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The Formation Game #1

Coventry (red) were attacking in a 1-4-3-3. Birmingham (blue) were defending in a 1-4-2-3-1.

Coventry opted to play long often, without offering too much threat to the compact Birmingham defensive shape. How might you go about this situation?

How might I?

I'll begin with watching the opponent, to see their shape, and then their advantages. Centrally, Birmingham has 5 players as a part of 2-3 of the formation.

So, then I'll try to understand the battles and where my 4-3-3 might have success.

What I do know is that 5 central versus my 3 will be tough.

Playing predictably into the channels will allow the Birmingham forward players to press my full-backs - as you see the Blue #11 is doing in the picture below.

So, I'm looking for opportunities (for the red team).

The first I see is the other side of the field. Defending teams will always shift to cover the ball and leave space on the furthest side of the field from the ball. It makes sense and leaves no central gaps.

So, here my #2 can receive the ball and attract the #11. Now it is only 4v3 centrally. Creating an additional opportunity.

As Birmingham shifts, a reverse ball into the #4 and a quick direct ball to the #3 could expose the opportunity of a wide 3v2. If it is too slow and needs to go the #5 first, the opportunity will likely have gone, but the same opportunity could present itself again with #2.

How you set up this opportunity can also vary. #6 will often be available for a ball into feet and back. A simple pass makes defenders move, creating opportunities in the identified areas.


The opportunity might disappear if your team all moves in the direction of the ball. Here the ball went to the #3, but the #6, #7, #8, and #9 are now crashing into the playing area, bringing defenders with them. This condenses the opportunity area, and makes success less likely.

Important. I don't discourage players from playing in this space, but I do encourage them to consider the number situation and if they are outnumbered facing an organized defense, it is time to move the ball on.

Positives. The space on the OTHER side of the field now open.


Shape changes can make a difference to help your team exploit opportunities.

Not having players follow the ball is one way to control shape.

Here we have split the field, creating mini teams within the team.

#3, #10, #11 + #9 on the left


#2, #8, #7 + #9 on the right

#4, #5, and #6 are tasked with controlling, recycling, organizing behind the ball and exploiting gaps that are created as the opponent shifts to defend.

This is one idea. I'm sure you have more?

Tell me, below 👇


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