Talking Tactics

Talking Tactics



When analysing the top teams, formations are no longer referred to in their defensive state (4-3-3/4-4-2 etc.) when they have possession of the ball. Formations such as 2-3-5 and 3-1-6 are becoming more common. I thought I would break down when a team might use each formation.

I have used Guardiola & Man City as an initial reference point but I will add to this throughout the season. When deciding upon a build up structure, the key is how many players the opposition place in their defensive and attacking line. Both need outnumbering.

So, if an opposition play with a back 5 Guardiola will play with a front 6. If they have two players in their forward line then Guardiola will play with 3 defenders (hence the 3-1-6). If that team play 5-4-1 (so one player in their forward line) Guardiola will play a 2-2-6.

When Man City played Bournemouth they defended with a 5-4-1-0 shape. Manchester City built play in a 2-2-6 shape. 2 DMs to outnumber their CF and 6 in the forward line to outnumber their back 5. The CMs & Wingers/Full Backs enable overloads in various areas.

Nott’m Forest defended as a 5-3-2 so Man City built play in a 3-1-6 formation. This shape is very similar (or is) to a 3-Diamond-3. You can see how the Midfielders can outnumber both Forest’s back 5 & their Midfield 3. The central CM (10) may have license to drift & overload.

If a team play a narrow 4-2-3-1 (like West Ham) & don’t really detach their AM to press the CB (making a 4-4-2) Man City will play a 2-3-5 with narrow full backs. City almost ignore the opposition’s double pivot & overload the flanks/attacking trident. Wingers drop to make 5v3

Manchester Utd defended in a 4-2-3-1 but either a Winger or AM detached to press City’s CBs. City played a 2-3-5 with wide full backs. This shape created space in Midfield for Gundogan (DM), Haaland to receive to feet & KDB/B.Silva in the half spaces. Overloads everywhere.

The key players in all of this are the triangle of Full Back, CM and Winger down each side. Their positioning enables City to overload each line of the opposition whilst stretch their defence. There are other build up structures like 3-Box-3 that I will speak about soon ✌🏼

Another build up structure, especially for teams playing a back 3, is the 3-2-2-3 (3-Box-3). Brighton used this against Liverpool (as did Potter previously). Brighton’s 2 AMs outnumber Liverpool’s DM whilst also in positions to outnumber their back 4. 6v5 at back (w/ GK)

Barcelona used the 3-Box-3 structure against Inter Milan on Tuesday night. It created 1v1s, which enabled Dembele to cause problems, (although lacking an end product) but you can see they had no overload in the final third. Inter pressed Raphinha & Gavi w/their outside CBs.

At times, Pedri and Busquets blocked each other from receiving the ball (passes back to them once Barca advanced up the pitch). The 3-1-6 might have been more effective. Barca were also very right side dominant. More threat from LB may have caused Inter problems.

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