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  1. i found this coaching manual,look like thst is for real world coach. & there are 5 ‘channels’ on the pitch:
  2. Switching Play Switching play can open up defences through the middle as well as creating chances to dribble, run with the ball or cross in wide areas. In this article we discuss the art of switching play. Whilst the game is constantly evolving, with teams trying to find different ways to break down or repel the opposition, some things never change. Switching play, or changing the point of attack, has been a fundamental part of the game since it was invented. Switching play can help teams open up their opposition, create space inside or find space out wide to attack. On the field we can see 5 ‘channels’ for field reference. They can help us both defensively and in attack. We can see how switches of play are extremely effective when defences leave the wide channels 1 or 5 open to attack. Finding spaces around compact defences Oppositions often set up to be compact in the defensive phase of the game. As we can see in the video, teams in the defensive phase of the game look to condense space and occupy 3 channels. This means that if the ball is in channel 2, 3 or 4 teams often stay in those channels, or if the ball is in channel 1 or 5 they will move to the three channels adjacent to where the ball is (if the ball is channel on 1 the defence would be in 1,2 and 3. For channel 5 the defence would be compact in channels 3, 4 and 5). This leaves 2 channels potentially ‘open’ on the other side of the pitch for the attacking team to try and exploit. Why do we switch play? The reason for switching play can be interpreted in a number of ways. However, there are 2 main ideas of why switching play can be an effective tactic. Attacking teams often have wingers or full backs in wide positions to try and create space in the middle. If the defence stays compact, it opens space in wide areas as we have discussed. This allows the full back or the winger to take advantage of this space to receive the ball, creating 1v0 situations (open space to run into) if the ball is moved quickly enough, or 1v1 situations with the attacking winger v the opposition full back. If the attacking full back also stays wide, then 2v1 situations can occur, creating an attacking overload. The above video demonstrates how the switch opens both a 1v1 and a 2v1 situation for the teams to exploit. This is something we can see with teams such as Real Madrid, who use Kroos and Modric to switch the ball with long passes to Ronaldo and Bale to exploit spaces in wide areas and get in behind defences. Another reason for switching play is to create space centrally. We can see teams such as Barcelona and Manchester City under Pep Guardiola, play the ball from side to side. This is linked to 3 fundamental ideas; 1) to move the opposition from side to side, tiring them to create opportunities horizontally 2) for the attacking team to attempt to draw out the opposition towards them (for the defence to press) creating space vertically 3) to disorganise the defence to find players centrally in free space and in between the lines. This scenario shows the attacking team moving the opposition from side to side across the back consistently switching play, waiting for the moment for them to make mistakes and to lose their compactness. When this happens the attacking team can play centrally. Support When switching play, support is important. It is true that a switch of play can be an effective strategy on its own, however, supporting the player on the ball can create passing options in advanced areas of the field and disorganise the opposition further. Ideally, there should always be support in 3 key areas BEHIND, TO THE SIDE and IN FRONT. Support would be in the same channel or the next two channels adjacent to the wide channels (1 or 5). The main reason for this is actually a pragmatic one. If the ball is lost, players can press and try to recover the ball quickly. Support behind the ball is critical, not only to block any clear runs to goal if the ball is lost, but also for a passing option. If the defender puts pressure on the switch, then the player behind can offer an option to receive the ball and potentially switch again or look inside for options. Supporting to the side can offer an option inside if the defence is disorganised, exploiting spaces to attack the goal. Supporting in front is for forward movement for the players to try and penetrate the defence and get in behind the defensive back line. How to switch the play The quickest way to switch play is for long pass to the opposite side of the field. Players like David Beckham, Xabi Alonso and Andrea Pirlo are masters at this and currently, Paul Pogba can hit unbelievable 60/70 yard passes. There's a selection below: However, a long pass switch of play is not the only way to change the direction of the attack. Combining in areas, such as one side of the field, can also be an effective way to switch the play. In this scenrio we can see how quick combinations draw in the defence to one side of the field and into one area of the pitch. This then opens space in wide areas for the attacking team to switch the ball and expose the space on the 'weak side' (where there are a small number of defenders or not at all). Another example of this is the combination play from Villarreal v Valencia. This famous video gained extreme notoriety in 2012, when Villarreal demonstrated seamless one touch passing in a tight area to then switch the play and have an opportunity on Valencia's goal. Playing behind the defence when switching play - third man runs A piece of play that is often neglected when switching play is the third man run. When the ball is being switched, the defence are often focused on sliding over to protect the ball and the channel to remain compact. This allows opportunities for the attacking team to make third man runs behind the defensive line. If the ball is passed forwards and towards goal first time, the opposition defence must recover and may be facing their own goal. In the rondos and drills related to the article, you will be able to help your players switch play in various ways.
  3. Variations Of The 4-4-2 Formation: 4-4-1-1 - Antoine Griezmann In this article we explore the 4-4-1-1 formation. 4-4-1-1 Formation In defence and midfield the 4-4-1-1 formation is structurally the same as the 4-4-2. This includes a goalkeeper, four defenders and four midfielders in a flat line. The variation occurs in the attacking line where the 4-4-1-1 includes a deep lying forward behind a central forward. No. 10 - The Deep Lying Forward The terminology describing the deep lying forward has varied in recent times with the role being referred to as; the No. 10, player in the hole, the second striker, the false 9, the nine-and-a-half or the ‘trequartista’ which translates from Italian to ‘three quarters’. The No. 10 is seen as the play maker for a team and will drop off the front line to occupy positions between the opposition midfield and defensive lines. The player can receive and combine with the centre forward and advancing midfielders in order to create goal scoring opportunities. This player will also perform lateral movements to drag defenders out of position, receive in space and combine with wide midfielders or centre forward. An example of a deep lying forward is Antoine Griezmann, who occupies this position in a 4-4-1-1 for Atlético Madrid behind centre forward Fernando Torres. Griezmann has been vital for Diego Simeone’s side this season, scoring 29 goals and 6 assist to date. In possession When the team are in possession they will look to play into or through the deep lying forward, who takes up positions in between the opposition midfield and defensive units. In the above scenario, No. 10 drops off to receive from the centre forward in Zone 14 and either shoot, link play with advancing wide players, dribble into the penalty area or lay off for the advancing central midfielder. Zone 14 is the central area on a soccer pitch outside of the penalty area and through soccer performance analysis, it’s classified as the key area on the pitch to helps teams create successful attacks and score more goals. Attacking through Zone 14 is effective when exploited by a highly technical player such as a deep lying forward who can quickly change the direction of attack with a forward pass or dribble into the penalty area Out of possession When a team playing 4-4-1-1 is out of possession they will generally drop off into defensive and midfield units, as in a 4-4-2, with the difference being in the actions of the deep lying forward. Instead of staying advanced with the centre forward to press the opposition defensive line, the deep lying forward drops into the midfield to compact the central area of the pitch. This restricts penetrative passes by the opposition, whilst being in a position to track the opposition holding midfielder if they drop in to receive. Advantages and limitations of the 4-4-1-1 Advantages Width and depth provided in attack. Deep lying forward positioned in between opposition midfield and defensive lines to receive. Provides passing lines and options ahead, around and behind the ball. Promotes quick passing, possession and combination play in advanced areas. Compacts central areas of the pitch when deep lying forward drops off and recovers out of possession. Limitations Only 1 central forward, resulting in over reliance on deep lying forward to contribute and build attacks. Could be exposed to the counter attack in wide areas. If deep lying forward is marked, or space occupied by opposition holding midfielder, the centre forward may be isolated and overloaded against 2 opposition centre backs.
  4. Variations Of The 4-4-2 - The Diamond - The Makelele Role In This Article We Explore A Variation And Adaptation Of The 4-4-2, The 4-4-2 Diamond. 4-4-2 Diamond A well established variation of 4-4-2. The 4-4-2 diamond formation includes; a goalkeeper, four defenders, four midfielders (in a diamond shape), and two forwards. Roles Of The Diamond Midfield No. 4 - The Holding Midfielder The holding midfielder is a key position within the 4-4-2 diamond and this position has a number of key responsibilities both in and out of possession. When the team is out of possession, they can provide a defensive screen in front of the back four. The holding midfielder will also occupy and mark the space that the opposition No. 10 may wish to operate in. Then, when the team is in possession, the holding midfielder will be an option to receive from the goalkeeper or defenders to break the opposition forward line. Attacks can be created from deep by the No. 4 as they look to provide a passing option to switch and recycle play. They will also offer cover and support if possession is lost. If the full backs advance forward this player may hold their position and create a back 3 dropping in-line or slightly advanced of the centre backs. In England, this position came to be defined as the ‘Makélélé Role’, named after the former Chelsea and Real Madrid holding midfielder Claude Makélélé. When he was sold to Chelsea, Zinédine Zidane famously said, “Why put another layer of gold paint on the Bentley when you are losing the entire engine?” Real Madrid highly valued Makélélé and knew losing him would mean the team lost a player who offered defensive stability to allow ‘Los Galacticos’ to attack. No. 7 & 8 - Left & Right Central Midfielders The two central midfielders must be positionally aware when attacking and defending. When the team is in possession, the central midfielders will look to provide passing options around, ahead and behind the ball. The 7 & 8 will combine with the holding midfielder, attacking midfielder and centre forwards. If the opposition defend narrow, the 7 & 8 may utilise the width and exploit the space. Out of possession, these players may have to shift across to provide protection in front of the full backs, whilst ensuring that gaps are not created inside for the opposition to penetrate. The midfield unit must move together and remain compact, taking positional cues from the midfielder who is pressing the ball. No. 10 - Attacking Midfielder The attacking midfielder in a 4-4-2 diamond will look to position themselves in between the opposition midfield and defensive lines in to receive the ball in advanced areas of the pitch, in order to combine with the centre forwards. To perform this role the attacking midfielder needs to perform clever movements to create and exploit space. If the opposition hold a high line the attacking midfielder may make runs from deep to exploit space in behind the defensive unit. The attacking midfielder’s defensive duties will focus on supporting the midfield to create overloads in central areas. This in turn will provide compactness, as well as offering cover and support to the centre forwards if they press the opposition playing out from the back. This player should also be aware of the opposition holding midfielder dropping in to receive. Out Of Possession The team will aim to prevent the opposition from playing in wide areas or over the top and will attempt to force play inside. As play is forced inside by the positioning of the two centre forwards, the diamond midfield will overload the central area, creating opportunities to regain possession of the ball or force the opposition backwards or sideways. The midfield will stay narrow to prevent the opposition penetrating through the centre of the pitch. If the opposition do play into wide areas, the full back and midfielder will shift across to press the ball as the remaining players take up positions to cover and support the press, as demonstrated in the image below. As the opposition right back gains possession, the left midfielder moves as the ball travels to shift across and apply pressure. The left back also ‘locks on’ to the opposition right midfielder to prevent forward passes and the centre forward cuts off the passing line back to the opposition centre back and goalkeeper. The holding midfielder moves and drops off to screen the back four and restrict passes into the opposition strikers. The remaining midfielders also move across and take up positions to make the pitch compact and support the press. In Possession When the blue team have possession of the ball, they will utilise width and depth to create overloads in all areas of the pitch. When the goalkeeper is in possession, the centre backs split to the edge of the area and the full backs position themselves wide and high beyond the opposition forwards. This creates space for the holding midfielder to receive with an overload in the defensive third. The attacking midfielder occupies space between the opposition midfield and defensive lines to be a forward option to receive and combine with the centre forwards. As the holding midfielder receives the ball, the opposition will attempt to condense the central area creating space in wide areas for ‘our’ full backs to exploit with forward runs. If the opposition do not narrow off, the holding midfielder can play forwards and penetrate the opposition midfield line. When full backs provide width to start an attack, the holding midfielder may stay deep to provide a defensive three and offer security to the defensive unit. Advantages And Limitations Of The 4-4-2 Diamond Advantages - Defensive screen provided by holding midfielder - Controlled attacks created from deep through holding midfielder (No.4) - Players positioned in between opposition lines to receive - Provides passing options ahead of the ball - Promotes quick passing and combination play through creating overloads in midfield - Strong central spine to the team - Allows teams to accommodate 2 forward players and a No. 10. Limitations - Natural width is sacrificed and must be provided by the full backs - No protection/screen for the full backs when out of possession - Can be exposed by opposition switch of play/long diagonal passes - Space left in midfield due to 2 players deployed in attack, compared to 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 where wide players will create a 4-5-1 out of possession. Coming Soon Final part in the series, '4-4-1-1, Antoine Griezmann'. Read
  5. Coaching Attackers In A 4-4-2 Formation Previously we’ve analysed coaching the defensive and midfield units in a 4-4-2. In this article we look at how to coach attackers within the 4-4-2 formation. The structure of the attack in a 4-4-2 incorporates two forward players who generally operate across the width of the penalty area. Their purpose is to create and score goals for the team IN POSSESSION A teams style of play and focus in the attacking third of the field within a 4-4-2 will be heavily influenced by the profiles of the two attackers. Generally the number 9 and 10 will both fit one of three main roles that attackers can adopt within this formation; The “Target Man” Also known as, “The number 9”. The target man will normally be the most advanced player on the field for the attacking team. This player is tasked to hold the ball up and bring others into play in the final third. This allows a team to play in a direct manner by playing forwards to the target man and then get teammates to support in the final third of the pitch. The number 9 may also take up positions to get flick ons, or ‘pin’ the opposition centre back so that they can get a shot away at goal or lay the ball off to oncoming attacking players. The target man will also be an attacking threat aerially especially from set pieces or balls delivered from wide areas. Recent examples of ‘Target Men’ are Duncan Ferguson, Alan Shearer and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The “Fox in the box” An out and out goal scorer or a “Fox in the box” as they are also known. The timing and movement of this player in the final third should be excellent, it is their role to create space for goalscoring opportunities. The fox in the box reads and anticipates play to get across or evade defenders in order to get shots at goal and their main role within the 4-4-2 is to score! Recent examples include Romario, Raul, Ruud Van Nistelrooy and, in our opinion, Jamie Vardy. The “Playmaker” Also known as “The number 10” this position is a popular role in soccer at the moment, crucially providing the link between the midfield and attacking units in various formations. Within the 4-4-2 system this player is responsible for creating and contributing towards goals and may drop deep to get on the ball or to create space for their strike partner, allowing for opportunities to combine in the final third. Again this player will have superb movement and timing but would play a slightly deeper role than the “Fox in the box”, as they have to combine with the midfield and number 9. Being elusive in this role creates space and time for teammates often causes panic amongst the opposition. Recent examples are Dennis Bergkamp, Francesco Totti and David Silva OUT OF POSSESSION The two attackers may be tasked to defend from the front to stop the opposition playing out from the back too easily. The two front men work together to press the ball. For example; If a goalkeeper plays a pass to a centre back, the two front men may allow the defender to receive that ball but one of the attackers will move as the ball travels to press and cut the pitch in half (essentially showing the Centre Half in a specific direction) with the wide midfielder also looking to press the full back on that side of the pitch. The second attacker usually drops inside offering support and cover. The second attacker may also look to intercept any passes across the penalty area and restrict the ball moving towards the central midfield area. If the ball goes back to the goalkeeper they may be in a position to press, forcing him to play a long ball or a risky pass, allowing opportunities for the pass to be intercepted and possession to be regained There are times where the number 10 may drop deeper to create a 5-man midfield. This is dependant on the oppositions shape and which area of the pitch they are in playing in. Even though a team are out of possession they will always want an attacking option and in a 4-4-2 the number 9 may stay high to ensure an attacking outlet if positive transition occurs. By keeping an attacker high up the field, there are better opportunities to counter attack. ALL TIME BEST ATTACKERS IN A 4-4-2 The best attackers for a 4-4-2 formation depends on the style of play a coach may wish to adopt and the profiles of the attacking players within the team. However, the main roles the two attackers will have to fulfil within this system is to create and score goals. This may be through utilising playmakers, fox in the box players, target men or a combination of the roles. OUR ALL TIME BEST ATTACKERS IN A 4-4-2 This is who we chose... “Fox in the box Number 9” - Gerd Müller. West Germany World Cup Winner in 1974. ‘Der Bomber’ holds one of the best ‘goals to games’ ratio in the game and the former Bayern Munich forward is revered as one of the best strikers ever. “Number 10” - Dennis Bergkamp. Began his career as a wide player at Ajax, being given his debut by Manager Johan Cruyff. Bergkamp played as a number 10 at Ajax, Inter Milan and Arsenal, and is seen as one of the most technical players of all time. He provided many assists for his strike partners and also had an eye for goal...if you haven’t seen his goal against Newcastle in 2002, you should watch it here - here Who would you have as your two forwards in a 4-4-2 formation? Please comment your selection on our Facebook post. We are going to interact with every suggestion. The next article will be the finale of the 4-4-2, where we’ll look at the variations, including the 4-4-2 diamond formation.
  6. Coaching Midfielders In A 4-4-2 Previously we have discussed the origins and history of the 4-4-2 formation and also how to coach defenders in a 4-4-2. In this article we are advancing up the field to analyse the midfield four and help you with your soccer coaching. The structure of the midfield in a 4-4-2 consists of two central midfielders and two wide players (right and left). There are variations within midfield when playing a 4-4-2 which are ‘diamond midfield’ or a ‘flat 4’. For the purpose of this article to help you setting up your soccer coaching drills, we are going to analyse the flat 4 midfield in a 4-4-2. In possession In a flat 4 midfield within this formation, the central midfielders will normally compliment each other with a playmaker and a ball winner in the central area of the pitch. The Playmaker The central midfielder who plays as the playmaker needs certain technical attributes: they should demonstrate good spatial awareness on the pitch, be comfortable on the ball, have the ability to score goals as well as create opportunities for the forwards. The playmaker also needs high fitness levels because in a flat 4-4-2 formation they are expected to cover a large area of the pitch. It’s also important that they are able to get themselves behind the ball to defend. In other formations, such as the diamond midfield variant of 4-4-2, teams may have the attacking central midfielder with less defensive responsibility. With a flat 4, it requires both central midfield players to support the team in defence and in attack. Otherwise, the opposition can exploit the space in key areas. The Ball Winner Even though a playmaker will offer support in defence, normally within a flat four, there will be a recognised ball winner who is an expert in reading play, making challenges, pressing the ball early and regaining possession for their team. The CM roles with a 4-4-2 are amongst the most challenging roles within the game, because the people who play there need a comprehensive skill set. For example, Roy Keane and Patrick Viera were both very good ball winners but they also created and scored key goals. In the modern game, there are fewer of these players around, because the 4-4-2 formation isn't as fashionable as it was 10+ years ago. ‘Box to Box’ Player The term ‘box to box’ player is also associated with central midfielders and especially within a 4-4-2 because, as discussed, CM’s in this formation are required to contribute to both attacking and defending and operate from the defensive penalty box to the attacking penalty box. Wide midfielders RM and LM in possession are responsible for getting forward, beating players and delivering crosses. Their aim is to dominate the opposition full-back, beat players with skill and deliver crosses consistently. They may also contribute towards goals, for example when the LM is in possession we could expect the RM to drift across and expose the weak areas or make a n attacking run at the back post area to score. Out of possession roles The central midfielder’s need to be able to get behind the ball and screen the defensive unit out of possession. They should show the abilities to recover, be an option and offer support and balance. If one of the CM’s advances forward and does not recover, the team now have one CM holding which may leave gaps, therefore it is imperative that when out of possession, if centre midfielders are not pressing the ball, they recover to get in behind the ball and close gaps. Wide midfielder’s may also need to recover and come back into the midfield unit. RM and LM players also have full-backs in behind them so coaches may not ask the wide midfielders to track all the way back into the defensive third, unless already locked on to an opposition player with the ball. If the opposition full-back goes forward then the RM and LM need to go with them, but the wide midfielders may not do as much work in defence as they will do in attack. If you compare that to centre midfielders who are going both ways, in and out of possession, the RM/LM’s have a larger emphasis on attacking. Communication with the forwards Another key coaching tip would be out of possession, the midfield unit need to communicate with the forwards. An ideal situation would be getting one of the forwards to drop in to be a 5th midfielder to condense the space in the centre of the pitch as well. Leicester do it quite well at the minute with Vardy dropping in, he often makes recovery runs into that midfield unit. All time best midfield in a 4-4-2 The best midfield four would consist of two wide players who can dominate the opposition full-back, deliver great crosses and also score goals. We would need two centre midfielder’s who can dominate the ball, who are also good off the ball and can contribute towards goals. When selecting the best midfield unit, it is important to note we are not selecting the best LM/CM/CM/RM ever to play the game, we are selecting the best LM/CM/CM/RM to play in a 4-4-2 formation and fulfil the roles and responsibilities within that formation. Our all time best midfield in a 4-4-2 LM - Ryan Giggs - The most decorated player in English Soccer with 34 trophies, Giggs was renowned for his game understanding, pace whilst dribbling and running with the ball and fitness. He holds the record for most assists in Premier League history, with 271 and has played in 963 games for Manchester United, which is a club record. CM - (Playmaker) Zinedine Zidane - Three-Time FIFA World Player of the Year and World Cup, European Championship, La Liga, Serie A, UEFA Champions League and UEFA Super Cup winner. ‘Zizou’ was known for his vision, technical ability, ball control and elegance as an attacking midfielder and is regarded as one of the best players in the history of the game. CM - (Ball Winner) Fernando Redondo - The Argentinian and former Real Madrid defensive midfielder had the ability to contribute to attacks and won two UEFA Champions Leagues with the Spanish side, being voted MVP of the tournament in 2000. RM - Luís Figo - Fifa World Player of the Year in 2001, Figo has the 2nd most assists in La Liga history (behind Messi). The former Sporting Lisbon, Real Madrid, Barcelona and Inter Milan player is regarded as one of the greatest players of his generation and was quick, intelligent, highly skilled and could dominate defenders in wide areas. Who would you put in your all time best midfield four? The rules are that the players selected must clearly fit the role profile within a 4-4-2 and ideally have played in a 4-4-2 system. Comment, share, tag, let us know! Next Time... Our next article focuses on how to coach forwards in a 4-4-2, exploring their roles and responsibilities on the pitch. Read it here
  7. Coaching Defenders In A 4-4-2 As coaches we have to think about how we connect individuals to the unit and then to the team, within a given formation. When adopting a 4-4-2 formation and working with the defensive unit there are connections, roles & responsibilities for the back four and the goalkeeper, both in and out of possession. In possession: With the goalkeeper in possession of the ball and under control the modern ‘keeper will look for options to launch an attack whilst maintaining possession. If we are connecting the goalkeeper to the back four when in possession, then we are concerned with ‘playing out from the back from the goalkeeper’s possession’. When playing in a 4-4-2, the centre backs may split to occupy the advanced edges of the penalty area and the full backs will advance to offer an option high and wide whilst being in a position to recover if negative transition occurs. This shape allows the goalkeeper to make decisions to distribute the ball with options to play a short, angled pass to a centre back to receive and travel with the ball or play forwards to the centre midfielder, wide midfielder or full back. If opposition forwards lock on to the centre backs and mark them, the goalkeeper may choose to play to the wide and advanced full backs, effectively breaking the first opposition defensive line of the pressing centre forwards. Thirdly, the shape may allow for a central midfielder to drop deep to receive from the goalkeeper whilst the defensive players are marked by opposition players, resulting in space to receive. Ultimately, the goalkeeper is the first option to launch an attack in any formation and it is imperative that the ‘keeper selects a passing/attacking option based on what the game demands in that very moment, in order to maintain possession and attack with balance and purpose. During an attack, the goalkeeper advances forward in relation to area of the pitch where the ball is. As the ball travels up the pitch the ‘keeper can advance further up field, but must be aware of the space in behind if the ball is won by the opposition. Also, the GK may provide an option to be a sweeper/keeper when in attack. For example, the full-back may have possession of the ball and doesn’t want to play inside to the centre backs because of the oppositions forwards. Is the goalkeeper an option to receive to then change the position of attack? Therefore the goalkeeper should take up a position on the ‘strong’ side of the ball to receive and switch the direction of the attack. Full Backs When a team is in possession, the full-backs may advance to support the attack. A full back may make a forward run or an overlap/underlap to support the wide midfielders and create 2 vs. 1 overloads in wide areas. The defensive unit still needs to offer balance and security whilst the team is attacking and it depends on the number of players the opposition leave up front and the position on the pitch where the attack is occurring. Lets say the attack is on the left area of the pitch, then the left full back may advance forward, the two centre backs shift across whilst keeping an eye on the opposition forwards and the right full back may stay tucked in leaving a three at the back. In a 4-4-2 formation it is rare for both full backs to advance at the same time however if this does occur the two centre backs may call back a central midfielder to screen in front, creating a back three if required. Centre Backs In possession the centre backs may advance forward as the ball travels up the pitch, staying behind the ball to be an option to receive and switch play. An attack may occur on the right hand side of the pitch resulting in the opposition defence shifting across quickly. The right centre back may take up a position where he can drop off to receive, then play the ball through the central midfield or pass across the back line or midfield line to expose the ‘weak’ side and attack down the left flank. A centre back may also recognise an opportunity to bring the ball out of defence and break an opposition line. If this happens, the two full backs may tuck inside and narrow off alongside the remaining centre back to create a compact back three and restrict space for an opposition counter attack if possession is lost. The key thing for the centre backs is that they are aware of the opposition forwards even though the team are in possession. They need to be in a position where if they need to defend, they can do so. And again, this depends on how many players the opposition leave in an advanced position. If the oppositions’ attacking formation leaves one up front, they may leave one centre back in front, and one in behind. If they leave two up front they may have the two centre backs both marking the two players up front and tucking one of the midfielders in to screen or cover in behind. If they leave three up front, the centre backs are either going to have to mark the spaces in between depending on if the three opposition forwards are wide or they’re going to have to pick a man up each and bring the full-back in to mark another player and the midfielder in to screen. It all depends on the opposition in terms of what the defence leave in behind to offer balance and security whilst in possession. Out of possession Out of possession the back four and the goalkeeper slide to where the ball is, so if the ball is on the left hand side of the pitch, the left full-back will slide across and press or support the press, bringing both centre backs and the right full back across with appropriate angles and distances between the individuals (8-10m). This is done to narrow and compact that half of the pitch and restrict space in between players for the opposition to play in or through. The limitation to that is a team will leave the opposite flank (weak side) uncovered. If the ball does travel to the ‘weak’ side of the pitch, the defensive unit must then communicate and slide across as the ball is travelling. The key is that the defensive unit works together to be compact and condense space to restrict the opposition playing forwards and through the unit. The goalkeeper should take up an appropriate position to protect the goal and be able to deal with opposition balls played over the defensive line. Further up the pitch if possession is lost and there is pressure on the ball immediately, the defensive unit can hold a high line to make play compact and restrict the space in between the defensive, midfield and attacking lines and limit space for the opposition to play in, forcing them to play sideways, backwards or long. Ariggo Sacchi was an advocate of controlling and attacking space and wanted his team to utilise and increase space when in possession of the ball and to minimise space when out of possession. He coached his teams to ensure that the distance between the last defender and forward was never more than 25 metres and gave his players four reference points to take up their position and keep the distances between units compact, in order to be in a position to press. “Our players had four reference points: the ball, the space, the opponent and his own teammates. Every movement had to happen in relation to these reference points. Each player had to decide which of these reference points should determine his movements.” – Arrigo Sacchi Ultimatley, If there is pressure on the ball, the defence may hold a high line and if there is no pressure on the ball then the defensive unit may have to drop off because the danger then is the ball is played in behind and all four defenders are now recovering and facing their own goal. The goalkeeper takes up a position in relation to the back four unit but be in a position to defend the goal whilst marshalling the back four. Centre Backs Out of possession, centre backs may lock on to the opposition centre forwards. If there are two opposition forwards then it becomes man for man and the centre backs will decide who they are marking and lock on. If one of the opposition forwards wants to drop deep to receive the ball the centre backs have got a decision to make; do they go with the player? Or do they stay and hold to occupy the space and drag a midfielder back in? There is no right or wrong answer, it depends on that moment within the game and depends what the options are on and around the ball. Communication is also vital for the centre backs to track or pass on runners so that they do not get dragged out of position. Full Backs Full backs out of possession will generally tuck in and narrow off to compact the back line, and then slide and press if the ball is played into a wide area in the defensive third. If the opposition wide players are stood out on the touchline without the ball, rather than go out and mark them wide, allowing space inside for the opposition to attack, the full backs will tuck in and narrow off. The distances between the back four unit are then condensed so that the opposition hopefully cannot play through, especially between the centre back and full back which is a key penetrating ball. The Coaching Manual’s All-Time Defensive Unit in a 4-4-2 In each article discussing coaching units in a formation, we will select professional players that have played in the chosen system to create an all-time best unit, culminating in an all time best 4-4-2. If you would like to send in your best all-time defenders in a 4-4-2 formation please do so via Facebook (thecoachingmanual) or twitter (@coachingmanual) and we would love to hear from you. The Coaching Manual selected the goalkeeper and defensive line of AC Milan 1988-89 as our ‘All-Time Defensive Unit in a 4-4-2’. We could have selected a number of amazing goalkeepers, centre backs and full backs who have played in this system and we did not have to select players from the same club, however our rationale was based around defending being about communication and organisation plus these players have clearly played together and understand each others strengths and short-comings. That and the fact that collectively they won two European Cups (1988-89 & 1989-90), two European Super Cups (1989 & 1990), Supercoppa Italiana (1988), two Intercontinental Cups (1989 & 1990) and Serie A (1987-88) helped sway our decision. GK - Giovanni Galli LB - Paolo Maldini CB - Alessandro Costacurta CB - Franco Bresi RB - Maoro Tassoti To Conclude.. Thanks for reading the ‘Coaching defenders in a 4-4-2’ article. The Coaching Manual have lots of sessions on our website to support you to coach your players including full backs supporting the attacks to create attacking overloads, goalkeepers acting as sweeper keepers, man for man marking, defending as a unit, pressing cues and triggers, and playing out from the back. Go to the next article ‘Coaching midfielders in a 4-4-2’
  8. Introduction To The 4-4-2 Here at The Coaching Manual we are exploring formations used in soccer to provide our members with knowledge around game strategies to select formations that may best be suited to their players & teams. We begin with 4-4-2. Organisation A 4-4-2 formation is set up with a goalkeeper, four defensive players, four midfield players and two forwards. The defensive line consists of two central defenders (centre back) and two wide defenders (full-backs). The midfield follows a similar pattern and consists of central midfielders and wide midfielders (sometimes referred to as wingers). The attacking line in a 4-4-2 consists of two attacking forwards (strikers). The 4-4-2 has been synonymous with English soccer for years, but it was actually invented and first delivered by a Russian coach called Victor Maslov (Torpedo Moscow & Dynamo Kyiv coach). Maslow was an innovator of the game, establishing the 4-4-2 formation and advocating a pressing game when his team were out of possession to reduce opponents time on the ball . He was also one of the first coaches to take an interest in the nutrition of players and the links of diet to performance. Teams adopting the 4-4-2 formation There are notable teams that have adopted the 4-4-2 formation to achieve success in the game. As mentioned in our first article, formations follow a cultural and ‘fashionable’ trend across the game and the 4-4-2 is commonly associated with the 1966 England World Cup winning side as England won the World Cup on home soil. AC Milan of the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, under Arrigo Sacchi and then Fabio Capello, also set up with a 4-4-2 system and won domestic and european titles. In this seasons English Premier League, Leicester City are currently in 1st place having adopted a 4-4-2 line up. Last season, the 4-4-2 was the 2nd most adopted formation in the league, behind the 4-2-3-1 in 1st place. The 4-4-2 clearly still has a place in the modern game. At Atletico De Madrid, Diego Simeone often lines up his side in a 4-4-2 formation and he won the La Liga title and reached the Champions League final in 2013/14. Simeone was competing with Real Madrid and Barcelona, two of the best teams in world soccer, and had great success with the formation. Potential Advantages & Limitations There are some advantages of playing the 4-4-2 formation; Teams can cover the width of the pitch in defence and attack. When defending, four defenders and four midfielders can slide across the full width of the pitch to cover ground, close down the ball and attacking players, and restrict the space in between each other to create a ‘block’ with the opposition having to play through, over or around 8 defending players (4 x midfielders & 4 x defenders) and the Goalkeeper. Also, if one of the forwards recover and drop into the midfield unit this creates a 5 in midfield, which limits space for the opposition and creates a defensive overload meaning the attacking team will have to commit players forward to now overload that area and become susceptible to the counter attack by doing so. The formation also provides options to attack from wide areas and to switch the play and points of attack. Wide midfielders can position themselves in advanced areas of the pitch knowing they have support, cover and passing options provided by two central midfielders. Also, full backs can join in the attack to create 2 vs. 1 overloads in wide areas and the back four becomes a back three plus a screening midfield player to offer defensive security if possession is lost. The system has clearly defined roles and responsibilities. If you compare the 4-4-2 to a 4-2-3-1, how do the deep lying midfield two differ from the advanced midfield three? What’s the role of the midfield three in linking with the one forward? Are the midfield three wide or narrow? By adding more unit’s (lines of players) it adds complexity and there needs to be clearly defined roles to operate successfully as a team. With any formation, there are also perceived limitations; Central midfielders have both jobs to do (attack and defend) so must have both an attacking and defensive skill set as they have to get forward in attack and track back to defend. In comparison, the 4-2-3-1 has two deep lying midfielders who will be responsible for defensive duties even though they’ll be asked to contribute to attacks. Central midfielders must also communicate and be disciplined. If both players advance forward and contribute to attack and the ball is lost then the opposition have space in the central area of the pitch to play into and through. Therefore communication must occur to decide which player supports the attack and which player offers defensive security and an option behind the ball. Setting up with three units (defensive, midfield, attack lines) means the opposition can potentially ‘break lines’ and play through or over these lines and occupy space in between the units to receive and advance forwards. If an opposition team manages to play forward, you may have four players from a unit taken out of the game until they recover behind the ball. If a team sets up with wingers’ responsibility to create attacking opportunities from wide areas then the team may need to advance players into the final third of the pitch otherwise two forwards may be challenging 3 or more defenders plus the goalkeeper and the delivery fro wide will have to be pinpoint to find the attacking player. If a team plays a 4-3-3 against a back four they may have those additional attackers. If a team plays a 4-2-3-1 the one forward is up there to combine with the three advancing midfielders. Coaching the 4-4-2 It’s all about your players behaviours and actions and of course the capabilities and skill set of the players will dictate the style of play within any formation. In the next article we will look at coaching defenders in a 4-4-2 formation and examine the roles and responsibilities for defenders and the Goalkeeper in both defence and attack. It wouldn’t be complete unless we provided examples from our coaching sessions, so we will include sessions that will support coaching defenders in a 4-4-2. Go to the next article in the series 'Coaching Defenders in a 4-4-2'
  9. look like this is for real world footballer or coach. but we can learn something from it.
  10. Coaching Attackers In A 3-5-2 In the final article of the 3-5-2 series, we address key concepts to coach your Forwards, both in and out of possession, in this system. Structure The forward unit in the 3-5-2 consists of 2 x Centre Forwards. The roles and responsibilities of the Forwards may differ to include a ‘Target Man’ and a ‘Playmaker’. Target Man (No. 9) This Forward may be tasked to stay on the shoulder of the last opposition defender to secure possession in advanced areas of the pitch and link play with their strike partner and advancing midfielders. As the Target Man is positioned high up the pitch they may also look to exploit space in behind the defensive line. Playmaker (No. 10) The 3-5-2 formation was developed to include a Playmaker into the team and provide support for this Forward. The Playmaker is generally the creator of the attacks, linking the midfield and forward units to create and score goals. This player will utilise clever movements and technical abilities to receive in between opposition lines and unbalance the opposition defensive unit. In some instances the Playmaker may even be given a free role, which makes it even more difficult for the opposition Centre Backs to track, as this player only has responsibilities around the creation and finishing of attacking play. In Possession Reaching the Forwards In the 3-5-2 system, the 5-man midfield can help dominate central areas of the pitch and also add players to the attack when the ball advances to the Centre Forwards. This may be through combination play or by clever movement to allow the team to play back to front quickly and under control to reach the Forward line. Scenario One: Combination play with Wingbacks Once the ball is played into the Centre Forwards (Blue 9 and Blue 10), the opposition defence can be stretched through the advancing Wingbacks (Blue 7 and 11). Scenario Two: In the above scenario, Centre Forward (Blue 10) receives the ball to combine with the advancing Left Wingback (Blue 11). This movement unbalances the opposition defensive line and allows the Blue team to get in behind the defensive unit to deliver from wide areas and finish on goal, as Centre Forward (Blue 9) spins out and makes a run into the penalty area. Playing between the lines With a Target Man (Blue 9) and a Playmaker (Blue 10), the Target Man may hold the attacking line to occupy the opposition Centre Backs (Red 5 and 6), creating space for the Playmaker to receive in between the lines to create attacking opportunities. Scenario Three: With Central Midfielder (Blue 6) in possession, the Wingbacks (Blue 7 & 11) advance forwards flattening the opposition midfield line. Centre Forward (Blue 9) occupies the opposition Centre Backs (Red 5 and 6) and stays high. Space is now created in between the opposition midfield and defensive lines, allowing Blue 10 to receive in between the lines. If the opposition defensive line step out to track the movement of Blue 10, the Wingbacks continue to advance and can combine with Blue 9 as the opposition defence become disjointed. Out of Possession Defending from the front Centre Forwards can also support the team out of possession to regain the ball back high up the pitch, by forcing play into areas where pressure can then be applied. Scenario Four: As detailed in the ‘Coaching Midfielders in a 3-5-2’ article, traps can be set to regain possession, with this pressing trap being instigated by the Centre Forwards (Blue 9 and 10) restricting the inside pass and forcing the opposition to play wide. The Blue team adopt a man-for-man marking system and leave the opposition Full Backs (Red 2 and 3) free to receive.The approach and press from Blue 10 forces the opposition Centre Back (Red 5) to pass wide to the Left Back (Red 3). This triggers the pressing cue as the Central Midfielder (Blue 4) now presses aggressively and the Right Wingback (Blue 7) is locked on to the Left Midfielder (Red 11) if the ball is played down the line. The touchline also supports the press as Red 3 cannot play left. Forwards screen off inside pass Scenario Five: Centre Forwards (Blue 9 and Blue 10) can also screen inside opposition passes in deeper positions, again forcing play into wide areas to then utilise the touchline and win the ball back as well as preventing central penetration. Force play centrally from opposition GK There are occasions where the Centre Forwards will force play centrally in order to use the overloads in these areas to regain possession. Scenario Six: In this scenario, the pressing from the Blue team has forced the opposition Red team to play back to the Goalkeeper. As the ball is played back to the ‘Keeper, Centre Forward (Blue 9) closes down the ball whilst screening off the pass back to the Centre Back (Red 6) and Right Back (Red 2). Blue 10 also locks on to the other Centre Back (Red 5), and as the ‘Keeper is being closed down quickly they clear the ball centrally in to an area where the Blue Defensive and Midfield units can compete for the ball.
  11. Coaching Midfielders In A 3-5-2 In this article we explore key concepts to coach your Midfielders in the 3-5-2 formation, both in possession and out of possession. Structure The midfield unit in the 3-5-2 formation is made up of a Left Wingback, Right Wingback and three Central Midfielders. Wingbacks The Wingback position in the 3-5-2 system is one of the most demanding roles in the modern game as these players are tasked with defending and covering wide areas when out of possession, and also providing width to the attack in advanced areas of the pitch. Wingbacks should be able to meet the physical demands of the game, dominate 1 vs. 1 situations both offensively and defensively, and have tactical understanding of when to advance forwards to support the attack and when to recover and adopt a defensive position when out of possession. Central Midfielders The Central Midfielders aim to dominate the opposition Central Midfield and control the middle third of the pitch, through creating attacking overloads and passing options as well as compacting the central area when without the ball. One of the three Central Midfielders may act in a more defensive role to offer defensive security, restrict opposition counter attacks and create attacks from deep whilst allowing the remaining two Central Midfielders to advance forwards and support the attack. Teams playing the 3-5-2 formation have also adopted 2 x Defensive Central Midfielders and allowed the Wingbacks and remaining Central Midfielder to focus on attacking responsibilities more than defensive duties. Van Gaal used this approach with the Netherlands National Team, playing de Jong and Wijnaldum behind Wesley Sneijder in the Central Midfield positions of a 3-5-2. In Possession Creating attacks in wide areas The 5-man midfield unit allows width to be provided in attack through the advancing Wingbacks. Scenario One: In the above scenario, the Wingbacks (Blue 11 & Blue 7) advance forwards to provide options to receive in wide areas. This movement also flattens the opposition midfield unit, creating space behind and in front of their midfield line to exploit. Scenario Two: As the Left Wingback (Blue 11) receives in a wide area, a 3 vs. 2 attacking overload is created as the Wingback is supported by Central Midfielder (B8) and Centre Forward (B10). The player in possession now has options to combine or can advance forwards to deliver. Creating attacks in central areas If the opposition Wide players (Red 11 and Red 7) track the Left (Blue 11) and Right (Blue 7) Wingbacks, then attacks can be created through central areas of the field as the opposition are now stretched defensively in an attempt to cover the width of the pitch. Scenario Three: Central Midfield movement (Blue 4 and Blue 8) creates options for the Central Midfielders to receive and play forwards or alternatively if they are also marked by the opposition Midfielders (Red 4 and Red 8) then space is now created for a vertical pass in to the Centre Forwards (Blue 9 and Blue 10). Attacking Overloads As the ball is played into the Centre Forward (Blue 9), the Central Midfielders, in this case Blue 4, may advance forwards to create attacking overloads and support the attack. Scenario Four: Rotation to create attacks Scenario Five: As the Central Midfielder (Blue 4) and Wingback (Blue 7) combine, the Centre Forward (Blue 10) drops in between the opposition midfield and defensive lines to become an option to receive. At the same time, the Central Midfielders (Blue 4 and Blue 8) advance forwards and this rotation now causes problems for the opposition defensive unit; if they track the Centre Forward (Blue 10) and step out then the advancing Central Midfielders (Blue 4 and Blue 8) can receive the ball. If they hold their position and pick up the advancing players then Blue 10 can receive in between the lines and has options ahead of the ball. Out of Possession Defending in wide areas The shape of the 3-5-2 system also allows the team to compact central areas when out of possession, forcing play wide to utilise the touchline and attempt to regain the ball or force opposition errors. Scenario Six: As the ball is received by the opposition Left Back (Red 3) the Right Wingback (Blue 7) is in a position to press the ball. The Central Midfield unit (Blue 8, 6 and 4) shift across offering cover, support and compactness infield. The near-side Centre Back (Blue 2) marks the opposition Left Midfielder (Red 11) tight, as the defensive unit shifts and slides across with the Left Wingback (Blue 11) dropping off and shifting inside to support. Central Midfield shifts and presses The Central Midfield unit in a 3-5-2 may also have to shift and press the ball, as shown in the scenario below. Scenario Seven: With the opposition Central Midfielder (Red 4) in possession, Blue 8 is in a position to press the ball and force play wide. This is supported by the arc of Blue 6 and Blue 4 to offer cover and support whilst being in a position to affect and restrict any inside passes. The Right Wingback (Blue 7) is also in a position to close down the wide pass to Left Back (Red 3) or even intercept the ball and regain possession. Setting Traps Out of possession, traps can be set to regain possession in key areas of the pitch. Scenario Eight: This tactic was used by Massimiliano Allegri’s Juventus side last season and involves the team out of possession adopting a man-for-man marking system, whilst leaving the opposition Full Backs (Red 2 and Red 3) unoccupied to receive in wide areas. The Forwards (Blue 9 and Blue 10) press and cut off central passes to the opposition Midfielders (Red 4 and Red 8), forcing passes out wide and to the Full Backs (Red 2 and Red 3). As the ball is played to the Left Back (Red 3) in the above scenario, Central Midfielder (Blue 4) presses aggressively with an approach that cuts off inside passing lines to the opposition midfield. This forces the Left Back (Red 3) to play a pass towards the Left Midfielder (Red 11) who is already under pressure from the Right Wingback (Blue 7). The Blue team can then attempt to regain possession or force an opposition mistake. This tactic was successful on a number of occasions throughout the season and resulted in positive transitions for Juventus.
  12. Coaching Defenders In A 3-5-2 Here, we look at the 3-5-2 formation and in particular, how to coach key concepts of the system to your defensive unit, when in possession and out of possession. Structure A Goalkeeper and 3 x Centre Backs (1 x Left Centre back, 1 x Right Centre Back and 1 x Central Centre back) make up the defensive unit in the 3-5-2 formation. Defenders in this formation may operate a man-for man or zonal system, with a principle being that opposition Centre Forwards are always tracked and the spare Centre Back offers cover and support, also known as the +1 rule. Libero The spare Centre Back may also be a designated ‘Libero’. The Libero is responsible for sweeping and covering behind the two man-marking Centre Backs, and the position is derived from the Italian name “libero da impegni di marcatura” which translates to “free from man-marking tasks.” As well as possessing defensive qualities, the Libero may also be a ball-playing Centre-Back, demonstrating proficient technique, game awareness and passing distribution to launch attacks and penetrate the opposition when possession is regained. Out of Possession Prevent central penetration A concept of the 3-5-2 system is to be defensively strong and compact in central areas of the pitch, with the back three effectively dealing with opposition Centre Forwards. Scenario One: As shown in the above scenario, when the opposition have secured possession of the ball, the Blue team drop off with the defensive unit becoming compact and the Left (Blue 3) and Right (Blue 2) Centre Backs man-marking the opposition Forwards (Red 9 and 10) and in positions to compete aerially and on the ground. The remaining Centre Back (Blue 5) acts as a Libero, in a position to sweep and cover. The defensive unit must also communicate with the midfield unit, to ensure appropriate distances provide compactness and restrict the opposition from exploiting space in-between the lines. Win the 2nd Ball Scenario Two: If the opposition are forced to play a long ball over units and into the Forward players (Red 9 and 10), it is vital that the Blue team are in a position to compete for any second balls, so that defensive compactness and structure in central areas is not penetrated with one pass. This involves the marking Centre Back, in the above scenario Blue 2, competing for the ball whilst the remaining two Centre Backs (Blue 5 and 3) drop off to collect any second balls. Also the midfield unit need to be switched on and in a position to win the second ball if it is played back into a central area. Near-side Centre Back marks tight If the opposition move possession into a wide area of the field to build play, the Centre Back on the near-side should look to mark the opposition Forward tight and be in a position to compete for the ball, intercept any through balls and delay the first phase of attack. Scenario Three: In this scenario, the Blue team are defending the ball on the left side of the pitch (opposition’s right) and the Left Centre Back (Blue 3) marks the opposition Forward (Red 9) tight. The Central (Blue 5) and Left Centre Back (Blue 2) drop off and remain compact. Blue 5 needs to be switched on and in a position to cover if the ball is played in behind Blue 11 and Blue 3 on the near-side. Right Wingback (Blue 7) stays connected with the defensive unit and drops off to defend the weak-side if play is switched. In Possession Playing out from the back Scenario Four: With the Goalkeeper in possession, the defensive unit take up a shape to receive with the Left (Blue 3) and Right (Blue 2) Centre Backs splitting to the edge of the penalty area and the Central Centre Back (Blue 5) taking up an angled position in-field and a 3 vs. 2 overload against the opposition Centre Forwards (Red 9 and 10). If the opposition press high and man-for-man, then space is still available for the Central Midfielder (Blue 6) to receive and a 4 vs. 3 overload is created. Scenario Five: In the above scenario, the opposition (Red team) have pressed aggressively and man-for-man to prevent the Blue team playing out from the back. The Central Midfielders (Blue 4 and Blue 8) move to wide positions to lose their markers and be an option to receive from the Goalkeeper, as defensive security is still provided in central areas by Central Midfielder (Blue 6) and Centre Back (Blue 5). Scenario Six: If the Central Midfielders (Blue 4 and Blue 8) are tracked by Red 4 and Red 8, the Goalkeeper now has the option to play directly into the Centre Forwards (Blue 9 and Blue 10), who have space to receive. The key to playing out from the back in this system is the Goalkeeper’s range of distribution and game awareness to select the pass and maintain possession, along with the shape adopted by the back three. How the opposition react to this she will determine the options available to play out from the back. Centre Backs split wide to receive and play When in possession, the positioning of the Centre Backs can change the angles of attack and opportunities to penetrate the opposition. Scenario Seven: In the above scenario, the Central Centre Back (Blue 5) starts in possession of the ball and the Left (Blue 3) and Right (Blue 2) Centre Backs split wide and offer options to receive, stretching the opposition defensively and creating different angles from which to launch an attack. Left Centre Back (Blue 3) receives and now has options to play forwards into the Central Midfielder (Blue 4). If the Central Midfielder is tracked by Red 8, space is created for a penetrative pass into the Centre Forward (Blue 10). As the ball is on the left side of the pitch, the opposition will shift towards the ball, creating space on the right for the Right Wingback (Blue 7) to receive a long diagonal pass in behind the opposition defensive line. The options that are presented to the Left Centre Back are dependent on the timing and movement ahead of the ball from the Midfielders and Forwards.
  13. Introduction To The 3-5-2 This series of articles will explore the tactical formation of 3-5-2; a system that became popular in the 1980’s and 1990’s but became redundant in the modern game until the resurgence of Juventus, the Italian National Team and it’s impact at Euro 2016. Organisation The 3-5-2 formation set up includes a Goalkeeper, three Central Defenders, five Midfield players (consisting of a Left Wingback, a Right Wingback and three Central Midfielders), and two Centre Forwards. History of the 3-5-2 The creation of the 3-5-2 system is credited to the Argentinian Coach Carlos Bilardo, who led his country to the 1986 FIFA World Cup utilising the formation. Bilardo came up with the 3-5-2 as a solution to best accommodate one of the games greatest ever talents into his line up; Diego Maradona. The Argentina Manager concluded that wingers were not as prevalent in systems at that time, becoming wide midfielders rather than attackers. Therefore he adopted a back three and did away with his full backs, pushing them into midfield to provide support & security in advanced areas of the pitch where his Captain and Playmaker, Maradona, could then operate. Bilardo first delivered his 3-5-2 system with Argentina on a European Tour in 1984 and beforehand was heavily criticised and questioned by the press for his approach, following his poor start of 3 wins in 15 games with the National Team. The debut of the system resulted in victories over Switzerland, Belgium and West Germany. He continued to tinker with systems and approaches until again rolling out the 3-5-2 set up against England in the 1986 World Cup Quarter Final. The game featured two of the most famous goals in soccer history, both scored by Maradona; the ‘Hand of God’ and the ‘Goal of the Century’ as Maradona dribbled 60 yards past five England players to score. Argentina won the game 2-1 and went on to defeat Belgium 2-0 in the Semi-Final and West Germany 3-2 in the Final to lift the World Cup. Following the trend As Jonathan Wilson points out in his book ‘Inverting the pyramid’, tactical changes in soccer follow trends and the 3-5-2 system began to be adopted by a number of club and international teams. These teams pushed a central midfielder into the back line, acting as a ‘Libero’ in-between two man-marking Defenders, with two Wide Defenders being advanced to provide width in attack, whilst three Central Midfielders played behind two Centre Forwards. In the 1990 World Cup Final both West Germany and Argentina lined up with 3-5-2 formations, as did Germany 6 years later when they won the 1996 European Championships. Brazil’s World Cup winners in 2002 also adopted the 3-5-2 system, however this was a last-minute change in shape due to Defensive Midfielder Emerson dislocating his shoulder whilst playing as Goalkeeper in a training session days before their first game. Disappearance and re-emergence During the mid-2000’s the 3-5-2 system became less frequently used, again due to trends in the game. Many teams began to set up with a lone Striker and creative players utilised wide or in the No. 10 position in a 4-2-3-1. With only one Forward to mark, this meant there were two spare Defenders in the back three, as one provided cover and support whilst the third Centre Back is not required, and the team had an underload elsewhere on the pitch. Also, modern demands of the game meant that the Wingbacks within a 3-5-2 system were being put under greater physical load than the rest of the players on the field, in oder to contribute to attacks and recover to defend. By the end of the 2000’s no team in the Premier league or knock-out stages of the Champions League used the 3-5-2 formation. An Italian 'Renaissance' Former Lecce, Juventus and Italy midfielder Antonio Conte took over as Manager of Juventus in 2011 and adopted the 3-5-2 formation, winning three consecutive Serie A titles before taking over the managerial reigns of the Italian National Team in 2014. Conte sets his teams up to create defensive blocks out of possession, be defensively resilient and press high up the pitch, looking to counter-attack quickly when possession is regained. He has achieved this with a back four at his previous clubs however, when he arrived at Juventus he had Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini at his disposal and adapted Juve’s shape to accommodate all three Centre Backs. Conte’s Italy also included the defensive trio, as the Italian national side progressed to the Quarter Finals of Euro 2016 before being knocked out by Germany on penalties. During the Euro’s, Italy impressed the soccer world with their 3-5-2 formation and most notably how well it was executed against the likes of Germany, Spain and Belgium. Conte was seen as the mastermind behind a team with no notable ‘star’ players progressing in the tournament, getting their tactical approach correct in most games whilst working to the strengths of his squad in a 3-5-2 system. It will be interesting to see Conte’s approach with Chelsea for the upcoming Premier League season and if the 3-5-2 formation can be implemented successfully. Advantages and limitations of the 3-5-2 Advantages Defensively strong and compact in central areas of the pitch Back three can effectively deal with opposition playing two centre forwards Five midfielders prevent opposition overloading midfield areas In possession, width provided by Wingbacks as two Centre Forwards provide targets for delivery from wide areas Passing options in central areas with three Midfielders Flexibility and attacking options provided by three Central Midfielders and two Centre Forwards when positive transition occurs Options to switch play and expose the ‘weak side’ through positioning of Wingbacks Limitations Wingbacks need to be tactically astute and able to meet the physical demands to support the attack and recover to defend Space can be exploited in wide areas if Wingbacks advance forwards and do not recover One of the Centre Backs in a back three can become redundant if playing against a lone Striker Defensive unit must stay connected out of possession (If one of the Centre backs step out of the back line, space can be exploited on the edges of the penalty area as the remaining two Centre Backs squeeze inside and narrow off) Players to be tactically intelligent, clearly understand their roles and aware to take up positions to control space on the pitch to the teams advantage
  14. Coaching Attackers In A 3-4-3 In this final article of the 3-4-3 series, we examine the key concepts to coach attackers within this system. Structure One advanced centre forward and two withdrawn forwards (1 up, 2 down) Using two withdrawn forwards behind an advanced centre forward allows the withdrawn forwards to combine with the midfield to receive in wide areas, or between the oppositions midfield and defensive lines. Also the withdrawn forwards can invert to attack the space in between the full backs and centre backs, as the advanced centre forward occupies the centre backs. The advanced centre forward needs to be tactically and technically astute in order to receive and maintain possession to bring the withdrawn forwards into play, or to drag the centre backs out of position creating space for the withdrawn forwards to exploit through vertical passes from midfield or through dribbling with the ball. Two advanced forwards and one deep-lying centre forward (2 up, 1 down) This formation is effective against an opposition back four as the left and right forwards occupy the opposition centre backs, with width in attack being provided by the wide midfielders/wing backs. The deep-lying forward, also known as a false-nine, has space in behind the advanced forwards and looks to gain possession on the edge of the area to combine with forwards and advancing midfielders to create attacks. If the opposition operate with a holding midfielder, the false-nine may look to operate in wide areas to receive or drag the holding midfielder out of position and create space for vertical passes from midfield into the forwards. Flat 3 Utilising a flat three is a way of including three central forwards into your line up, with width in attack again being provided by the wide midfielders/wing backs. However, in game situations the forwards would naturally drop off or hold the attacking line based on position and angle of the attack therefore the forwards would operate in both advanced and deep-lying roles dependent on the situation in that game moment. This tactical flexibility is key to the 3-4-3 formation. In possession Rotation When coaching the front three, rotation and interchanges of positions at the appropriate times can disrupt the opposition defensive line and create goalscoring opportunities through vertical passes. With the central midfielder (10) in possession, the right forward (7) drives inside as the wide midfielder (8) advances into the space created in order to keep the opposition left back (Red 3) stretched. As this movement occurs, the centre forward (9) spins off his marker and B10 plays a vertical pass between the opposition centre back and full back for the centre forward to collect and shoot at goal. If the marker tracks the centre forward, the right forward (7) can receive inside and exploit the space created centrally by driving towards goal. The wide midfielders (4 and 8) stay wide in order to stretch the back line and be an option to receive in wide areas if the opposition defensive unit narrows off. Alternatively, if the wide forwards (11 and 7) operate in wide areas, the wide midfielders can invert and make runs from deep to attack the space in between the opposition centre backs and full backs. Combination Play - Up-Back-Through As the 3-4-3 is an attacking-focused formation, a team may be able to commit seven players to the attack which provides more passing options and opportunities for combinations to penetrate the opposition. One example of a combination pattern that is utilised in the 3-4-3 formation is the ‘Up-Back-Through’. A ball is played forwards to then be passed back and then forwards again, beyond the initial receiving player, for a third-man runner to penetrate beyond an opposition line. With the central midfielder (10) in possession, the centre forward (9) drops to receive the ball. As the pass is played forwards, the central midfielder moves to receive back. The movement of the centre forward (9) has dragged across the opposition centre back (Red 6), creating space between the centre back and full back (Red 2) for the left forward (11) to exploit and receive behind the defensive line. As the ten receives the ball back he plays the through ball into the run of the left forward to finish on goal. If the centre back (6) does not track the centre forwards run, then the centre forward (9) can receive and turn to attack the goal centrally. If the full back (2) narrows off as the centre back tracks the run, the wide midfielder (4) advances forward to receive on the corner of the penalty area and in behind the defensive unit. Again, the wide midfielders (4 and 10) stay wide to keep the opposition defence stretched or to receive in wide areas if they narrow off. Out of possession Pressing from the front Defending from the front is a key concept within the 3-4-3 system as the front three can arrange themselves to press a back four and stop them from playing out from the back, or force long balls where possession can be regained. In this scenario the ball is central with the opposition centre back (Red 5) and the centre forward (9) becomes the pressing player as he closes down the ball and cuts off the forward passing line to the opposition centre midfielder (Red 4). The wide forwards (11 and 7) take up positions to intercept a diagonal pass or press the opposition full backs if they receive, whilst also restricting the diagonal outlet ball to the opposition wide midfielders (Red 7 & 11). They are also in positions to be able to counter attack if possession is regained, effectively creating a 3 vs. 2 to attack the opposition centre backs at speed if transition occurs. The central midfielders (6 and 10) support the front 3 by man-marking the opposition centre midfielders (Red 4 and 8), preventing the opposition beating the press by playing centrally. This then restricts the team in possession to either play a long ball forwards, where the blue team have a 3 vs. 2 overload in defence, or play sideways or backwards, which is already being anticipated by the positioning of the front three. Pressing in wide areas If the ball is played wide to the opposition full back (Red 3), the wide forward (7) quickly presses the ball as it travels and uses an angled approach to restrict forward passes to the opposition wide midfielder (Red 11). As the ball travels, the wide midfielder/wing back (8) also closes down Red 11 to prevent them receiving or turning and also to isolate the player in possession. The central forward (9) drops and moves across to restrict passing options back to the centre back (Red 5) and be in a position to intercept any backwards passes. The central midfielder (10) also takes up a crucial position to be able to press opposition supporting players around the ball (Red 4) and to cut out the forward passing line into the opposition striker (Red 10). The left forward (11) on the far side comes slightly inside and occupies a position in space to be able to attack if possession is regained. All time best forwards in a 3-4-3 The main roles of the three forwards in this system are to occupy the opposition defensive line whilst creating and exploiting space for goalscoring opportunities through clever movements and combination play. Also the attacking line will have responsibility to press from the front to win the ball back high up the pitch. Here are the players we selected as the all time best forwards in a 3-4-3 formation... LF - Alexis Sánchez - The Arsenal and Chile forward is well known for his tireless energy, determination and persistence on the pitch alongside his excellent technical ability to explode past opposition players with the ball to score goals or create for the team. Sánchez is one of the most dynamic players in the modern game and has been deployed as left forward, right forward, central forward, false nine and attacking midfielder throughout his career due to his tactical understanding and ability to play with both feet. CF - Patrick Kluivert - The current Ajax U19 coach was part of Ajax’s ‘golden generation’ in the mid 1990’s and is the youngest player to score in a Champions League Final when he headed the winning goal in the 1995 Final at eighteen years old. As well as possessing quick feet and excellent technical ability, Kluivert also used his physique to dominate opposition centre backs. His former clubs include Ajax, AC Milan, Barcelona, Newcastle United, Valencia, PSV and Lille along with his seventy-nine appearances for the Netherlands. RF - Thomas Müller - German World Cup Winner and Bayern Munich forward Müller is prolific at creating and scoring goals due to his team work, energy, positioning and understanding of space, which acquired him the nickname ‘Der Raumdeuter’ - translating to ‘Space Interpreter’. Müller is revered for his composure and is one of the worlds best players at exploiting gaps in the opposition defence.
  15. Coaching Midfielders In A 3-4-3 This article explores the 3-4-3 system and how to coach the midfield unit, with key roles and responsibilities highlighted when in and out of possession. Structure The midfield unit of a 3-4-3 system can be organised as either a flat 4 or as a diamond, with both set ups containing a left midfielder, right midfielder and 2 central midfielders. The midfield line can also be arranged with a 3 + 1 attacking midfielder or 1 defending midfielder + 3, however effectively these set ups still contain a left and right midfielder, an attacking central midfielder and a defensive central midfielder. Diamond Midfield Within the diamond midfield the 2 central midfielders will be given specific roles and responsibilities, both in and out of possession, with one central midfielder playing as a defensive midfielder/pivot and the remaining central player operating as an attacking midfielder. Flat 4 Midfield The flat 4 midfield differs from the diamond structure as the central midfielders can operate as both attacking and defending midfielders. They must communicate to decide who sits to provide defensive security and options behind the ball, and who advances forward to support the attack. Roles of midfielders in 3-4-3 Wide Midfielders/WingBacks: The wide midfielders in a 3-4-3 system are crucial to the team in both defence and attack. They must possess the physical qualities to play this role as well as have tactical understanding in all stages of the game (In possession/Out of possession/Transition). The wide midfielders may provide width in attack, stretching the opposition defensive line, to create attacks from wide areas or may invert to exploit space inside if the wide forwards stay near the touchline. Defensively, the wide midfielders are responsible for defending the wide areas of the pitch and may recover to operate in full back positions when required. The wide midfielders also need to be tactically astute to mark space on the ‘weak’ side of the pitch by dropping off, restricting the switch of play for the opposition. Defensive Midfielder/Pivot: The role of the defensive midfielder, or pivot, is to provide a defensive screen and break up play when out of possession, and to create attacks from deep when in possession. In a 3-4-3 system, the pivot operates as a deep-lying playmaker, sometimes referred to as the ‘quarterback role’ or ‘regista’. They look to create attacking opportunities from deep due to the number of forward passing options available in the 3-4-3. This becomes a crucial role as the team needs players who can perform vertical passes without giving away possession. Due to the tactical fluidity of this formation, the pivot also needs to be positionally disciplined and operate as a ‘destroyer’ as well as ‘regista’. Players such as Sergio Busquets, Roberto Trashorras and Xabi Alonso exhibit these qualities of being tactical astute to restrict opposition attacks whilst having the vision and range of passing to advance the team up the field. Attacking Midfielder: The main roles of the attacking midfielder within the 3-4-3 are to link up and support the front 3 when in possession whilst providing defensive support when out of possession. As this system operates with a back 3 it has potential to be exposed in wide areas, resulting in midfielders recovering to support the defence when possession is lost. As a result the attacking midfielder may have to operate deeper than they would in a system with a back 4, in order to compact central areas of the field and get behind the ball. When possession is regained, the attacking midfielder will advance forwards to offer options for the vertical pass from deep, or to combine with the front 3 in wide and central areas, creating attacking overloads in key areas of the pitch resulting in opportunities at goal. In Possession Playing from deep: 1. In this scenario, the defensive midfield pivot (6) has possession of the ball in a deep position and has a number of vertical passing options to launch the attack. The timing of movement to gain possession is vital and the pivot’s first touch should open out enabling the player to see the whole pitch in front whilst being aware of opposition players nearby 2. The wide midfielders (4 and 8) provide width by positioning themselves near the touchline, opening up the vertical passing options to the left (11) and right (7) forwards or being options to receive if the opposition narrow off. Attacking midfielder (10) occupies space in central area of the pitch to receive and advance forwards or to make a run from deep to combine with wide forwards 3. The central forward (9) provides depth by staying advanced and in line with the opposition defensive unit, as the wide forwards (11 and 7) drop off to exploit the space and be options to receive 4. If the opposition midfielder (Red 8) screens the vertical pass, the left (3) or right (2) centre back may advance forwards to receive a square pass and exploit the space. If this occurs, the pivot (6) will then drop into the defensive line, maintaining the +1 rule of always having one more defender than there are attackers. Exposing the ‘weak’ side: 1. As the ball is on the left side of the pitch with the wide midfielder (4) the opposition have shifted across, leaving the right side of the pitch exposed. The pivot (6) provides an option behind the ball to receive. The right midfielder (8) has stayed wide to stretch the opposition and exploit the ‘weak’ side, and the pivot recognises this option and switches play quickly to change the angle of attack 2. The right forward (7) stays inside to provide a vertical option to receive and also to create space for the right midfielder (8) to exploit. If B8 receives the ball, then the right forward can provide an option to combine 3. If the opposition midfielder (Red 8) screens the passing lines to B8 or B7, a square pass to the advancing right centre back (2) may be played to then exploit the weak side through quick combination play. As the ball is played to B2, the pivot drops into the defensive unit as B5 and B3 shift across, maintain the +1 rule. The key to exposing the ‘weak’ side is quick, accurate passing and movement to unbalance the opposition. Out of Possession Defensive screen: As this system operates with a back 3, the defensive unit may require support when out of possession to cover the width of the pitch. This support can be provided by the midfield unit through a defensive screen to delay the opposition attack and prevent penetrative balls into the forwards. This is normally the role adopted by the defensive midfield/pivot who can position themselves between the ball and the opposition attacking options, with support from the central midfield team mate. The wide midfielders may also drop into the defensive line to create a back 5 and prevent against switches of play or being exposed in wide areas. Again this requires tactical flexibility and positional understanding from the midfielders. Supporting the press: The midfield unit will also offer support when the team presses from the front to take up positions to regain possession or restrict the opposition from playing out. In the scenario detailed above, the left forward (11) is pressing the right full back (Red 2) in possession. The left midfielder (4) supports the press and prevents the ball down the line by being in a position to intercept or press Red 7. The attacking midfielder adopts a deeper position to screen the penetrative ball to the opposition forward (Red 9) whilst being in a position to press the centre midfield (Red 4). The pivot is in a deeper position still, being able to shift and slide if the ball is played forwards as well as tracking any runs from Red 8. The right midfielder (8) on the weak side drops into a right back position, creating a back 4, in order to prevent the opposition exploiting space through a switch of play, and being able to see Red 11. This creates a deep midfield defensive line as this positional flexibility allows the blue team without the ball to cover space on the pitch and attempt to regain possession. The Coaching Manual’s All-Time Midfield Unit in a 3-4-3 Set up in a diamond shape, here is our all-time midfield in a 3-4-3; DM (Pivot) - Xabi Alonso - Alongside his physical attributes, Alonso possesses excellent vision, technique and range of passing and is regarded as one of the finest midfielders of his generation. His honours include World Cup and 2 x European Championships with Spain, Champions League winner with both Liverpool and Real Madrid, La Liga title with Real Madrid and 2 x Bundesliga titles with Bayern Munich. His nickname amongst team mates and coaches is ‘Professor’ due to his understanding, management and questioning of the game. LM - Arturo Vidal - Chile and Bayern Munich midfielder ‘Il Guerriero’ (The Warrior) is a versatile midfielder with an aggressive and tenacious style of play. Known for his tackling and defensive abilities, Vidal also has the ability to support his team in attack through his pace, technique and stamina. Has been successful at domestic level, with Bayern Munich and Juventus, and at international level winning the Copa América with Chile. RM - Clarence Seedorf - The only player to have won the Champions League with three different clubs (Ajax 1995, Real Madrid 1998, AC Milan 2003 & 2007), Seedorf could play anywhere in midfield and contribute to attacking duties, with his passing and dribbling skills, as well as defensively, due to his physical attributes and ability to break up play. AM - Thiago Alcântara - The Spain and Bayern Munich midfielder is from a distinguished soccering family (his father Mazinho won the World Cup with Brazil in 1994 and his brother Rafinha currently plays for Barcelona). Thiago graduated from Barca’s La Masia academy and Pep Guardiola took him for Barca to Bayern due to his precise distribution and movement in all areas of the pitch, able to dictate games with the tempo and accuracy of his passing.