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4-2-3-1 Passing Patterns

Tactical passing patterns can be a great way to communicate a solution, paint a picture of a specific scenario, and allow players the opportunity to get repetition of a technical aspect of the game related to their position. They can also be used as an activation exercise where players are exposed to bigger spaces and potentially repeated sprints to extend their warm-up and prepare for a high-intensity session. This week we take a look at three ideas related to a 4-2-3-1 system. We have broken then down into three areas where solutions can occur consistent with game model principles: wide overloads, switch of play, and central rotations.

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If you would like the pattern details, please find them below:

Wide Overload:

The first pattern we looked at was how to potentially progress the ball down one side using the full-back, strong side number six, wide forward and number nine. One of the advantages of this pattern is that it offers you a chance to alternate sides with one group recovering as the other side works. It also involves all four lines in the build as the pass progresses with bounce passes, combination play and movement ahead of the ball. (See below)

Switch the Play:

This is a natural progression to the wide overload where you now focus more on drawing the opponent across to deal with a potential overload, before switching the play and advancing either weak side attackers or full-backs. One of the biggest advantages of this pattern is that, because of the central numbers in the the 4-2-3-1 system, it is extremely flexible with how the switch can occur. That allows the coach space to continually adapt and provide new ideas to their team. Another advantage of this pattern is that it really focuses on timing and movement off the ball once the opponent is unbalanced. That allows the attacking team to exploit space and progress the ball into the final third with much less pressure than the wide overload may provide. (See below)

Central Rotations:

Although this aspect of patterns is a lot more complex (as it involves moving opponents) it again offers coaches a high level of flexibility with movement and in those central channels. In the example we show, the holding midfielder changes position with one of the wide forwards, creating enough space for the #7 to check in and turn upon receiving the pass. Timing is definitely the key here and patterns also create effective opportunities for coaches to work on when movements can occur, as well as building confidence in that aspect of the game. In this example, with players moving freely ahead of the ball, we offer freedom with the final pass and allow the #8 to play their preferred option.

If you have any requests for future article topics, please send to Gary Curneen at

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