Midfield Variations in the 4-3-3

By Soren Schamberg

For many, the 4-3-3 formation is a familiar line up without knowing much about the individual positions and their responsibilities. In modern lineups, this formation has Two center backs and two wing backs making up the back four; three midfielders meant to transition and move the ball from their defensive third into their attacking third and three front players meant to harass the opposition's back line and pose a goal scoring threat.

Focusing in on the three midfield players, their role of bringing the ball from defense into the offense shouldn’t be left to chance. There are three profiles of players that help make these positions the most effective they can be. They are the defensive midfielder, the creative midfielder and the attacking midfielder.

Starting with the Defensive Midfielder, the #6 position, their primary role is to be a buffer in front of the two Center Backs when defending - intercepting passes, stopping opponents from dribbling down the middle and cleaning up any loose balls created by their other teammates. When attacking, this player is responsible for distributing passes out wide or forward to the other mid-Field positions. This player will be most attentive to the "we don't have the ball", "we are about to win the ball back" and "we are about to lose the ball" phases of play.

The next position we will discuss is the Creative Midfielder position, the #8. A Creative midfielder is a player who is able to make passes from the Neutral Third of the field into the attacking third with precision both on the ground and in the air.

This player gets involved to push and pull the opposing players out of position to create space and/or opportunities for their teammates to make runs in between the lines or down the channels that can lead to crosses or shots on goal.

When discussing defensive duties, the Creative midfielder will look to intercept passes and stop the opponents progress, similar to the defensive midfielder, but higher up the field. Often the defensive work performed by the Creative midfielder is cleaned up by the defensive midfielder, as they work together to stifle the opponents movement through the midfield. This player is looking for "we are about to win the ball back", "we have the ball" and "we are about to lose the ball" phases of play.

The final mid-field position is the Attacking Midfielder. Typically the most recognizable or exciting of the three midfielders, the Attacking Midfielder is known to make runs at the opponents midfield and defense with excellent ball control and deft awareness and passing.

While their defensive duties are the lightest of the three midfielders, mainly due to their always being ready to take the ball forward, they are most likely to win the ball back just about the same area of the pitch as the Creative midfielder. These players are typically looking for the "about to win the ball back" and "we have the ball" phases of play.

All three of these positions working together, make up a midfield that can absorb pressure when without the ball and create chances and goals when with the ball.

By Soren Schamberg

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