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The Evolution of the 3-4-3 Formation PDF

The popularity of the 3-4-3 formation originated during the late 1980’s and early ’90s in Italy, when an in!ux of center-backs occupied Serie A. Originally created as an extremely o"ensive formation, the evolution of the 3-4-3 into its current variations has made it a versatile formation that can be now be used for attacking and defensive set-ups.

Whilst teams that use the 3-4-3 today typically play with two wide midfielders and two wingers, the first major usage of the 3-4-3 came in Barcelona, where Johan Cruyff utilized a 3-4-3 with a diamond midfield. Adapting the 4-3-3 that he played in under Ajax manager Rinus Michels, Cruyff’s 3-4-3 diamond saw Pep Guardiola operate as a holding midfielder, protected by a back three of Ronald Koeman, Albert Ferrer and Víctor Muñoz.

The popularity of the 3-4-3 quickly carried over to Italy, and soon took root at the San Siro in the latter end of the decade.

After an impressive spell at Udinese, Alberto Zaccheroni took over as Milan manager in 1998 and implemented an attacking 3-4-3 formation that saw the Rossoneri win their 16th Scudetto. Zaccheroni utilized a back three of Luigi Sala, Alessandro Costacurta and Paolo Maldini, and his 3-4-3 made great use of the attacking players at his disposal.

Starting with the back 3, the middle center back (Leonardo Bonucci in Conte’s Juventus) performs the role of a libero. A libero is a ball=playing sweeper who carries the ball forward to help initiate attacks, while also being the final line of defense when defending opposition attacks.

The libero is an essential piece in making the 3-4-3 fully function, as without him, the two central midfielders would be left with no solid, reactionary defensive support. The libero is supported by two other central defenders whose main function is to cover and be cognizant of balls floated in behind him when possession is lost. They also are the first to receive the ball when play is initiated by the goalkeeper.

The wing-backs are also critical to the functionality of the 3-4-3. As part of the midfield 4, they are positioned strategically wide in the attacking phase of play. During the attacking phase, they are expected to push up the field and overlap to support the front 3, especially when the wingers act as inside forwards, which consequently forms a front 5.

Perhaps the most physically demanding position in football, the wing-backs are also expected to track back and help in the defensive phase. In the defensive transition, the back 3 forms a back 5 with wingbacks covering both wings in order to stop opposition wingers from entering the final third.

The central midfielders are the bridge between the defense and the attack. In most variations of the 3-4-3, the central midfield pairing consists of a box-to-box midfielder and a deep-lying playmaker/defensive midfielder who protects the back 3.

The box-to-box midfielder is usually a dynamic, high energy and balanced player who is expected to help in the defensive transition and the attack transition. The more defensive-minded of the pair tends to stay back in attack, firmly covering and protecting any counter attacks from opposition when possession is lost.

 

The Evolution of the 3-4-3 Formation PDF

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