Dissecting the 5-3-2 Formation (FPL Deep Dive)

There are few better feelings for FPL managers than choosing the perfect starting eleven players on a given game week. While owning the best 15 players in the game is any manager’s dream, only eleven can make it onto the pitch.

Choosing the right formation can be a determining factor between a green or red arrow.

The 5-2-3 formation is a controversial one because it’s perceived as defensive. And as we know, defensive tactics aren’t always optimal in FPL.

Most FPL managers favour the more attacking 3-4-3 or 3-5-2 formations. But are these formations always the best option?

As an FPL manager, I’ve finished each of the last five seasons in the top 10% of players in the world. I’ve found that the 5-3-2 formation can be a great way of making up ground on the leader board if used correctly. Here’s why:

Pros of the 5-2-3 formation

In the 2021/22 FPL season, four of the top ten highest overall point scorers were defenders. Trent John Alexander-Arnold (TAA) alone brought his owners a massive 208 points and was the third-highest point scorer for the year.

The English Premier League has evolved over the years, and so too have players’ roles. Teams no longer adopt a five-at-the-back formation for defensive purposes.

Manchester City is a perfect example. João Cancelo was his team’s top-scoring player over the 2021/22 season. The defender contributed 12 attacking returns and 77 goal attempts in 36 appearances.

That’s an impressive haul! His attacking numbers have seen him start the 2022/23 season as a “must-have” asset. Cancello is currently owned by more than 50% of FPL managers.

Here are some of the reasons to opt for a 5-2-3 strategy:

#1 Defenders are usually cheaper than attacking players

Managing your budget is another major part of FPL. In the current 2022/23 season, TAA costs £7.5m. His teammate Andrew Robertson and Manchester City’s João Cancelo cost £7.0m each.

The trio makes up the highest-priced defenders in the game. Yet, they are still much cheaper than several popular attacking assets in FPL.

For example, Dominic Calvert-Lewin cost £8m!

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Due to the lower cost of defenders, FPL managers are able to spread their budget. This means that they have more to spend on premium midfielders and attackers.

#2 Potential for higher point returns

Defenders in FPL earn higher points for their attacking contributions. They also receive an additional 4 points for every clean sheet kept. This is a significant difference compared to midfielders, that only receive 1 point.

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Source: Premier League

#3 Defenders have greater potential to be a differential pick

Each year in FPL, there is a handful of attacking players that most managers prioritise. These attackers are also known as “must-haves”. Mohammed Salah has been an excellent example of this over the last five seasons.

But there is one issue with owning “must-have” players.

Using Salah as an example, if he does well in a given game week, all the managers who own him get the same number of points. So owning Salah isn’t very helpful if you’re trying to move up the ranks in your leagues.

FPL managers require differential players with a lower total selection base (TSB %). This allows managers to gain points by using players that are not widely owned.

#4 Fewer chances of rotation

EPL teams tend to have more attacking player options than defensive player options. This allows managers to substitute or rotate attacking players in matches more frequently.

High-performing defenders are rare. They can find themselves playing every game of the season, provided they do not pick up injuries.

Selecting players that start consistently is essential to FPL success.

In the event that your players get benched, you can find out more about how automatic substitutions work here.

#5 Maximising on players that play out-of-position

As an FPL manager, one thing that you may want to look out for are players listed as defenders but play further up the field.

In the 2022/23 season, Tottenham Hotspur FC purchased Ivan Perisic from Inter Milan FC. Perisic played left wing for Inter Milan and scored 49 goals with 37 assists during his time at the club.

Upon joining, his new club and FPL listed him as a defender despite playing in a much more advanced role for the team.

These types of players represent great value to FPL managers. They can benefit when the team keeps a clean sheet and have a higher ceiling for attacking returns.

Cons of the 5-2-3 formation

Despite the number of positives that come with using a 5-2-3 formation in FPL, there are also a few drawbacks.

If you’re adopting this formation, here are some downsides to consider:

#1 Fewer player options

A key factor for a defender to score well in FPL is contributing to defence and attack. Unfortunately, this isn’t something that many defensive players can do regularly.

Keeping clean sheets creates the majority of a defensive player’s points. In the modern game, very few teams can maintain good defensive records over the entire season. Plus, defenders get points subtracted from their total for every two goals conceded.

Here’s a look at the 2021/22 stats by team for clean sheets:

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Source: Premier League

Last season, the top 4 teams kept the most clean sheets. These are generally the teams from which you will be prioritising players. Once you remove rotational risk and injury-prone players, the defensive options left to select from can be quite limited.

#2 Lower bonus-point potential

Earning bonus points in FPL is crucial. Bonus points get awarded to players for various factors during the game. These points are calculated using the Bonus Point System (BPS).

The top 3 scoring players each receive up to 3 extra points added to their gameweek point total.

There is greater potential for attacking players to earn more bonus points. They are likelier to have more key passes, assists, and goals in a game and throughout the season.

Attacking contributions tend to outweigh defensive contributions in the BPS calculation. Midfielders and attackers are usually safer options for earning those all-important bonus points.

#3 Risk of player dependency

In FPL, a team is only allowed a maximum of five defenders. Using the 5-2-3 formation, you may run the risk of one of your defenders not playing in a given game week.

You will then have to rely on a bench player to step in, and your formation will change automatically.

If you’ve spent a large part of your budget on defence, your bench players are likely cheaper options. Cheaper attackers are usually low-scoring players.


A 5-2-3 formation can be an excellent differential formation in FPL.

In FPL, there are a lot more attacking than defensive options. The 5-2-3 formation can simplify your decision-making. It allows you to build your team around your defence.

After that, you can focus on attackers that complement the rest of your team and fit your budget.

The 5-2-3 formation is most effective in the early weeks of the season. FPL managers can use this formation to bide time while they decide on the best-attacking options.

You can find out the best times to make your FPL transfers during the gameweek here.

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