Football tactics and formations have evolved a lot with time. From eleven players running with the ball towards the goal of pressing, counter-pressing, and playing positions football has taken a huge leap. These evolutions resulted in the implementation of various tactics and formations. The on and off paper formations also evolved gradually. From an orthodox 2-3-5, 4-4-2 to 4-3-3, 4-2-3-1 and now 3-4-3, 3-2-4-1 football formations have gone through a revolutionary change. But still, now 4-3-3 remains one of the most stable formations on paper. Today we will discuss the various aspects of 4-3-3 formation.
Overview of the 4-3-3 Formation
Every variation of 4-3-3 requires more or less same players.
- 2 Center Backs,1 of them should have good distributive skills.
- 2 fullbacks, They can be attacking or defensive depending on the team’s tactics. But most of the modern managers use attacking fullbacks to exploit wing spaces
- 3 Central Midfielders, One of them is a Box to Box midfielder (no.8). Who provides support in both attack and defense. The acts as the engine of the team. One plays as a defensive midfielder (no.6). He provides cover to the defense and connects defense with the midfield. One is the creative midfielder (no. 10). He supplies ball to the wingers and strikers. He also carries the ball and provides an extra man in attack. He directs the team’s attacking movement.
Variation of 4-3-3 formation occurs with the position of midfielders. Some team deploys two box to box midfielders or two creative midfielders. Some deploy 3 attacking-minded players instead of a Central Defensive Midfielders.
- 2 wingers, They operate on both flanks. They press opponent fullbacks stopping them to move up. They also provide low crosses and passes for the forward to score.
- 1 lone striker, He mainly stays up front holding the ball. He mainly joins the wingers and creates space in between defensive lines for others to make a run.
In modern football, some team uses false 9 or dropping forward instead of a proper striker. He drops down connecting with the midfield and the two wingers move centrally to form two forwards leaving the wings for fullbacks. The system then looks like a 4-4-2 diamond. This system is mainly seen in Klopp’s Liverpool.
Types of the of 4-3-3 Formation
Now Let’s first venture into the three basic types of the 4-3-3 Formation:
4-3-3 Formation Analysis : Linear
This is the most basic 4-3-3 formation. The midfield in this shape comprises of three central midfielders. They can be creative of Box to Box according to the team’s requirements. In 4-3-3 system players can attack both through the center or through the flanks. The central mids sometimes move to the flank depending on the opponent’s attacking preferences providing extra cover.
Like the other 4-3-3’s this also triggers high pressing and breaking an opponent’s defense on transition. But this variation is not matched in use in modern football due to less defensive covers. During overlapping of fullbacks, this system leaves a lot of space on the wing and if the midfielders drop to cover it then the opponent could break them outnumbering players in mid. This system is not much in use in current world football.
4-3-3 Formation Analysis: Defensive
This system is widely used in top tier football. It mainly comprises of a Central Defensive Midfielder, a Box to Box, and a creative midfielder. Some teams like to use 2 box to box midfielders instead of a creative midfielder. The Central Defensive Midfielder shields the defense, marks opponent Central Attacking Midfielder and releases the pressure of the Center Back.
The midfield shapes like a triangle where the Central Defensive Midfielders stays at the bottom. The no.10 player mainly plays in a free role. He carries the ball forward exploit half spaces connect with wingers and forward and provide between the line balls. He orchestrates the whole attack. The Box to Box midfielder moves up and down with possession. He provides an extra man in attack. The fullbacks in this system can also overlap freely and during their overlap, the Central Defensive Midfielder covers the space left behind. This system lets teams play through the opponent press by creating passing triangles. This system favors both possession and counterattacking teams.
With the presence of a no 10 player, the forward also gets support in releasing second balls and creating space in between the defense. While defending this system becomes narrow with the Central Defensive Midfielder dropping in between two Centre Backs. This helps to nullify opponent attacks and start transitions with the help of speedy wingers and fullbacks. This formation is used widely. Klopp uses two number 8 variation while Guardiola and Zidane use the one no. 8 and one no. 10 variations.
4-3-3 Formation Analysis: Attacking
This is the most attacking variation of the 4-3-3 system. The players are similar to the defensive variation. But the creative in this system becomes a full-fledged attacking midfielder. He operates in the zone 14 and joins the forwards with the mid. He generally stays near half line when the possession is lost to initiate counters.
He acts as the tip of the triangle. The base is formed by a defensive midfielder and a box to box midfielder. Sometimes Deep Lying Playmaker is also used instead of a box to box midfielder if the passing abilities of the defensive mid are not great. The wingers move inside providing space for the fullbacks to move forward. The ball movement mainly depends on the combination and creation passing triangles.
The midfielders often move in the half-space and exploit space in between Fullbacks and Central Backs. These teams mainly defend in a 5-3-2 shape blocking the mid. This formation is also much in use. Managers like Flick and Inzaghi uses this formation
Advantages of 4-3-3 Formation
- Pressing– This system allows teams to press high up the pitch.
- Playing through the press– The formation of passing triangles helps the team to play through opponent press
- Versatility– This system suits in various ideas. It helps possessional, defensive and counter-attacking styles of play.
- Covering of space– This system more or less covers maximum part of the pitch. Opponent gets very little space to play through
- 4-4-2 counter– This system counters the 4-4-2 system perfectly. The extra man in the midfield gives huge advantage against opponents.
- Use of Wing Spaces– The usage of wing spaces is one of the characteristics of this system. The wingers and fullbacks exploit wing space to create goal-scoring chances
Disadvantages of 4-3-3 Formation
- These teams suffer against 5 man mid teams. They create a huge central overload by using the wide-mids.
- The forward in the 4-3-3 system becomes alone in between two Center Backs. He can be easily outnumbered by two physical Center Backs
- The no. 10 should be an excellent passer and mover of the ball or else there is a chance of attacks getting dried up.
- In basic 4-3-3 the space left behind by overlapping backs can be easily exploited.
Examples of Some Iconic Teams following the 4-3-3 Formation
Pep Guardiola and his Barcelona side played fluid tiki-taka following the 4-3-3 formation. It was one of the greatest teams of modern football which redefined the formation and mesmerized the whole world with their beautiful football.
Jurgen Klopp and his Liverpool side brought home the Premier League to Anfield after a 30 long year wait. Their Gegenpressing style of football using the 4-3-3 formation helped them achieve this extraordinary feat.
Like every system, there are certain disadvantages of 4-3-3 Formation. But this is one of the most common football formations used. It is simple, less demanding and can be utilized in different ways. It gives stability to each and every department. That’s why it is still used by managers of the 21st century. So hope you liked the 4-3-3 Formation Analysis.
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