The FIFA formation 4-1-2-1-2 guide is back

I’ve been playing FIFA hard-core since FIFA 09 and I got into UT on FIFA 12. Most of you know me from my 4-1-2-1-2 guide last UT. Thanks to some backing from lightshow(a friend), I decided to write a guide for arguably the most popular formation in UT and my personal favorite formation in FIFA. I’ve used 4-1-2-1-2 in FIFA before, but I really started using it a lot on UT12. I stuck with it on UT13 and then the guide happened. I started recording my games once I got a capture card and I showcased the guide through streams as well.

Last UT, I said that the CAM is the key for a successful 4-1-2-1-2. Towards the end of UT, I contradicted myself and started using the LM/RM as my key players. Once I got Ribery and Robben, I ended up shunting the CAM somewhat and noticed that I played better. I actually noticed the 4-1-2-1-2 truly excels with game-changing LM/RM. I also noticed when the formation is at its best(I’ll share this later). The CAM is still key, but not necessarily THE key like I said previously. Some of the same principles from last UT still apply. UT14 is very different from UT13, so there’s a learning curve with the game and the formation as well. Last UT, I stressed to be patient with the formation and I think you’ve got to be more patient this time around. The 4-1-2-1-2 is still a great formation to use.

Overview of 4-1-2-1-2
The 4-1-2-1-2 is probably the most balanced formation in UT. It has a CDM that shields the back 4. It has the CAM that links everything. It has the LM/RM for width. It has 2 strikers up top for increased attacking potency. The back 4 for defensive solidity. Simply put, it has everything you need. Work-rates help with getting the best out of this formation. Patience is needed with the formation to get used to how it functions in attack and defensively. It may take some time for the formation to click for you.

Benefits of this formation
Versatility: This formation is extremely versatile and can adapt on the go against any play-style, formation and team. Since the formation is set-up for enough defensive cover and enough attacking prowess, you can alternate between different play-styles throughout the game as well. By not limiting yourself with how you play with this formation, it is probably the most unpredictable formation in the game. Your opponent will have nightmares trying to contain you if you set-up the team correctly and utilize the formation to its maximum potential at times. The versatility of the formations, also allows the formation to be incredibly fun to use. I try out other formations, but this formation just has that “spark” that keeps me coming back.

Good for possession/passing: Since this formation has a CDM and a CAM, it is great for keeping possession. The CDM will shield the back 4 with his passing superbly at times(especially if you’ve got a good passer there). Since in UT14 turning isn’t quite as precise, I would avoid turning too much with the CDM. A good CDM is essential in this formation. The CAM acts as a link-up for everything. He plays your strikers through on goal, and your LM/RM through on goal from counter attacks. A good CAM changes everything and gives the formation nice fluidity. The 4-1-2-1-2 is also a great formation for 1-2 passes. LM/RM to CAM, back to LM/RM. CAM to striker, and back to CAM. CDM to CAM, back to CDM(be careful with this one though). RM/LM to striker, back to striker and so on. Be careful with the 1-2 passes to not over-do them as well. Remember, that unpredictability is key. Of course striker to striker can work as well, but if you do that the entire game, then it’s not utilizing the formation to its full potential. This formation does a great job of creating gaps in your opponent’s defense from 1-2 passes.

Since the 4-1-2-1-2 has good fluidity, the possession and passing you can achieve with this formation is amazing. The formation never gets disjointed and allows you to keep possession. Since the LM/RM at times do tuck in, they help with this as well. If you’ve got attacking full-backs, then they’ll provide the width needed at times. Having 2 strikers also help. The 2 strikers can always link-up nicely and they do help with possession, because they keep your opponent’s CB’s busy. This frees up space for the rest of your team. There is always an option to pass to, and it’s key to analyze which pass will let you keep possession easier. I don’t advise keeping too much possession in your final 3rd. It’s best to do so in the midfield, and in your opponent’s final 3rd.

Good against high pressure: The formation can spread itself out really nicely at times and the custom tactics(I’ll share this later), really helps with dealing with high pressure. Now since it’s harder to build from the back, you still have to be careful. So you have to assess if it’s safe to pass to the CDM and start your attacks there, or if you have to start your attacks from the wings. Switching play to the other flank is also helpful, since high pressure tends to be congested into 1 area. So the other flank will have your full back and wide midfielder with space to go on the attack.

It is important to avoid over-playing at the back and try to seek quick 1-time passes to escape from the high pressure. Be smart and analyze which pass will best set you up for the attack. 1-time passes are key for countering high pressure at times. Getting used to the timing of passes and player movement in UT14 will help with this. The CDM and CAM help with countering high pressure. You have to be careful with your CB’s whilst getting pressured. Try to avoid turning with them and look for which pass will best create gaps from your opponent’s high pressure. It is not easy to counter high pressure, but with time and practice, it is doable.

Good for high pressure: Now I know there have been lots of complaints about high pressure in FIFA 14. Personally I think it should be toned down, and I thought it was fine in 13. That being said, 4-1-2-1-2 is good for high pressure. The formation stays very compact in defense and rarely loses shape. Having 2 strikers helps a lot with high pressure. Even the CAM at times pushes up and man-marks your opponent’s CDM(if he has any) and your opponent’s deepest CM. Another key part with high pressure, is that it cuts off the supply for lobbed through balls(which are very effective this UT).

Even though it’s easier to press, it still takes practice to press effectively. So you have to do it manually just like in 13 and start from the strikers applying pressure on your opponent’s CB. It’s important to know when’s the best time to apply high pressure. You’ve got to analyze if your high pressure will leave some gaps that your opponent can exploit. It’s important to pay attention to the 3D map of the field and notice at times when high pressure is best rewarding.

Note: I know this might irritate some people since I’m almost advising you to high pressure opponents, but it’s a key strength of the 4-1-2-1-2 formation. I think they should tone the high pressure down and make it harder than it already is.

They will be the players that get you out of the tough spots. They will be the players who score the most goals. Strikers in the 4-1-2-1-2 are involved in the build-up play as well. It’s best to try out different types of strikers to figure out which work best for you. A great move to do with strikers when your opponent’s defender is right behind your striker is to shot fake(shot+pass) before receiving the ball(KTZ explains this in his guide as well). This is much more effective than using a dummy to get by defenders. This can be done even if the defender isn’t right behind your striker just to fake your opponent’s defender out and get some space for the shot. Hold the left analog stick to the direction that you want to exit. It’s best to pay attention and to anticipate how your defender will attack your striker, and exit out in the direction that will best give you space for a shot. When done properly, this move is simply devastating and is much better than just receiving the ball and turning manually(since turning is slower).

I think that your strikers should attempt the most shots from your team, but this isn’t always the case. 1-2 passes between strikers is always a nice outlet to have and sometimes your opponent does bite and leaves your other striker through on goal. Now if you spend the entire game doing this, then you’re being too predictable. If you’re in a good position with the strikers, then don’t be afraid to shoot. Your strikers need to shoot to score obviously. Work-rates are also key with strikers, and they all make slight differences to how your team is set-up and performs. I think it’s really beneficial if your strikers has at least a minimum of 4* skill moves as it can help you get out of tough situations.

Important attributes: Finishing, volleys, heading accuracy, attacking positioning, dribbling, shot power, strength

Chemistry styles for strikers: Hawk, Sniper, Hunter, Deadeye

Best work-rates for strikers
High/low: They will be the strikers that will typically score the most goals. They provide the best outlet for counter attacks, since they rarely track back. They also help with pressing, as they’re further up the field. They will still get involved in build-up play though. I would use a high/low striker if you’re having trouble with scoring goals. They will not just score goals, but they also do a great job of creating goals. They create space nicely for your other striker. Strikers with the ‘tries to beat offside trap’ trait usually have high/low and this usually has them run in behind your opponent‘s defense a good amount. It’s important to not always force the pass and wait for the opportune moment to set them through on goal.

Best high/low strikers: Aguero, RVP, Di Natale, Pato, Yilmaz

High/med: They provide the best balance of being involved in build-up play and scoring goals. They are also a viable option for pressing your opponent’s CB and a good outlet for counter attacks. It’s important to utilize them correctly as they really do help with build up play. If you’ve got a good passer with high/med, he can thread in the through balls for your RM/LM as they make their darting runs. There are also lots of good options for high/med strikers unlike high/low.

Best high/med strikers: Messi, Falcao, Lewandowski, Bale, Suarez, Neymar, Jovetic, Eto’o, Jackson Martinez, Vucinic, Rodrigo, Milito

Med/low: They drop back a little deeper and kind of hybrid between a striker and CF. They’re involved a good amount in the build up play, and make it easier to keep possession. They will still score you goals(especially if you use Ibra), but they’re very useful in dictating play and they can combine really nicely with the CAM.

Best med/low strikers: Ibra, Balotelli, Dzeko, Muriel, Sturridge, Ljajic, Henry, Menez

Note: I still don’t believe med/med works and that the strikers with med/med just don’t function well in the 4-1-2-1-2. High/high seems to be less of an annoyance this UT, but it will not be as effective as the 3 options I mentioned. You can try out med/med and high/high and if it works for you, use them.

Now the CAM isn’t THE KEY for a successful 4-1-2-1-2, but he is still key for achieving success with the 4-1-2-1-2. Choosing the right CAM changes how the formation functions. The CAM will be the one who plays your strikers through on goal and your LM/RM on goal if they make their runs as well. Your CAM should be in the top 3 at the end of games for passes completed/attempted. The CAM‘s main job is to create chances, but he will also score the goals. Don’t be afraid to take a shot, when there is space for a shot.

A good CAM creates space for the rest of the team. He is also perhaps the main player to do 1-2 passes with. CAM to striker, back to CAM is a very effective move and can dazzle your opponent at times. Finding the right CAM for you will improve your chances of success with the 4-1-2-1-2. I would recommend a minimum of 4* skills as it helps greatly with chance creation and decreases the chances of losing the ball with the CAM in congested areas. Good passing and dribbling is key. Good shooting as well helps.

Important attributes: Short passing, ball control, dribbling, vision/positioning, long shots, long passing, reactions, agility, finishing

Best work-rates for CAM
High/low: They tend to push further up(helpful for pressure as well) and are usually the main outlet for counter attacks. High/low CAM’s tend to score and assist the most goals. At times, your CDM and a high/low CAM can be too far apart, making it harder to transition to your opponent’s goal. When this does happen, it’s best to either carry the ball with your CDM(avoid 1-2 passes then), or shift play out wide. A high/low CAM also participates greatly in your opponent’s final 3rd. They can at times be right up there with your strikers, so you can potentially outnumber your opponent’s CB’s, and this thus frees up space for devastating 1-2 combos. A high/low CAM also frees up space very well for your LM/RM. Even with high/low, they are still involved in your build-up play. I would probably use a high/low CAM if you’re struggling to create too many chances.

Best high/low CAM options: Nasri, David Silva, Isco, Kaka, Honda

High/med: They provide the best balance for getting involved in build-up play and scoring goals. There is rarely a gap between your CDM and CAM. It’s similar to how a high/low CAM would function, but a high/med CAM will provide better balance for the team and it’ll be better defensively. A high/med will make it a bit easier to keep possession, since the CAM won’t push as high up. This will weaken your ability to press slightly.

Best high/med CAM options: Iniesta, Fabregas, Modric, Gundogan, Diego, Hamsik, Hernanes, Kagawa, Valbuena, Diamanti, Eriksen, Bernard, De Bruyne, Draxler

Med/med & med/low: This 2 work very similar, so I decided to put them together. They both help more with build-up play than the previous 2. They will score and assist less goals, but they’ll help in other ways. They’ll be a good outlet to counter high pressure, since they drop a little deeper. They’ll also drop back a little deeper which will help with your defensive shape, but lessen your ability to press. They’ll increase your ability to keep possession, because there will almost zero gaps from your CDM and CAM then.

Best med/med & med/low options: Mata, Cazorla, Gotze, Kroos, Van Der Vaart, Oscar, Ozil, Sneijder, Ronaldinho, Ramirez, Quintero(Porto), Marin, Valdivia, N’Zogbia

Chemistry styles for CAM: Artist, hunter, maestro, sniper, engine, catalyst, deadeye

Note: I’ve not tested high/high CAM’s yet this UT. I would appreciate feedback on this. I think they worked okay in UT13, but are just all over the place at times.

They are the game-changers. Having 1 game-changer at LM/RM helps tremendously. Pace helps, but isn’t necessary. It’s crucial that they’re good dribblers. A minimum of 4 stars is also important. They give you the extra flair in the 4-1-2-1-2. They combine very nicely with your LB/RB(especially attacking LB/RB). They will score goals and assist goals, but a good LM/RM will help with the flow of the formation. Using game-changers(Ronaldo, Ribery, Robben, Reus, maybe Hazard as well) at LM/RM make the 4-1-2-1-2 a devastating formation. The full potential of the 4-1-2-1-2 comes out when you use game-changers at LM/RM. You might think they’re wasted, but the 4-1-2-1-2 gets the best out of them as well. They simply change games for you and improve your overall play completely. Finding the right LM/RM for you helps you create chances easier with the 4-1-2-1-2.

High/low LM/RM make the formation almost impossible to defend against at times, because they do a double role. They push up making it easier to press. They’re a great outlet for counter attacks and act like a winger for counter attacks at times. The best work-rates for LM/RM for the best possible 4-1-2-1-2 team is high/low. That’s when the 4-1-2-1-2 truly excels and something I figured out in UT13. Even if you don’t use high/low LM/RM, they are important for success. Since you’ll usually dribble with them the most, they help by creating space through their successful dribbles. They are the best outlets for counter attacks as well, since it’s less harmful if you lose the ball out wide than through the middle. LM/RM are perhaps as important as the CAM from further testing.

Important attributes: Dribbling, ball control, long shots, shot power, finishing, crossing, reactions, agility, sprint speed/acceleration, positioning/vision,

Best work-rates for LM/RM
High/low: They really function like a winger in this formation. They help with pressing and are superb for counter-attacks. Ronaldo wasted? I don’t think so. He excels in this formation if you use him right. They will get involved as well, so they do help with possession and chance creation when in possession of the ball. The best high/low LM/RM players can score a good amount of goals as well.

Best high/low LM/RM: Ronaldo, Robben, Hazard, Nani, Pedro, Vela, Mertens, Gervinho, Jarvis,

High/med: Again, it’s about balance. They provide the best balance for counter attacking options, pressure/defensive shape, and for build-up play. They’ll score goals as well(especially if you use Reus).

Best high/med LM/RM: Navas, Hulk, Cudrado, Shaqiri, McGeady, Arnautovic, Mirallas, Ribery, Reus, Villa, Willian, Young, Lavezzi,

Med/low: They drop a little deeper which helps with possession. They are less of a threat on counter attacks though. I would recommend high/low and high/med over med/low, but med/low can work as well.

Best med/low LM/RM: Danny, Taarabt, Dos Santos, Elia, Ben Arfa, Bojan, Cerci,

Chemistry styles for LM/RM: Sniper, deadeye, engine, hunter, artist

The CDM shields the back 4 with his passing. It’s important to avoid playing too many risky passes with the CDM. Your CDM should have the best pass accuracy after games. Use the CDM manually at times to intercept passes. Be careful to not commit to tackles too much with the CDM. The better CDM’s will make it easier to do so. A good CDM will help with your build-up play from the back. When you’re pressured in your own half, the CDM helps with alleviating pressure since he’s usually available for the pass. The CDM is the ‘X’ factor still. If he plays well, your front 5 will perform better.

Important attributes: Short passing, long passing, strength, interceptions, aggression, positioning/vision

Best work-rates for CDM
Med/high: This is the best work-rate for a CDM in a 4-1-2-1-2. The 4-1-2-1-2 functions best with a med/high CDM. A med/high CDM frees the front 5 completely. You get the most defensive cover with a med/high CDM, and enough support for attack.

Best med/high options: Yaya Toure, De Rossi, Alonso, Khedria, Toulalan, Essien, Sandro, Song

High/high: I didn’t recommend this in UT13, but I do think it can work now. You just have to be careful when your CDM ventures forward at times with your passes and dribbles. A good passer is essential. When the CDM does venture, he adds an extra dimension in attack.

Best high/high options: Schweinsteiger, Gerrard, Vidal, Marchisio, Moutinho,

Chemistry styles for CDM: Catalyst, powerhouse, engine, gladiator, shadow

Note: There are barely any viable low/med options in UT(only one is Carrick). I wouldn’t recommend a low/med CDM. There is no connection with the CAM then. I don’t recommend med/med either, but it can work.

Back 4:
Center backs: It is helpful if your 2 center backs are good at heading. They will deal with lobbed through balls easier and high aggression on your CB’s will help even more with lobbed through balls. Pace is less important than UT13, but it does help(especially in seasons). You have to be careful with your CB’s with how you build up from the back. It was much easier to do so in UT13. I would avoid passing too much at the back and turning with CB’s as well. I think all work-rates can work. I think trying out different combos and figuring out which is the best for you is helpful. I would say that med/med, med/high and high/med are the best.

Important attributes: Heading accuracy, reactions, aggression, interceptions, jumping, marking, slide/stand tackling, reactions

Best CB’s: Vidic, Thiago Silva, Kompany, Ramos, Pique, Chiellini, Hummels, Barzagli, Dante, Pepe, Puyol, Benatia, David Luiz, Koscienly, Miranda, Boateng, Caceres, Ogbonna, Mangala, Vertonghen, Kaboul, Sakho

Chemistry styles for CB’s: Sentinel, Anchor, Shadow,

They combine and link-up nicely with your LM/RM. I would recommend LB/RB with high/med work-rates as their support in attack leads to more attacking options, and they don’t push up like they did in UT13. The extra options you get in attack from high/med LB/RB is useful at times for breaking down people who sit back or go defensive/ultra-defensive. For more defensive cover, then you can use med/med LB/RB, and they will still offer attacking support. Be careful with your LB/RB and when you use 1-2 passes.

The LB/RB are a good outlet for countering high pressure in your half. Try and switch flank where the LB/RB should be open and you’ll be on the attack. Of course, you can use med/high LB/RB if you want for even more defensive cover. I would recommend high/med the most though. They don’t venture forward like they did last UT, so you do get defensive cover.

Important attributes: Crossing, interceptions, acceleration/sprint speed, reactions, agility, dribbling, ball control, curve, short passing, marking, slide/stand tackling, heading

Best LB/RB: Lahm, Cole, Maicon, Alaba, Baines, Pisczek, Alves(I’ve heard from people that his work-rates aren’t a problem), Marcelo, Alba, Montoya, Richards, Rafael, Abate, Evra, Filipe Luis, Clichy, Coentrao, Juanfran, Walker

Chemistry styles for LB/RB: Engine, shadow, anchor, sentinel

Custom tactics
I’ve used a custom tactic since FIFA 10, when I noticed it helped improve my play. I’ve tweaked it slightly since UT13 and I‘ll continue experimenting with it. To set up the custom tactic, go to team management and pick any team. Edit one of the existing tactics and save it. Go to quick tactics, and swap out one of the defaults for the edited custom one. At the beginning of every game, press d-pad and select your custom tactic.

Build-up play
Speed – 70, Passing – 25, Positioning – Free Form.
Chance creation
Passing – 50, Crossing – 30, Shooting – 70, Positioning – Free Form.
Pressure – 70, Aggression – 60, Team width – 50, Line – Cover.

If you feel the defense section makes you too susceptible to counter attacks, drop pressure/aggression to 50-50 or 20-20.

Scoring goals
Everyone has a unique way of constantly scoring goals. People keep asking me how I score goals with the 4-1-2-1-2. The best way I improved my finishing was by playing the advanced shooting skill games for a while. It helps by giving you 3-on-3, 2-on-2, 3-on-2, 2-on-1 situations. Those may present themselves in a real game online. I play that skill game once a day when I can and it helps tremendously.

Here are the best ways to score goals with the 4-1-2-1-2:
1. 1-2 between strikers. It’s important to not over-do this, but against people who are playing aggressive defensive, this is a great way to get in behind your opponent’s defense.

2. Fake-shot with the strikers. The best way to do this is when your strikers are on the edge of the box and your opponent’s defender is RIGHT behind them. Execute the fake-shot correctly, and you should be through on goal.

3. 1-2 between LM/RM and striker with a cut-back to CAM. Just a simple 1-2 pass when your winger is out wide to the striker, and look for the CAM at the edge of the box.

4. CAM out wide to LM/RM. This is best used in transition from CDM to CAM and then look to the wings for a run in behind the defense. This can also be used while patiently passing around creating gaps and then shifting play quick out wide to the running LM or RM.

5. Triangle between Strikers and CAM. This is best used in a counter attack, but has to be done quick. Do a 1-2 pass between the strikers, but don’t return it to the striker. Lay it off to the CAM and look for the striker running in behind the defense.

6. Step-over cut in with LM/RM. As you’re sprinting down the wings from a pass, try a cheeky step-over inside and sprint towards goal for the shot. Most people anticipate crosses, so this does trick people.

7. Strikers out wide to LM/RM. Similar to ‘CAM out wide to LM/RM’, but this is best used while in possession as you’re probing your opponent’s defense.

Style of play
As I’ve said, any style can work. You can play possession, counter attacking, and direct. It’s best to realize what style best suits you and make changes to the team and work-rates to match that style. This is what makes 4-1-2-1-2 unique. It can adapt on the go against team and formation. Remember to analyze your opponent’s team and take note of the work-rates for his players before you start playing. Try and see how your opponent will play, and then make adjustments on the fly. There is always an option to pass to. Remember to stay composed. Once you get the timing of passing down, you’ll start passing better. You can play direct and quick of course. Don’t rush your attacks like a maniac though.

The 4-1-2-1-2 does a good job of creating gaps, but you have to make them happen. Remember to use neat 1-2 passes at times throughout the game. Use the shot fake with your strikers at times to get away from defenders. Use the LM/LB and RM/RB as a duo in attack at times. If you’re getting stuck and trying to pass your way into goal, then start shooting more. If your opponent is backing off on the wings, then use smart crosses. Don’t cross just senselessly. More gaps will open from your opponent trying to close down your shot. There is always an option to pass to, but you have to be quick and know where and when to pass. Try and notice if you can be more adventurous or if you need to be a little patient. This is of course dependant on the opponent and the game-flow. Remember: If you’re only doing 1-2’s between the striker and CAM, then you’re not utilizing the formation. You don’t always need to go forward and force it. Remain composed. Once you play more and more with the formation, you’ll get better and better.

Defending with the 4-1-2-1-2
Try to be aggressive and press with this formation. I don’t recommend sitting back and soaking up pressure. Put pressure on your opponents. Manually use your front 3 to press your opponents back 4. Unsettle him and let him know he won’t have a easy time building up attacks. Be sure to use the CDM to intercept those through balls as well. When you’re on the wings and you’re defending, try to second man press(don’t over do it though) and see if you can nick the ball away. Be cautious when you’re getting countered. Sometimes I try to anticipate what pass my opponent is trying to make and I bait him into making the pass I want him to make. Another tip I can give you is not to contain. Contain restricts your defensive freedom. Jockey instead. Manually use your players to make tackles as well. They will be more precise that way.

Try to see what your opponent is trying to do and bait him into doing it, so you can intercept the pass or make a crucial tackle. Analyze how your opponent is playing and try to shut off his strengths and expose his weaknesses. Try to limit dumb mistakes. I press when it’s necessary, but drop off when needed as well. I don’t want to be passive in defense. If I make a mistake, I’ll usually position myself so that if I miss a tackle or miss the interception, I’ll have a defender close by. I would press the most in your opponent’s half. In your half, I would try and force your opponent into making a mistake.

The keys to success
1. Practice: The more you play with the formation, the better you’ll get.

2. Unpredictability: Use the 4-1-2-1-2 to its full use.

3. Patience: You’ll have some tough games, but learn from them. You learn more from losing than winning.

4. Work-rates: Try and see what work-rates best suit you. You can fiddle around with them and figure out the best combo.

5. Fun: Have fun with the formation. If you’re not enjoying it, then take a break from it and use another one.

This guide is exactly as the one on the EA forums except the one on the forums includes some images to go alongside the tips. This can be read here (