Johan Cruyff, a symbol of European football, lived his glory days as a coach playing in a 3-4-3. At a time where most football teams would play using a 4-4-2 formation, Johan Cruyff stepped in and introduced to Spain and the world of football a new way of playing the game. Cruyff was basically making the beautiful game even more beautiful.
Cruyff always believed that playing with 4 at the back was a waste. Since most of the teams play with 2 strikers, having 3 defenders at the back is enough to make the opposition outnumbered. That 4th player represented for Johan a chance to have one more midfielder and therefore one more striker. The guy was just all about attacking!
The 3-4-3 formation allowed Johan to have both a diamond shaped midfield and a diamond shaped defense. The two wide CBs had to have to mobility to help cover the width of the pitch. The one in the middle would usually sit deeper as a libero.
The priority during the building up process is maintaining the possession and widening up the pitch too. The diamond shaped midfield gives the libero center-back a lot of short passing possibilities. The libero could also give hit long accurate balls to the wingers as Johan was not afraid to go more direct.
Since the 3 CBs outnumber the 2 opposing strikers, they are able to play out and if one of the forwards presses the libero, the wide center backs were capable of progressing the ball themselves while the CDM drops back to cover the gap. Moreover, the libero could also carry the ball higher himself, again with the CDM covering. You must have got it by now, the CDM is the engine of the 3-4-3 formation. Total football.
The CDM should move horizontally rather than vertically, he has to look to pick up and spread the ball ahead of him.
The wide CMs, usually the most creative players in the squad, allowed great movement within the team as they had great fluidity and are important in manipulating the opposition in half spaces.
One of them had to look to make runs high up the pitch, to provide the game breaking movement behind the forwards at the right moment.
Moreover, one of them had to assist the CDM in moment of high pressing by the opposition to help release the pressure.
The CAM can be considered as a second striker. His duty is to push up when necessary. He would ‘’only’’ play as a midfielder when there is an overload.
The CAM and the ST could interchange with each other. The ST could drop back to overload the opposition creating a 5 vs 4 situation.
They could also have opposing movements to create space behind or in front of the opposition’s back line.
The wingers have to stay wide during the build up in order to stretch the opposition and create more space for those in the center.
When transitioning to defense, having players high up allows the team to quickly transition to a press. If they lose the ball centrally, they can cut off one side of the pitch and then transition to a lateral press to make the pitch small and look to win the ball. If the lose it wide, the wingers can immediately initiate the press.
It goes without saying that Cruyff has revolutionized football in Spain. His titles with Barcelona speak for themselves. He has left behind him a huge legacy. A legacy you will find out more about in one of our upcoming articles.