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    3-4-3 The future of football

    3-4-3 the new 4-2-3-1?

    Over the past five years it seems modern and innovative coaches have utilised the previously revolutionary 4-2-3-1 formation. This season has heralded the start of a new era, 3-4-3.

    Chelsea currently sit top of the Premier League and they are operating 3-4-3 to perfection. Antonio Conte is arguably the world’s best executer of 3-4-3, employing it to great success during his management at Juventus and Italy. I appreciate Italy weren’t massively successful under Conte’s reign but we must value the players at his disposal. He did well with what he had. Did Roman Abramovich foresee the upcoming rise of 3-4-3? Is this why he chose Antonio Conte as his next manager? He must be feeling pretty smug right now! It is not just Chelsea utilising the 3-4-3 formation, Manchester City have recently switched to the formation and so have West Ham and Everton. If we look further afield Belgium, Barcelona and Borussia Monchengladbach are also flirting with the formation.

    Wingers are dead. Long live wingbacks. It seems that wingers are becoming a dying breed in football. Crosses are not creating as many goals as they used to and it is no coincidence that the team who has delivered the fewest crosses this season currently sits second in the table (Liverpool). Victor Moses is the perfect example of how an ‘out and out’ winger is having to adapt his game to become a wingback. A friend of mine is a pre-academy coach at Chelsea and he has reliably informed me that Chelsea have done more fitness work than ever before during pre-season. The wingbacks at Chelsea are providing defensive and attacking support. This allows Chelsea to defend with 5 players and attack with 5 players. Victor Moses has been developing his defensive game under the defence minded Conte and the results have been fantastic. Another noteworthy example is Antonio Valencia who was successfully converted from winger to wingback by Sir Alex Ferguson. It won’t be long until other managers take a naturally fit, fast and strong winger to improve their defensive play and become a wingback.

    Image result for victor moses 2016

    The rebirth of inside forwards. Something managers will have to consider is wingers who cannot be converted to a wingback. So what happens to them? Conte wouldn’t dream of wasting Hazard in a wing back position! These players are becoming inside forwards. If a marauding wingback overlaps then this creates opportunities for an inside forward to cut inside and cause mayhem. Eden Hazard is the latest player to benefit from this. He is no longer restricted by defensive duties under the winger position, he now has more freedom to create and Diego Costa is profiting hugely from this.

    Image result for eden hazard 2016

    How to exploit the 3-4-3. All formations have strengths and weaknesses and the most vulnerable weakness in the 3-4-3 is counter attacks in wide areas. What happens to Chelsea if the wingbacks are up-field and they lose possession of the ball? There are three centre backs guarding the middle so the obvious place to exploit is the wide areas. Chelsea are yet to have been caught out from this as they have procedures in place to deal with the eventuality. The defence minded Kante and Matic drop into Central defensive positions which allows the left centre back to defend the left wide area and the right centre back to defend the right wide area. As I mentioned earlier nobody has managed to exploit this weakness but Chelsea haven’t faced a “top side” since the change. Spurs will be an acid test on Saturday.

    Will the Premier League make the switch? Everton, Manchester City and West Ham have already experimented with 3-4-3. Others are sure to follow. Would you like to see your club try the 3-4-3 or do you think this is just a ‘flash in the pan’? Comment with your views and suggest a 3-4-3 formation for your club. I look forward to reading your comments.

    Ashley Bullock
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    Item Reviewed: 3-4-3 The future of football Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Ashley Bullock
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