Thoughts on this could go on forever and maybe this page will expand in the future, but for now, we've tried to summarise briefly, with the caveat of saying that developing players who can think for themselves on the pitch and understand the need to adapt positionally during the game is arguably far more important than worrying too much about formations, especially at the younger ages.

Remember, in 11 a side particularly, because they play FIFA, the players probably know more about formations than the coach!

See the following pages for some ideas on formations for different team sizes:

5v5 Formations (U7 & U8)

Personally, I'm not convinced players need to be "worrying" about formations at this age. You're going to want to encourage them to start understanding the principles of play (we find / create space when we have the ball and we're compact and hard to break down when we don't) but outside that, do U8 players really need to be thinking about 1-2-1 or 2-2 or 1-1-2? Maybe some folks think they do. Anyone with thoughts on this, please say... would be interesting to hear from coaches working with these age groups.

Players to Fit The Formation or The Formation to Fit The Players?

Some coaches will decide on a formation they want to play and will stick religiously to that. Others may decide on the formation depending on the strengths and weaknesses of the players in the squad. Two lightning quick wide players for example is going to mean you're likely to want to use them to hurt teams in wide areas.

Chopping and Changing... The Tinkerman

The most important thing for me with regard to formations, when we moved to a new format (from 9 a side to 11 a side for example) was that the players got used to something as quickly as possible, understood their basic roles and weren't confused by me chopping and changing from week to week or several times in a game. Over time, with practice and trying different things, you would hope to get your players used to several systems, so you can change mid game if the nature of the game and the opposition's system requires it, but like with anything else, you can't expect the kids to master anything if they only experience it for a very short time before being whisked off to try something different. It's very easy for coaches to get over-excited by tactics and formations... but if the players are confused it might look great on paper, when the reality will be hugely different.

I would argue it's ideal having the players understand one formation as a "default", where they really "get" their roles and responsibilities within that system, but having them practice a couple of others so they can switch if the game requires it is ideal, but of course that all takes time.