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Top Four Analysis: Who Has the Strongest 4231 Line-Up?

In the modern game it’s not often teams stick to formations, they’re used as a template and a base to build from with so many interchangeable players that these clubs have at their disposal. Having said that, one of the most used formations in the Premier League is 4231. It’s the sort of formation that gives you balance and a solid defensive base which are two of the things you need within the Premier League to challenge.


With this in mind I decided to look at the squads of Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City to see which of these teams could field the strongest 4231 formation. Obviously many may have different line-ups in mind to the ones I select but that’s the beauty of football.



I realise the two centre midfielders will surprise a few people here but with the likes of Alexis, Ozil and Cazorla on the pitch you don’t necessarily need a deep lying playmaker so my reasoning for picking Ramsey and Coquelin is because in this area you’ll need security, which Coquelin offers, for when Ramsey makes his forward runs. Ramsey is important to this system as the likes of Ozil and Cazorla are creators, they will score but you also need goals from a little deeper and that’s what Ramsey brings.

For me personally this team should finish top 4 but in order to properly challenge for the title they need upgrades in the full-back area, maybe another holding midfielder and then an improvement on Giroud. That’s not to say the players they have already can’t do a job, they’re just the ones I’d target when upgrading.



The current champions have so much balance. They’ve the ability to blow teams away but they can also sit deep and grind out a result. This differs to the Arsenal style with the Chelsea team having more workers in. The likes of Oscar and Willian are attacking players but you’ll find them in defensive areas helping out from time to time. You then have Matic shielding the defence and Cesc pulling the strings. It’s the kind of traditional relationship you see in a 4231, a defensive midfielder and a deep lying playmaker.

If you were looking at upgrades once again you’d be looking at the defence. Both Gary Cahil and Brainslav Ivanovic have done well for Chelsea over the past few seasons but there are signs they aren’t the players they once were. I don’t know how many players there are in this world like Ivanovic but it may mean Chelsea need to tweak their tactics if a new signing does come in. With regards to Cahill, Chelsea have Kurt Zouma and they’re chasing John Stones.

Manchester City


I’ve picked Kolarov due to the fact I think he’s less attacking when compared to Clichy and with this midfield Man City need defensive stability. I think Mangala will nail a starting position this season having had a year to adjust and he’ll truly show his worth. He may not be offered much protection though with Yaya and Fernandinho ahead of him. Both of these midfielders are brilliant at what they do but is defending what they do? Not for me. City will be looking at their attacking quartet to score enough to cover whatever defensive deficiencies they may have. Sterling will add something to this City side and David Silva must be salivating at the prospect of having both Sterling and Aguero ahead of him.

City are far from perfect. Their left-back could be improved upon. Their centre midfield could be upgraded on. They either need a defensive midfielder or a more energetic box-to-box midfielder and finally an upgrade on Samir Nasri. I think he’d be a great squad player for Man City but a Kevin De Bruyne would be a massive upgrade and if he settles quickly he could  propel them to the title.

Manchester United


United have spent a lot of money since Van Gaal took over. This side is close to being balanced with the acquisitions of Darmian, Schniederlin, Schweinstiger and Depay. The midfield duo here like Chelsea’s is close to perfection on paper. The German legend dictating play with the French destroyer doing what he does best.  I thought United looked a little blunt against Spurs so my decision to use Herrera like Chelsea use Oscar could spark some life into that talented attack. He’d also help the midfield out when needed.

However if I were to upgrade this side I’d say the centre of defence needs improvements. Possibly the goalkeeper if David De Gea does leave and then a creative number 10 if Herrera isn’t fancied there. You could move Mata to the 10 and then buy an inside forward with pace to compliment Rooney and Memphis.


I’ve given a brief description of each side and how I’d improve them. If I had to pick a balanced 4231 side on paper it’d either be Chelsea or United. I do think the firepower of both Arsenal and City though will equal this out and it’ll be a competitive race for not just top 4 but for the title, it won’t be a walk in the park for Chelsea again. Football isn’t played on paper though so what may look questionable could work better than anybody expected and it surprise a few people.

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