Last Monday here at Football DNA we ran a poll where the 4-3-3 won the majority (32%) votes for the most popular formation. Surprisingly the 4-4-2 formation came last with 19% of the vote.

In this blog we look at how we at Football DNA would implement the 4-3-3 Formation both Attacking & Defensively. It is important to consider the opposition, the context of the fixture and most importantly the scoreboard. For this blog we have based it playing against the least favoured 4-4-2 formation.



  • Front 3 High and Wide to Create Space. #9 Stretching the opposition Centre Half’s, with penetrating runs in behind. #7 & #11 playing high up against opposition Full Backs pinning them back. This will allow lots of space for 3 Central Midfielders to control the game and start combining passes together. It will also give #2 & #3 space to attack, linking with #7 & #11 to try and create 2 v 1 situations in wide areas. Another variation is for the #9 to drop deeper which gives the opposition #5 & #6 a decision to make, either to leave him unmarked in the half space behind the midfield or go tight which will then give space for the #8 or #10 to run beyond the #9 into the space created.
  • 3 Central Midfielders #4, #8 & #10 rotate positions to always give passing lanes to the player in possession. These players look to form a triangle whenever in possession with at least #8 or #10 playing in behind the opposition midfield unit. This will pose a question to the Centre Half’s to step in or protect the space in behind them that the #9 looks to run into. The deepest midfielder (usually the #4) plays in from of the two Centre Half’s to help prevent & stop counter attacks on the transition.
  • Full Backs #2 & #3 are encouraged to join in with forward runs looking to support the #7 & #11 to create 2 v 1 overloads in wide areas. Full Backs can support from behind, overlap or underlap. This will depend on the context of the game and the profile of players involved. i.e If #7 is very effective in 1 v 1 situations, the full back may leave the wide player to attack 1 v 1 even underlapping to create more space outside to exploit.
  • Centre Half’s #5 & #6 are expected to step in with the ball to create an overload in midfield. If the the central midfield area is blocked up and congested the diagonal pass into the #7 or #11 is an excellent option.
  • GK #1 plays out from the back distributing the ball effectively. The first pass/throw sets the tempo for the team to attack and play forward or invite the press to create space to play through the thirds. In addition the GK should make good angles to support play from behind to circulate the ball.


  • Leave the Front 3 High to Press. #9 position splits the oppositions 2 Centre Half’s to stop them stepping out with the ball thus keeping the play predictable. #7 & #11 are positioned right up against the Full Backs preventing them from getting out forcing them to play long.
  • #10 & #8 are pushed on high locking onto the opposition Central Midfield players with the #4 balancing off behind cutting off the passing lane into the Centre Forwards.
  • #2 & #3 are responsible for the Wide Players and play 1 v 1. These players need to be good in 1 v 1 moments as the #7 & #11 are encouraged to stay high and pin full backs and become available on the transition.
  • #5 & #6 are responsible for the 2 Centre Forwards looking to be aggressive and have a high line to encourage the forward players to press high. This will make the distances smaller and give less room for the opposition to play in. The aim is for the ball to regained as high up the pitch as possible to give us more chance of quickly turning it into a goal scoring opportunity on the transition.
  • #1 to play as a sweeper and be on the front foot to deal with any balls that are played over the top. The GK’s high starting position will encourage the defensive unit to lock on higher up the pitch.

That is how Football DNA would play the 4-3-3 Formation Attacking & Defending. Like we have said above it all totally depends on the circumstances. It would be great to hear your thoughts on our style and also how you would intend to play 4-3-3. Would you want your team to press like ours or prefer to play deep and hit teams on the counter attack.

Let us know by getting in touch via Twitter @FootballDNA_. Also keep an eye out for the website with loads more content on this and other formations coming very soon!

Best Wishes

Football DNA