The National Curriculum is much more than a system of play. It is method of teaching modern football and moves us away from "wrestle ball" and "kick and chase". The NC has mandated that all our youth representative teams play the 1-4-3-3 system. The system has been chosen as the best way to teach modern football. Before we explore the 10 and 11 year old age groups and to interest coaches of older ages and advancing players, we will delve into some of the advantages and disadvantages of the 1-4-3-3 system.
By now, after offering some sample training sessions from 4v4 (6/7 yrs) and 7v7 (8/9 yrs) in my previous blogs, we can start to see how the stages start to fit together to help develop players in technique and tactics, in preparation for when they play 11v11 (age 12 years). A formation is never static and only offers a template or reference point for how a team is organised. There are many ways to play the system depending on the opposition and or the coach's tactics.
Figure 1 shows a basic 1-4-3-3 system with two holding midfielders. This is the starting point for ages 12-15 years. Later, two attacking midfielders are employed (the triangle point facing backwards)
Figure 1 Basic 1-4-3-3 Formation
• The triangulation of the formation allows support angles for all players from defenders, midfielders to attackers. This helps with possession oriented football. Barcelona demonstrated this to a much higher degree during the recent UEFA Cup final. Additionally they used a bounce ball to shift defenders to create new areas of space that could be exploited during attack. "Tika Taka"
• Having wide forwards allows for attacking slants down the wings.
• During defence the team can become very compact by pulling the wing forwards and attacking midfielder back into a 1-4-5-1 shape.
• Having three forwards allows a pressing type of defence as the attacking team attempts to play out.
• Having 3 players in the midfield gives a numerical advantage against all other systems.
• Creates many lines of players.
NB. The advantages of the system can only be exploited by coaching appropriate training sessions based around the ideas of triangulation, 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th passing options, movement and possession. The defensive phases of play must also be heavily focused upon during training.
• The system requires enormous physical stamina from all players, but in particular the wide players.
• Because of the 3 man midfield wide areas are difficult to defend (see figure 2). How would you solve this problem?
• Players can become static. Wide players may stay wide in the front 1/3. The number 10 midfielder may not push forward into attack.
• Disconnection of the front 3 from the midfield.
• If the team gets beaten centrally the system quickly falls apart.
Figure 2 Wide Areas to Defend in Yellow
Problems that I have discovered playing the 1-4-3-3 in the Real World
• As many youth players (and adults) have yet to play this system, they find it difficult to understand the concepts of the formation and the roles of the positions. It takes time for them to understand their roles. Formation style training can help them in understand these roles more effectively.
• Keeping shape of the triangular midfield and ensuring that the two holding midfielders do not become flat.
• The midfield triangle can get pulled too wide creating number overload centrally during defence.
• Recovery of the wing forwards to form a 4-5-1 shape in defence.
• Front 3 players can become quite static. Encourage players into takeover roles and runs into the box.
• Runs into the box and zone 14.
• Encouraging wingbacks forward in attacking phases with overlapping runs.
• Finding athletic players to play the system.
• Getting the front three to defend effectively as teams attempt to play out the back.
• Selecting the right player to play the number 10 position and have a good playing relationship with the centre forward.
• Getting the players to understand the role of the goalkeeper as an extra field player to play back to and change the point of attack.
• To play the system effectively the players must have good technical skills and insight. That is the challenge of the coach, to improve these skills!
Some Tactical Considerations for the Coach
How the coach plays the 1-4-3-3 system depends on the opposition, the players available and how he or she sees the game.
• Where to defend activity, and how high up the field.
• When and where to press.
• Turning the opposition outside or inside during defensive phases. Where and when to do this?
• How to play the midfield shape during attack and defence phase.
• Ensuring that all players understand their roles during different phases of play.
• How to solve the problems created in wide areas. ie. how to play the wingbacks, wing forwards and midfield.
This is a brief and basic summary of the tactical advantages and disadvantages of playing the 1-4-3-3 systems. What is your opinion? What have you discovered?
Suggested Study Material for Advancing Coaches
Podeyn Robert Coaching the Dutch 4-3-3 World Class Coaching 1 5004 Buena Vista Dr Leawood, KS 66224 USA 2008
Podeyn Robert Dutch Drills for Total Team Training World Class Coaching 1 5004 Buena Vista Dr Leawood, KS 66224 USA 2009
Tossani Michele 4-4-2 vs 4-3-3 An In Depth look at Jose Mourinho's 4-3-3 and How It Compares to Sir Alex Ferguson's 4-4-2 World Class Coaching 1 5004 Buena Vista Dr Leawood, KS 66224 USA 2009
van Lingen Bert Coaching Soccer Reedswain Videos and Books Spring City Pennsylvania USA 1997
Michler Terry Dutch Total Football World Class Coaching 1 5004 Buena Vista Dr Leawood, KS 66224 USA 2009