Quick Take: Most Popular Formations in Europe’s Top 5 Leagues (2020-21)

With the efforts and emotions of the enormously entertaining Euro 2020 still enduring, it’s hard to believe that preseason for many European clubs is already underway. To further set the stage for the impending season, it’s worth taking a moment to reflect on last season’s tactical trends. Tallied below are the most popular formations in Europe’s top five leagues as per UEFA association club coefficient (Premier League, La Liga, Serie A, Bundesliga and Ligue 1). Enjoy!

#1: 4-2-3-1

Employed well over one thousand times in total across these five leagues last season alone, the 4-2-3-1 is undoubtedly one of the most popular formations in world football today. A four-back system with structural stability, this setup utilizes space to a premium and can seamlessly transition between attack minded principles and defensive ones, depending on a side’s style of play. Manchester United, Tottenham, Bayern Munich, Wolfsburg, AC Milan, Napoli, and Real Betis are all European qualifiers who used the 4-2-3-1 in the vast majority of their 2020-2021 matches, and all utilize the system in different ways. 

#2: 4-4-2

While it may not be the most creative of set ups, some aspects of the game are best kept simple. Obviously, this notion is shared by many football managers as the 4-4-2 was second only to the 4-2-3-1 in popularity last season. More meat and potatoes than sugar and spice, when well-drilled, this system can be as formidable as any. Broadcasted most prominently by Juventus last season, the 4-4-2 is actually utilized to a much greater extent in leagues outside of Italy. In fact, it was the preferred system of both the Spanish and French champions, Atletico Madrid (who also used a 3-5-2) and LOSC Lille. Fans of tiki taka football will also be surprised to hear that the 4-4-2 was the most commonly used formation in Spain’s top flight, as it was in France.  

#3: 4-3-3

By giving the wingers a nudge and midfield a twist, a pragmatic and purposeful 4-2-3-1 can be turned into the characteristically more fluid and dynamic 4-3-3. And with the proper blend of players across each line, the 4-3-3 can also be exceptionally refined. Think of the last time you saw Liverpool, Real Madrid, or PSG flowing forward in full force. More likely than not, that was the 4-3-3 in action. 

#4: 3-5-2

Fourth most popular in 2020-21, and the top back-three formation, was the 3-5-2. Built with passing lanes and width in mind, this setup looks to utilize its strong foundation in central defense to generate attacking penetrations with an ample measure of safety between the lines. Today, the 3-5-2 may as well be considered an Italian export, as this formation was used more often in Serie A than in the EPL, Bundesliga, La Liga, and Ligue 1 combined. Fittingly, Italian champions Inter Milan lined up in the 3-5-2 during their title winning season. Atletico Madrid also used variations of a 3-5-2 throughout their title winning season in Spain.

#5: 3-4-2-1

Finishing off with another back-three system, the 3-4-2-1 adds a dash of novelty to the list. Obviously less prominent and arguably less established than the aforementioned options, this 3-4-3 variant really made a name for itself over the 2020-2021 season. Championed by Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea, Champions League victors, the formation’s structure is perhaps best visualized as in the image: a 3-4 defensive gauntlet with a 2-1 attacking spearhead. While few other sides set this as their default, its frequent use in rotation with other formations see the 3-4-2-1 rank among the most popular in the world.


So there it is! The most popular formations in 2020-21. Be sure to check out more popular 11v11 formations and follow on Twitter @mastermindsite. Thanks for reading and see you soon!

UEFA Euro U19 Stars: Yusuf Demir – Player Analysis

A rollercoaster of a year for Yusuf Demir can end with his head held high after a tournament full of pride with Austria’s Under-19’s. Not reaching the semi-finals will feel like a major disappointment for Das Team, but the Wien local boy looks to have found the reinvigorating form that earned him a move to Barcelona at the start of last season. Things never quite panned out for Demir at Barca, and his contract was terminated after just six months. Since returning to Rapid, his performances have been up and down, but his evident technical quality still brings promise for what could become of the 19-year-old in the future. This Euros tournament has been all about regaining the confidence that sent Yusuf Demir to Camp Nou in the first place, and many top European sides will now be on red alert for his signature. Here is our analysis of Demir at this summer’s U19 European Championship.

Premier League Transfer Tax (Part 3)

After examining all twenty Premier League sides, we’ve reached a conclusion. Bundesliga Tax exists in abundance, and at this point has to be considered a real phenomenon. For bottom-table sides, Bundesliga stars did little to aid chances of survival, with even Emmanuel Dennis unable to carry Watford over the line. Whether it’s the nature of players signing from the league in comparison to others, or simply something wrong with their ability to adapt, players coming over from Germany’s top flight have ranked consistently lower than players arriving from other leagues in all three sections.

Explaining the Ball-Playing-Centre-Half – Player Role Analysis

As the name suggests, a ‘Ball-Playing-Centre-Half’ is a centre-back that excels in possession of the ball, from passing to long passing to carrying to dribbling. They can simultaneously exist as ‘Sweepers’ or ‘Stoppers’, providing another interesting asterisk to the role not found in many other positions. Unlike say a fullback or goalkeeper where we have created clearly defined separations and almost polarizations on a style scale, ‘Ball-Playing-Centre-Halves’ can also be ‘Stoppers’ or ‘Sweepers’.

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