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A Coach’s Guide to the 4-3-3 PDF

The Brazilian National Team under Aymoré Moreira in 1962 was one of the first top tier teams to use the 4-3-3 formation. It was a variation from the 4-2-4 previously employed by the Brazilians.

Subsequently other great teams have made this configuration famous.

Most know the 4-3-3 formation was utilized by the fathers of the modern soccer era: the members of the Holland National Team athe 1974 and 1978 World Cups.

The 4-3-3 was also utilized by Dutch club teams during the European Cups throughout the


At the 1978 World Cup, the winning champions of Argentina were lined up in a 4-3-3 formation by Coach Luis Cesar Playersotti. His aggressive 4-3-3 style was modelled after the Dutch 4-3-3 configuration.

He employed Mario Kempes up top with Americo Gallego as the holding midfielder in front of the back four.

Johan Cruyff was insistent on using a 4-3-3 formation, pointing out that a triangle will beat a line. Cruyff’s style is based on the creation of triangles.

The biggest factor in 2000s soccer has been the switch from a 4-4-2 formation to configurations with a lone forward. Both the 4-2-3-1 and 4-3-3 formations focus on three central midfielders and have become the most utilized patterns in the modern era.

The increased utilization of 4-3-3 formations is due to the difficulty in finding a defensive solution against the 4-3-3. Playing a 4-3-3 formation against a 4-4-2 formation gives you the advantage of having an extra man in the middle and allows your team to more easily dominate possession against a team playing with just two central midfielders.

“Look, if I have a triangle in the midfield – Claude Makelele behind and two others just in front – I will always have an advantage against a pure 4-4-2 where the central midfielders are side by side.

That’s because I will always have an extra man. It starts with Makelele who is between the lines. If nobody comes to him, he can see the whole pitch and has time.

If he gets closed down, it means one of the two other central midfielders is open. If they are closed down and the other team’s wingers come inside to help, it means there is space now for us on the flank, either for our own wingers or for our full-backs.

There is nothing a pure 4-4-2 can do to stop things.”1 This is Josè Mourinho’s way of thinking. However, he once said that his 4-4-2 and 4-3-3 configurations are not so different regarding the players’ positions and the process of building

triangles. Also the principles of play are similar. Mourinho, at FC Porto, changed his original formation because the original formation was becoming automated and known by the opposing

players; he opted to build another configuration to use during the same campaign or even the same game.

With many attackers able to play as a lone forward, the consequence was the common use of a 4-3-3 formation.

This configuration gives a coach the ability to change the attacking wingers and to have better coverage in the middle with three central midfielders.

The 4-3-3 formation provides the opportunity to run a pro-active offensive game. This configuration lines up balanced lines throughout the whole pitch, creating triangles of players pivotal for position play.

Every line is covered with almost 3 players.

But how is this pattern utilized in today? Who are the most famous coaches employing this system? What kind of 4-3-3 can you see? That part of the team strategy depends on players’ skills, coach’s preferences, and the team’s tradition.

“I've always said that Porto had a system base, and has an established pattern that passes by a set of principles governing the tactical organization. The configuration of the team, games, and players, will sometimes force us to reposition the players so it

seems as if they are playing another system. But the important thing is that the model does not change, but is becoming stronger and more stable.

Regardless of the system, it is important that players act in accordance with our principles to defend and to attack," said former Porto’s head coach Jesualdo Ferreira2.

This book takes a look into the best 4-3-3s and provides some drills to train for its use.

A Coach’s Guide to the 4-3-3 PDF

Click here to download

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