Tactic Textbook - The 3-3-4
When it comes to using a 3-3-4, some may believe it’s best used when you are in need of a goal rather than a formation to start a match with. When looking at the shape on paper, it’s easy to spot the potential weakness – the defence. Due to this having many players further up the field, it could leave your defence light when possession has been lost and opponents may find easy routes out for a counter attack
Believe it or not, this formation was very common. In 1961, Tottenham Hotspur won the double using this formation and a few years prior, the formation was used by many sides. History says this formation can be successful. History loves to repeat itself but will anyone be brave enough to use this in modern times? Let’s dive into the logistics of the tactic and who knows, maybe you will be inspired to use this shape in your FM saves.
Analysing the 3-3-4:
The shape would have 3 defenders, 3 midfielders and 4 attackers. Typically, 3 centre-backs ahead of the goalkeeper but that’s not exclusive. 3 central midfielders and the 4 attackers would involve 2 wider attackers and 2 central attackers.
You may just lick your lips at the prospect of having possibly 6-7 players attacking the opponent at once. This could create mayhem and very effective overloads in dangerous creating zones. You may be able to pull defenders away with one attacker whilst having a midfielder attacking that space now created from a deeper area. But once in the final areas of the field, you’ll certainly want to have quality players who are good at keeping possession on the ball because once lost, you can be in big trouble. This is probably why, if you do see this formation used then it’s likely used in desperate measures.
Due to having three at the back, this formation can be weak defensively. Teams may find it easy to transition from defence to attack. The three midfielders in midfield may not be enough to cover the 3 at the back as probably one of the central midfielders will be looking to effect play in the more advanced areas with the attackers, so possibly all 3 midfielders will not be able to help out defensively.
Having an Anchor Man may be able to do an effective job though. If using a 3-3-4 with 3 central defenders then you will be light on the flanks with also no defensive cover there. Having an Anchor Man could possibly allow a central defender to then shift out wide to carry out a defensive job so this tactic would need to be Very Fluid, players covering each other to work as a unit. Another effective way to defend the flanks is when defending, transition into a different formation. 3-5-2 would jump out immediately as a possible formation to form when defending but 4-3-3 is also an option. To form a 4-3-3, you will ask one of your wingers to drop back in defence and one of your central defenders to shift out wide to make a back 4. This is why it is very important to have wingers with extremely high work rate and stamina so that they can track back. Instead of counter-pressing, it may be an idea to regroup as your transition style.
Advantages & Disadvantages:
Advantages is clear for us to see. The attack. That could be lethal and it could be the case of just out scouring your opponent. “Hey, you can score 3 but we can score 5”. Another advantage is the unpredictability of your attacks. You can attack all attacking areas at once and with players having different roles and movement patterns, this can cause one hell of a confusion for the defensive team
We already touched on the flanks, this is an area of concern as you will have plenty of players in central positions and the only wide players are positioned further up the pitch. Another big “problem” would be that your team would need to have immense stamina, especially the wingers and midfielders as they will be asked to carry out various jobs in order to have some balance in the system. They will be doing a lot of running and covering. Also building up play, you may find a little difficult to build from defence as you will have limited passing options
How to play the 3-3-4:
There is likely no wrong or right way to play any tactic. Sure, each tactic will have its limits but nothing is impossible. For the 3-3-4, you can use the strengths and weakness to determine the playing style.
Defensive Shape – You may want to defend with a higher line so you can pin your opposition deep in their own half. Having so many advanced players, this should be fairly easy to do. Protect the space on the flanks as best as possible. This could be done by regrouping in defensive transitions and your wingers will look to drop deeper than their advanced position when the ball has been lost. Also regrouping could reduce the quality of the opponents counter-attacks
Attacking Shape – Create counter movements. Ask at least one striker to drop deeper in a bid to create space and have a player ready to attack that space. A striker dropping deeper could also help dominate the midfield. Creating chances on the flanks could be dangerous despite the flanks being a weakness in this shape. But if you can get crosses in from your wide men then you will have a lot of options inside the box but not only inside the box. You will also have midfielders around the box picking up the loose ball and ready to have a shot at goal or play a dangerous pass
Attack with urgency to get the ball forward to your attacking players. The ball is no use with your defensive players as they have limited passing options to build.
I don’t know if I have convinced anyone that this could possibly be a great formation. The weakness might be too much of a concern for some as you will need quality players but also players willing to work hard for the team and having great understanding of the game. But if done correctly, this can be devastating and matches could end in high results meaning entertainment for football fans OR entertainment for yourself on Football Manager.
My FM21 Idea (Tactic has NOT been tested)