Football Manager 2013

Football Manager 2013

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4-3-3 Dutch Style
By Conditional Love
A 4-3-3 formation heavily influenced by the dutch teams of the 90s.
Is your desire to win greater than your fear of losing? Then I have a formation you might like to know more about: the 4-3-3 formation as played by the dutch. The dutch weren't the first to use the 4-3-3 formation, but when they adopted the 4-3-3 formation they used it as part of a highly successful flexible attacking system.

A very brief history
The first major development of the 4-3-3 formation was by the Brazilian national team under Moreira in the 1962 world cup. They were using a 4-2-4 formation but Zagallo would drop deep into the midfield thus creating an asymetric 4-3-3. The next major development was by Holland's National Team at the 1974 World Cup under Michels, and then the 1978 World Cup under Happel. It is also worth mentioning the Argentines under Playersotti who used the dutch 4-3-3 to beat Holland in the 1978 World Cup final. Note, this guide ignores the "Total Football" approach Michels used (which developes into the 3-4-3 under Cruijff and Van Gaal). The last phase of development relevant to this guide is the 4-3-3 formations used by the highly successful dutch club teams of the 70s, 80s and 90s.

variations and red-herrings
The are many variations of the 4-3-3; wingers or inside forwards, wingbacks or fullbacks, and the three midfielders staggered in any combination.

This guide isn't just about the positions and particular roles of the players, but a philosophy of how the team moves and operates. This is a guide which focuses on how each player should operate with his/her teammates rather than a set formation. The movement of Zagallo is how the Brazilians came about the 4-3-3 in the first place.

The best way to play the dutch style 4-3-3 depends on each match. You may just find that you eventually develop into the 3-4-3 or the 4-2-3-1 systems. A little bit of history repeating, eh? :)

Notable variations
French national team in the 1998 World Cup final again Brazil: Henry and Djorkaeff on the wings, Zidiane as an advance playmaker with Deschamps and Petit as holding midfielders.

Was used again by the French to win Euro 2000. This is also a formation usually used by the Mexican national team
The 4-3-3 Formation
Dutch Style
features of the system

  • high pressure when the opposition is in possession.

    Everyone pressures the ball including the centre forward. If a winger goes wide to harass, the centre forward will move a little deeper and wider to provide some cover and a passing option if the winger wins the ball.

  • high pressing from the back line. Offside trap is usually used.

    be careful that the centrebacks don't press up while the fullbacks lag back. This creates a space/"an inverted U" in which the opposition can play the ball onside behind the defense.

  • Zonal system - rigid positioning in attack and defense

    The image above is particularly good because it shows the passing triangles created by the rigid positioning. Players will not cut across each other. A player who moves a few metres to create a passing opportunity will be praised. A player who chases a ball 40 metres will be kicked off the team.

    This does mean the centre forward needs to participate in the build of phase of the attacking third of the field (read: plays with back to goal). Because of the formation rigidity, the physical exertion of players is directly linked to the position played. Wingers need the most stamina.

  • Good ball circulation - Short & Long passes with as much direct play as possible

    There is not a lot of running around. Instead "players should be playing football" , ie passing and positioning.

    It is important that there are many passing options in attack. i.e. There should be passing triangles. Two of the forwards(wingers) stay wide to make full use of the field. The Centre forward will play with his back to goal in the build up of the attack to enable another passing option.

  • stretching the field play - attacking down both flanks or through the middle

    Part of the philosophy is that in attack there is full use of the field. There is no preference which flank the ball goes down. Wingers tend to stay out wide and make penetrating runs and then cross the ball in. The idea behind this is to spread the opposition's defense.

    In defense the high pressure and pressing contracts the field of play making it diffcult for the opposition to circulate the ball.
Why use the dutch 4-3-3?
  • all players require good positioning/tactical knowledge
  • essentially only one man upfront in the centre of goal
  • team needs high stamina and positional ability
  • vulnerable to penetrating runs or direct balls

  • modern players can easily adapt to the sole striking position upfront
  • wingers are highly adaptable - eg. cutting inside
  • did I mention the flexible attack? eg. see above ^
  • outscoring your opponents
  • midfielders can be easily be changed for different coverage
  • rigid positing and covering means players are not runnign all over the field running out of energy and leaving space for opposition

ok, but how do I implent it into Football Manager 2013?
sigh, ok.

  • Centre - Deep lying forward, plays with back to goal
  • Wide - Wingers (or Insider Forwards)

Midfielders - aka passer-creator-destroyer trinity
  • Centre Mid (or Box-to-Box Mid)
  • Advanced Playmayker (or deep lying)
  • Ball Winner (or holding mid)

  • 2 Fullbacks
  • 2 Centreback - one limited defender, one centre defender

Team tactics
  • shorter passing but not too short
  • high defense line
  • high pressure
  • rigid positioning
  • zonal defense
  • play ball out - mixed (or down both flanks)
Additional Reading
An excellant article from the Zonal Marking blog on Mourinho at Chelsea, a must read. The article highlights a core strength of the 4-3-3 with an important quote from Mourinho:

"Look, if I have a triangle in midfield – Claude Makelele behind and two others just in front – I will always have an advantage against a pure 4-4-2 where the central midfielders are side by side."

The follow video illustrates the power of passing triangles (Warning: mute first)
Coaching the dutch 4-3-3

Playing the ball out of the back
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ExTrTHEreaL Dec 21, 2013 @ 10:59am 
nice ty
Hellvino[PT] Aug 22, 2013 @ 1:05pm 
@krijnalbers you have to made the tactic yourself using the orientation given for Conditional Love
krijnalbers Apr 8, 2013 @ 12:52am 
how can i add this tactic to my fm13 tactics?
Conditional Love  [author] Apr 4, 2013 @ 2:24am 
@Christian Lebis - It sure is. As I said in before in the introduction and response to nunoveludo: this is not a total football tactic. It is too hard to implement without ending in a mess (Not to mention Forwards who can defend and vice-versa).

Michels and Cruyff did something special, but they also relied upon their team's superior athleticism (just like the Hungarians of the 50s). I don't think we will see anything like it in today's competitive game.
Christian Lebis Apr 3, 2013 @ 3:50am 
Looking good, but I have a question, isn't Dutch totaal voetbal as invented by Michels and Cruyff also based on a dynamic play style? instead of rigid, I'd choose for a verry dynamic style of play, and a lot of roaming players, allowing your creative players to do what they do best, and to confuse the hell out of the oposition
Conditional Love  [author] Mar 26, 2013 @ 5:26am 
@ddoble90 - Hard to say why exactly you lost, but I can think of several reason:

- It can be hard to implement, particularly for the forwards - tweak all the players individual roles to the philosophy

- rigidity in defense / zonal marking is strong but can blow up spectactularly

- don't suddenly change formation - your teams needs to be comfortable with it before playing it to be good

- FM2013 has nerfed the domination of the 4-3-3 since release with patches - really!

- maybe you already had a better formation for the players you have? i dunno - IMO this tactic is solid but not a solution to everything

- you didn't outscore your opponents xD no seriously, mix up your attack and attack more

- bad luck? poor morale from the other 2 losses? your opponents outplayed you with a counter-attacking 4-2-3-1?
ddoble90 Mar 26, 2013 @ 5:05am 
i've tried this formation 4 games 4 losses. i was expected to win 2 of them.
where am i going wrong?
Conditional Love  [author] Feb 19, 2013 @ 5:34pm 
@Cesc - The faster the better. Currently my team is full of idiots, so I use the default setting instead. You should be able to dictate that fairly well ;)
Lucas Feb 18, 2013 @ 6:59am 
what do you recommend the tempo to be?
nycsavage Feb 5, 2013 @ 9:52am 
After 5 games, won 2 league games that I expected to win, won 1 champions league game that I expected to lose and drew 2 champions league games that I expected to lose