The course of a game year can see FIFA 21 players cycling through formations weekly as fans try to combat the never-ending release of patches by EA Sports. The game is regularly updated, with small adjustments to the meta arriving alongside new promotions and content releases.

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It can be a real hindrance for players competing on FIFA Ultimate Team. Found a new tactic that's working perfectly? Great. Enjoy it while it lasts. Too often players find themselves ranking up and EA changes the party with a new patch. Still, some formations usually hold up throughout the year, here are the best formations in FIFA 21.

Updated August 9, 2021, by Thomas Heath: After a year of patches, content releases, and updates to the ultimate team mode, this updated list provides you with the best formations to use in FIFA 21, including recommended players and custom tactics to make the best of each formation. As FIFA is a constantly evolving game it can be hard to settle down with one formation for a long period of time, all of the listed formations have proven to be effective across the whole of the cycle and continue to be used by normal players and pro players alike.

10 4-4-2 Flat

Key Positions: Central Midfielders, Wide Midfielders, Strikers

The old-fashioned 4-4-2: a classic footballing formation used less frequently in the real world but a favourite of many players in FIFA 21, especially in the professional scene. Manchester City eSports star Shellzz regularly gets 30 wins on the FUT Champions Weekend League using this system. You'll want to ensure both central midfield players can offer something both defensively and offensively. Expect regular holes in your defence otherwise.

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The flexibility of the 4-4-2 means it can also be used to close out a game by instructing the four midfielders to come back on defence on their player instructions, putting two banks of four players in front of your goal when defending a slim lead late-on. It isn't pretty at times but it is incredibly effective, just make sure your strikers can let you break out on the counter and you should be set.

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9 4-1-2-1-2 (2) Narrow Diamond

Key Positions: Central Midfielders, Central Attacking Midfielder

The 4-1-2-1-2 has orbited around the professional FIFA scene for some time after pro player Gorilla's interpretation helped win the 2017 FIFA Interactive World Cup (FIWC). The formation flourishes due to its ability to pack players into the middle of the pitch, letting you overwhelm teams centrally while its narrow structure makes it hard to break down forcing opponents to push the ball out wide. For that reason ensure your team width is very low in order to make the most of this formation.

With the wealth of well-rounded players available in the game now, such as Path to Glory Marcos Acuna and Icon Moments Lothar Matthaus, this formation is better than ever. You can effectively have a midfield of four attackers when you play forward, supporting your two strikers, as well as four additional defenders if you're holding on to a tight lead.

8 4-1-4-1

4-1-4-1 FIFA 21 Formation

Key Positions: Defensive Midfielder, Wide Midfielders

The 4-1-4-1 is definitely suited to more defensive players, offering a Defensive Midfielder in the place of an additional striker. This position is very important as having a solid player in here such as Team of the Year Joshua Kimmich or Summer Stars Manuel Locatelli lets your other two midfielders have a licence to attack with little concern to defensive duties.

The wingers will act as the main creators in the 4-1-4-1 so you want to go for agile players with great passing in these positions. You'll need your striker to be an all-rounder too, possessing speed, aerial dominance and the ability to hold up the ball, to make up for the lack of a striking partner.

7 4-2-3-1 (Wide)

4-2-3-1 (Wide) FIFA 21 Formation

Key Positions: Defensive Midfielder, Attacking Midfielder

The 4-2-3-1 (Wide) is more defensive than the narrow version and is much better suited to a possession-based style of football, so if you're comfortable holding onto the ball it's a great choice. The two wingers allow you to stretch the play if you're playing against a narrow formation and you can create a free-flowing three behind the one striker which can confuse opponents when defending.

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You can also push one of the defensive midfielders forward to create an overload when going forward, with that player supporting your four attackers. This works especially well in the latter stages of those tight FUT Champs matches, just make sure to use a creative player like Team of the Season Kevin De Bruyne alongside someone more defensive like Summer Stars Kalvin Phillips to maximise the potential this dynamic partnership can produce. The 4-2-3-1 is really dynamic too, allowing you to adapt it according to the current state of a game.

6 4-1-2-1-2 (Wide)

4-1-2-1-2 (Wide) FIFA 21 Formation

Key Positions: Defensive Midfielder, Attacking Midfielder, Wingers

The 4-1-2-1-2 (Wide) is a brilliant counter-attacking formation, with the two wingers creating a five-man attack force if you play your cards right. Keeping your strikers on Stay Central, and your more advanced midfielder on Stay Forward allow you to overpower most defences with ease. Just make sure your defensive midfielder doesn't move too far forward in order to create what is effectively a five-man defensive unit.

You do need to ensure all your players have high stamina if you opt to use this system, especially your wingers who'll be up and down the wings throughout the game. Players such as Path to Glory Eden Hazard and Team of the Season Heung Min Son are both great options who have high stamina.

5 4-2-2-2

FIFA 21 Ultimate Team 4222 Tactics Formation

Key Positions: Attacking Midfielders, Defensive Midfielders, Full-Backs

The four-triple-two suits a direct counter-attacking style of play with two fast forwards who can combine to disrupt opposition defensive lines. One reason some competitive players prefer this system is because of the ability to tell your defensive midfielders to 'cut passing lanes' which isn't accessible in the 4-4-2. The addition of fast endgame central players such as Team of the Season Lionel Messi and Path to Glory Phil Foden makes the 4-2-2-2 more viable than ever.

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Keeping your full-backs on Stay Back While Attacking allows you to ensure defensive stability whilst letting the six players in front of the defence to bomb forward. Keeping your CDMs on Cover Center means that there are no gaps down the middle of the pitch too, this lets you rest easy knowing that there are no gaps across your defensive line, with these two players providing an anchor point for attacks too.

4 4-3-2-1

4321 Formation FIFA 21 Tactics

Key Positions: Full-Backs, Central Midfielder (Middle), Left & Right Forward

A counter-attacking style of play suits the 4-3-2-1, putting the attacking three players on stay forward gives you a narrow front three which will either overwhelm two centre backs or match three of them. You can be countered fairly easily in this system, so you need to commit to a fast, attacking style of play with quick defenders in order to gain the most from this formation.

Setting the full-backs to stay back can help prevent this a bit, as can making one of your three central players drop a bit deeper to support the defence.

3 3-5-2

FIFA Ultimate Team 352 Formation Tactics

Key Positions: Wide Midfielders, Central Defensive Midfielders, Attacking Midfielder

If you're good at defending, the 3-5-2 is one of the games best formations. No full-backs mean a simple through-ball will see your opponents in space in your attacking third, but using the two defensive midfielders as a shield for your back three can alleviate most issues.

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You should be looking to push the ball forward through your CAM, so instruct them to stay forward in order to allow them to work in an effective front three with your two strikers. Out wide you should be looking at players who can act as both wingers and full-backs such as Team of the Season Lucas Vázquez and Futties Carvajal.

2 3-4-2-1

3421 Formation Tactics FIFA Ultimate Team

Key Positions: Wide Midfielders, Central Midfielders

A high defensive line and 3-4-2-1 is one of the go-to systems for the pros looking to suffocate their opponents and score quick goals. It does come with the major issue of being defensively vulnerable if you lose the ball high up the pitch, but employing central midfielders who have great stamina and aren't afraid to get stuck in can help prevent this.

Using Drop Back combined with a low depth can also help counter defensive issues, and combining this with a quick build-up style of play can be highly effective. Similar to the 3-5-2, use your wingers as hybrid full-backs and you can easily switch to a 5-2-3 when defending.

1 5-2-1-2

Key Positions: Wing-Backs, Attacking Midfielder, Central Midfielders

The 5-2-1-2 is one of the most balanced formations in FIFA 21, it gives you three attacking options, which can be supported by the two Wing-Backs who act as faux-wingers when going forward. There are plenty of full-backs who can fulfil this role, including Team of the Year Trent Alexander-Arnold and Futties James Tavernier.

Having high width is important if you want to get the most out of the 5-2-1-2, and combined with making one of the central midfielders act in a more defensive role makes it very balanced offensively and defensively. Your attacking midfielder will often be the pivot from defence to attack, so ideally you want your best player in this position.

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