Player roles within a 4-3-3

Andre Villas-Boas favours the 4-3-3 system and so far we have looked at a tactical analysis and a video explaining the moving parts of the system and how it basically works. Today we will list the basic player roles within the system and tomorrow we'll look specifically at the full-backs.

AVB has a slight twist in so much as he plays the system with advanced full-backs both attacking together and a holding midfield player, who plays a crucial role covering for them so there is always three at the back.

The back four defends in a zonal system, the defender defends a space rather than a player. The two central defenders stagger themselves depending upon which side the ball is. If the ball is on the right the left centre-back is deeper and the opposite on the other flank. Inside the penalty area the system switches to man marking.

In front of the defenders sits a defensive midfielder who protects the central defenders and covers the full-back if the team loses possession while they are up-field. A quality defensive midfielder is required who can read the game, stay in position, intercept passes, make tackles and know what passes are available when the ball is recovered. It is his role to set the midfield line of defence, the rest on the midfield and wide men take their lead from him.

When defending the two wingers need to drop back to make up a five man midfield and crushing the midfield area. There should then be little space for the opposition to operate in and the team bides its time until the time comes to pressurise the man with the ball and all the men around him in a pack.

Our two banks of players (midfield and defence) ensure they ate not defending vertically behind each other but to the side so we are covering the greatest area and have the best view to read the game.

The defenders have to think three things, where is the ball, where are my defensive colleagues and where is the opponent and he thinks those in that order in just a moment. The defenders have to work as a unit as if they are tied together with string. When a full-back goes out to his man the other three move across, if a central defender has to go out imagine where that piece of string would take them and you have a rough idea of where they should be. Ideally you want your defensive midfielder to be doing that so the back line can stay together as a unit.

The responsibility of each player defensively in a basic 4-3-3 are:

1) Be vocal in organizing the defense. He sees the whole field and directs players where to go.
2) Make quick and confident decisions to come off the line for balls behind the defenders; come out strong for balls in the air and in one-on-one situations.
3) Agile feet and sure hands for shot stopping.

1) Immediate pressure on the ball when the opposition wide players are in possession of the ball.
2) Be strong and confident in tackles with no diving in.
3) Be compact (tucked in) to support central defenders and close down dangerous space.
4) Provide depth and balance on opposite side of attack; cover for otherʼs mistakes (In AVB's system both full-backs attack together rather than the normal one attacking one defending).
5) Scan the field to make certain all players are marked; no ball watching!

1) Must be in constant communication with one another; play as one.
2) Delay central attack; strong and decisive tackles when appropriate.
3) Immediate pressure on ball with the other in supportive space.
4) Stay compact in central, dangerous space.
5) Cover for outside defenders if they are beaten.
6) Be strong in the air to clear balls sent in high.

1) Deny the attack from entering center of the field.
2) Become a second defender supporting full-back delaying the attacker.
3) Screen the central defenders and deny penetrating passes in behind the defence.
4) Winning aerial balls in midfield and starting the attack from restarts.

1) Immediate marking of opposing central midfield players.
2) Move in as second/third defender to assist delaying the attack.
3) Mark area at the edge of the box for any outside shots or drops.
4) Win balls in the air to clear from dangerous areas.

1) Pressure defenders with other forwards.
2) Cover the “hole”, roughly halfway between penalty box and midfield, to win balls cleared by his teams defence or played back by opposite attackers.
3) Communicate and organize defence from the attacking side.
4) Drop back to defend against restarts.

1) When losing the ball get goal side quickly, ball side immediately.
2) Apply immediate pressure on opposing defenders with the ball.
3) Become front defenders to deny passes into the midfielders or forwards.
4) Drop into a midfield five to blanket the midfield.

Tomorrow, Monday, we'll look at the full-back position and the wingers 'player management' role. That article comes out at 9.46pm (21.46) UK time.

Previous article:
Video: The 4-3-3 explained

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