Tactical Drills

Tactics: How to play in 3-4-3? [COMPLETE GUIDE+EXERCISES]

3-4-3 tactic

The 3-4-3 is a playing system which is based on 3 defenders, 4 midfielders and 3 attacking players. It brings many advantages but also has some weak points. With which team should a 3-4-3 formation be favored? How to perfect this training in training? Discover our complete guide to the 3-4-3 in football.

The 3-4-3, relatively little used in amateur football given its complexity, can nevertheless prove to be a very effective playing system. With its 3 defenders, just like the 3-5-2 formation , it comes flat or in a diamond shape. The flat 3-4-3 was used by Conte at Chelsea during the 2016/2017 season, while the diamond 3-4-3 was popularized by Johan Cruyff at FC Barcelona.

  1. What is 3-4-3 in football?
  2. Tactics: how to play well in 3-4-3?
  3. What are the strong points of the 3-4-3 pattern?
  4. The weak points of 3-4-3 in football
  5. What training exercises should I use to work on the 3-4-3?
  6. Conclusion on 3-4-3 training

What is 3-4-3 in football?

The 3-4-3 is a football formation which allows you to play with 3 defenders, 4 midfielders and 3 offensive players . It’s a game system that has some nice surprises in store, because contrary to what one might imagine, it is very strongly focused on the offensive aspect .

The 3-4-3 comes in different ways, and here we will focus on the 2 most common formations: the flat 3-4-3 and the 3-4-3 diamond. In both cases, the 3-4-3 is broken down into 3 lines , with the 4 midfielders who will create a fairly compact zone in the center.

The different lines of 3-4-3

The different lines of 3-4-3

This 3-4-3 formation has been used by many professional teams, including for example Thomas Tuchel’s Borussia Dortmund or Antonio Conte ‘s Chelsea . But then how to evolve well in 3-4-3? What are the advantages and disadvantages of this game system? How to offer quality offensive animation in 3-4-3 while maintaining defensive balance? We will give you the keys with this complete guide to 3-4-3 training . Vamonos! (a little wink to our Spanish friends)

Tactics: how to play well in 3-4-3?

What arrangement in midfield in 3-4-3?

If you want to set up a 3-4-3 formation, you will have the possibility to choose between 2 arrangements in midfield:

  1. The flat 3-4-3 : this is the most common because it is easier to set up. Your midfielders position themselves flat to form a single line.
  2. The 3-4-3 diamond : here, your midfielders will form a diamond, “or diamond as the English say… because they have more money” (those in the know will recognize the reference).
Flat midfielder in a 3-4-3 formation

Flat midfielder in a 3-4-3 formation

Diamond midfield in a 3-4-3 formation

Diamond midfield in a 3-4-3 formation

3-4-3 tactical scheme and offensive animation

What is the best offensive animation in 3-4-3? This will depend on the formation you favor in midfield. If you opt for a flat 3-4-3, the offensive animation will focus on:

  • The full-backs will play a vital role in the offensive animation of the 3-4-3. They will be in high demand, hence the importance of having full-backs in good physical condition (or always having quality substitutes).
  • In the offensive phase, the 2 central midfielders will play relatively high to provide support to the offensive players and above all find passing angles on the 2 offensive players located on the sides.
Recovery on the sides formation in 3-4-3

Recovery on the sides in a 3-4-3 playing system

If you use a 3-4-3 diamond, we advise you to insist on the two n°8s by instructing them to move towards the sides in the offensive phase, before freeing up a space, in which the central defender will be able to progress before playing directly on an attacker. In a 3-4-3 diamond, if the number 8 are in possession of the ball, it can be interesting to go diagonally and play on the opposite attacker in order to create an imbalance in the opposing defense.

Defensive placement in 3-4-3

With a 3-4-3 tactic, defensive placement is probably the most delicate aspect. First of all, you will have to make sure that you have 3 quality central defenders, with recovery qualities. The 3-4-3 is above all a game of possession, so the quality of the defenders’ recovery will play a key role.

As soon as you lose the ball, you will ask your players to counter-press (“gegenpressing”) in order to recover the ball as quickly as possible so as not to be in danger in the corridors.

Gegenpressing and supporting player

Example of counter-pressing (with a 4-5-1 formation)

What are the strong points of the 3-4-3 pattern?

The 3-4-3 playing system has many advantages, both offensively and defensively. Here are some of the main strengths of the 3-4-3:

  1. Numerical superiority in midfield, without abandoning the wings, can prove formidable against a team that plays in a 4-4-2 playing system .
  2. You can enjoy very fast forward play thanks to the natural verticality that the 3-4-3 offers with these 3 attacking players.
  3. The defensive-offensive transition is simplified thanks to a high density in midfield.

The weak points of 3-4-3 in football

Obviously, the 3-4-3 formation is not perfect and you will have to be attentive to different points, such as:

  1. Being outnumbered on the wings can be problematic, unless you ask your attackers to move back defensively to provide support to the wing players.
  2. Positioning on the pitch can be difficult to understand for some players who are not used to playing in a 3-4-3. Even if you work on positional play , the 3-4-3 requires you to think outside of classic positioning and sometimes find yourself between 2 positions. So remember to work on this game system carefully before applying it in an official match.

What training exercises should I use to work on the 3-4-3?

The first exercise to properly work on the particularities of the 3-4-3 is to work on restarting the goalkeeper and duels in 1vs2 with a defender in pursuit .

Goalkeeper restart and 1vs2 duels with defender in pursuit

1vs2 duels with defender in pursuit, following a restart from the goalkeeper

Demarcate a space of approximately 30x40m then place 2 large goals on each of the widths. Then place 4 mini-goals in the center of the field as well as 2 cups at the same level (see animation above). Finally, place a cup near each large goal. Form 2 teams of 6 players and ask them to position themselves at each cup.

The exercise will consist of a series of duels in 2vs1 then 2vs2 after a short restart from the goalkeeper .

If you would like to know more, consult the complete exercise sheet for more details on the possible developments and variations.

The second training exercise that we offer you to work on a 3-4-3 formation is a finishing exercise with slalom and passing sequence (without contact) . It will allow you to work on finishing and rapid offensive sequences with a slalom exit strike. Very practical for replicating the offensive phases of a 3-4-3 system.

Finishing exercise with slalom and passing sequence (non-contact)

Finishing exercise with slalom and passing sequence (non-contact)

Head to the full sheet if you want to know more about the detailed instructions and possible variations of this exercise.

Conclusion on 3-4-3 training

As we have seen, the 3-4-3 formation can be very effective when used well, with real numerical superiority in midfield. However, keep in mind that a 3-4-3 formation can be difficult to implement at the amateur level because it requires a lot of work up front. So remember to work well on defensive-offensive transitions and counter-pressing in order to put all the chances on your side.