Thatoe's 4-1-4-1 Formation Guide
The 4-1-4-1 formation is one of the best formations in FIFA Ultimate Team 15 to dominate possession and create chances. I used 4-1-4-1 from division 10 to division 1 Online Seasons, winning the title in each season. After reaching division 1, I was trying out all the other formations but always kept going back to 4-1-4-1. In this guide, I will explain how to set up the team and how to attack and defend in 4-1-4-1. Please note that everything written in this guide is based on my opinion and my style of play.
The 4-1-4-1 formation is a recently developed variation of either the 4-3-3 or the 4-2-3-1. Spain used the formation in Euro 2008 final against Germany with great success. The presence of Marcos Senna as a lone defensive midfielder allowed the midfield of Iniesta, Xavi, Fàbregas and Silva to roam inside out and cause problems to the opposition. After the World Cup 2010, Joachim Löw also experimented with the formation himself with some success. When Bayern Munich announced that Pep Guardiola would take over the club, I was very excited to see what kind of system he would implement within the team that previously won the treble. He introduced the new 4-1-4-1 formation, utilizing Philipp Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger or sometimes Thiago Alcântara as the holding midfielder. This coincided with FIFA Ultimate Team introducing new formations including the 4-1-4-1 and I had to try it out. It was one of my favorite formations in FIFA 14 and now that we can use instructions in FIFA 15, 4-1-4-1 has become my favorite formation.
The 4-1-4-1 is one of the best, if not the best, formations to maintain possession in the opponent's half. The dominating presence of the midfield triangle between the lone holding midfielder and the two central midfielders means there is always a midfielder available for pass. The striker will also join the central midfielders during the buildup phase while the wide players make diagonal runs behind the defensive line.
4-1-4-1 also gives the option for more players to get into dangerous attacking positions and overload the opposition's penalty area. This means the goals will be scored not only by the striker but also the wingers and the central midfielders. In fact, my wingers score more goals than my striker in 4-1-4-1.
Finally, 4-1-4-1 is a very flexible formation. The team shape can be changed easily to 4-3-3, 4-2-3-1 or 4-5-1 by using different work rates and instructions. However, in this guide, the attacking shape of 4-1-4-1 will be similar to 4-3-3 (5) False 9 formation because that's what I find to work the best for me.
Just like any other possession heavy formations, one of the main weaknesses of the 4-1-4-1 is that it can be prone to quick counter attacks. This is due to having only one defensive midfielder and in FIFA 15, defensive midfielders often fancy themselves playing as shadow strikers. Therefore, the positioning of the lone holding midfielder is very important both in attack and defense.
The formation also requires you to build up patiently. If you rush into attacks, the lone striker will often become isolated and lose the ball under the pressure from the opponent's center backs and defensive midfielders. When the lone striker receives the ball, the attacking midfielders should be higher up the pitch so that the striker can link up play with them.
In this section, I will explain the role of each position in the 4-1-4-1 formation and which players suit the best for those particular roles. Note that I only recommended the players that I have tried myself.
First off, choosing your goalkeeper obviously doesn't depend on the formation. You can just pick your favorite goalkeeper that you've tried and tested. I prefer my goalkeepers to have GK Long Thrower trait and decent kicking because I always build up slowly from the back and my GK needs to be able to play the ball safely to one of the defenders. Other than that, all the keepers in FIFA 15 are prone to ridiculous errors, so don't spend too much of your budget on the GK.
The Best GK:
David de Gea, Hugo Lloris, Petr Čech, Salvatore Sirigu, Diego López
Again, your choice of central defenders isn't different from other 4atb formations. Tall and Strong center backs with at least one fast defender will do the job. Usually, I pair up a fast M/H defender with another M/M or H/M defender. That way, the M/M or H/M defender push high up to put pressure on the opponent's player on the ball or even win it back, while the M/H pacey defender tracks the run of the opponent's striker. This year, I don't find H/M defenders to be as much a problem as in FIFA 14. They don't bomb forward to join the attack unless you instruct them to or use L1+X with them. Having good dribbling and passing stats is a plus for the central defenders but not necessary.
The Best CBs:
Thiago Silva, Sergio Ramos
Vincent Kompany, Mats Hummels, Jérôme Boateng, Javi Martínez, Mehdi Benatia, Giorgio Chiellini, Diego Godín, Gerard Piqué, Andrea Barzagli, Miranda
I prefer attacking fullbacks on both sides because they provide width in attack while the wingers cut inside. Without the overlapping fullbacks, your team shape can become very narrow, making your attack predictable. Since they have to cover a lot of ground, pace and stamina are important stats for the fullbacks. This doesn't mean you should just pick the fastest possible players for these positions. Fullbacks are still defenders and they still need to have good defensive attributes and strength. Dribbling and passing stats are more important for the fullbacks than the central defenders because they will be involved a lot in the possession play.
The Best LB:
Leighton Baines, Marcelo, Filipe Luís, Gaël Clichy, Jordi Alba
The Best RB:
Łukasz Piszczek, Pablo Zabaleta, Dani Carvajal, Séamus Coleman, Stephan Lichtsteiner
This, in my opinion, is the second most important player in the team. As a single holding midfielder, he has two pivotal jobs. When defending, he needs to be able to shield the central defenders and force the opposition to play the ball to the wings. When attacking, he needs to be well positioned and make himself available to receive passes from the five attacking players in front of him. Defending and Passing are by far the most important stats for the defensive midfielder.
The Best CDM:
Philipp Lahm, Xabi Alonso, Daniele De Rossi, Sami Khedira, Nemanja Matić
You don't need defensive players here. You can actually even pick two attacking play makers. However, I find that pairing a box-to-box midfielder with a more creative play maker makes the transition from defense to attack much smoother. When defending, he will help out the lone holding midfielder, almost as a false 6. He will also be as much involved in the attack as his CM partner. For the creative CM, you can pick any of your typical CAM type player, most likely small, quick and agile player who can create something out of nothing. Again, this player doesn't need to be good defensively at all.
The Best Box-to-Box CM:
Recommended Box-to-Box CMs:
Ángel Di María, Toni Kroos, Philipp Lahm, Luka Modrić, Yaya Touré
The Best Creative CM:
Recommended Creative CMs:
David Silva, Mario Götze, James Rodríguez, Wesley Sneijder, Santi Cazorla
These are you impact players. During early build up, they will stay wide to stretch the opposition's defense. Then, they will make those diagonal runs and cause havoc. When you're maintaining possession with your central midfielders and the striker, at least of the wingers will be making these runs and a simple through pass will put them through on goal. Pace, Shooting and Dribbling stats are important for the wingers. They also need to be good passers because they will sometimes take on the central positions behind the striker while one of the central midfielders push up. This is why 4-1-4-1 allows the goals to be shared between all five attacking players. Regardless of their work rate, they will also help out the fullbacks in defense if necessary. However, it is just to provide an extra body in defense and you don't need to use defensive wingers.
The Best LM:
Neymar, Eden Hazard, Franck Ribéry, Alexis Sánchez, Marco Reus
The Best RM:
Gareth Bale, Thomas Müller, Alexis Sánchez, Carlos Vela, Juan Cuadrado
This is the most important player of this formation. For other positions, picking players is a little bit flexible, but for the striker, it must be a very well-rounded striker: someone who can score and create chances for other players. Especially if the striker is not a good passer of the ball, the formation will not work. I have personal experience with this. Work rates don’t matter as much as in game stats for the striker. He is instructed to play as a target man so he will drop deep and join the build up like a false 9. The best options are the big strong strikers who can also dribble and pass, but smaller strikers can also work.
The Best S.T:
Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Luis Suárez, Robin van Persie, Thomas Müller
Attacking with 4-1-4-1
Starting from the back, when your goalkeeper has the ball, either from open play or a goal kick, play it short to one of the five defensive players. It is important not to rush and make sure the player you're passing to is unmarked. However, don't spend too much time on the ball with your defenders because they can't turn the way attacking players do and there's always a risk of getting pressured and conceding a cheap goal. When the ball is eventually played to the midfield triangle (the two CM's and the CDM), you can start bringing up the tempo with quick passes between them and bring the ball up the pitch. Note that 4-1-4-1 formation vacates the red shaded area shown in the picture. Most other formations have at least one player operating in that area, but 4-1-4-1 encourages the four midfielders to get into that space in turn, making them harder to mark. The striker will also drop into the area and act as a focal point to bring others into play.
The most important tip I can give you is to be calm and keep passing between your attacking players and the fullbacks. If the final through ball is not on, don't force it. There will always be some space eventually and one of your players will be unmarked. You need to be able to read it quickly before the opponent defender gets back into position to mark him. If the opponent is playing very defensive and containing, don't shy away from taking occasional long shots. If you're not getting chased down, there will be so much time to angle your shot and score some nice long range goals.
Learning skill moves will help you a lot in getting out of tight spots. I won't cover them in this guide but please check soetie's youtube tutorials. He is a very good player and he has demonstrated these skill moves in detail in his videos.
Defending with 4-1-4-1
Pep Guardiola said "Touchline is the best defender in the world." This is very helpful in FIFA especially since narrow formations are really popular this year. When you don't have possession of the ball, you want to press with your striker and the two central midfielders to force them to play the ball wide. When on the wings, the opponent's options are more limited and you can press in numbers without messing up the team's shape as shown in the picture. If the opponent manages to get into central advanced positions, make sure you don't rush out the defenders. Just chase the ball down with the defensive midfielder and try to force the play again to the wings and press with your wide players there. The key is to win the possession back as quickly as possible but you need to press smartly. If you just hold down contain and second man press, you're going to have a bad time.
Custom tactics are very important to customize a formation to function exactly how you want it to. Setting slow and safe values for Passing and Speed ensures that there is always a player available for a simple pass. Normally, I’d use a higher Passing value in chance creation so that the players would make more runs, but since instructions are introduced in FIFA 15, I can choose which players I want to make runs. This also makes the CDM stay back in position instead of bombing forward most of the time, which is one of the biggest issues in FIFA 15.
To set up custom tactics, you can either challenge the TOTW or play a friend’s squad. Before starting the game, go into Team Management and in the Tactics tab, select Custom Tactics. After setting it up, back out of the game and it will be your default tactic until you quit Ultimate Team mode.
Press Back Line, Target Man
Cut Inside, Get In Behind
(Playmaker) Get Forward, Free Roam
(Box to Box) Default
Cut Inside, Get In Behind
Cut Passing Lanes, Stay Back While Attacking
As mentioned before, Instructions are very important to get the best out of the formation. The striker is instucted to stay central and to play as a target man so that he acts like a False 9. The wingers will then cut inside and get in behind the space created by the striker. The CDM is instructed to stay back because, as explained in the previous sections, he needs to position himself behind the attacking players and make himself available to recycle possession.
I've tried almost every instructions for all the positions, but these bring the best out of 4-1-4-1 for me. Give it a try and let me know how it works for you.
Here are the best possible NIF teams, in my opinion, for each league.
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Some people on the forum know me already, but for those who don’t, I would like to mention a few things about myself in hopes of making the guide more credible. I’ve been addicted to football related video games since the days of Famicom and I’ve spent more hours than I’d like to admit on Winning Eleven series. I started playing FIFA religiously since FIFA 2004 and I consider myself a fairly good FIFA player. Here are my Futscope stats and Division 1 titles so far for anyone interested.
That's the end of my guide. I will constantly update it as I get more feedbacks and suggestions. Please post here or PM me if you have any question about the formation and I'll be happy to answer.
A big, big THANK YOU to FCK_Benz for helping me out with the guide and testing the formation, the instructions and custom tactics with me.
Please follow me on Twitch if you’d like to see 4-1-4-1 in action in division 1. I used to stream regularly but haven’t done much recently due to college. I hope to be streaming again soon.
* 02/24/2015 – Initial guide posted.