Soccer Formations: 4-3-3

4-3-3, soccer formations, soccer tactics, formation based soccer training, soccer training tips

Down a goal? Wanna start the game in a 4-3-3 for some real offensive pressure on the opponent? Get that early goal and take the game by the neck? Well lining up in this formation will definitely give your opponents something to think about. More offensive minded and aggressive is this formation in a nutshell, so if you think you have the personnel to pull it off, make it happen.

So now you wanna know which professional sides use this formation and why it's successful for them? As well as the requirements and demands this formation takes on from an individualistic and team stand point. Okay Fergie time to mold your team into the attacking side you've always dreamed of. No pressure.

Is the 4-3-3 Difficult for Opponents to Handle?

If played with the right energy and mentality the 4-3-3 can be a nightmare for opponents. A back four that has three strikers running at them for ninety minutes and pressuring them every time they so much as look at the ball can be quite a handful.

As much as this formation promotes offensive play you need midfielders that can cover a lot of ground to be able to compensate for only three in the middle.

What are the Strengths/Weaknesses of the 4-3-3?

Well unfortunately there is no perfect formation or we'd all be playing it. The 4-3-3 has it's appealing and not so appealing attributes like every set up. Ever heard the saying it's not what you say but how you say it? In soccer we have a similar saying, it's not what you say, it's how you play.


-Attacking options

-Dynamic attack

-High line of defensive pressure

-Perfect for a team with a plethora of attacking players


-A little slim in the middle of the park

-Gaps appear in the midfield when countered

-Lazy defending can leave a back line exploited

Defenders Positioning

The Defensive line can play:

-Flat back 4 laterally across the back

-Flat Back 3 with a Sweeper in behind the line of three acting as support or cover

Defenders Responsibilities

As a unit the back four should:

-Work in unison in keeping the defensive shape of their own line and the lines in front of them in order

-Should act as a direct cover for the midfield line and adapt to the attackers formation alterations

Center Backs:

-Dominate the air, work to hold the middle of the park

-Defensive rocks, relied on to be neat and tidy in the back

-Ball winners, ball winners, ball winners!

Outside Backs:

-Release pressure by holding your form as a wide wing back

-Patrol flank being able to join the attack when the situation presents itself

Midfielders Positioning

The Midfield line can play:

-Flat 3 across the middle (most common)

-1 Holding 2 in front (holding sits in front of the defensive line and acts as more of holding defender)

-2 holding 1 in front (1 in front more offensive and looks to combine forward)

-Or other variations of the triangle standard or inverted.

Midfielders Responsibilities

As a unit the middle three should:

-Stay composed in the middle of the park, keeping their shape and not getting pulled out

-Be dynamic in it's attack by exploiting areas in behind the opposing defensive line

-Look to combine forward as much as possible to be in a numbers up situation

Center Midfielders:

-Take risks forward to create 3v2 and 2v1 situations

-Keep the rhythm of the game

-Provide defensive stability along with service to wide areas

Outside Midfielders:

-High work rate in attacking wide areas in the offensive third

-Able to recover to assist outside back as much as possible

Strikers Positioning

The Forward line can play:

-Flat 3 up top

-Triangle with one in behind two up higher

-Triangle with two behind and one lone striker up top

-Staggered variations of the above sets

Strikers Responsibilities

-High pressure on the back line of the opponent

-Create turn overs and havoc for the opponent building out of the midfield

-Be creative in the attack it's a 4-3-3 for a reason, put the ball where it counts.

Now that you know what it takes in this formation to be successful it takes a unique skill to get the right players to buy into a formation that is not only about all offense all the time.

To an untrained eye sure it seems like this is all offense all the time but to truly make the 4-3-3 effective it takes a combination of discipline defending and fearless attack.

Teams that are successful that line up this way have certain commonalities such as speed, creativity, perseverance and discipline. Instilling that in a side that sets up this way can lead to lethal injections of goals, assists and happy supporters.

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