Midfield positioning on 16yd hits and presses when using 4-4-2?

Midfield positioning on 16yd hits and presses when using 4-4-2?

hi there

I'm using 4-4-2 and on sometimes 3-1-4-2 with a lower level hockey team.

I've chosen this over other formations, simply because the hockey experience and ability of my players is not of a high level (and most people have an approximate understanding of 442). Also, I believe that one must choose a formation based on players traits and what they can deliver.

For example, I'd ideally prefer to have 3 forwards, to help with more height and width but then would have to either play 3 in the middle or 3 at the back... and my player strengths don't permit this. In short, I simply don't believe I have a strong enough CH / CM to handle 3 in the middle and I'm not convinced that the off-the-ball support from other players is strong enough to allow 3 in the middle.


Anyway, I'm not 100% where to get my centre mids to stand when we have a 16 yd hit to take (i.e. our possession).

Obviously one of the CMs comes deep to offer a potential direct outlet from the centre backs or offer an overload option if the ball goes out to the sides (which is more likely, since I've pretty much banned the high risk play of releasing up the middle - we've had far too many turnovers in our final third or quarter because we tried to play up the middle).

My players are 'aware' of posting up and leading runs.

However, I'm not sure about the 2nd CM. On the one hand I'd ideally like the 2nd CM to come deep as well, in order to potentially help break up the opposition press but by doing so, I distort the midfield and if we do manage to get the ball to one of the CMs, he won't have the 2nd CM in a higher position to release to, etc.


Can someone suggest, again, about midfield positioning using 4-4-2 or 3-1-4-2, when we are setting up a general press?

I have traditionally encouraged man marking, simply because our general positional awareness is weak (which makes zonal play a no-no IMO) + our tracking and attitude to committed defending (i.e. you don’t give up if one tackle fails) could be better! However, looking at suggested presses on Sportplan, some zonal positioning seems a necessity and I think if I can help my players make the step, success will come because they've been forced to become more aware of their pitch positioning, etc.

Also, looking at some of the presses, it looks like the midfield can go 'flat' to create a barrier... and as I encourage a diamond shape in midfield, I need to explain to my players what to do and when.

Sorry for the wordy question. I hope this all makes sense.



Gary ThompsonCoach, England
Hockey CoachCoach

Gary, from the description you have a tricky problem, in that most of the traditional presses work well with 3 forwards supported by a W formation from a 5 man midfield.

With 4-4-2 you either need to train them to shuffle a player forward to make a front 3, but by the sound of it you'll have a big task introducing that level of movement, or take a wholly different approach.

Have you considered using half court instead of a 3/4 press - true it gives up a lot more of the pitch, but it slows the opposition successfully and is easier to start to get your players thinking about cutting passing channels rather than marking players.

Alternatively, if you have good fitness / workrate from your front 2, you could use them as chasing hunting players to pressure the oppo back line and then produce the traditional W or staggered 3&3 press behind them, a number of clubs employ this against us and it's a pain for our back 4 - though in my estimation not as secure as a good 3/4 or German press

Finally, have you considered using a press to force the play wide rather than bottling it up as per typical presses. It was more popular years ago, but some sides line up lopsided - typically blocking out the oppositions right hand channels, forcing them weak side, and once they take that side of the pitch squeseze the players against the side line, does need good discipline in body positioning not to let players cut / pass inside

Hockey CoachCoach

Hi Gary,I agree with Doug in that when pressing it is far easier with 3 forwards. However, I share your problem with not having the personnel to play with 3 upfront. We also play 4-4-2. How we set is is our 3 defenders man mark and our sweeper is always free. The 3 sweeper then commands the midfield onto the players they need to mark (you need a vocal and experienced players to do this). This usually ends with our left midfielder acting as a 3rd forward and assisting in the press. We aim to always protect the middle of the pitch and when ever possible force the ball to the oppositions left back. I know you have said your team may struggle to play this style but I'm sure if you could get them all to train together and set up Attack V Defence in 16 yd hit situations you will be able to talk it though and get them to see the benefit. How I ask our 2 CM's to work when we have a 16 is to start on the 1/2 way line and one of them posts up which creates space, then if they haven't received the ball within a few seconds they peel back out to the 1/2 way line and the 2nd CM steps in. I hope this helps you, it is simple and effective against any formation the opposition plays. We have played with this all season and are currently 2nd in our league.
Answered using Sportplan on Mobile

Gary ThompsonCoach, England

Thank you both very much for your insights.

Unfortunately, for various reason, I average about 6-7 players from my team at training... which makes it difficult to work on team shape and outletting. This is a huge frustration but you can't make people train and I think one has to be philosophical too about life getting in the way of hockey!

I like the suggestion about the CMs posting up, one at a time. I will give that a go.

My only concern is that a high opposition press or just an aggressive ring round our 16yd freehit can be effective in isolating the CMs from play (if they were around the halfway line) and would encourage at least one to come very deep, just to offer a potential outlet.

Also, I don't have anyone who can aerial either, which would help in at least getting the ball successfully out of our quarter / third  - annoyingly I’m the only one but I'm having to cover in goal at the moment!

Half court is a good idea... but again, the training problem rears its ugly head and you still have to work hard and know what you're doing to deliver it. Equally well though, it's something to focus on.

In regard to having 3 up front, this could work because, as I mentioned, we sometimes run 3-1-4-2, so we could have the 2nd CB actually pushing say our high CM essentially into a FOR position.

Doug - you mentioned a staggered 3&3 press. Could you draw what you mean?

I can't visualise it. I am thankfully familiar with the W formation but am a little loathe to try switching to it, only because I think I'd be asking a lot of my players to deliver the awareness required to hold this different positioning.

Btw, I really am grateful though for your comments, even if it sounds like I'm just saying no to everything!



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