On the rise of the 3-4-3, describing the benefits of the system, which has seen some success under Tuchel at Chelsea and R. Martinez with Belgium.
From the 4-4-2, to 4-3-3 and to the 4-2-3-1, we are now seeing more and more teams utilize a 3-back system, particularly the 3-4-3, or sometimes referred to as the 3-box-3. Tuchel´s Chelsea have just recently won the UCL while almost exclusively using this system.
Some managers choose to use a 4-3-3 (single pivot) in order to prioritise passing angles & triangles in possession. This shape is one of the most natural when it comes to creating a fluid system with these desired attributes, & progressing play from the backline to the midfield.
Deploying just the single pivot can make the shape susceptible to central attacks and does not offer the same defensive balance and protection of the double pivot.
Other managers choose to prioritise defensive solidity with the use of a double pivot in a 4-2-3-1. The box shape created with the double pivot & 2 CBs creates a strong foundation, & can be difficult to break down in transition moments as well as when the defending in a block.
While the double pivot makes for a solid shape for protecting & controlling central areas, it can create problems while attempting to progress the ball as more players are often found on the same vertical & horizontal lines, which in turn creates poor passing angles to progress.
What the 4-3-3 lacks (solid foundation out of possession) the 4-2-3-1 offers. What the 4-2-3-1 lacks (angles in possession) the 4-3-3 offers. So what would a coach who wants to play expansive football in possession while also creating a balanced foundation out of possession do?
You guessed it, setup their team in a 3-4-3. The 3-2 shape created by the back 3 & the double pivot is one of the most balanced & structurally sound, not only for controlling defensive transitions but also when defending in a block.
In addition, this 3-2 shape is also fantastic for creating progressive passing angles from the backline into the midfield, as well as allowing for the central defenders to progress via carries while will maintaining balance with the other 2 CBs.
The 3-4-3 is perhaps one of the most dynamic shapes when it comes to both balance & solidity when out of possession, as well as its ability to remain expansive and fluid controlled when in attack.
One final key component of the 3-box-3 is the actual box shape created by the double pivot & the two 10´s. A fantastic tool for creating central overloads as well as remaining in close proximity centrally for & developing strong preconditions for counter-pressing.
I honestly think that with the right personnel, a 3-box-3 is the best setup in football- 3 CB’s allow the wingbacks to push very high with more cover than a back 4, 4-man midfield allows for control w/ ball and easy counterpress.
I think one obvious weakness would be long balls to the wide areas if the WB’s are high, but if the 2 wide CB’s are mobile enough to cover (like Rüdiger and Azpi) then it’s not too big of a problem.
One other thing why I like the look of the 3-4-3 is defending high.
Moving from a high block into a press as opposed to starting the press instantly.
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