As you can see the system got it’s because well, it looks like a Christmas Tree. The three key elements you should notice are:
This is not a flat back system. Instead the two central defenders play side by side deep and the two outside backs play a little higher.
There are no outside midfielders. This is why the outside backs are playing higher than the central defenders. A key for the system to work is (because there are no outside midfielders) the outside backs must by physically fit because they need to be able to get forward and provide in the attack.
Triangles and Diamonds. Notice that there are several different triangles and diamonds all over the pitch. This will be key to holding possession and ensure you will always have 2-3 different options every time you receive the ball. Possession is 9/10ths of the law.
Just in case you struggled to visually see who was playing what position I will list below:
Defenders: Ivanovic (ouside right back), David Luiz (center back), John Terry (center back), Ashley Cole (outside left back)
Holding Midfielders: Ramires, Essien
Attacking Midfielder: Frank Lampard
Forwards: Fernando Torres, Florent Malouda
Striker: Didier Drogba
Now that we have a visual of what our 4-3-3 Christmas Tree formation should look like, lets take a look at how we shift players. As previously mentioned, this is a highly organized system and everyone must be on the same page in order for this system to work. We will look at how to shift when the outside right back gets possession and we are attacking. Remember, possession is 9/10ths of the law.
Attacking in a 4-3-3
Scenario 1: Center back passes the ball to the outside right back
Where to Shift:
Defenders – When the ball gets to the outside back, the right center back ultimately shifts and becomes the outside right back. The other center back shifts right and takes the spot of his other central back and the left outside back comes and fills the role of center back. Ivanovic (1) who has now received the ball should have several options. His first option is to go back to where the ball came from to one of his central defenders. Holding the ball and moving the ball around the backline is a good way to stay organized and keep posession. A second options would be to any of the midfielders checking to the ball. He should have a long option to the striker and a wide option to his right forward.
Midfielders – The central midfielers should be constantly checking in and out trying to receive the ball. They are the gel that hold the team together. The outside right back should have two options of midfielders checking in to recieve the ball. The central midfielders runs do not necessarily have to be in a straight line. The goal for the central midfielders to to get in between the seems of the defenders where they can receive the ball and hopefully turn or find another teammate to hold possession.
Forwards and Strikers – The right forward should be giving a wide option near the touchline and they should assure the defender is not cutting off the passing lane. They might have to check back towards the ball in order to do so. The forward on the opposite side of the pitch (Malouda) has two options and he can make the decision depending on what the opposing teams defense is doing. He can either check centrally in behind the midfield or he can fill the role of the striker and get forward. If he stays wide, he can give an option of a diagonal switch. The striker (Drogba) has several options and again should make the decision based on how the opposing team is defending. The striker can either check to the ball and try and receive it as a target player or he can make a diagonal or looping run in behind the defense. Given Drogba’s big frame and stregnth, he is often used as a target forward, laying it off for his midfielders or turning on the defender who is on his back.
Three Keys to Remember:
Defenders shifting and taking on a new role when the ball is moved around the pitch.
Midfielders constantly checking in and out looking for the ball. Making runs in between the seems of the defenders.
Forwards either checking back to the ball as target or making bending/looping runs in behind the defense.
This concludes the first part of my 4-3-3 Series [Shifting and Shape]. I will be introducing a new componet of the 4-3-3 Christmas Tree formation on a weekly basis. Next week we will look at the different options that should be available when certain players receive the ball.