3-4-3 formation

Talking Tactics: The 3-4-3 Formation is here to stay

Although it has been around for decades it wasn’t until the beginning of 2016 that the 3-4-3 formation became somewhat of a ‘thing' (popular), as most soccer managers chose to overlook it. Growing up as an ardent soccer follower and being someone who would not miss any opportunity to have a view of the lineup and formation of every game he sees. I naturally accustomed to formations such as the 4-4-2, the 4-5-1, the 5-4-1 and the 4-3-3. However, there’s been a new addition to the list – enter the 3-4-3.

Growing up as an ardent soccer follower and being someone who would not miss any opportunity to have a view of the lineup and formation of every game he sees.

I naturally became accustomed to formations such as the 4-4-2, the 4-5-1, the 5-4-1 and the 4-3-3. However, there’s been a new addition to the list – enter the 3-4-3.

Most soccer analysts and pundits I’ve had the privilege of interacting with, were quite pessimistic about the possibility of the 3-4-3 working in a highly competitive league, with some asserting that any manager who tries it, stands the risk of having his midfield and defence overrun when faced with a team with very quick and good wingers – but has this been the case?

The 3-4-3 formation explained

The 3-4-3 system is basically a formation that allows three centre-halves to feature in a three-man defence line. The formation also features four midfielders, two of whom are wingbacks. Three attackers up front make up the pack – one of which is usually a recognised centre forward.

At a glance, the 3-4-3 formation looks a little suspect, defensively, considering that you’ve got only three at the back instead of the usual four; but we’ve come to know that this is not the case. You actually have three natural centre-halves instead of two, and two wingbacks who are ready to track back and defend at a moment’s notice. So, there’s actually five defenders in the 3-4-3 system.

The 3-4-3 formation is one that requires a lot of energy, especially from the wingbacks who constantly need to track back and help the centre-halves while also joining the attack when their team is in possession. It should also be noted that this formation can sometimes leave your defence exposed when facing a team that's good on the counter.

In the 3-4-3 formation, the defensive midfielder is expected to be strong and fast and is expected to be able to cover a lot of ground to avoid leaving the three-man defence exposed. A midfielder like N’Golo Kante, does this job quite effectively, which is why he has been labelled the best midfielder in the world today.

Top managers who have tinkered with the 3-4-3

The first time some of us took notice of the 3-4-3 formation was when the tinker-man, Pep Guardiola, then Bayern Munich manager decided to adapt his team to the formation in 2014. Guardiola went for three at the back with the likes of Jerome Boateng, Dante and Javi Martinez holding the fort. He enjoyed some success with the system, but he never really stuck to it, and soon switched again.

Another top manager who actually instituted the 3-4-3 and made it work is Chelsea manager, Antonio Conte. Conte tinkered with the 3-4-3 during his second year in charge of Juventus. Antonio Conte juggled between the 3-4-3 and the 3-5-2. Whatever the case, he always played three at the back. That formation helped Conte win the Italian Scudetto on 3 occasions. Antonio Conte also won the Serie A manager of the season in every season he was at Juventus – 2011-2014.

With the 3-4-3 formation, remodelled to a 3-5-2 system, Conte managed to lead a lightweight Italian national team to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016 – the Italians had beaten highly-rated Belgium and Spain on their way to the quarter-finals where they lost to Germany on penalties.

Antonio Conte began his managerial career at Chelsea in August 2016, playing a 4-1-4-1 formation. However, he switched to the 3-4-3 after a couple of bad results. Since switching to the 3-4-3 formation, Conte propelled Chelsea to the summit of the Premier League and an FA Cup semi-final place with 25 wins – with 13 wins in a row at Stamford Bridge (a new record).

Tottenham Hotspur manager, Mauricio Pochettino is another high profile manager who has employed the 3-4-3 formation. The system has worked for Pochettino and the men from London are second in the Premier League – putting plenty of pressure on runaway leaders, Chelsea who are 10points clear. Spurs are also in contention for an FA Cup title, having reached the Semi-final.

It wasn’t a coincidence that Barcelona coach, Luis Enrique, went for the 3-4-3 system when his team played Paris Saint-Germain in their Champions League return leg. The Catalan giants eventually won the game 6-1 to overcome a 4-0 deficit – the first time in the history of the UEFA Champions League that such a deficit would be overturned.

Manchester United manager, Jose Mourinho, also recently deployed a 3-4-3 formation, while Watford’s Walter Mazzarri also favours the 3-4-3 or the 3-5-2.

It’s now clear that the 3-4-3 formation is one that is massively growing in popularity and can no longer be overlooked or undermined by any soccer manager.

About the Author Kingsley

I am a football/soccer connoisseur who enjoys crafting interesting articles like the one you just read.

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