4-3-3 formation explained

4-3-3 Formation: The Tactical Analysis, Pros And Cons

In modern football, the 4-3-3 formation is one of the most popular. It is, therefore, important to analyze the tactical pros and cons of the formation.

In this piece, you’ll understand almost every detail about the formation, and all related questions will be answered.

Let’s begin with an explanation of how the formation works.

How does the 4-3-3 Formation Work?

The 433 formation is a tactical setup of 4 defenders, 3 midfielders and 3 Attackers.

Unlike the 4-4-2 formation, the 4-3-3 setup has a good balance of all roles – defence, midfield and attack.

The 3 attackers in a 4-3-3 is made up of a Center Striker paired by two Inverted Forwards or Wingers on either flank.

Usually, the 3 Midfielders in 4-3-3 consists of a Defensive Midfielder being paired on either side with a Central or Attacking midfielders.

The 4 defenders in a 433 include two centre-backs and two full-backs or Wingbacks on either side of the centre-backs.

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4-3-3 Style of Play

Managers like Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp set up the 4-3-3 formation to suffocate opposition.

The two Inverted Forwards move from wide positions into the box, thereby giving space on the wing for the two wingbacks to cause damage.

In midfield, the Holding Midfielder assumes the dual role of deep-lying playmaking and breaking up the opposition attack.

In some situations, the right-sided Central Midfielder operates at the edge of the box, very close to the right wing-back, to whip in some crosses.

On the left-sided Central Midfielder, on the other hand, stays close to the Holding Midfielder to create chances. Or, sometimes, move into the box to support attackers.

The two Center backs are expected to keep a high line of defence close to the centre of the pitch.

Both players are expected to have strong communication to be on the same line to make it easy for opposition attackers to fall into the set offside trap.

In summary, the 4-3-3 setup is designed to dominate and attack.

How To Defend With 4-3-3

One of the best ways to defend with a 433 setup is to press the opposition.

Again, Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool is a good reference for how to Press opposition.

In a layman’s understanding, pressing in football means not giving your opposition breathing space.

Furthermore, it means close-marking the player with the ball and the closest teammates around him that he can potentially pass to.

To better understand how to defend with the formation, watch the video below.

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Why Is 4-3-3 Formation so popular?

The 4-3-3 is very popular because it perfectly balances Defense, Midfield, and Attack.

In the 4-5-1 formation, for example, there is more power in midfield. The two central midfielders in a 4-4-2 formation can be easily overrun by 3 midfielders.

Almost every other formation has a shift in power for a particular role, except the 433, which seems to have a perfect balance across all roles on the pitch.

When Did 4-3-3 Become Popular?

In the early 90s to early 2000s, the 4-4-2 formation was the most popular.

However, since the mid-2000s, the 4-3-3 formation began to gain a lot of popularity in football.

Barcelona especially typified the formation back then.

Learn More: MSN Stats For Barcelona Using 433 Formation

What is The Best Formation To Counter 4-3-3?

First, it is only logical that the 4-3-3 formation is a good match for an opponent playing with the same setup. Why?

how to beat a 4-3-3 formation

You can match your opponent’s positioning and threat.

However, one of the best formations to counter 4-3-3 is the 3-5-2 formation.

With the 3-5-2, there is a match in Midfield with the 4-3-3 setup. Plus, an extra man in defence to nullify the threat of the opposing attackers.

PSG buildup goal against Liverpool

Tactical Pros of 4-3-3

For so many reasons, the 433 setup is a good formation. Consider some of them…

  • Unlike a one-man or 2-man attack, the 3 attackers in a 4-3-3 offer more threat to any opposition.
  • It is flexible, as you can play with traditional wingers, inverted forwards, or a mix of both.
  • A centre midfield trio offers better creativity and stability than any other formation with a 2-man centre midfield.
  • Depending on the type of 433 setups, a team can play with two wingbacks and still have little or nothing to worry about in defence.
  • The formation is one of the best formations for counterattacks. While others can sit back, launching the ball forward for 3 attackers during a counterattack can be very difficult to defend against.

Tactical Cons of 4-3-3

Of course, just like every other soccer formation, the 4-3-3 has weaknesses. Consider some of them…

  • The full-backs in a 433 may sometimes not get adequate defence coverage because the two orthodox wingers or Inverted Forwards may not fall back.
  • If the Midfielders are doing the job of covering for the fullbacks, it creates spaces in midfield that opponents can pounce on.
  • A 4-man defence, especially with two Wingbacks, can be susceptible to falling short when counterattacked by pacey opponents.

4-3-3 FAQ Answered

Is 433 a good formation?

Most definitely, the 4-3-3 is a good formation. It is one of the most balanced formations in football.

Is 433 an attacking formation?

Yes, 433 is an attacking formation. Although there are many variants of the 433, most coaches set out their team in this formation to attack their opponent.

Why is the 4-3-3 formation so popular?

The 433 formation is so popular because it offers the perfect balance in defence and attack.

When did the 4-3-3 formation get popular?

The 433 formation got popular in the mid-2000s. Barcelona and Ajax are two clubs that have been consistently identified with this formation since the mid-2000s.


The 4-3-3 is one of the most popular soccer formations in modern football.

And the reason why the formation is popular is that it offers a perfect balance for defence and attack.

Considering the formation’s pros and cons, we can say that 4-3-3 is the most suitable and commonest tactical setup in modern football.

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