The history of soccer is full of different formations and tactical designs and these are continuously improved, perfected, discarded, buried, but also revived some times.
The category of revivals includes the Back-Three. Great teams in world soccer, such as Ajax Amsterdam in 1995, had great success with basic formations which had three defenders as the defensive line. At the beginning of the new millennium, line-ups with four defenders became dominant. Over the years, formations such as 4-4-2, or ultimately a 4-2-3-1 were being utilized. In the last few years, there has again been a trend towards a dynamic Back-Three line. In this alignment, the wing defenders push up and a #6 player ends up between the back-line. But even formations with a solid line of three defenders came back into use - as recently seen at the 2014 FIFA World Cup. The Netherlands, for example, changed to a Back-Three from game to game or even during a game and won third place.
This e-book outlines my thoughts regarding the Back-Three. I will describe both the basic operation of this kind of defensive line as well as problem-solving methods based on the Back Three alignment.
I hope you will enjoy reading,
Attacking out of the Back Three
The Central Defenders Are Positioned Somewhat Apart
If the red #6 player slides between the two central defenders, these two can locate themselves somewhat apart. If they are positioned somewhat in line with the outside of the penalty box, they can move the ball out of the area with a dribbling or switch play within the Back Three.
Re-Fill the #6 Position!
If the red #6 player moved in between the two central defenders, the distance between defense and midfield has expanded too much. To re-establish a good connection with the midfield, one of the offensive midfielder has to assume the #6 position. Since the ball-near offensive midfielder will participate in the attacking movement, the ball-distant offensive midfielder should fall back into the #6 position. In this position he is available for a pass and can also join the staggered rear-guard defense. Counter-attacks by the opponent can be prevented much better with this staggered alignment.
The Wide Positions by Defenders and Midfielders Need Coordination!
As far as these wing positions are concerned, it is important that they are located in different zones (wing and in-between pocket area) Of interest here is the timing with which to establish thesesituations. Principally, it is possible to have the outside defenders (red #2 and #3) push up once the Back Three is in place; the wing attackers (red #7 and #8) then push into these pocket areas. This makes it possible to push back on the respective offensive wing positions of the opponent.
As an alternative, one could have the two outside positions be active from their wide position along the side-line. If the distance between the two wide positions (between red #3 and red #11, and #2 and #7) is large enough, the spaces between the two lines of the opponent would be easier to open up.
Note: The wings, now doubly filled, and coordinated movements are the tactical solutions which will be discussed in the next chapter.
Dribbling Out of the Back Three!
With the Back Three in place, we have a 3 against 2 numbers-up situation: 3 defenders against 2 strikers. In order to take advantage of this, one option would be to dribble out of the Back Three line. In this case, the two players in the in-between pockets (the space between the wide position and the center). In these pockets, there is always a chance of developing play further and the pressure on the player dribbling is less than in the center.
Game Solutions out of the Back three - Alaba Path
Red #4 initiates play with a dribble. At the same time, his #2 moves into the back of blue #7 and shows for the ball (depending on the opponent’s behavior, he could receive the ball there). Red #7, along the line, comes to. Red #8 and #9 occupy the center in order to keep the pocket-spaces available. Especially Red #8 is trying to keep a passing lane to his position open. Red #3 moves inside because changing sides is not realistic. Red #4 and #5 move up, adjusting to what blue #9 and #11 are doing and the situation on the ball (and remain available for a pass). Red #10 shifts towards the ball and secures the ball-near area.
Red #4 keeps blue #7 on a leash and plays the ball into space for his #7. At the same time, red #2 moves into the gap between blue #3 and #4 and can receive a pass toward the goal-line for his attackers to convert a cross. Red #8 pushes up, too, and be served at the penalty box line (or, in case of loss of ball, he can exert pressure on the ball-carrier. All players (including the keeper –not shown) push up.
"Nobody ponders a world where everyone is simply settled for the easy way out...."