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First published November, 2005 by WORLD CLASS COACHING 15004 Buena Vista Drive, Leawood, KS 66224 (913) 402-0030

ISBN 0-9746723-8-6 Copyright WORLD CLASS COACHING 2005 All rights reserved. No parts of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior written permission of the publisher. Author - David Platt Edited by Mike Saif Front Cover - Designed by Babcock Illustration & Design.

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This book sets out to illustrate how to effectively counter the 4-3-3 system, recognising the strengths of it and negating them as well as taking advantage of the weaknesses that it has. After a brief summary of the main components of the 4-3-3, highlighting the strengths and weakness of it, we will look at some effective tactical planning to play against and beat it and also look at ways of practicing those tactics on the training pitch, through sessions and drills designed specifically to prepare in a manner to overcome the system. It is important to realise that each formation has its strengths and weaknesses and that at the start of each match there is 11 players against 11 players. These players, arranged on the pitch, make up the formation and each formation will cause problems for any other formation unless the players themselves perform. The 4-3-3 can be interpreted in many ways, though I believe that the only variation of the system is in the midfield, where the central midfielder can eother play behind or in front of the other 2. For the purpose of this book we will look at both these variations, ascertaining and dealing with the different problems that this can cause. As with any strategy of dealing with a formation in a manner to beat it, I have tried to outline some basic principles of defending and attacking which can be retained throughout in an effort to make the method of beating the 4-3-3 easier to coach and for the players to implement. With this in mind I have split the pitch up into thirds, dealing with both the defensive attributes and offensive attributes in a progressive way. For ease of reference, the 4-3-3 system is always portrayed as the Black Team with White Numbers. In my experience, simple instructions to players where they can carry them out on the field instinctively pay far more dividends than looking at elaborate ways to play. Simplifying each issue is fundamental if the tactical aspects are to be successful. With this in mind I like to have a symmetrical plan both when defending and attacking, with the same defensive plans and attacking schemes respectively used for whichever side of the pitch the ball is on. In this book therefore, when looking at the diagrams for coaching purposes, simply mirror the tactic shown for when the ball is on the opposite side of the pitch to the diagram.


THE 4-3-3 SYSTEM The Dutch are largely responsible for developing the 4-3-3 system. It is a formation which has gained in popularity over the years and is now utilised by many clubs and nations. Although there are several ways of playing with a 43-3, the back 4 defenders are utilised in much the same way as a conventional 4-4-2, playing zonally as a back 4 when defending and getting forward to support the attack when the team is in possession. Zonal defending is where the players who make up the back 4 mark areas of the pitch rather than opposing players, taking care of their own zone and covering their team-mates when the player with the ball is not in that zone. The zonal back 4 operates with a right full back (2), 2 central defenders (5&6) and a left full back (3). They play as a unit, shuffling across in unison to cover the whole width of the field and closing off spaces where attackers can exploit them.

In front of these 4 defenders sit 3 central midfielders. These 3 players form a triangle in the centre of the pitch, with either the point of this triangle being just in front of the back 4 or at the opposite end behind the lone striker. The way these players have to defend can be varied though staying constant they must screen the back 4 from passes played into the opposition front men. How they deal with wide players defensively is largely dictated by the coach who may wish to aid them by use of the winger on the side of the ball dropping back.

.or by having them shuffle all the way across with the opposite winger balancing off the weak side.

If the triangle is inverted then it is usual for the winger on the side of the ball to drop in with the hole player being responsible for balancing off the team.

The front players operate conventionally with 2 wingers and a lone striker. As we have stated, the defensive duties of the wingers are dictated by the coach and both can be given excessive defensive duties to form a very resolute 45-1 formation..

..though one of the wingers may stay high to pose a problem for the opposition.

The primary reason for the evolution of the 4-3-3 was that it was thought the position of the players on the pitch could be utilised to create exceptional movement between units that could create space and cause problems for whatever formation came up against it. The 2 central defenders will remain at the back defensively, with the two full backs having more licence to attack if the central midfield players form the triangle which has a player in front of the back 4 and not in the hole behind the striker.

The 3 central midfield players can rotate very effectively within this formation to get one of them free in space to receive the ball. Whether it be the defensive triangle ( player in front of the back 4 ) or the offensive triangle ( player in the hole ), through good movement and rotation space can be created.

Once a player receives the ball in this central area, more movement can be created in front of him which can cause problems for the opposition. The highest player of the midfield triangle will now be in a position to receive in the hole behind the striker.


The wingers in this formation are usually quick and very able playing 1v1 with their markers. This opens up a plethora of attacking opportunities for the 4-3-3. The winger can either receive the ball and start to attack his marker 1v1


...come inside from the touchline at the correct time to either receive the ball in a position within the final third if his marker does not follow him.

...or if the marker does follow him then this opens up the space for the full back to receive and penetrate.


In the main the striker within this formation will remain as high up the pitch as possible, usually not going any wider then the width of the penalty area.


Any pass played into him which he can hold up and wait for support will enable either the hole player to receive


...or a winger to come off the touchline and receive

...or again the space is created for the advancing full back if the wingers marker follows him.


As you can see, the 4-3-3 opens up so many variations of attacking movement that it can be very difficult to contain.




STRENGTHS OF THE SYSTEM One of the primary strengths of the 4-3-3 system is the 3 man central midfield which offers both offensive and defensive attributes. Along with the back 4, the 3 players that form the midfield triangle, whatever its configuration, offer a very effective central screen, guarding the dangerous areas of the offensive central part of the pitch.

When considering how to play against and beat the 4-3-3 system, it is imperative that we devise ways of disrupting this midfield screen, using flank positions to attack to stretch the cover they offer so that gaps appear in between and behind the midfield trio that can be exploited. Even if the flanks are used to good effect, any lead can be defended resolutely or an opposition contained by the ease in which the 4-3-3 drops into a very compact 4-5-1, conceding space in the opponents half and allowing the opposition onto it where the distances between the players is such that closing down in groups can be effected easily and efficiently.


Again, finding ways to make stretch this shape and always have options with which to circulate the ball is paramount if we are to overcome it. Another strength that the 4-3-3 possesses is the anchor man can often find himself on the ball in front of the back 4 with time and space in which to assess his options and make his choice of pass.

All the time he has on the ball enables all kinds of movement and interchange in front of him with potential runs made which can stretch any defensive block. 19

It is essential that this player is never allowed to have the time on the ball with which to play a pass and if he ever does for any reason, the dangerous areas behind the defense need to be protected at all costs. In protecting the areas behind our back line, space can be created for one of the other midfielders to receive the ball behind our midfield and in front of the defense, thus compounding the problem of giving the anchor player time on the ball.

A look at the potential options with movement in front of him that the anchor player has when he has time on the ball shows how important closing him down in an effective manner is.


Coming too narrow as a unit to combat the space that the midfield trio may have can result in the full backs being isolated against the wingers of the 4-3-3. These wingers will invariably be very quick and adept in 1v1 situations, such as Arjen Robben of Chelsea & Holland who faced with this scenario would be more than capable of beating the player he came up against.

Marking positions to avoid the winger getting a run at the full back coupled with sufficient cover need to be addressed if this is not to become a problem area in playing against the system. Another potential problem area is the counter attacking positions that the wingers in the system can take up if they wish to play in a bold manner. Upon winning the ball, a swift transfer to one of the players circled can result in a dangerous situation arising.


If the manner in which the 4-3-3 is adopted is a bold one as shown, provision for marking these players when in possession of the ball has to be made. WEAKNESSES OF THE SYSTEM If the method of playing against the 4-3-3 is successful, it can result in any coach who adopts it having to make most of his players drop off to defend. A team that can keep the ball against the 4-3-3 and progress into its final third can peg back the system, making offensive players such as the wingers track back and defend.

This has the effect of isolating the lone striker who can be dominated by the two centre halves which negates the 43-3 from having a platform from which to build attacks.


In a similar fashion any ball played into the lone striker requires the other players to get forward and support him to avoid him becoming isolated. This can lead to opportunities to counter attack against the 4-3-3 as players move forwards beyond the ball.

Another problem that the 4-3-3 faces is when the wingers are not goal scorers and they do not get into the penalty area for any cross coming in. The striker is often the only player inside the area and can therefore be dominated. Although this is a negative for the 4-3-3, if a midfielder times a run into the box for any cross then he has to be picked up otherwise he may arrive free. Equally important is the players who are on the edge of the box waiting for any knockdowns, they must obviously be picked up and closed down immediately should the ball only be half cleared from the cross.


In order to play against and beat the 4-3-3 system I believe that it is imperative that a back 4 be employed so that there is always a player spare to cover against the 3 forwards, it must be matched player for player in central midfield, and problems must be given to their back 4 in order not to match them system for system. With this in mind I believe the best system to beat the 4-3-3 is to operate with a 4-3-2-1. The important thing to realise is that a formation alone will not beat the 4-3-3, indeed it is just a base from which we can utilise our tactics to effectively contain and then cause problems for the 4-3-3. In the following chapters I aim to give some tactical organisation to the 4-3-2-1 and show the ways in which this formation can deal with the 4-3-3s strengths and take advantage of its weaknesses.




BALL WITH THE GOALKEEPER When the oppositions goalkeeper has the ball it is impossible to stop him from kicking it long if he so wishes. What is important therefore is to have a compact team in and around where the ball is likely to be challenged for in order that support and cover can be given to the player who is challenging. This set up is ideal for the tactical way in which we are looking to play against the 4-3-3 as it is the same set up of our team regardless of whether the goalkeeper kicks the ball or, our preference, throws the ball out to begin playing from the back.

As stated, our preference is for the goalkeeper to initiate play by giving the ball to one of the centre halves, from where we can start to dictate the way in which they play.


Once the ball has gone to 5 we can start to initiate our high press. Pressing high up the pitch will cause the game to be played at a high tempo. The very nature of the 4-3-3 system means that its players are spread out both vertically and horizontally over the pitch and should we be successful in winning the ball due to the high tempo the game is played at we can take advantage of this spread out shape and counter attack effectively. The whole team starts to shuffle across to the side of the ball, with 10 making the movement forward to deter the switched ball over to 6 and subsequently out down their left side.

9s run should be aggressive and force the player on the ball, 5, to pass to where he believes it is safe, in this case to the right full back, 2.


As the pass is made to 2 from 5, this signals a closing of the trap that has been set, with 11 closing down 2 aggressively and in a manner which restricts the 2 from passing inside. 11s position should be so that if an imaginary line was drawn between the ball and his position, continued it would hit the left hand post of his goal. The whole team should move to close off the options that 2 has.

Our 9 has shut off the potential reverse pass back to their 5, 10 has come to sit on their anchor player 4, 4 & 8 have shuffled across to stop any central ball into their 9 whilst 7 has edged forward and across to further deter a pass central to their anchor player. This is because if the anchor player receives the ball with time and space, the exaggerated closing down of the right hand side of the pitch by our team could result in us being exploited quickly down the left side. The back 4 has shuffle across with 3 in particular getting very tight to their 7 as this will be the likely pass that 2 will make, considering the positions of our players.


The team must be coached to cater for all scenarios. Should the 4-3-3 be good enough technically to be able to manipulate the ball to the other side of the pitch, given the positions of our players the likelihood is that this will be done slowly with several passes used to transfer the ball.


With the switch being a slow one it gives the midfield trio, and in particular the outside player of this trio, 7, the ability to be able to close the ball down by a movement forward and therefore more aggressive, again to ensure the speed of the game is high. AC Milan are exceptional at this. It must be done as quickly as possible in order that the left full back, in this case 3, is closed down and thwarted from advancing with the ball. Both 10 ( Kaka ) & 9 ( Shevchenko ) should also make movements across the pitch, 10 to deter any pass back into central midfield and also to deter the back pass to 6, and 9 to get back into contact with the rest of the team and again be in a position to negate the switched ball again which would result in a lot of energy being expended closing down one side and then the next. 11 ( Rui Costa ) gets himself back into a position that balances the team off on the weak side. Due to this aggressive movement forward by 7 ( Gattuso ) and the rest of the midfield trio to get across, an in particular the distance they have to cover to get there, the back 4 should initially drop deeper and assess the situation prior to moving back up to compact the team. The distance the players have to travel could enable the player who receives the ball to have time and space in which to pick out a potentially dangerous pass behind the defence, and this backwards movement by the back 4 is designed to negate this space. As the midfield players advance, the defenders retreat, giving a concertina type effect to the shape and balance of the team.

Once the back 4 assess the situation they can take up their positions where they see fit, dependent on the success of 7 in closing down the left full back 3 and negating him advancing with the ball.


If the switch across by the 4-3-3 was effected much quicker and with less passes as we see below then the team and in particular 7 have a different decision to make.


With the switch happening quicker, the time it would take 7 to advance forward and press would enable 3 to advance with the ball and have more time on it to pick out a potential pass. The decision 7 would make in this situation would be to make the distance up square to accept the advancing 3, giving time for the team to balance out accordingly. Again the forward players, 10,9 & 11 retreat to get back into a compact shape, ready to help out defensively if need be but also in good fulcrum positions to initiate the counter attack. The back 4, given this quicker switch, retreat in a more profound manner than the slow switch as the potential for a pass to be made behind the defence and become a problem is greater.

The players are now in good positions to press the ball in the midfield zone.


CHAPTER 4 Practices for defending in the Attacking Third


The first thing we need to practice and get the players into the mind set of doing is making play predictable, that is getting the opposition to play where we want them to play. The following is a sequence of sessions which can be used to firmly establish the principles of this aspect of our tactical plan, building up to coaching the whole game plan for defending in the attacking third in a full size game, 11v11.

As a warm up split the players into equal teams and play in team formation if numbers permit. Players transfer the ball to each other via their hands and are not allowed to run with the ball. The ball can be only be won through interception. The objective is to get a player into the shaded box to receive the ball.


Progress to the same drill but playing normal football. The objective is to score in the goal.

Set up the drill as shown with the cones being circa 3 yards apart for each goal. The objective is to score in a goal which is not defended by the Goalkeeper. Cannot score in a goal defended by the goalkeeper.


Start in the manner shown. Object is to stop the team in possession from knocking down any cones. Aim to keep the ball in the dark shaded area.


Start as shown. Opposition can score in any of the 3 goals with the 2 outside goals defended by goalkeepers. When the ball is won, counter attack by breaking the shaded line where you can play against 2 defenders and goalkeeper only.




In an ideal world the pass made by the receiving player, 3 when we are defending in the mid third would be down the touchline to the wide left player,11. If the positions of our players are correct, this should be the only real option available to him. 7 should be in a position whereby a line drawn through the right hand post of his goal and the ball would go straight through him, this would then ensure that the only part of the pitch that 3 can see to effect a pass easily would be a channel of circa 10m from the touchline infield. Given the predictability of the pass that 3 will make, our right full back, 2 should be ready to press aggressively the ball as it is played, trying to intercept it as it arrives with 11. A player who does this very well is Gary Neville of Manchester United & England. He is always on his toes, reading the game and ready to challenge any predictable ball passed to his man.

If he is successful in intercepting the ball then this opens up the counter attack opportunity, with not only 10 available to receive but also an switched ball through 4 to open up his options.


The other option available for 3 to play if 7 has closed him down effectively would be the long ball into the channel. Our 5 is marking their 9 in the correct position to be favourite to get to this ball first though in reality, in a conventional 4-3-3 the striker, 9, would not be asked to work any wider than the width of the penalty area.


Should the 4-3-3 be capable of manipulating the ball back into a central position, this signals the team to bounce into the new defensive shape. Given the new position of the ball respect has to be given to the potential of the 4-33 to hurt us in this scenario and so a dropping off of the whole team is needed. The players should drop off as far as it seems comfortable to do so to protect the space behind them, but should go no further than the penalty area and should use that line as a type of trampoline, bouncing back off it into a good defensive unit, compact and resolute along with the rest of the team. Again the forward players are retreating as well in order to retain the compact nature of the team and also be available for any counter attack possibility.

Although this could be perceived as being very defensive, the area we need to protect is the space behind us and by bouncing back into the positions shown we keep the ball in front of us and can start to press it again as a unit.


By dropping so deep and compacting the space horizontally, the likelihood is that the player on the ball will have an easy option to pass the ball wide to one of the 4-3-3s wingers. The position of 11 who got back to balance the team off is important as he can help out if need be, though again the half and half position he has taken up makes him readily available for a counter attack opportunity should we win the ball. It is also worth noting here that the full backs, 2 & 3 can afford to relinquish a certain amount of cover to the 2 centre halves, 5 & 6 as they only have the one striker to deal with, enabling 3 in this instance to be closer to their 7 initially and therefore more able to close down as the ball is in flight.


Should the ball be switched to the left then a similar situation arises with our 2 & 7.


By doubling up on the winger in terms of marking we negate the strength of the 4-3-3 in terms of having players who can be dangerous 1v1 against a defender. Note the position of the hole players here, ready to counter attack when we win the ball but close enough to the action should the need arise for them to defend. Portugal are a fine example of this type of positioning of players, with Figo & Cristiano Ronaldo often labelled as cheats who do not defend when in reality they are coached to take up the type of intelligent positions shown here.


CHAPTER 6 Practices for defending in the Mid - Third


Start as shown. The objective is to stop the opposition from scoring in the central coned goal.

Start as shown. The objective is to stop the opposition from finding 9 in the central goal or 7 or 11 dribbling through the coned goals wide. Coach the full back to look to intercept. When ball is won, counter attack by crossing the shaded area and free against sole defender & GK. 46

This is a counter attacking drill to coach the attitude of countering. Play 4 v 2 in the centre circle. When the 2 win the ball they transfer it out into the big square and play 6 v 4. If the 4 then win the ball they transfer back into the centre circle to play 4v2 again.


Start as shown. The objective is to close the ball down wherever it is, either with a forward movement or backwards of square movement. Start with the back 4 always on the coned line as shown but they should drop and bounce back as appropriate.




What we cannot do is stop the player who receives the ball from advancing with it by dribbling and taking our full back on. Here we see the retreat of the team when this happens, with players getting back into good defensive positions.

It is vitally important that any offensive player who is in our penalty area is marked. Many teams cover space with their players in the penalty area but I believe that space does not score goals but players do and therefore I like them to be marked. Obviously areas have to be closed off and if the numerical advantage is with us then this is possible as we see here, though it is imperative that players are marked who are already in the penalty area and also those that are breaking in there are tracked.


Any subsequent cross that is delivered into our penalty area can be successfully dealt with and, due to the positions of our hole players, effective counter attacks can be mounted from positions of defensive strength. In the 2005 Champions League final, Hernan Crespo scored a goal from exactly this kind of situation.

A common theme of these chapters in defending against the 4-3-3 has been that of counter attacking. The system I have chosen to play against and beat the 4-3-3 is a 4-3-2-1 which is designed to easily transpose itself into a 4-5-1 to offer a defensive stability against an offensive system like the 4-3-3, but also to be able to effectively counter attack a system which by very nature can become spread out as individuals and units and therefore susceptible against the counter attack.


CHAPTER 8 Practices for defending in the Defensive third


Practice for defending 1v1 and stopping crosses.

Serve the balls randomly as shown. Defenders should stop crosses, block shots etc. Must defend 6 in a row or go back to Zero.


CHAPTER 9 ATTACKING AGAINST THE 4-3-3 Defending & Mid Third


Playing with a 4-3-3 system enables that team to be press high up the pitch and limit the ability to play out from the back. Clearly this is something that we cannot allow to happen if we are not to be dictated to and whilst we cannot stop the 4-3-3 from pushing the 3 offensive players on to try and stop us building play up from the back, we can set up our team in a manner which makes it very difficult for them to cope should they do this and we elect to kick the ball long from our goalkeeper. As you can see below, with 3 attackers from the 4-3-3 pushed on to stop us playing from the back, if we initiate our offensive set up by positioning the players as shown, any long kick that had to be challenged for in the opponents half results in us having numerical superiority. This is primarily down to the bold positioning of our 2 full backs ( 2&3 ) who have pushed on to the half way line in an attempt to drag the wingers of the 4-3-3 back to enables us to start play from the back. Note the position of our 9 who is standing in an offside position initially in an effort to escape his markers.

If the 4-3-3 addressed our offensive shape in the manner above then we could either kick the ball long from the goalkeeper as described above, or we could still effect our tactics for playing out from the back.


A ball given to one of the centre halves to start play from the back would either result in him being closed down by the winger or the striker, or the wingers would drop off to take care of the aggressively advanced full backs. Below the ball is played to the right sided centre half (5). If the left winger came to close him down he could go long or try and manipulate the ball to 2, and if the striker (9) came to close him down he could switch a pass over to 6 who would then have similar options. It is more than likely that the 4-3-3 will drop off into the positions shown in order to be more cautious. The positions of the 3 central midfielders and the 2 hole players mean that the opposition have problems of who to pick up and mark these players.

If the lone striker is industrious enough to chase the ball and attempt to close it down, being alone in his efforts enables us to play around him with ease and get our anchor player (4) on the ball.


5 now has the option of passing to 4 though if the angle that 9 closes down is too good then he can just switch the ball to his opposite team-mate within the defense and play can be started down the left side.


The likelihood is that 9 will not close down for too long should we manage to continue to play around him and he will drop off to be more compact with his team-mates. If this happens it is vital that 5 travels with the ball so that we continue to dictate to the 4-3-3. The forward movement of the full back (2) on that side of the ball is essential to occupy the left back (3) of the 4-3-3, as is the movement of the hole player (10) who gives the left back a further problem by being in an area where he needs to be marked. In effect the left back needs help in this situation and will either get it from the left winger (11) retreating or a central midfielder will have to drop deeper to mark. In either case space will be created for other players. At the same time as adopting this aggressive movement, cover should be given to the offensive set up in order that we can successfully negate any potential counter attack should we lose the ball. 7s movement outside covers 2s advancement and also provides 5 with another passing option.

The new shape of the offensive action now looks similar to this.


Giving 5 the passing options shown here.

Due to the amount of players we have in dangerous positions, space should be created for our anchor player in central midfield (4) to receive the ball in a position where he can be very effective.


4 can now travel with the ball and attract players out to him which will enable other players to get some space to provide forward passing options for 4 to play to. It is vital that as soon as 4 is in this kind of position with the ball that our striker (9) looks to stretch the 4-3-3 back unit by looking to play off the shoulders of the centre halves and look to receive a penetrative pass behind them. This creates space for other players to appear in the holes between the midfield and defense of the 4-3-3. Andrea Pirlo of AC Milan & Italy has the kind of passing range which makes him ideal for this position.


Clearly, the 4-3-3 could be successful in closing down all the forward options of our anchor player. If this happens then by changing the direction of the play we can begin to move the balanced 4-3-3 around to attempt to create holes and space with which we can be aggressive again.

Whenever a full back receives the ball inside his own half when playing in this manner it is vitally important that width is gained via the hole player on that side. The movement wide by the hole player gives more passing options than he would have if he stayed inside, opening up passing lanes where we can be penetrative again. A natural characteristic to get wide is a good trait to have for this position, somebody like Jose Antonio Reyes of Arsenal is quite happy to take up this position in the knowledge that he is able to play either inside or receive the ball when coming wider to create the space.


The only way the 4-3-3 can deal with this movement if we are aggressive enough and it is successful is to drop deeper and deeper, thus giving the anchor player time and space in which to receive the ball and open the pitch up for his passing options. By sending the 4-3-3 deeper we begin to start to isolate the lone striker.


CHAPTER 10 Practices for Attacking from the Defending & Mid Thirds


The ball must travel through the thirds of the pitch. Start with the goalkeeper having the ball. Centre halves ( 5 & 6 ) can travel in to the mid third with the ball but a player from that 1/3rd must take his place in the defending third when he does so.

Play 2 touch in the square as shown. Player R plays for the team in possession. When player R gets the ball he can pass inside the cones for 9 to have an attempt on goal. This is a practice to get the anchor player on the ball. 64

Practice to get a player to receive in the hole. Play 7v7 in the middle part of the pitch & 2v1 in the end thirds. Start with the goalkeeper having the ball and giving it to one of the centre halves. Objective is to get a player to receive the ball in the end area from where he can go and attack with the centre forward, 2v2.

Simple drill to coach the striker to look for balls over the top, using the cones as the offside line to time his runs. This can be progressed to introduce defending players.


Another simple drill to get the hole players into the habit of providing width when the full back receives the ball in his own half. This can be progressed to introduce defending players.




If we are good enough to keep possession of the football and build play up in the manner shown in the previous chapters, the hole players of our formation can become very effective, receiving the ball in areas in between the midfield and defence and thus breaking one of the strengths of the 4-3-3,ie; the midfield screen. Once this screen has been breached the hole players who receives the ball must capitalise on the space he has found himself in. He must commit the defenders of the 4-3-3 by being aggressive with his play, here running with the ball in an effort to make something happen for the team. Ronaldhino of Barcelona & Brazil is the best player in the World at achieving this, with an ability to receive and run at the opposition defence and force an opening which can be exploited.

The action of running with the ball at the defence of the 4-3-3 can lead to various possibilities. At some point a defender needs to deal with the oncoming hole player and it is vital that he chooses the correct option when this happens. There will be various options available to him dependent on what the rest of the defence does to deal with the situation. He can choose to take the defender on which can be very effective, though if the defender is good in his role this could lead to him winning the ball and setting up a counter attack. As the defender comes out to meet him a space is immediately opened up down the side of him for the striker to exploit, giving him the opportunity to shoot at goal should the pass be a good one. The Brazilian National team utilise this kind of aggressive play with Cafu becoming very advanced, enabling Ronaldhino to have options both central and wide when he receives the ball in space behind the opposition midfield.


In an effort to close the space which appears by the defender leaving the back 4 unit of the 4-3-3, the left back (3) could step inside to cover, leaving a pass wide for the advanced right full back ( Cafu ) to get into a deep position to effect a cross.


An early cross made from this position will be very dangerous and could lead to an effort on goal as the defence of the 4-3-3 will not have had sufficient time to get back into good positions to be able to deal with it. This is especially useful when the attackers are small who like to attack balls played in front of them, such as Owen & Defoe for England.

Another possibility presents itself with the lone striker peeling off his man and attacking the back shoulder of the far centre half, hopefully dragging the back 4 unit out of position and enabling the opposite hole player to make a run, crossing over the striker to leave a dual problem for the defence of the 4-3-3 in dealing with each player. Manchester Uniteds Ruud Van Nistelrooy and Wayne Rooney often effect this type of movement together.


If the defensive players of the 4-3-3 get themselves all the way across to defend the danger area, a penetrative switch for the opposite full back can be played.

As we learned earlier, when the 4-3-3 gets back into its effective 4-5-1 formation, our build up play could result in a full back receiving the ball in his own half. When this happens we said that the hole player must make an angle wide for the full back to either receive the ball or open up the passing lanes into the lone striker or midfielder. This may result in the hole player receiving the ball in a wider position as here and again he has to be aggressive in the way he plays from this position. He can dribble at the full back and take him on..


Often the right full back of the 4-3-3 will defend well and show the hole player inside but again we can take advantage of this if we are aggressive. A dribble inside can open up the possibility of sliding a ball down the side of the centre half who come out to meet him for the lone striker, or a reverse pass back into the space created down the flank for the overlapping left full back (3), something that Roberto Carlos & Zinedine Zidane do exceptionally well at Real Madrid.

With all these aggressive schemes available to us particular attention needs to be paid to the covering positions of the defensive players of our formation who must make sure they are positioned well to cover any eventual counter attack. In all cases shown here make sure that each player not involved in the immediate action recognises the need to stay concentrated and retain a good position.


CHAPTER 12 Practices for Attacking in the Final Third


Set up as shown and use to coach the attitude of aggressive dribbling. Lone striker should act according to what dribbler does.

Objective is to dribble into end shaded area. Progression can be done through introduction of more players.


Session is used to coach blind side runs of lone striker.

Same set up as previously but introduce complimentary run from other player. Progress to giving player who passes the choice of either player.


Start with goalkeeper who cannot throw immediately wide to crossers. Must be a minimum of 2 passes in central area before ball can be transferred wide for unopposed cross.

By playing 11 v 11 in such a tight area it promotes aggressive, quick, intelligent play.


Pitch is in the shape of a diamond. Play 3v2 in each half. This promotes shooting and quick play as in all areas of the pitch a shot at goal can be taken.


The 4-3-3 system is proving to be very popular in the modern day game because it offers good offensive opportunities but can quickly transform into a very resolute 4-5-1 formation. Whatever formation that a team plays today, all coaches are looking to retreat into a very compact shape when defending, getting players behind the ball and looking to spring a counter attack. The 4-3-3 is one of the best systems to be able to do this effectively so if we are to play against it and beat it we have to devise ways of doing so and to this end a creativity is needed in terms of the formation to play against it to take advantage of the weaknesses it has. I believe that an aggressive formation has to be chosen and implemented, but there is no point in choosing this aggressive formation if the attitude of the players who play within it is not aggressive too. The 4-3-2-1 formation that I have outlined in this book is a very exciting one which tales the game to the opposition, making it defend in numbers and posing problems for the 4-3-3 system to deal with. In particular, the advancement of the full backs into forward positions is vital if we are going to be the dictators of the game. Formations alone cannot win games and the players have to be adept at applying the tactics set out to make that formation work. There must be a belief in all the tactical issues mentioned in this book to make this system work, as it is creative and at times could be vulnerable against a well organised 4-3-3 system. This belief will lead to a positive attitude of the players to be aggressive, and although this alone cannot ensure a positive result, it will go a long way towards achieving one.



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