Beating the 4-2-3-1

More and more teams at every level from youth to professional are playing with a 4-2-3-1 system. The first stage in the process has coaches trying to figure out how to play with formation and how to teach it to their players. The second stage is for coaches to break down its strengths and weaknesses so they can decide how to defend it.

This latest book from Stevie Grieve breaks down the 4-2-3-1 in all phases of the game and exposes the areas of weakness for you to target. It also provides training sessions designed to reinforce these ideas with your team.

The excerpt below describes how to defend effectively against the 4-2-3-1 using a game from EURO 2012 featuring Spain and Italy.

Italy’s 3-5-2 almost nullifies Spain’s midfield runners

Spain have some of the best technical footballers in the world. Italy on the other hand are not the same quality as previous Italian teams, but are still tactically very good, with some dangerous players. In this Italian team, they have a strong mentality and don’t seem to have a preffered way of playing.

Italy’s game plan was to play man-man all over the field – Italy’s 3 Central midfielders v Spain’s, Italy’s 2 wing backs v Spain’s full back’s, Italy’s 2 strikers v Spain’s 2 centre backs, with Italy’s back 3 playing deep and covering against Spain’s attacking runs by the deep lying front 3.

Italy’s pressing game – force play back when possible

Italy’s defence have played between the width of the goal posts, ensuring that they mark runners when they appear. Both wing backs are between the lines, close to the nearest full back and stopping passes from being given directly to feet.

 Italy in transition – recover shape quickly

Italy lose possession and Italy shift across to press Iniesta, the back 3 ensure Silva is pressed and covered on both sides, but Iniesta still finds a pass into him. Silva bumps off a pass to the right but it is flagged for offside.

Italy’s high pressing game

Players and coaches have now witnessed Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid beating Barcelona in the Nou Camp, and how they done it, so teams have started to copy this game plan, against Spain. Press high from goal kicks, and force them to play long. It’s risky as they can still pass through opponents but effective as it slows down the attacking phase and allows an opportunity to win the ball close to the goal. Note that Balotelli and Cassano are close to Ramos and Pique, Maggio is close to Alba, while Motta, Pirlo and Marchisio made a triangle to press Busquets, Xavi and Alonso. As Busquets gets caught in possession, Alonso drops back to help defend the situation. 4-3 v 5-2 works well here.


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Have a great day!


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