Teaching the Movement of the Forwards in the 4-3-3

As I’ve written about several times, I’ve been going through the process of training one of my teams to play the 4-3-3 formation. I’ve always used a 4-4-2 or a 3-4-3 in the past so this has been a learning experience for me as well as the players.

I began with the defensive phase of the game to give the team a foundation to build on. They now have a good understanding of their responsibilities when we don’t have the ball and that has made us a tough team create chances against. As a part of this we’ve worked a great deal on getting our wing backs involved by pushing them forward when we win the ball. This put emphasis on our wide play and we’ve been able to generate a lot of our offense by attacking the flanks with both our wing backs and wingers.

The area that we have been lacking is our combination play to score through the center of the field. I want the players to feel comfortable and confident that they can create chances by more than getting the ball wide and crossing it. we’ve worked hard over the last two weeks to improve our creativity and combination play to create shots on goal. The final phase is to put the players in game situations where they can use these skills.

In my opinion phase of play exercises and small-sided games are the best way to help the players transfer the concepts from the practice field to match day. A new book that we’ve just released, A Coach’s Guide to the 4-3-3 has given me a number of ideas that I’ve used with my team.

A Coach’s Guide to the 4-3-3 gives you a complete tactical overview of the system. It includes an explanation on how to organize your players, the roles and responsibilities of each position, how it’s used at the highest level of club soccer and how you can coach the 4-3-3, with a comprehensive selection of soccer drills and exercise.

Here are a few of the exercises and games that I’ve used recently with my team:

Some coaches like to add specific drills to reduce the amount of players. In this case, a good one is an 8 vs. 4 drill including two outside backs, three midfielders and three forwards against four defenders.

Another good drill is to play 5 vs. 5 where the interior midfielders and the attackers play against the four player back-line and the holding midfielders. This drill is specific for training the interior midfielders to support the attacking trio and to train the holding midfielder to help the defensive back line.

Another drill is to play 8 vs. 8 with the rule that the players must pass the ball with no backward passes and can only use diagonal passes. The objective is to get to the net as soon as possible.

There are two other drills you can use. In a small pitch, two teams play 7 vs. 7 with the hands but a goal is only valid if scored with a one-touch shot with the feet.

What small-sided games do you use to help your players transition from the practice field to match day?

Have a great day!



  1. kyle says:

    My forwards found this article very helpful, along with myself as they were having a hard time comprehending their movements and what i was asking them to do.

  2. Justin says:

    I think it is essential to play a half-field functional training exercise with your players (as in the second diagram above) at least once a week. I usually play 6 attackers (2 centre mids, 2 wingers and 2 strikers) against 5 defenders (back 4 and holding mid) and a goalie. I normally limit the 2 attacking Centre mids to 2 touches.

    With this format you can work on the roles of any position (wingers, def mid, etc.) or group (twin strikers, back four, etc).

  3. Rob says:

    Very good concept. I ennjoy reading about different systems of play and learning the responsibilities of each player