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Coaching Corner

4-3-3 or 4-5-1 defending

  • When defending in this formation you have two options - to press and shut down the opposition or simply sit back and let them try to break your shape down.

  • Both of these options are effective, depending on your situation in the game. If you are looking to chase the game when behind then the aggressive pressing tactic is suitable. If you are defending a lead then sitting back and keeping a solid shape could prove more beneficial.

  • To shut down aggressively your two wide forwards should press the opposition full backs and preferably show them inside towards the bodies in midfield.

  • For this to be effective you will need your full backs to be fit and brave by backing up the wide players and pushing up within tackling distance of the opposition's wide midfielders.

  • Your three central midfielders will mark man-for-man in the middle, with the spare midfielder pushing forward to support the wide forwards in their pressing.

  • Your centre forward will be marking one of the centre backs. This will leave the opposition with few options to pass to and, hopefully, you will regain possession once the ball has been hit long.

  • To sit back and keep your shape, you will do the opposite from the aggressive pressing game.

  • The two wide forwards will sit back and pick up the opposition's two wide players, allowing their full backs to have the ball.

  • If the full backs advance to the halfway line, this would be a good time to start to engage the defender.

  • Once the wide forwards have pushed onto their full backs, this is the cue for your full backs to push onto the opposition’s wide midfielders.

  • In central midfield you will be man-for-man, with a deep lying midfielder not marking anyone but screening the back four by playing roughly 10-15 yards in front of them. Any ball played into the opposition’s front men can then be challenged by this player.

  • Your back four will have to play reasonably deep, but not too deep, as there will be no pressure on the ball when the opposition full backs have it, so they cannot afford to play too high as these players will have time to pick a pass.

  • Your centre backs should be ready for any ball played in the air or any ball played in behind.

  • Your centre forward will be dropping off so that any opposing midfielder that wants to come short for the ball will be challenged by this player.

  • All in all, this will be a hard formation to break down when sitting back and defending solidly.

  • Individual errors cannot be accounted for, but it will take a well-drilled side to break down this formation if applied correctly.
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