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Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola insists that formations “are nothing more than phone numbers”.

The implication is that his players move from their positions so much that the stated formation they start in does not in fact matter.

The players are so rarely in that shape that there is barely any need to name the formation.

However, to most of us, formations provide a useful framework from which we start to build up an idea of how a certain team or manager plays. So, we've decided to take a look at football's most popular formations. Why would any manager prefer one over another? What are the strengths and weaknesses of each? Read on to find out, and then draw your own conclusions as to which works best.

If there's one thing that has permeated football debates since the birth of the sport, it's the validity and effectiveness of one formation over another. With no 'perfect' answer, history has witnessed an ebbing and flowing between one formation and the next as coaches try to overcome and reinvent the prevailing trends of the moment.

This unyielding race towards new knowledge and innovation is one of the primary reasons behind the constant evolution of the sport. Without doubt, a coach that can implement a formation strategy that their peers are unfamiliar with has an enormous advantage going into a competition.

Below we dissect some of the most popular formations in football today and highlight some of their most crucial strengths and weaknesses.

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