FIFA 19: Formations Guide and Best Formation to Use

With so many formations to choose from on FIFA 19, RealSport helps you choose the best formation to suit your playing style in our comprehensive guide.


There are over 30 formations on FIFA 19 and FIFA 18, making it very difficult to decide which system to use. Teams in real life are constantly chopping and changing how they shape-up, but you will need to be more disciplined when taking to the field on FIFA 19.

Once you know the ins and outs of a formation, you will be aware of how you are most likely to score, and where you are most vulnerable in defence. From there on, you can adjust your tactics and personnel and take your ability on the game to new heights.

FIFA 19 Best Formation To Use

You will want to familiarise yourself with these systems, regardless of whether you will use them or not. Knowing a formation’s strengths and weaknesses will be vital when coming up against them, and it can even affect the personnel you start or bring off the bench to give yourself that defining edge to pick up the three points. 

4-3-3 Holding

Used by: Juventus

Best for: Pace out wide

Best to use against: Weaker opponents, two-man midfields

The most common of the 4-3-3 formations, the “Holding” provides balance between defence and attack.

With two high wingers, there is less onus for the central midfielders to get forward, but one of your midfield three should look to join up with the attack. At Real Madrid this is shared between Toni Kroos and Luka Modric, and at Manchester it’s Kevin De Bruyne or David Silva. 

Pace out wide is a real asset, and with a striker joined by two wide men, there is less focus on him holding the ball up. You can choose a traditional forward to cross balls into, or a paceman to get in behind. 

4-2-3-1 Wide

Used by: Paris Saint-Germain

Best for: Balance all over the pitch

Best to use against: Flat midfields, solid defences

One of the most common formations seen this decade, the 4-2-3-1 Wide is perhaps the most balanced system going.

A conventional back four is shielded by two defensive midfielders with a number 10 flanked by two wide men. The attacking midfielder is the key and to give him as much impact is possible, you could change their positioning freedom to free roam on the instructions tab.

If you feel like you can overpower an opponent, either switch to a more attacking mentality, or tell one of your defensive midfielders to get forward for attacking support in the instructions tab.

4-3-2-1

Used by: Portland Timbers

Best for: Escaping your marker

Best to use against: Out-countering opponents, slow defenders

A more aggressive take on the 4-3-3, but the 4-3-2-1 sees the two wingers move into inside forward positions. Liverpool play in a similar fashion at times, with Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane getting close to Roberto Firmino, and this formation is another common one on the online scene.

With the wide men coming inside, it’s down to the full backs to provide the width and there is less need for the midfielders to join the attack. It’s perhaps worth having two of the central midfield players to stay back on attack to protect you on the counter-attack.

Think about making your front three interchangeable and consider opting for a defensive mentality if the opposition are looking dangerous.

4-1-2-1-2 Narrow

Used by: Chile

Best for: Hitting teams through the middle

Best to use against: Vulnerable midfields, a lack of pace

Much more common than the Wide version, the 4-1-2-1-2 Narrow can be used to control the game. The most popular formation in competitive FIFA, the ability to go straight through the middle of the opponent with four central midfield players and two strikers makes it a serious threat.

The full backs can then get forward to supply the width, but this is as much a negative as it is positive. With no wide midfielders you can get caught on the touchlines, so make sure you have mobile players on the side of the diamond and you may wish to get your full backs to stay back. The alternative it to switch to a defensive mentality.

5-2-3

Used by: Wolves

Best for: Flexibility in gameplay

Best to use against: Countering an attacking team, nullifying forwards

Antonio Conte brought the 5-2-3 system to England, and it was a revelation. Chelsea did find it more difficult as time went on as opponents have learnt to deal with the formation, but it has so many assets.

The three up top is a problem for the opposition defence in itself, and when the wing-backs get forward, the wingers will drift inside and you can outnumber the backline. If you do find yourself short in midfield, get your wider centre backs to join the attack like Cesar Azpilicueta did for Chelsea, often crossing early from the inside channel.

Your difficulties will come on the counter-attack, and you need mobile midfielders to get you out of trouble. N’Golo Kante did this perfectly for Chelsea with his tenacity, but Wolves could struggle with the Portuguese pairing of Joao Moutinho and Ruben Neves not blessed with pace.

Three, four or five at the back?

When deciding upon your formation, you should build up from the defence. Most will go with a conventional back four as it tends to provide the most balanced formations, but if you aren’t that strong in defence, opting for a back five just gives you that extra bit of cover.

Going with just three defenders, a common theme in Italian football, is much more risky as your wide midfielders may not pick up the opposition wingers, leading to a scrambling defence.

Have a play around with various systems in kick-off before heading into Ultimate Team, Online Seasons or Career Mode, and even customising the tactics can make a massive difference, plugging holes in certain formations.

Three at the back systems

3-5-2

Used by: Crotone 

Best for: Possession-based play

If you are looking for balance in a system with three centre backs, a 3-5-2 is your best bet. 

You have numbers in midfield, width and two strikers who can link-up with one another. 

The problem comes in wide areas in defence, and your two wide midfielders may get caught too high up the pitch or find themselves in two-on-one scenarios when the opposition full-backs fly forward.

Look to use the 3-5-2 with one mobile striker and one target man up front, but the attacking midfielder is the hub of the team. Your CAM will need to hit passes to the strikers and wide players as well as dribble past players and even shoot from distance.

Pace in defence is also key as you will get stretched. Your wide midfielders must also be able to defend, so don’t select anyone in there with a high attacking work rate. The two defensive midfielders will need high stamina and movement stats as they will often get dragged out wide and have a lot of ground to cover.

Go for a more attacking mentality (using the D-pad) if you are want to build up the play slowly or drop it into a defensive mentality to hit your opponents on the counter-attack. 

3-1-4-2

Used by: Sevilla

Best for: Scoring from range

A slight variation of the 3-5-2, but the 3-1-4-2 sees the attacking midfielder drop into central midfield, with one of the CMs dropping into defensive midfield. This gives you greater control in the centre of the park with your central players closer together, but you’ll lose some creativity.

One of your central midfielders needs to be great on the ball, so look for high dribbling and agility stats. Having someone who can shoot from range is a bonus.

3-4-1-2

Used by: Club Brugge

Best for: Quick passing play

The 3-4-1-2 is a more attacking version of the 3-5-2. The two defensive midfielders push up into central midfield, which again will give you control of the ball, but will leave you exposed on the counter-attack. 

Looking after the ball is vital in this system, so high passing stats in midfield and defence is a must.

On the instructions tab, make sure one of your central midfielders will ‘stay back on attack’ in the attack support section. This should at least give your defence some cover.

3-5-1-1

Used by: Lazio

Best for: Link-up play between midfield and attack

The 3-5-1-1 solves the issue of defensive protection, and in dropping one of the strikers into a centre forward role, allows greater link-up play going forward.

It is then perhaps the most balanced of the 3-5-2 systems, but your central midfielder can become wasted if you don’t select the correct type of player. He will need to break forward, sometimes beyond the CF, so pace, dribbling and shooting stats should be the focus when selecting your CM.

3-4-3 Flat

Used by: Adidas All-Star

Best for: Overpowering the opposition

The 3-4-3 Flat solves some of the issues in wide areas. Having wingers and wide midfielders means you shouldn’t get doubled up on near the touchline, but if you are playing against a side with three up front of their own, they could still exploit your defence.

To solve this, make sure both your wide midfielders come back to defend in the defensive support section on the instructions tab. Pace will still be needed in both of your wide centre backs, but not as much as the 3-5-2 formations.

The two central midfielders will need to have high stamina as they shuttle back and forth between defence and attack, and you should have one player as the creator and a player as the holder in the pairing. In Mexico’s side this is Andres Guardado and Hector Herrera, respectively.

If you still find your wide midfielders are too high up the pitch, drop the mentality on the D-pad to defensive.

3-4-2-1

Used by: Belgium

Best for: Goal scoring options

Only a slight variation from the 3-4-3 Flat, the 3-4-2-1 moves the wingers into inside forward positions. This means greater link-up play between the front three, and their pace can cause havoc for opposition defences. To ensure greater movement between your three forwards, head to the tactics tab, go to detailed tactic view, custom tactic and under chance creation, change positioning to free form.

Those inverted wingers mean there is less onus on creativity from your central midfielders, but they may be required to help defend in wide areas. Movement and stamina is once again important and make sure one CM will stay back on attack. 

3-4-3 Diamond

Used by: None

Best for: Dominating a weaker opponent

A bit more risky is the 3-4-3 Diamond. Your central midfielders will split into attacking and defensive midfield roles, meaning you will struggle to keep possession of the ball. You can argue that there is greater creativity in the final third and protection for the defence but expect your matches to be very end-to-end.

It will be difficult to keep hold of the ball, so it may be wise to drop into a defensive mentality so you do not become overpowered by the opposition.

Four at the back systems

4-5-1 Flat

Used by: Changchun Yatai

Best for: Keeping the ball in midfield

If you’re looking to control the game, the 4-5-1 should allow you to do so. Three central midfielders are joined by two more out wide, and you should be looking to quickly pass-and-move to break down the opposition. High passing stats across your midfield are vital, as well as a striker who can hold the ball up to bring the midfielders into play.

The main negative is that your midfield is very flat. In order to change this, one of them needs to be bursting forward from deep, so look for a central midfielder with strong agility and dribbling stats.

If you are struggling to get past the opposition, flick the mentality to attacking to get more players forward.

4-5-1 Attack

Used by: None

Best for: Causing havoc between the lines

An incredibly rare formation, the 4-5-1 Attack is one of the most attacking systems in FIFA 19. Instead of three central midfielders, two will push on into attacking midfield roles, giving plenty of support to the striker.

You can either choose to have fluidity between your attacking and wide players or stay regimented and press your opponents. Have a play around with custom tactics to see what works.

What is most vital is that your central midfielder stays back on attack, and you may wish to do the same with your full backs.

4-1-4-1

Used by: Bayern Munich

Best for: Runners from midfield

Very similar to the 4-5-1 Flat, the 4-1-4-1 just adds that little bit more defensive protection. With that in mind, you will need one of your central midfielders and possibly both of your wide men to get forward as much as possible. To do this on your instructions tab, go to attacking support and select stay/get forward.

Once again, you will need runners from midfield, and perhaps Bayern have the greatest balance with Javi Martinez holding, Arturo Vidal or Thiago going box-to-box and James Rodriguez or even Thomas Muller surging from deep to join up with the striker. 

4-4-1-1 Midfield

Used by: Sporting Lisbon

Best for: Creating space for your no. 10

A more attacking system is the 4-4-1-1 Midfield. This swaps the defensive midfielder for an attacking midfielder, looking to get in between the lines of the defence.

The two central midfielders will need great discipline, and you will want at least one of them to stay back on attack. As for the attacking midfielder, the majority of your attacks will run through him so give him the ball as much as possible and change his positioning freedom to free roam. Gylfi Sigurdsson operates like this for Iceland.

4-2-3-1 Narrow

Used by: Roma

Best for: Quick interplay across the midfield

If you prefer to attack through the middle of the opponent, go for the 4-2-3-1 Narrow. It encourages your wide players to come inside, and it’s perfect if you have flying full backs who like to create an overlap.

Tactically, you shouldn’t have to change too much, but you may wish for your three attacking midfielders to have the freedom to switch positions. If so, head to the tactics tab, custom tactic and switch the chance creation positioning to free form. 

4-4-2 Flat

Used by: Atletico Madrid

Best for: High work-rate sides

The classic formation. The system came back into fashion in recent years through the league successes of Atletico Madrid and Leicester City.

Energy is the key, with all your outfield players needing to perform their defensive duties perfectly to win the ball off the opposition who will probably have an extra man in midfield.

Having two strikers is the main weapon and make sure at least one of these is mobile enough to press the opposition (think Jamie Vardy at Leicester). One of your central midfielders will need to be focussed on defending so make sure his attacking support is changed to stay back while attacking.

4-4-1-1 Attack

Used by: Argentina 

Best for: Creating holes in the defence

If you are searching for more creativity, switching to a 4-4-1-1 Attack will allow the centre forward to pick up space around the edge of the box. He can also help take some of the defensive burden off the central midfielders with the “aggressive interceptions” and “press back line” instructions.

Your central midfielders don’t need to hold much pace, so use one of them as a deep lying playmaker. High vision and passing stats are key, with Jonjo Shelvey operating in this role for Newcastle.

4-4-2 Holding

Used by: Watford

Best for: Pace out wide and up front or midfield dominance

A more defensive version of the 4-4-2, the ‘Holding’ version encourages a counter-attacking style. Look to sit deep before hitting your opponents on the break, so pace out wide and from one of your strikers is a must. Alternatively, you can use four central midfielders to dominate the ball à la Watford, Crystal Palace and Barcelona in recent seasons. If you aren’t creating enough, push your mentality to attacking.

4-1-2-1-2 Wide

Used by: Racing Club

Best for: Playing in your strikers

Chelsea used this formation during Jose Mourinho’s first spell at the club, but the 4-1-2-1-2 Wide leaves you too exposed to use in modern football. If you’re looking to counter-attack your opponents in can be effective on FIFA 19, but it’s important that your two wide players perform their defensive duty, and tell your full-backs to stay back on attack.

In addition, you may wish to press with your two strikers and attacking midfielders, so it’s important you have plenty of stamina in those positions. 

The serious problem lies in your defence, with the defensive midfielder facing a big task if he is up against three CMs. Start off with a defensive mentality and take it from there.

4-2-2-2

Used by: RB Leipzig

Best for: Cutting in to strike at goal

The 4-2-2-2 is one of the more common systems used online, given its fluidity and difficulty to mark up against. The two defensive midfielders only need to worry about defending, allowing the two inverted wide men to drift inside and look to strike at goal. 

The full-backs can get forward to provide the width and cross in for the two strikers.  

4-1-3-2

Used by: Schalke

Best for: Pulling the strings from deep

A more balanced version of the 4-1-2-1-2 Wide, the 4-1-3-2 is a hybrid between the 4-4-2 Flat and Holding systems. The defensive midfielder just needs to protect the defence, and the central midfielder can conduct from deep. 

In Schalke’s lineup they have two all-round strikers who stand over six foot tall, but are also capable of playing out on the wing. So if one drifts wide to spread the defence, they don’t lose any aerial ability in the box. 

4-3-1-2

Used by: Sampdoria

Best for: Pass-and-move play

A slightly more advanced version of the 4-1-2-1-2 Narrow, the 4-3-1-2 just sees the defensive midfielder (at the base of the diamond) move up into central midfield.

If you are to choose this, you must opt for a defensive mentality otherwise you will be in serious trouble on the counter attack. Look to pass-and-move quickly between the midfielders to open up your opponent.

4-3-3 Defend

Used by: Côte d’Ivoire

Best for: Nullifying your opponent and countering

If you are looking to minimise the impact of the opponent’s creative players, go for the 4-4-3 defend. 

Your one conventional midfielder will have his work cut out, but if he does receive the ball in space, look to release your wide players. Pace on the flanks is absolutely vital given the lack of creativity in the system. Your full backs will have a small attacking role so make sure you prioritise defence when making your team selection. 

4-3-3 Flat

Used by: Chelsea

Best for: Feeding your front three

A slight variant is the 4-3-3 Flat, and you should use this if you wish to share the attacking and defensive responsibilities between your midfield three. You can go in a bit of ‘no-man’s-land’ between the attack and defence however, so look for personnel with high work rates.

Maurizio Sarri has used this system brilliantly with Napoli and now Chelsea. Jorginho has been the key, with the Italian sitting deep and looking to play the ball forward quickly to the attacking players ahead of him, something Eden Hazard has enjoyed this season. 

4-3-3 Attack

Used by: Athletic Bilbao

Best for: Running with the ball

An exciting system, the 4-3-3 Attack should be used by players who like to run with the ball and make things happen. Think of it as a variant of the 4-2-3-1 wide, but with your defensive and wide midfielders pushing up.

A lot of options will be created in attack, but you can be hit on the counter very easily. It may be worth getting your central midfielders and possibly full backs to stay back on attack, or even dropping into a defensive mentality. 

4-3-3 False 9

Used by: Liverpool

Best for: Unsettling the defence

The 4-3-3 False 9 has been utilised by Spain, Germany, Barcelona, Liverpool and Chelsea in recent years, with the system not using a conventional striker.

Cesc Fabregas, Mario Gotze, Lionel Messi, Roberto Firmino and Eden Hazard have all operated in the false 9 for their respective sides, and the absolute key in this formation is movement.

The centre forward can drop deep to allow the midfielders to run beyond him (think Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane at Liverpool), or he can interchange with the two wingers to unsettle the defence. To get him to drop deep, change his attacking runs instruction to False 9, and for fluidity change both build up play and chance creation positioning to free form. 

4-2-4

Used by: None

Best for: Rolling the dice

If you are in need of a goal late on, go for a 4-2-4. You do sacrifice keeping possession in midfield, but with four attackers, you will get a chance to score.

With so many attacking players you will want to be swinging balls into the box, so think about brining on a striker who is strong in the air. Your midfielders will need a high stamina stat as they go back and forth between midfield and attack, and one of these should be selected to stay back on attack.

Five at the back systems

5-4-1 Flat

Used by: Real Betis

Best for: Sitting deep

If you’re looking to sit deep and absorb pressure from an opponent, go for the 5-4-1. It won’t be pretty, but you will make things very difficult for the opposing attack. 

The problem lies when you have the ball. You first must decide whether you want a traditional number 9 who can hold the ball up and win the aerial duels, or go for a speedier forward who can get in behind.

Either way, they will have a lot to do on their own, so both of your wide players and one of the central midfielders will need to help out. Select these players to get into the box for crosses on the instructions tab to give the forward some support.

If you’re struggling for options in midfield, you can also get one of your centre backs (ideally the middle one) to join the attack. If you are still struggling to break down the opposition, opt for an attacking mentality. 

5-4-1 Diamond

Used by: Augsburg

Best for: Options on the counter attack

A more open version of the Flat system, the 5-4-1 Diamond works much in the same way as the 4-1-2-1-2 Wide or 3-4-3 Diamond. With your striker supported by an attacking midfielder, there is enough attacking options, but you can still get exposed in midfield.

It’s vital that your defensive midfielder stays back on attack, and that your defender at the centre of the defence joins the attack to help out. What you decide to do with your wide players is tough, as the wing backs can supply the width, so you should experiment with the instructions to get them to cut inside or get into the box. 

5-3-2

Used by: England

Best for: Driving through the middle

England used this formation on their way to the World Cup semi-finals as it protected their unreliable defence without sacrificing numbers in midfield. 

The weakness can come in the wide areas, with just the wing-backs on the flanks, but if they receive the appropriate support from the centre backs, central midfielders and strikers, this issue can be resolved. It is vital that one of your attackers is pacey, and should look to drift into wide areas. 

All of your outfield players apart from your most central defender and most central midfielder need to have plenty of legs to stop gaps from appearing. To aid you with the defensive work, get at least one of your strikers to go in for aggressive interceptions and “press the back line” on the instructions tab. Your two wider central midfielders should be conservative in their interceptions to balance this out.

5-2-1-2

Used by: West Brom

Best for: Running with the ball on the break

Very similar is the 5-2-1-2. This sees the most central midfielder moved up to an attacking midfield role, meaning that the entire midfield and attack have to contribute to the defensive effort.

Again, your strikers should press the defence and the central midfielders should hold their position, but what you do with the CAM is much more difficult. You can change his positioning freedom to “free roam” so he can pop up out wide from time-to-time, but if he remains central, he could find room to play in the strikers or shoot from range.

Your two central midfielders will need plenty of energy to cover in the wide areas as will the wing-backs to charge up and down the flanks.

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Alastair Pusinelli

I am RealSport's Editor-in-Chief having covered almost everything across the board on the platform. Starting with content on football and the Chinese Super League, I have expanded into esports and gaming, via a stint as rugby editor.

With RS now focused on gaming and working alongside Gfinity, I led the site's coverage on the football titles of FIFA, Football Manager and PES. This has enabled me to cover official esports events such as the FIFA eWorld Cup, FUT Champions Cups and the Gfinity FIFA Series.

Elsewhere, I have been published in The Sunday Times and Variety magazine, as well as working in the offices of Brighton & Hove Albion FC and Hampshire CCC.

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