5-2-2-1 Formation

The 5-2-1-2 formation is a setting that involves five defenders, two central midfielders, one attacking midfielder, and two forwards. This formation is widely regarded as an attacking formation that can provide a lot of opportunities for scoring goals.

This formation is a variation of the 3-5-2, however, in this formation, an extra defender is added, which provides more solidity at the back. The five defenders are usually split into three center-backs and two wing-backs, who operate in a similar way to full-backs but have more license to attack.

In midfield, there are two central midfielders who sit in front of the defense and provide cover while also helping to build attacks. The attacking midfielder, who is sometimes referred to as the number 10, is the creative force in the team and is responsible for providing the two forwards with scoring opportunities.


Solid Defense

The 5-2-2-1 formation is designed to provide a solid defense, with five defenders and two central midfielders sitting in front of the backline. This defensive structure makes it difficult for the opposition to penetrate the defense and create scoring opportunities.


The 5-2-2-1 formation is well-suited for counter-attacking football. With a solid defense, the team can quickly transition from defense to attack and exploit any gaps in the opposition's defense.

Midfield Presence

The two central midfielders in the 5-2-2-1 formation provide a strong midfield presence, helping to control the midfield and dictate the pace of the game. They can also drop back to support the defense when needed.

Attacking Options

The two attacking midfielders in the 5-2-2-1 formation provide creative options for the team in the attacking third. They can create chances for the lone striker, as well as score goals themselves.


The 5-2-2-1 formation is flexible and can be adapted to suit different situations. For example, the wing-backs can push up to provide width and support the attack, or drop back to provide additional defensive cover.


Lack of Width

With only two wing-backs in the formation, there can be a lack of width in the team, making it difficult to create space in the channels and stretch the opposition's defense.

Overworked Attacking Midfielders

With only two attacking midfielders, these players can become isolated and overworked, especially if the opposition is strong defensively.

Limited Scoring Opportunities

With only one striker up front, the team may struggle to create enough scoring opportunities, particularly against teams that defend deep.

How to Counter 5-2-2-1 Formation?

Use the Wing-Backs Effectively: To address the lack of width in the team, the wing-backs need to push forward to support the attack when the team is in possession of the ball. This can create space for the attacking midfielders and the lone striker to operate in.

Rotate the Attacking Midfielders: To prevent the attacking midfielders from becoming overworked, teams can rotate these players during the game. This ensures that they stay fresh and can maintain their energy levels throughout the match.

Focus on Quick Transitions: To address the limited scoring opportunities, teams can focus on quick transitions from defense to attack. This can catch the opposition off-guard and create space for the lone striker to exploit.

Be Flexible: The 5-2-2-1 formation is flexible and can be adapted to suit different situations. Teams should be willing to make tactical adjustments during the game to address any issues that arise.

Suggested Counter Formations
  • 4-3-3
  • 3-5-2
  • 4-4-2
  • 4-5-1