7v7 Soccer is another crucial step on the way from small-sided games to 11v11. But as players get slightly closer to the adult game, how much should coaches think about shapes and systems? Below, we discuss what makes a good formation, explain how to use team shape to facilitate player development, and consider some of the best 7v7 soccer formations.
In This Article
- Choosing the Best 7v7 Soccer Formations
- Remembering the Individual
- Using 7v7 Soccer to Provide Mixed Playing Experiences
- 7 on 7 Soccer Formations: Some Practical Examples
- The Key Points: Picking the Best 7v7 Soccer Formations
Choosing the Best 7v7 Soccer Formations
What is the best soccer formation for 7v7? It’s different for every team, and will depend upon a variety of factors. As coaches, we should first consider the individuals we’re working with. Things like their developmental goals, their learning plans, the types of players they are, and where they are in their journey — and, if we have one, the philosophy of our club. Then it’s a matter of identifying shapes that give us opportunities to work on these things on gameday.
As an example, we may wish to train specific units — for instance, a center-back pairing or a midfield three — in order to help players develop relationships in certain areas of the pitch, and build our formation around those units. Alternatively, if we want to give a center-back more experience of defending 1v1, we might only select one defender, thereby maximizing their exposure to 1v1s on gameday.
Ultimately, the best formation will be tailored to the individual needs of our players, in order to stretch them and provide specific challenges.
Remembering the Individual
According to PDP Co-Founder Dave Wright, “The best environments look at players as a collective group of individuals, considering what their targets are and how they tie together on gameday. The better you understand the individuals in your team, the more your shapes will reflect them.”
But when choosing a formation to suit the individuals in our team, it’s important not to overcomplicate our approach or overload players with information. Kids often progress to 7-a-side games around the time that they’re playing U10 soccer — while they’re still learning the game and building a relationship with the ball and their teammates — and we should remember to be patient while they learn new formations.
Using 7v7 Soccer to Provide Mixed Playing Experiences
While it’s essential to give players time to learn a new formation, we should also consider occasionally adjusting our shape, or the way we play within it, to give kids different experiences.
This could mean playing two or three different formations over the course of a season, or simply playing different variations of the same shape. For example, depending on the context of the game we’re playing, we may encourage our team to press higher up the pitch, increase the distances between one another, or, perhaps if the opposition is particularly challenging, shorten those distances and become more compact.
Crucially, this doesn’t mean reactively changing our formation following a poor result or performance, but using our formation to give kids different experiences on the pitch and support their learning objectives.
7 on 7 Soccer Formations: Some Practical Examples
The 1-2-3-1 Formation
The 1-2-3-1 formation sets our team up with two defenders, three midfielders, and a lone striker.
“One benefit is that you can have constant rotation of the three midfield players,” explains Wright. “For instance, you could play with a 6, who acts as a constant pivot and a screener, and then an 8 and a 10 rotated, with one to the side and one higher. You can work on different outcomes for each of that midfield three — and when they eventually move into an 11v11 environment, that combination will feel quite natural to them.”
Elsewhere, playing two at the back is likely to give defenders opportunities to play 1v1 and outnumbered, and perhaps allow them to practice decision-making in terms of when to make forward runs and when to cover for their teammate. The 1-2-3-1 also links nicely to the 1-4-3-3 formation when players move to the 11v11 game with two centre backs playing out together and linking in with a midfield three. The midfield three can play like a central combination, or two of the three could opt to provide width. This decision would result in the central midfield player being tested in 1v1/1v2 scenarios in possession.
The 1-3-2-1 Formation
The 1-3-2-1 formation offers lots of versatility. For example, with a back three, we can encourage two defenders to play like fullbacks or wingers — giving them chances to overlap and build a relationship with the midfielder in front of them while also providing the center-back with exposure to 1v1 and 1v2 scenarios.
In midfield, the two can play side by side, like a central pairing in a 1-4-4-2, or operate more like a 6, sitting deeper, and a 10, playing higher up the pitch — preparing them for two of the three midfield roles in a 1-4-3-3. The lone striker will also receive plenty of exposure to 1v1s and 1v2s and have opportunities to develop relationships with wide players and central midfielders.
As such, the 1-3-2-1 formation provides great preparation for playing in a 1-4-4-2 or 1-4-3-3 shape when players eventually progress to the 11-a-side game. It also affords many opportunities to tailor the roles of individual players to suit their developmental goals.
These two examples demonstrate how we can use formations to address the specific needs of our players, but there are many more 7v7 soccer formations we can try. The ‘best’ will be one that’s based upon the individuals in our team and designed to help them achieve their learning objectives on game day.
The Key Points: Picking the Best 7v7 Soccer Formations
- The best formation is different for every team and will depend upon factors like the players we’re working with and our desired playing style.
- We should consider the individual needs and learning objectives of our players when choosing a formation.
- We can play different formations — or change the way we play within a given shape — to give our players a variety of experiences.
- We should be patient when helping players to learn new shapes and systems.
- Give the players time to explore and get familiar with different shapes. Success could be defined as players receiving in space and creating the opportunity to keep possession or play forward in this age group.
- Formations aren’t an opportunity to put on a tactical masterclass; they’re a valuable tool to support player development.
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