The 4 - 3 - 3 formation is a system that is commonly used by Chelsea under Jose Mourinho. This system is made up of is made up of four defenders, three central midfielders, one sitting in front of the back four, two wide attackers and a lone central striker. It is considered a very flexible system that enables a team to defend in numbers and quickly counter attack with the wide players and central attacking midfield players linking with the lone striker.
The system allows the team to play with a solid back four, who can work together as a unit ....(read more) and keep the ball in front of them. The system also makes it difficult for the opposition to play the ball behind them. When the back four, of the goalkeeper, are in possession of the ball, they can spread out and provide plenty of width. The full backs in this system have a greater license to break forward as the defensive or holding midfield player provides a defensive insurance.
The weakness is that the defensive midfield player can cause the back four to play deep and if the defensive midfield player is by passed the defence can be in a very deep defending position, with the opposition midfield players combining with their forwards on the edge of the penalty area in good shooting positions.
The three midfielders will normally play in a triangle shape, with the central player or holding player playing in front of two central defenders providing a defensive shield. The holding player will also very often be spare when the team are in possession and can link play between the defence and midfield. The two other central midfield players will play quite close to the holding midfield player, but in more advanced positions. They will be in a position to pressure the opposition midfield players. The system enables both of the attacking midfield players to break forward from midfield to link up with the striker.
One of the problems the three midfield players can have is when the opposition fullbacks break forward and beyond either of the two wide Chelsea forwards. Because they are in a central position, it is difficult for one of the midfield trio to close the fullback down and as a result they can advance into attacking areas to deliver crosses or attacking passes from wide areas, therefore by passing the holding midfield player and into the opposition forwards.
The three attacking players will spread themselves right across the attacking width of the pitch, with a lone central striker and two wide forwards. The two wide forwards will look to come off their wing and join up with the central striker as well as try and get one v one situation in an attacking sense.
This system can prove very hard work for the lone central striker, as they have to cover a great deal of ground to show for the ball. They also have to be strong and hold the ball up, as they don't have another central striker to combine with or flick the ball onto. The two wide attackers also have to work very hard, both to attack and to defend. There is also a real difficulty of when the three strikers attack together and lose the ball, it is very difficult for them to stop the opposition defenders, particularly the fullbacks counter attacking.
The strengths of the system are that it provides a real backbone and an overload situation to the team in central areas, with three central midfield players in front of a back four. It also enables a team to counter attack very quickly, with the two attacking central midfield players and the two wide players. The weaknesses are that it is difficult to stop the opposition fullbacks from breaking forward and to stop the team having good possession in their own half of the pitch.
Chelsea Attacking 4 - 3 - 3 formation
When they gain possession Chelsea ensure the player on the ball has a lot of positive passing options. Either fullback can break forward, knowing that after the pass Makelele will sit in a defensive position and shield that area of the pitch. Both central attacking midfield players can find space in front of Makelele to receive a pass. Both wide attacking players can push wide and forward, or drift in off the wing to link up with Drogba. Drogba can have the ball passed to feet to link up with the attacking midfield or wide attacking players or he can spin and work the channels behind the defenders for a forward diagonal pass.
Chelsea Defending 4 - 3 - 3 formation
When they lose possession, Chelsea will quickly drop the two wide attackers back into midfield to make a midfield 5, effectively a 4 - 5 - 1 formation. Makelele is the key, he drops in front of his two central defenders, providing a defensive shield that makes it very difficult - and risky - for the ball to be passed into the opposition forwards. The back four will stay close together and sit quite deep and the midfield will look to block the lines of the pass into the opposition wide attacking players. Drogba will make it difficult for the player in possession to pass across the pitch. Chelsea are happy if the ball goes backwards or square as they can readjust and keep their shape. If the ball is passed forward they will try and intercept or pressure very quickly and aggressively to try and gain possession and quickly counter attack through their two wide attacking players, Drogba and supporting attacking midfield players. Makelele will rarely venture over the halfway line, maintaining his shielding defensive midfield role and enabling at least one of the fullbacks to join in the counter attack.