Why Arsenal's switch to a 4-3-3 led to mixed results (2023)

Why Arsenal's switch to a 4-3-3 led to mixed results (1)

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Arsene Wenger decided at the start of this football season to switch from the normal 4-4-2 system of previous seasons to a more dynamic 4-3-3 system.

The move to a 4-3-3 should take advantage of Arsenal's many talented midfielders and not try to play like Barcelona. Arsenal fans saw the effectiveness of the system in pre-season, when the team posted high-scoring games against Rangers, SC Columbia and Szombathelyi.

The start of the season brought more of that, with a clear 6-1 away win at Everton. Unfortunately, the results from the start of the season were not replicated throughout the campaign and we were easily beaten or drawn by the teams we were supposed to win against.

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We have definitely lost control too, scoring just six goals and conceding eleven goals in our last six games. Compare that to our first six games, where we scored 18 goals and conceded nine.

training base

The basic 4-3-3 formation consists of four defenders, three midfielders and three forwards. The midfield can be organized in two different triangular variants: offensive or defensive character.

Arsenal use an attacking variant with Alexandre Song serving as the point guard for the midfield trio, acting as a defensive midfielder (DM) or ball winner. The other two central midfielders flank the defensive midfielder, Cesc Fabregas and Abou Diaby or Cesc Fabregas and Denilson. Three offensive linemen, made up of a forward/goal and two wingers, complete the formation.

Essentially like any normal runner with two center runners flanked by two runners. Full-backs need to have good tackling skills and be quick on the ground to move up and down the flanks to support attack or defence.

Defenders need to be good in the air to deal with crosses and set pieces. Also, you need to read the game very well and you need to be able to relate the game to the defensive midfielder. A key feature of the center halves is that they must have a good fit.

Arsenal set up their 4-3-3 in a triangle formation with Song as DM flanked by two attacking players, usually Cesc and Diaby. The midfield facilitator allows the two attacking midfielders a free license to move and connect with the three attacking midfielders.

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Composed of two wingers and a striker/goalkeeper. The aim of the target man is to connect with the midfield and draw others into the game. He occupies the defenders and this gives the wingers the opportunity to go down the wings, which widens the field and throws off the defenders.

How our current player pool fits into the system
I think our defenders Gallas, Vermaelen, Sagna and Clichy are quite comfortable with this system because it allows our full-backs to join the attack.

Our midfield is our strongest unit in this system, giving Fabregas license to move from one area to another. The midfielder responded with an impressive 19 return goals in all competitions this year, his highest total since 13 goals in 2007/08.

In matches against teams with dominant midfielders, the formation has been adjusted to 4-2-3-1, with one more moderator added to help Alexandre Song and the defence.

The only problem with this formation is that we lost another attacking midfielder to be replaced by a defensive midfielder, but Denilson and Diaby don't see themselves as defensive midfielders. We've had problems against the likes of Barcelona and Chelsea because the extra defensive midfielder is always out of position.

We started well up front but faltered when injuries hit our front line and put enormous pressure on our midfield to keep the run going. Due to injuries, we had to see how the little Russian tried to pose as a striker with very bad results.

Training benefits
The 4-3-3 formation is useful for a team like Arsenal, who like to counter-attack and turn defense into attack on the fly with devastating efficiency. In an ideal world, the midfielders/wingers could also return to midfield to change the formation to a 4-5-1. Forwards/wingers also help to keep the opposing wingers busy, thereby negating the opponent's counter-attack.

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So why the mixed results?
I think the reason for the mixed results is due to a few factors in our team and also the lack of a second system. We normally play in a 4-3-3, but occasionally we switch to 4-2-3-1 when we are up against very creative midfielders. We also used 4-1-4-1 at some point this season, the Hull game being an example.

1. We are missing another defensive midfielder/goalkeeper in our current squad. Besides Alex Song, we don't have a proper defensive midfield, Denilson and Abou Diaby are more attacking and love to attack at every opportunity.

Currently, Denilson does not have the strength for a defensive midfielder. He is best suited as an attacking midfielder. Every time we play in 4-2-3-1, Abou and Denilson fight to assert themselves as part of our midfield trio.

2. We do not advocate from the top down. For the 4-3-3 formation to be very effective, we need to defend from the striker to the goalkeeper. We did it during the 6-1 thrashing of Everton and we haven't done it again this season.

Some of them are players who are in and out of the team due to injuries, but we seem to have lost interest in that. If you watch this game, you'll understand what I mean, when our players fumbled, Van Persie, Bendtner and Arshavin pushed the ball to allow our overlapping full-backs to get back on defense.

This basic art of top-down defense seems to have been lost during the league season and this is something the manager needs to address.

(Video) The 4-3-3 Formation Tactics Explained | Formation Principles #3

3. We no longer play high line defense. At the start of the season we played with a high defensive line, so whenever our midfield lost the ball, our defenders didn't have to go far to win the ball back. However, injuries to our midfield have forced us to play a deeper line as we defend more often than attack as our midfield is overloaded. Another GM should address this.

4. Absence of real pupils. Theo Walcott, Samir Nasri, Carlos Vela and Tomas Rosicky are not true wingers, but hybrid players. Walcott considers himself a striker, even Wenger has said that his eventual position would be a striker. He lacks a true gang mentality like Nasri, Vela and Rosicky. The only way to cover up this mistake is to make sure we fight to win the ball back every time we lose it.

5. We lack a true second formation. Every time we had difficulty breaking the opponent, Arsene Wenger couldn't change the formation. Like I said, 4-2-3-1 doesn't fit because we don't have another real defensive midfield. The only solution is to go back to a 4-4-2 and lose a forward attack.

Arsenal v Stoke City is a classic example of the manager returning to a true second formation, the 4-4-2. When Eduardo was introduced we switched to four midfielders and two forwards and it started working straight away, Eduardo broke through the defense but couldn't hit well. In the end, we won the game 3-1.

In short, the new system is perfect for our team and with the Reserves and Under-18s being trained in the nuances of the system, it bodes well for the club as we continue to develop.

(Video) 4-3-3 Formation

I think the problems would be resolved in the summer, another purely defensive midfielder would solve many of our problems every time we play 4-2-3-1. Finally, players like Walcott, Arshavin and Nasri must learn to pressure the ball from start to finish and through all 38 games.

Have fun with tomorrow's game.



What are the advantages of 4-3-3 formation in football? ›

What are the benefits of playing with a 4-3-3? The 4-3-3 creates natural triangles, often giving the player in possession several passing options at any given time. This makes implementing a possession-based style of play slightly easier than some other formations.

What is the 4-3-3 formation tactics explained? ›

This formation is made up of 3 key layers, and is generally seen as an attacking formation. At the back, the goalkeeper is protected by 4 defenders (a right-back, two center backs, and a left-back). In front of them are 3 central midfielders, who can be organised in a variety of ways (we'll expand on that shortly).

Who invented 4-3-3 formation? ›

The 4-3-3 system can be traced back to the 1920/30s. Football was in a period of change. Herbert Chapman (Arsenal, Northhampton, Leeds) is credited with the development of the W M system. Football had now evolved from 2-3-5 to 3-2-2-3.

What is the weakness of 4-3-3 formation? ›

One of the main weaknesses of the 4-3-3 soccer formation is that it can be extremely vulnerable to counter-attacking play. This is especially true when the 4-3-3 playing team's full-backs push up high to join the attack.

What's better a 4-3 or 3/4 defense? ›

The 3-4 defense is more flexible for defending the pass and plays on the edge. This is because it's easier to drop a linebacker into coverage than a defensive end. However, the 4-3 defense is generally better at stopping inside run plays because there are more defensive linemen in the game at once.

What is the weakness of a 4-3 defense? ›

The 4-3 defense also has more inherent weakness in the secondary than the 3-4 defense, as there is one less linebacker in the scheme. This means that, if a ball carrier escapes the four defensive linemen, they will have fewer secondary defenders to deal with.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of a 4-3-3 formation? ›

With the 4-3-3 formation, you are guaranteed an attacking outlook right from the start. By controlling the midfield and taking advantage of the flexibility that the line up gives the team's forwards, the 4-3-3 can overwhelm, confuse, and force the opposition back towards their goal.

Why 3-4 defense is the best? ›

The advantage of the 3-4 defense is that with four linebackers on the field you have more speed on the field. The basis is simple—the more athletes, the better. To understand the 3-4 defense, we have to look at the other defensive alignment popular in the NFL.

What is the strongest formation in soccer? ›

Best Attacking Formations In Football (Soccer) | Top 10
  • The 4-3-3 Attacking Formation. ...
  • The 4-4-2 Attacking Formation. ...
  • The 4-2-3-1 Attacking Formation. ...
  • The 4-4-2 Diamond (4-1-2-1-2) Attacking Formation. ...
  • The 4-2-2-2 Attacking Formation. ...
  • The 3-3-4 Attacking Formation. ...
  • The 3-4-3 Attacking Formation. ...
  • The 3-5-1-1 Attacking Formation.
Dec 17, 2022

Why is 4-3-3 so popular? ›

The ability of the formation to field three central midfielders is one of its greatest strengths and one of the reasons for its popularity. A conventional 4-4-2 has only two central midfielders. Clearly, there is a numerical advantage in central areas for the team that uses three midfielders against a team the 4-4-2.

What is the most effective formation in football? ›

The 4-2-3-1 is the de facto best formation in modern football.

Is the 4-3 defense good against the run? ›

The 4-3 defense is great against the running game because it is a one-gap defense. That means the front seven players on the field – the four defensive linemen and three linebackers – all have a responsibility for one of the gaps along the offensive line.

How do you beat a 3-4-3 Soccer formation? ›

The key to beating the 3-4-3 shape is to concentrate on the wings. Overloading the flanks and finding space in wide areas will allow you to take advantage of the space that 3-4-3 seeks to exploit.

Which is the most effective defensive formation? ›

If you want to have a strong defensive setup and be protected from dangerous counterattacks, the 4-1-4-1 formation is a good choice. Both the defensive midfielder and the two central midfielders are a tactical medium that can be used against three central midfielders (e.g. 4-2-3-1).

What is the weakness of a 3 3 5 defense? ›

What are the Weaknesses of the 3-3-5 Defense? The edges are a very vulnerable spot in the 3-3-5 defense. Buck Sweep for example, a running play where both guards pull can be very troublesome for a 3-3-5 defense.

Do the Eagles run a 3-4 or 4-3? ›

So as training camp goes along, you'll see the Eagles line up an odd front - two defensive ends, a nose tackle and four linebackers. And you'll also see them working in a traditional 4-3, with two ends, two tackles, a middle linebacker and two outside linebackers.

What is the weakness of a cover 4 defense? ›

The primary weakness of Cover 4 is the underneath zones. Cover 3 puts 4 defenders underneath and Cover 2 puts 5 defenders underneath while Cover 4 only leaves 3 players to cover the short to intermediate portions of the field.

How do you beat 4-3-3? ›

So by creating a pitch in the shape of a diamond, what Tuchel does is to force his full-backs or wing-backs to bring the ball back into the central areas while entering the final-third. This way, the ball-receiver has more space, better angles to receive, better shielding and more passing options as well.

Do lions run a 3/4 defense? ›

During the 2021 season, the Lions operated out primarily a 3-4 defensive front with three down linemen and four stand-up linebackers. For 2022, they've shifted more towards a 4-3 front with four down linemen and three stand-up linebackers.

How do you defend in a 4-3-3 formation? ›

  1. The attacking full-back moves infield to make room for the pass.
  2. The holding midfielder covers the run of the striker.
  3. The defending full-back moves up to cover the winger.
  4. The back four moves across and out.

What are the roles and responsibilities of 4-3-3? ›

In the 4-3-3 formation, there is less of an onus on the centre-backs to be good with the ball at their feet as more of the play will go through other players on the team. Ideally, they're comfortable on the ball, but their main priority is to put their bodies on the line and limit the opposition's goal scoring chances.

What is the defensive width of a 4-3-3? ›

Width of the defensive line, should not exceed 40 yards. Slow down the opponents play with a compact defensive block.

What is the best formation in volleyball? ›

The 5-1 Formation is the formation of highest level in Volleyball, used by high-performance teams. In the 5-1 Formation all of the players have specialized functions.

How do you beat a 3 3 defense? ›

So, understanding the strengths of the stack, the basic premise of attacking this defense is this:
  1. Formation them out of the stack. Force them to move/slide players out of their normal alignments.
  2. Attack the outside flanks and off tackle.
  3. Once they shift, slide, or adjust, then come up inside.

What is the weakness of 4 2 5 defense? ›

The other weakness of the 4-2-5 is the general smaller personnel associated with this defensive alignment. The defense allows for high pressure, but a big offensive line and bigger backs will be a struggle for 4-2-5 personnel.

Who has the best 3/4 defense? ›

Chicago Bears. The 4-3 formation is football's most classic defense. It puts four defensive linemen along the line of scrimmage and three linebackers behind them in the second level.

What is the most athletic position in soccer? ›

Mario also makes great points about midfielders in professional soccer, arguably the most physically fit of any major-5 athlete.

What is the easiest football formation? ›

From the perspective of coaching balance and cohesion, the classic 4-4-2 formation is perhaps the easiest to master for any team. With this system, players can be deployed in two simple banks of four, with one of the strikers potentially dropping in to supplement the midfield.

What is the hardest skill in soccer? ›

The snake or 'Elastico' is an incredibly difficult move to pull off. It's perhaps the hardest in football. A few players may have performed the move before Ronaldinho, such as Rivelino or Zinedine Zidane, but the current Flamengo play-maker has utilised it more than anyone else.

Who invented the 4:3 aspect ratio? ›

At one point, the 4:3 (technically 1.33:1) aspect ratio—created in 1892 by William Dickson, an employee of Thomas Edison—was the standard. The numbers “4:3” describe the literal size of the film, meaning it was four-by-three inches on 35mm film stock.

When did shows stop using 4:3? ›

For television, the original screen ratio for broadcasts was in fullscreen 4:3 (1.33:1). Largely between the 1990s and early 2000s, at varying paces in different nations, 16:9 (1.78:1) widescreen TV displays came into increasingly common use.

Does 4:3 make you better? ›

The main reason why players prefer the 4:3 aspect ratio is the change on the character models. The stretched resolution causes everything to appear bigger. The model for the player characters are almost 50% bigger with the stretched resolution. This will let you have an easier time hitting enemies.

What is the least used formation in football? ›

4-1-4-1 is one of the least used attacking formations in modern football due to its requirement of specific players in specific positions. The sole defensive midfielder plays a crucial role in this formation between the back four and midfield four.

What is the best formation for Arsenal? ›

From the front end of the pitch, Arsenal will frequently defend in a 4-1-4-1 formation, with Xhaka and Ødegaard working to limit passes into the nearest central midfielders, thus aiming to force play long.

What is the best defensive formation to stop the run? ›

The 5-2 is built to stop the running game. It has five defensive linemen and two linebackers. This is a popular defense in high school and middle school where running is often the primary offensive play. The 4-4 is another popular defense to help stop the running game.

What is the difference between 4-3-3 3 and 4-3-3 4? ›

The 4-3-3 (3) is much more defensive-minded with three midfielders whereas the 4-3-3 (4) is more attacking-based with two midfielders and then one attacking midfielder to assist the wingers and striker. Both are viable and really just come down to the individual play style of whoever's using it.

What formation counters 442 best? ›

Perhaps the best way to line up against 4-4-2 is by playing a 4-5-1 shape. This allows you to overrun the opposition midfield, while maintaining plenty of width both for attacking purposes and in order to stop wide midfielders from causing problems via counter-attacks.

What kind of defense do the Vikings run? ›

Using DVOA once more, the Vikings rank 11th in “mid-zone” defense (plays between the opponents' 40-yard line and their 40-yard line) and 15th in “front zone” defense, (plays between their own 39 and 21-yard lines).

What is the Tampa 2 defense? ›

The Tampa-2 is a version of the “Cover 2” defensive scheme with one important wrinkle: it asks the middle linebacker to be quick enough to recognize a pass versus a run, and when a pass is coming, drop back deep in the middle of the field between the two safeties and cover a third passing zone.

What is the best counter attacking formation? ›

The first formation that is really good for setting up counter-attacks is the 4-1-2-1-2, this formation is a relatively narrow setup for your team, and this may not sound like the most likely way to catch your opponents out, but it can be deployed correctly.

What is the easiest soccer formation to teach? ›

The 4-4-2 is possibly the most popular soccer formation in the world because it is one of the easiest to understand. It also happens to be one of the most balanced formations since the two central midfielders need to put as much or more focus on defense as they do on offense.

What is the best defense against the Wing T offense? ›

The Double G (or double 2i) look is the best against a Wing-T offense. With any Wing-T or Slot-T offshoot, the defense must address the guards. It is imperative for the defense to eliminate these to lineman from ever being able to pull.

What is the most balanced formation in football? ›

The 4-4-2 is the most basic formation that is deployed by football teams throughout the world. It is a very balanced formation and players are spread out well across the field.

What is the most attacking formation in football? ›

The 4-3-3 attacking formation is one of the most popular in the sport. All levels, from high school soccer teams to FC Barcelona, have found success with the 4-3-3 setup. This formation includes a line of four defenders, three midfielders, and three strikers.

What is the perfect football formation? ›

By those parameters, the 4-2-3-1 is the perfect football formation. The 4-2-3-1 makes use of four defenders, two defensive midfielders, three attacking midfielders, and a striker. It utilises the 4-4-2 Diamond's strength in midfield, while successfully avoiding the weakness of having no wide players.

What is the 7 2 1 formation? ›

The 7–1–2–1, or seven-diamond defense, used seven "down linemen", or players on the line of scrimmage at the time of the snap, one linebacker, two safeties relatively close to the line and one safety farther downfield. The formation was created by Minnesota Golden Gophers coach Henry L.

What formation is best for high pressing? ›

According to gegenpressing guru Jurgen Klopp, the best shape for a high pressing game is the diamond formation. Klopp articulates that even when his team are playing in a 4-3-3, one of his central midfielders (likely the closest to the ball) has a crucial role in the diamond press and shutting down the opposition.

What is the hardest move in football? ›

One of the hardest skills in football to pull off, the Elastico was a favourite of Ronaldinho. It involves rolling your foot over the ball in such a way that when you bring it down on the other side, you are able to knock the ball past an opponent in one swift movement.

What is the best formation for a strong midfield? ›

If you want to have a strong defensive setup and be protected from dangerous counterattacks, the 4-1-4-1 formation is a good choice. Both the defensive midfielder and the two central midfielders are a tactical medium that can be used against three central midfielders (e.g. 4-2-3-1).

Is the 4-2-3-1 formation good? ›

The 4-2-3-1 provides a good, staggered defensive presence when in a mid or low block, making it harder to penetrate through, especially in central areas. A 4-2-3-1 shape also provides lots of different passing lines and angles to play out from the back.

What soccer formation is best for attacking? ›

1. 4-4-2 Soccer Formation. The 4-4-2 is a popular attacking tactic and has been used by teams, including Atletico Madrid, Leicester, and Manchester United, with great success. It's one of the easiest soccer attack formations to learn and play, and the chances are that most of your players are already familiar with it.

What's the difference between 4-2-3-1 and 4-3-3? ›

In a 4-3-3, the wide end of the funnel is pointed towards the opponent's goal, so the ball naturally drifts into wider areas as it advances. In a 4-2-3-1, it is the opposite, the narrow end is pointed towards the opponent's goal so the attack is pinched in centrally.


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