How to play the 3-4-3 soccer formation

When you are considering using the 3-4-3 formation for your team, there are a few different variables that you need to consider beforehand.

Just like any other strategy, there are going to be pros and there will be cons associated with it. Traditionally, the 3-4-3 formation has been very attack minded and was initially made famous by the swashbuckling Ajax team of the 1970s.

The idea of this formation is to ensure that there are plenty of options all around the pitch, allowing you to constantly switch up your attacks and keep your opponents guessing. This lends itself to a style that is very attacking and dynamic at the same time.

The Basics

If your team is not very well organised, you will be in trouble if you try to use this formation, as the system will break down. The formation relies on player staying accountable to a system and a plan that has been laid out by the management.

Failure to follow it will be catastrophic, as the defence will be exposed and gaps will appear all over the pitch. The team needs to be mature and experienced enough that they can effectively utilise a zonal defence.



As there are only three out and out defenders, these players need to be strong stalwarts of the side. The three central defenders will be positioned in a flat line across the field. They should be players who are good in the air, strong and tall. This will provide the foundation for the team to go on the attack.

As there are only three players at the back, these defenders need to be well able to hold their own when it comes to 1 on 1 situations. Constant communication is key to ensure that no gaps open up unintentionally for the opposition to expose.

A great tool in their arsenal can be the offside trap, as it is easier to implement when there are only three defenders. The old adage holds true, the best offence is a good defence. These defenders will set the tone and provide communication to their teammates as to where they should be exploiting when going on the attack.


Two of the midfielders are going to take up wide flanking positions, while one of the central midfielders will be more defensive minded and the other is attacking minded.

The flanking midfielders need to be very fit as they are expected to join every single attack by flanking the forwards and crossing the ball in from the wings. When it comes time to defend, they must get straight back and help close down the space at the back.

The defensive midfielder needs to be a very strong willed player and be able to dictate the game with their physicality and precision. Ability to read the game is vital for this position, as well as being very good at defending in a variety of different situations.

The attacking midfielder will have to have great vision as they will have many options available to them when in the attack, but decide which the best one to use is.

By being a great controller of the ball, being a top passer and a quick decision maker, this midfielder will often be the key to unlocking the defence of the opposition.



Two of the forwards will take up wider than usual positions. These players should have speed and be well able to take on defenders in 1 on 1 situations. They should be well versed in ball control and crossing. They will make wide runs to open up space for the onrushing midfielders to get involved in the play.

The centre forward is usually a strong, tall player that is well able to compete in the air, as well as being a good finisher. They will normally be the major scorer for the team.


  • Very attacking minded and will score a lot of goals using this formation
  • Well suited to more experienced teams that work well together
  • The zonal defence is very hard to break down when the attackers get held up
  • Well suited to fit teams


  • Can be exposed at the back when playing against another attacking minded team
  • Cannot rely on static players
  • Players need to be in great shape and very good at communicating with one another

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