Talking Tactics: 4-2-3-1

Welcome to another talking tactics, as we look at some of your weird and wonderful formations that have delivered success for you on CM9798. This time, we’re going back to the future…

Back in 1997, nobody played 4-2-3-1. Nobody of note anyway. I’d say it is the most used formation in the Premier League as of this writing, though as with all formations it has just about reached the end of its cycle and 3-4-3 is poised to take the title for 2017/18.  So, can 4-2-3-1 working CM9798?

Norbert – who we will hear much more from in September – certainly thinks it can:

Tactic Screen

The one caveat is that the wingers are more tucked in, but I’m sure it’s a minor point. As you can see, Arsenal are my team of choice for this one. There’s something else, too

The style depends on the seating in the stadium. That was a tip from the guestbook [on]. Seating under 10.000 is Long Ball, under 50.000 is direct and above 50.000 is passing

Woah! That’s blown things wide open. I have never considered the capacity of a stadium to be a factor but who bloody knows. I guess we’ll find out.

Some other points from Norbert:

Pace, dribbling and creativity is important for the Forward Right and Left.

Passing and Positioning is important for Midfielder Central

Off the ball is important for the striker

Heading, tackling, marking and strength is important for central defenders

Tackling, marking and pace is important for defenders right and left

Ian Wright fits the bill, he has 20 for off the ball. Adams, Keown & Bould will be very adequate centre halves, whilst Petit looks a better bet than Winterburn at left back. Lee Dixon will definitely need replacing.

Arsenal have £15m to spend so my first task is to find somebody better than Luis Boa Morte (probably not that hard) and then sell some players so I can upgrade elsehwere.

Robert Pires ticks every box


Unfortunately for me, Juventus and Barcelona also like the look of him so I have to go the low budget Liverpool flop version


And so, on the same day Pires is unveiled in Turin, Bernard Diomede rocks up at Highbury. I’m sure it’ll be fine.

The only bid that comes in is an optimistic one for Vieira, so once they’ve been told to sling their hook, it’s time for West Ham away. With Adams crocked it’s the ultra mobile Bould-Keown combo at centre half, but what follows is promising…

west ham 4-0

Still, Ali Boumnijel was in nets so let’s not get carried away. Diomede is a lad though.

Wimbledon at home should be 3 points but how does the formation treat us?

wimbledon 3-2

For the second game in a row, we’re 3-0 up before half time. A poor second half nearly costs us, but I’m not sure if that was formation related or just complacency.

Liverpool away, now there’s a test. Keown is injured too so it’s Bould and young Wicks, who you may know from my saving Swindon series.

liverpool away 2-1

We certainly like an early goal. We don’t get one against Sheff Wed and we struggle to get a grip on the game – Wednesday play counter attack and presumably keep picking us off as we try to launch balls in behind for Wrighty. Eventually, 22 shots later, the points are ours

arsenal 3 - 1 sheff wed

I didn’t expect to drop points at home to Coventry but thanks to Martin Keown, we do just that

coventry 1-1

Ogrizovic got man of the match, which is both good news and bad news. For football I mean.

We finish for the International break with defeat at Derby.

defeat at derby

Of our 18 shots, only 4 are on target. Hmm.

The International break passes by without any injuries and it’s time for the first Vieira vs Keane of the season, where Wright finally gets the better of Schmeichel and we win…

arsenal 1 - 0 man utd

So a bit of a mixed bag to start with, I’m sure you’ll agree. The Coventry and Derby results worried me but it’s always good to beat Man Utd. What I didn’t expect was for this to be the first in a 20 game unbeaten run. Let me talk you through the highlights…

Goals are not a problem. Ian Wright is loving life.

6-0 win

Getting 6 on the road is a good sign, even if it is Palace. But it’s not just the attack which is good, the old Arsenal backline shows no sign of easing up

5 clean sheets

Aston Villa can’t stop us

villa away

Nobody can stop us. We’re an unstoppable, Bernard Diomede fuelled machine

fixs 1fixs 2

And yes, there’s the odd rough draw in there like Leicester at home but I put that down to Pegguy Arphexad more than a bad tactic.

Arsenal 1 - 1 Leicester

The proof of success in any of these tactics is how close you can get to Man Utd in season one – they nearly always win the league by a huge margin. They shouldn’t really in this save:

19 games table

Look at that goals scored column. Ian Wright is a God in this formation, but how has he only managed one man of the match award?


I think, and I don’t know if this is fact, that in this formatino the striker literally runs in behind for the whole game and he either scores or he doesn’t. The rest of the game he is not involved and as a result his overall stats probably aren’t great.

Besides, he has to compete for man of the match with Bernard Diomede (and Dennis Bergkamp) and nobody can do that

average ratings

Hubba hubba. As predicted, Lee Dixon is the weak link but it’s barely noticeable. We do what we want.

Everybody’s main aim is to find the striker. If anybody else scores it’s probably a rebound or an accident.


I should point out I played with the direct style for every game, it seemed to do alright.

The unbeaten run ended with a 1-0 loss away in Auxerre in a game where we entered 3-0 up from the first leg, so I couldn’t care less. Whether I got lucky with the personnel or not I don’t know, but certainly Ian Wright’s skill set seem absolutely ideal for the striker position.


I’ve got to give this formation 9.5 Bakayoko’s out of 10, only dropping .5 because I can’t say it is perfect if we don’t have a 100% record. Thems the rules. It’s going to take some beating though, you know what you need to do…




12 thoughts on “Talking Tactics: 4-2-3-1

  1. Pingback: Talking Tactics: 3-4-1-2 | CM 97/98

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  3. I can confirm that using this formation, combined with direct style, completely transformed my Hull City team. After three straight promotions, the first half of the season in Premier League was a pain – like 1 win, 2 draws and rest losses. I used the formation I normally prefer all the way from league 3, a 4-3-1-2 with passing style, which usually works good. The team was mostly made up of u21 “star players” and regenerated players. Doomed for relegation, I changed to direct passing style and the formation mentioned above. Wow. Managed a 12th place and the following season 2nd place and champions league qualifier, where the mighty Juventus was defeated. Currently on top of the league and starting CL group stages. Thanks for this awsome tip!

  4. The tactic has definitely improved my fortunes. Thanks.

    Quick question. When you go down to 10 men, what’s the desired formation?

  5. after more than 20 years away from this game, I stumbled upon this blog and decided to give it a try again. went for the 4-2-3-1 and selected macclesfield. 1st game was alright, 4-1 away win against sc’nthorpe.

    then, midweek, came barnet home for the league cup. got trounced 7-2.

    the jury’s still out on this one.

  6. Does the formation register as “custom” then ? Also how do you know what numbers to put what positions ? Does that effect it ? I see you have Ian Wright number 11 ? Shouldn’t it be 9 really ?

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  8. Greetings from Italy!
    I use 4-2-3-1 in my Fiorentina career and it works perfectly. After the first settlement season (4th place in Serie A) I did an excellent record: 98/99 2nd, 99/00 1st, 00/01 1st, 01/02 1st plus two Supercoppa. Unfortunately in Champions League I have a nemesis: the damned Barcelona. In season 02/03 my starting eleven is: Abbiati; Simic (right), Nesta (left), Curtis & Thuram (centre); Makelele & Fiore; Bisgaard (Right), Rui Costa (centre), Pires (left); Nevland (Batistuta bencher due to age, but he’s still capable to strike 4 times in a match in Turin vs the wiked team of that city).

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