The Evolution of Football (3): The Trending 3-4-3

The recently successful 3-4-3 formation is now adopted by a huge number of teams in European Football. Here we will take a look at the functions of different players in this formation and the reasons behind its success.

The 3-4-3 adopted most successfully by Antonio Conte and Pep Guardiola along many other coaches in Europe and in the World is developing to become one of the most important formations in football. Lining up four men at the back is considered a rule in football and that’s why the most applied formations are 4-4-2, 4-3-3 and 4-5-1, each applied in its different styles. You rarely found in football a team that lines up three or five defenders in every game. However, football changes and here is how a large number of teams are lining up three defenders successfully.

1- Not Neglecting Defense

Having three men at the back does not mean that this style is ignoring defense. Modern football is based on a changing formation that depends on the state of the game at every moment, with coaches regularly changing player roles even when the ball is in play. The key to the strong defense is that when the opponents have the ball, the two wingers from the midfield line act as full backs, which changes the three men defense to five when the wingers go back to give defensive support. The other midfielders act as two holding midfielders, while two of the three attackers also go back to support on the flanks with one striker staying in front to press the playmaker and the defenders not allowing them to comfortably build up the play.

2- Balancing the Attack

This formation needs very fast players and most times relies on the counter attack. The full backs go back to being midfielders and give their support to the three attackers, while support also comes from the middle with one or both central midfielders pushing forward depending on how much the team wants to attack.

However, some coaches use the 3-4-3 without relying on the counter, such as Guardiola. Pep likes to play possession football in order to dominate the match. His style is “ultra attacking”. He used the formation also in Barcelona and his idea is to try and break down the opponents’ attacks before they begin. This is why the ball barely reached the defense when Pep’s Barca played small opponents in La Liga. They want the game to be played in the opponents’ half.

The balance found between defense and attack makes it a complete formation that is capable of changing football as we are seeing today. The advantages of preferring 3-4-3 to other formations is traditional coaches aren’t used to it yet and solutions aren’t always found to stop its tactics.



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