Defending in the 4-3-3 Formation
In the 4-3-3 formation the defenders will play a typical flat back four with a right full back, a left fullback and two central defenders. The full backs will join the three midfield players when possible in attacking play, often providing an overlap run to get crosses into the penalty area. The full backs will drift into the middle to cover the two central defenders when the ball is being advanced down their opposite wing. One of the positives of playing four at the back is that it is very common and the players involved in the four positions at the back will likely have played in flat back fours many times, so they should be very experienced in this formation. It really is the standard defensive formation around the world.
In front of the four defenders sit three midfield players, a center midfielder together with a right midfielder and a left midfielder. in the 4-3-3 formation these three players are responsible for both defensive and attacking duties and need to work together as a compact unit. A disadvantage of only having three midfield players is that it is unlikely that the opposition will only have three in midfield. Unless the other players in the team are available to support these three midfield players they will often be outnumbered and there is a danger that they will be over run by the opposition.
Attacking in the 4-3-3 Formation
In attack there are three attackers or forwards, usually a center forward and a right winger and a left winger. These three players need to play very well together in order to stretch the defense and pull them out of position. They need to do this by creating width, making sure that the opposition’s full backs are stretched out as much as possible. Depth is also very important, meaning that they are not all lined up across the field in a straight line.
The three attackers need to be constantly on the move, often interchanging with each other, for example the right winger and the left winger can switch or the center forward can drift out wide and a winger come into the middle. Such switching of play is designed to cause the opposition some confusion as to who is marking what player and as a result, can create space and goal scoring opportunities. A significant advantage of playing with three forwards is that it will increase the chances of scoring goals simply because there are more players playing in attack. Also because there are three forward players it will be easier for them to close down the opposition’s defenders when when you are defending from the front. That will stifle the opposition’s attacking play (for example it will be harder for full backs to join the opposition’s attack with overlapping runs) and it will also lead to the team regaining possession of the ball in the attacking third which will lead to the possibility of more goals being scored. The big disadvantage of playing with three forwards when playing the 4-3-3 formation is that once the opposition has advanced the ball past them when they are attacking, the team will often be outnumbered in midfield and will potentially concede more goals as a result.