Best Soccer Formation For Possession

In today’s game, formations and strategies are just as crucial as individual players. When compared to the competition, a club that holds the advantages of attacking threat, possession, and defensive stability is typically in a stronger position.

Teams need to strike a balance between offense and defense in order to be successful, despite the fact that some formations are better suited for counterattacks and others are frequently an all-out hail mary in order to get an equalizer.

Soccer 5-3-2 Formation

If you give the opposing team permission to attack for the entire game, your confidence will suffer, and if they are successful in their attack, you will be in a difficult position. Playing possession allows your team to remain in control of the game. In other words, your team will control the pace of the game. This is crucial when the opposing team gains momentum after a goal or during high presses. If your team maintains control of the ball, it will continually break the momentum of the opposing team.

In this article, we will take a look at what is one of the best soccer formations for possession. It is also important to note that specific players should be suited for specific positions in order to bring out the best of their abilities on the pitch and we will discuss that here.

5-3-2 Formation

The 5-3-2 formation is a lineup that consists of 5 defenders, 3 midfielders, and 2 forwards. If played correctly this formation serves as a multi-purpose formation that changes shape during both attacking and defending. This flexibility not only makes it one of the best formations for possession but also for defending and attacking simultaneously. There is a lot to unpack with this formation but we will explain all it has to offer.

At first glance, the 5-3-2 formation looks like a fully defensive formation given the use of 5 defenders. This is true only if you keep the shape and defensive mentality during both attacking and defending. But – if you want to take advantage of the formation flexibility it instantly turns into a deadly formation.

5-3-2 Defensive Possession

There are certain times when holding possession in a defensive formation is needed based on match circumstances. The 5-3-2 formation focuses on having the backline with 5 defenders. There are 3 center backs (left center back, main center back, and right center back), and 2 full backs (right full back and left full back). With 5 defenders, it allows the link between the defense and top line easier due to the full-backs creating space by opening the field up for possession.

Soccer 5-3-2 Formation

As you can see in the image below, the formation allows multiple link-up passes by creating triangle-like spaces. It is not too difficult to pass the ball and keep possession of it while moving it between the defensive line and the offensive third of the field. The team can move as one unit depending on whether a deep line is preferred.

5-3-2 Offensive Possession

The flexibility of this formation allows the formation to change shape during an attack while easily allowing the switch to happen on the go. The magic again happens with the full-backs. The full-backs offensively turn into forward wingers, changing the formation on the go to a 3-3-4.

The possession shape still allows multiple link-up passes due to the location of the players. All that is needed to return back to shape is for the full-backs to return with the back line creating a U-style defensive line. The benefit of this formation is that if your team is caught in a break-away attack while the full-backs are still up high, there are still 3 defenders in the back, unlike other formations that would only have 2 if their full-backs went up such as the standard 4-3-3.

5-3-2 Player Characteristics

This formation due to the flexibility can be most effective with certain player characteristics if used properly. We will use the player numbers in the image below to refer to the player type needed for this formation.

Soccer 5-3-2 Formation
  • Player #4 – should be able to read the game defensively such as knowing the proper moments when to step into an attacker or when to cut passes. This is important because this player will act as the last line of defense and any crucial mistake will cause a break-away.
  • Players #6 and #5 – should be comfortable playing out of the back with their feet. Good ability to pass is crucial as this player has various options to move the ball forward as well as send long balls to change the field.
  • Players #2 and #3 – should be one of the fittest players due to the vast amount of coverage on the field. This player should have the natural ability to dribble into space and open the field up. The ability to provide deep crosses is also preferred as this player can create a vast amount of opportunity for the attackers.
  • Player #8 – should be the vision of the team. This player should be technically gifted as they are the central midfielder and will provide passing options as the team moves possession.
  • Players #7 and #10 – should be best suited for box-to-box players. These players create the central link to build up the play for the offensive and provide an outlet for the defense.
  • Players #11 and #9 – should be players that track back to defend and not stay up with the defender’s line. These players need to track back because during possession, they act as a link for the full-backs.


The key piece to this formation is to have the correct full-backs in this formation. They are the ones who provide the flexibility of this 5-3-2 formation. A notable current player that is a great fullback for this formation is Jordi Alba from Barcelona. He has both defensive and offensive characteristics that allow him to be crucial during defense and attack.


Explore more professional clubs by continent.