it's radius. Use a smaller radius of movement with your left analog when necessary. I also jockey with L2 and only go in for the tackle if I have defensive support behind me or if it's a threatening scoring opportunity. Read and react. I try to be reactive instead of proactive when it comes to defending in and around the box. Just be their shadow and force them to make a mistake first. Now if it's a threatening situation in which you don't have numbers behind, then be more aggressive.
Defending on the Counter:
Try to protect space instead of taking the ball. By protecting space you are giving your players time to recover. Once you have numbers again, you can afford to be more aggressive. Also really notice your offsides line. If an opponent's off-ball player is trying to get that through ball, use the right analog to switch to the last defender to protect that space he's trying to get into but don't let him stay onside for too long if the pass is delayed. Knowing when to step up versus continuing to drop deep is really important. You can also pressure the passer with a second man while marking players running through.
Maintaining Defensive Shape:
Keep your shape! It's good to pressure within or even near each player's zone they are responsible for but don't pull players way out of position just to chase. The blind chase and tackle might work against bad players but a good passer will pass your defense to bits. In a 50-50 situation, prioritize protecting the middle of the pitch.
You can play the computer on a lower level and spend a few games just practicing switching players with the right analog. Ignore the score, etc. Just focus on practicing switching to the right player exactly when you want with the right analog.
Prioritize taking away whatever method of attacking the opponent seems to be most comfortable with and force him to do something outside of that comfort.
IX. Choosing Players and Team Setup
In this section, I will explain different player types for each position and how they’ll affect the way your team plays. In the process, I’m certain I’ll leave some players out but you get the idea. Again, there are countless ways you can setup your team to fit a specific play style but the three main ones that we’ll start with:
1) Balanced, 2) Defensive, 3) Total Football.
After going over player types, it should be pretty easy to pick and plug specific players to fit the team setup you prefer. Note: My favorite is the Total Football even though I win the least with this specific setup.
*Example of a Balanced Setup
*Example of a Defensive Setup
*Example of a Total Football Setup
Choosing your goalkeeper is really just a matter of preference and budget. Everyone has their favorites and ones that they curse at every time the name comes up. I do prefer ones that have decent kicking and the thrower trait, as I like to build slowly from the back.
Neuer, De Gea, Courtois,
Lloris, Handanovic, Alisson, Ederson, Kepa, Ter Stegen
Your choice here isn’t much different from other 4ATB formations. If you struggle with counters, use L/H and/or M/H. Personally, I prefer one defensive (L/H or M/H) paired with one that steps up earlier (H/M or M/M). If you utilize the offside trap often, having two CBs with the same workrates seems to make the trap more consistent. I also prefer my CBs to have decent ball control and passing as it helps against high pressure. I do not recommend using clumsy CBs.
FIF Godin>> Thiago Silva, Boateng, Ramos, Chiellini, Varane, Kimpembe
Pique, Godin, Hummels, Kompany, Otamendi, Vertonghen, Bonucci, Van Dijk, Umtiti, Benatia, Vogt, Lenglet, Paulista
I prefer attacking fullbacks on both sides because they provide width in the attack and expedite the breakout. This approach does leave you more vulnerable to counters. In my opinion, your full backs are the third most important players in your team for this formation after the LCM and the CF. They need to have good defensive attributes but also need to be able to contribute going forward with dribbling and passing. It helps if they’re good on the ball so they can be trusted to not give away possession against high-pressure opponents. I recommend H/M fullbacks in general but H/H RBs provide better defensive coverage against the counter.
Marcelo, Alex Sandro and Alba
Recommended LBs: Gaya, Alaba, Filipe Luis, Max, Mendy
Walker, IF/OTW Cancelo
Recommended RBs: Carvajal, , Aurier, D. Alves, Valencia, Cancelo, IF Lala
The LM/RM are responsible for so much in this formation—from alleviating high pressure to dribbling, passing, creating, and finishing scoring opportunities. Lots of people think LMs/RMs don’t get involved enough. I actually think the opposite. If your formation isn’t “clicking,” it really could be down to your choice in LM/RM. I’d recommend well-rounded ones.
Workrates for LM/RM:
High/Low: H/L wingers can add another element to your team as they are prolific attackers always looking to create chances. They are the best for counter attacks as they will release forward sooner. A M/M winger would hang back longer making sure you have an outlet. With a H/L, you’re essentially shortening that window of time to have him as an outlet in the build up but it’s worth it because he’s stretching the defense in the final third. A H/L winger tends to slightly change the shape of the formation, positioning himself a bit ahead of your midfield line. You are not wasting an elite winger here at LM or RM by any means. The only negative is that elite H/L wingers tend to be pricey.
Best H/L Wingers: Douglas Costa
Recommended H/L Wingers: Balde Diao
High/Medium: H/M wingers can be just as effective as H/L ones. They’re just different. They still make runs in behind and are aggressive in the attack but are not as quick to do so as H/L wingers. However, they maintain the shape of your midfield a bit better and check in more often as outlets against pressure. They are the most balanced option.
Best H/M Wingers: Neymar, Hazard, Bale, Sane, Sterling, Promes, Mbappe, Salah
Recommended H/M Wingers:Hulk, Verdi, Cuadrado, POTM Lucas, Bailey
High/High: These wingers are workhorses, making runs on offense and tracking back for that crucial tackle on defense. Keep in mind that their offensive runs are a bit late. I wouldn’t recommend using two H/H wingers but one can work, especially if it’s Alexis Sanchez, Willian or Son.
Medium/Medium or Medium/Low: I do not recommend M/M or M/L wingers. They are too lazy and make the formation feel stagnant, as they don’t make enough runs forward. Perisic and Reus are the exceptions but you can definitely tell that Reus’s runs from LM are a bit later than they were last year now that he’s M/M.
The choice in which two CMs to play will have the biggest impact on the style of football that your team produces on the pitch. Earlier, I mentioned that there are three basic ways to set up the 4-4-1-1: 1) Balanced, 2) Defensive, 3) Total Football.
With a BALANCED setup you want to pair a more offensive LCM with a more defensive minded RCM. A DEFENSIVE setup features two more defensive minded CMs, even CMs that have been converted from CDMs. A TOTAL FOOTBALL approach features two CMs that are maestros, well adjusted to going forward, and can even comfortably interchange roles with your LM, RM, and CF at various moments throughout the game.
Workrates for CMs:
The most balanced paring I would recommend is H/M LCM with a M/H RCM. You can also pair a M/M with a M/H or a H/H with a H/H. In this setup, the LCM’s job is to create, distribute, and pose an attacking threat while the RCM is responsible for providing defensive stability, protecting against counters, and passing. One of the most balanced setups I’ve used here for the past two Fifas are Fabregas and Matic. I would recommend trying the balanced setup first.
I would recommend a H/H LCM and a M/H RCM. Having two midfielders adept at defending can be useful for protecting against the counter and for dealing with really skilled offensive opponents in general. The best pairing of this setup I’ve tried is Vidal and Lahm. A H/H paired with another H/H can also be considered defensive depending on the player selection. For example: Naingollan and Vidal
TOTAL FOOTBALL SETUP:
Although they did not invent it, the Dutch made this approach popular in the ‘70s under Rinus Michels and Johan Cruyff. It’s a fascinating approach to football because it’s a very attack-oriented philosophy in which players essentially have no definite position. When asked, Cruyff once said “attackers could play as defenders and defenders as attackers. Everyone could play everywhere.”
Best H/M CMs:
-Defensively with this approach, you want to man-mark opponents very closely, and take the path of a passing lane as often as possible while you move to mark another player. This style focuses on using the movement of the team as a cohesive unit to trap and suffocate opponents into passing errors instead of going in for tackles.
-Disclaimer: I have dropped a lot of points using this approach but it is really fun, win or lose. With this offensive minded setup, you want to have two CMs equally capable of going forward and interchanging with other positions. You can pair a H/M with a M/M, two H/M CMs together, a H/M with a H/H, or even two H/Hs. It really just depends on the player selection. My favorite combos for this so far has been Iniesta/Modric and IF Nainggolan/Marchisio even though they are adept at defending as well. I would not recommend this approach if you struggle with defending but it's definitely the most fun for tiki-taka.
Modric, Pogba, Kondogbia, De Bruyne
Recommended H/M CMs:
Hamsik, Herrera, Gundogan, Tolisso
Best M/M CMs:
Thiago, Kroos, Pjanic, Rakitic, Fabinho
Recommended M/M CMs:
Best M/H CMs:
Recommended M/H CMs:
Gustavo, Khedira, De Rossi, IF Leiva
Best H/H CMs:
Marchisio, Nainggolan, Goretzka
Recommended H/H CMs:
The Center Forward:
This is the most important position in the team for me. It’s common for the deep-lying CF to drop deep into the midfield to participate in the build-up play. By dropping deep, he helps the CMs create, control possession, and move the ball forward. His main job is to link the midfield with the attack, often receiving the ball from the CMs or wingers and playing it forward to another winger or to the striker. His movement will often be in the channel between the two opposing CBs and your two CMs. However, it is common for him to move laterally to get into space and collect. The CF needs to have the skillset to be both a playmaker and scoring threat. His ability to score is what separates a deep-lying forward playing as a trequartista from a normal CM. The most important stats for a CF are high positioning, ball control, passing, dribbling, vision, and finishing. Keep in mind that since this position is so demanding, it often limits the diversity of the player pool you can choose from.
Workrates for the CF:
High/Medium: With the exception of specific outstanding players, H/M is the ideal workrate for this formation regardless of setup. A high attacking workrate will ensure that he is always looking to make runs forward on and off the ball. The medium workrate ensures that he will drop back to collect from the midfield and even provide defensive support at times.
Best H/M CF: Suarez, Aguero, De Bruyne, Dybala,
Recommended H/M CFs: Rafinha,
High/High: Although H/M is the ideal workrate, some of the best CFs in the game are H/H. They are better against high pressure as they’ll constantly drop deep to collect but are later in their forward runs…unless it’s Muller who’s positioning is just amazing all the time.
Best H/H CF: Muller, Firmino, Griezmann
Recommended H/H CFs:
Med/Low: At first I didn't like M/L CFs, but I've changed my mind having played more with them. Their forward runs aren't as frequent but they can be very useful against high pressure constantly finding space to receive the ball short and spraying 1-2s. If they have high positioning, they'll make forward runs once the team has safely built up.
Best M/L CF:
Recommended M/L CFs:
NOTE: Messi is the best CF in the game, regardless of workrate or chemistry. If you can afford him, play him. These are the only three workrates I recommend for this formation at CF. Others can work but they’re just not as efficient.
Muller is my favorite CFs for the value
. If I had to rank the best CFs I've used:
Since this formation only features a lone striker, he has quite an offensive burden. He needs to be able to hold up the ball either using either strength or elusive dribbling, preferably both. He needs to have high ball control as he’ll be on the end of a lot of driven passes and through balls. He also needs to be able to finish with both feet. It also really helps if his long shot is decent. Most importantly, he needs to have high attack positioning. You can’t finish chances that you can’t create.
Workrates for the ST:
High/Low: H/L strikers are usually the most productive in terms of scoring. They are better for counter attacks than other workrates. In game, it seems as if they are always looking to get in through on goal but remember to not force the through ball. As mentioned earlier, this is not the best counter attacking formation. If a H/L striker has high positioning, he will come to collect from the midfield, so be on the look out for him. Hitting him with a driven pass is useful in tight situations where a through ball cannot be played but a regular pass might be intercepted.
Best H/L STR: Ronaldo
Recommended H/L STRs: Aubameyang,
High/Medium: H/M strikers are a good balanced option as they are most fluid in the build up with the rest of the team. They are the best option for dominating possession as they will often drop to collect if the CF is occupied. They will interchange with the CF frequently and often contribute many assists to the team.
Best H/M STR: Suarez, Aguero, Lewandowski
Recommended H/M STRs: D. Costa, Higuain, Lacazette, UCL Mariano, Rodrigo, Plea
Medium/Low: M/L tend to sit slightly less forward than your traditional striker. They are positioned closer to your CF and midfield line, constantly providing a passing option. They are great for dominating possession. M/L strikers tend to interchange with the CF most frequently, especially if the CF has a high attacking workrate. Although their forward runs tend to be a bit late, they provide a certain level of unpredictability in your attack. If you’re really struggling against high pressure, I recommend you give this option a go.
Best M/L STR: R9 (94 version)
Recommended M/L STRs:
NOTE: I do not recommend H/H strikers usually (Besides Roberto Firmino) for this formation but if it works for you then do so. I do not recommend any M/M striker unless it is Messi, who is just amazing anywhere.
X. Custom Tactics and Instructions
FINAL NOTES: If you made it this far, then you probably have the patience to adjust to this formation. If the CTs don't click for you, follow the guide in other areas and try your own CTs. Counters will be conceded at first. Don't sweat it! That's part of the learning curve. I am happy to answer any questions you may have. Good luck!