How to Beat the 433 Formations? (Soccer)

The 433 is probably one of modern soccer’s most used play systems. Teams who play in this formation are well organized, physically fit and possess good player mobility. A team up against a 433 must have a good game plan. This article will discuss some ideas and strategies about how to beat the 433 formations.

How to beat the 433 formations? Teams must use regular rotations, play between the lines, switch play often and use quick combinations.

If we are going to learn how to beat the 433 formations we need to have some basic knowledge and understanding of its strengths and weaknesses as a system of play. The table below summarises the 433 formations.

Strengths and Weaknesses of 433 Formation

433 has a good defensive balance to cover the pitch horizontally and verticallyThe formation can struggle against quick counterattacks
This system of play creates lots of natural triangle shapes which is good for build-up playLots of movement and shifting are required from midfield players to provide options
It has good cover centrally which frees up wide players to attack, it morphs into a 325 formation easily in attack Can find it difficult against a low block formation such as a 532
Covers forward passing lanes well and allows players to double up on opponents quickly Flanks can be left exposed so recovery running from attacking players is essential

Understand the 433 Formation

How to beat the 433 formations in the attack?

I am going to suggest 6 basic ideas to consider when playing against a well-organized 433 formation

Positional Fluidity

To beat the 433 it is important to play a formation that allows you fluidity. The 433 relies on a solid three-player midfield and fullbacks who like to join in attacks. With this in mind, a team can overcome the 433 formations by overloading the midfield between the lines. The 4-diamond-2 formation will match up the 433 in midfield but also leave a spare player behind between the lines.

Another strength of the 4-diamond-2 formation is that it will leave the fullbacks of the 433 isolated versus a striker making channel runs and or a fullback from the team playing in a diamond shape joining in the attack. A 2v1 situation in wide areas can be achieved if the striker makes a run as soon as their team’s fullback receives the ball.

4-diamond-2 overloads 433 midfield and offers chances to isolate the fullback

Other Formations to beat the 433 formation

The 4222 is another playing system that can overload the midfield three of the 433. The 4222 creates a box midfield behind and between the three midfielders of the 433. This causes the three midfielders to hesitate because they are unsure who should press. After all, there are two MF in front of them and two midfielders in dangerous spaces behind them. The box midfielders need to have good quality on the ball.

The ability to play vertical forward passes quickly allows a team in this formation to get at the backline of the 433 quickly. The downside of this formation is that a team loses width or the strikers are tasked with offering the width. This clears central attacking spaces for midfield runners. The players in the 4222 formations have to be interchangeable and react quickly to the next pass.

Another tactic on how to beat the 433 formations. The 4222 box midfield and vertical passing options.

Play Around Pressure

If a team does not have the quality to overload the midfield between the lines then a second option to beat the 433 would be to clear the midfield and go around the pressure. The 343 formations match up the front line of the 433, it overloads the midfield with an extra player and is 3v4 in the front line.

A technically skilled goalkeeper is essential to use the 343 against a 433 high-pressing team. If the GK can step into the back line of their defense they can be used to create an option of playing long balls into the feet of wingbacks beyond the three pressing players. On the ball side, the outside central defender can move into a fullback position to receive a ball around the pressure of the front three.

343 Gk playing over the pressure into the wingbacks. The back 3 offer support behind the ball centrally.

A central player playing deep behind the ball should offer security to the attacking team (usually the central defender. This means that the back three in the 343 formations must be comfortable in possession of the ball. They can be used to recycle attacks and constantly stretch the three pressing attackers in the 433 formations.

Create Overloads between the lines

To create overloads between the lines the team trying to beat the 433 formations must achieve two things. Firstly they must pin the back line of the defense. This involves pushing attacking players up against the back four. If playing the 4-diamond-2 shape the two strikers would stand between their fullback and central defenders. They would try to get as high up the field as they could.

Once the back line is pinned the next objective is to get frequent blindside runs behind the opponent’s midfield three. Blindside runs are usually diagonal runs off the back of a defender who has been distracted by the ball. The diamond shape midfield naturally has one player between the lines. Using rotations the diamond midfield can distract the 3 midfielders of the 433. This should create gaps to play through for runners.

At the right time, the strikers can also drop deeper off their players. This movement into midfield is hard to track and allows them to receive forward passes between the lines. Breaking lines with passes is vital to the success of the between-the-lines tactic. The defenders and midfielders of the attacking team must be brave enough to punch these passes through the 433’s midfielders.

Switch Play Often

If the attacking team plays 343 switching play to the opposite flank is another good way to hurt the 433 formations. The idea is to isolate your winger against the opponent’s fullback. Ideally, you would draw in some pressure from the 433’s midfield on one side of the field with 3/4 passes. Once attracted the attacking team would look to hit the ball far winger within one pass to isolate them against the fullback.

Overload to isolate pattern, draw in some pressure then switch the ball quickly.

This tactic only really works if you have quick, skillful wide players. Their positional superiority helps the team to dominate and expose the fullbacks of the 433. The detail on the pass is essential. Ideally, it needs to be into space for the winger to chase down or into feet at speed so the winger can run at the fullback.

Another idea if using the 343 formations is to push one of the central midfielders behind the midfield 3 of the 433. Doing this can create a 334, which clears the center of the pitch and allows the 343 to go around the press of the 433. As the ball travels wide the 433 press shifts, and the players in the 343 can rotate and overload the sides of the pitch or they can pass inside to the pivot who received between the lines to switch play.

An MF pivot moving behind 433’s MF to create a 334 that clears MF and creates chances to go over or around the 433 press

Use Quick Combinations in the final third

A 433 is tough to break down once all the players are behind the ball and set in their positions. Teams trying to get beyond this formation must try to achieve three things. Firstly they must try to stretch the backline using width. This can be achieved with a front five. Two players pushing high and wide, then two players pinning the central defenders. A fifth player can move into half-spaces to get on the ball.

Secondly, positioning in dangerous spaces. Having players occupy the half-spaces on the side of the ball is difficult to defend against. Even though the 3-player midfield covers the half-spaces putting an attacker behind and between the midfield and defense narrows their team shape which opens up gaps elsewhere.

A shape that offers quick combinations and stretches the backline

Thirdly, the attacking team needs to constantly threaten the back line. This requires players who are willing to make runs behind defenses. The threats to the back line drag the defending team into uncomfortable positions. This can lead to a disorganized shape.

Once the three objectives have been achieved a team can then use the options and angles they have created to combine around the box. Combination play requires accurate quick passing off one and two touches. Players must be willing to punch the ball through gaps in the defense. Ideally getting attackers into forward-facing positions.

Counter Attack Quickly

In the final third, the 433 drops nicely into a 451 formation. As previously mentioned this can be tough to break down. A solution to this is counter-attacking. This requires forward passing and forward running using quick combinations. The best time to achieve this would be by dominating transitions. As soon as the ball has been won back, try to pass forward and run forward quickly.

The aim of the counter-attack is to deny the 433 the chance to drop into its solid defensive shape. The forward passing is used to break the midfield lines and the forward runs should be beyond the 433 midfield to support the forward passes. At the point of a regain of possession, the space will be behind the 433 backlines or in wide areas.

If you have good wingers they could be used to isolate the 433’s fullbacks in the transitions. As long as these players win their 1v1 duels they can deliver balls from wide areas to the forward runners. If the 433 does manage to get into shape a 325 formation (three defenders, two midfield pivots, and a front five) should be able to pin the 433 back and provide many options and angles to combine to create.

The 343 formations are used in this section for examples of how to beat the 433 formations.

How to beat the 433 formations in defense?

Here are 5 tips defensively to show how to beat the 433 formations. Each tip is dependent on the make-up of the team using it but the general concepts have been used well by numerous teams in order to defeat the 433.

Press with dynamic front players

Commit 1-2 players to a press. These players are preferably mobile and quick. Their job is to allow the back four to play to one side of the pitch. Once this happens they press intensely to force the ball wide. By forcing the ball wide the opponent’s space is limited and it keeps the ball away from central areas. It ensures that play is more predictable and provides space infield to counter-attack if the ball is won back.

It can be tough to sustain a dynamic press for a full game. This role could be rotated between the attacking players. A second benefit of the dynamic press by 1-2 players is that it allows the players behind the pressure to get organized in a hard-to-beat shape. The pressing players are probably not going to win the ball. They just allow everyone else to be prepared to win it back on the second or third pass from the 433 build-ups.

Force them to play long balls

If a team is prepared to press with 3/4 players then a tactic they could have in mind is to force the 433 teams to play long. This player-to-player press involves every outfield player locking onto an opponent but providing just enough space to make them think they can play. Soon as the pass is played each player locks onto their immediate opponent. The lack of options for the ball carrier often means a long ball is the safest option.

The intense nature of high pressing means that it is difficult to sustain this for prolonged periods of games. Especially if the team playing the 433 has lots of possession. Opponents of the 433 will need secondary strategies to work alongside the high press such as forcing wide or the mid-block. If you have a slow back line the high press can be risky as a long ball might leave the defense exposed. A team must also think about their attacking strategy should they win back the ball.

Cut-off passes to the central midfield

The mid-block is a team shape that places itself in the middle of the pitch. This forces the 433 to play wide. The position of the defending team means the backline of the 433 is able to circulate the ball freely in certain situations. However, once a central defender or fullback starts to travel forward with the ball because they have no forward passing options. The strikers lock the attack wide with the angles of their runs.

The 343 can drop into a mid-block that looks like a 532 out of possession. The ball-side striker locks the ball wide

The compactness of a mid-block ensures that any passes into the central midfield can be pressed quickly. The passes into central areas offer the defending team the chance to win back the ball cleanly. If a ball does get through the mid-block there should be other players ready to step out of position to deal with the threat. This strategy can save energy as players just recover centrally into a condensed block.

Lock the ball wide

The lock-the-ball wide idea has been suggested in most of the tips to help defend against the 433 formations. The main reason is the predictability of where the next pass is going. Once the ball is locked wide the ball carrier can only continue to travel wide or play long. They can also turn back which can act as a trigger to press. The ball carrier can attempt risker passes infield but this is often a trap from the opponent in an attempt to win back the ball.

Switches of play can hurt teams who are attempting to lock the ball wide. With this in mind, a team needs to have a plan if this happens. Do they mark player for player or do they recover centrally and protect the space? This choice would be based on the make-up of the defending team and their confidence in defending 1v1s or if they would prefer the security of cover.

A team recovering into shape if the opponents manage to play a longer pass

Use a low block

The low block is a final strategy a team could use to defeat the 433 formations. If we stick with our 343 formations our low block would become a 532 or 541 when possession is lost. This tactic involves the team reacting quickly to a loss of possession and recovering behind the ball into a compact shape. The shape covers the width of the box and protects the key space in front of the box.

The low block is designed to frustrate teams, limit their chances and conserve energy, stay in the game as long as possible, and get chances on the counter or through set pieces. The longer into a game the low block works the more frustrating the 433 could be.

A low block 532 defending against a 433 that has morphed into a 235.

The low block works well alongside counterattacks. The aim is to draw the 433 up the pitch. You want the team to commit lots of players forward to try and break down the low block. Upon winning the ball the low-block team would look to find their forwards who would break at speed to create chances.

Summary: How to beat 433 formations

The article has summarized some tactics and strategies. The aim of these ideas was to give coaches some knowledge of how to beat 433 formations. Ultimately the game comes down to individual players and if a team is collectively better than its opponent, winning can be really difficult. The ideas in the article would need to be practiced regularly and the coach would need to adapt the tactics based on the flow of the game.

The combinations of attacking and defending strategies should provide enough food for thought when preparing tactics to beat the 433 formations. Some coaches are more front-foot orientated so they may try to be aggressive and win the ball higher up the field. Other coaches understand the limitations of their players and go for a more defensive strategy in the hops of a goal against the run of play.

None of the tactics discussed in this article are better than the other it just depends on the state of the game at which point you choose one. The game may require you to combine a few of the tactics to manage the energy levels of the players or adapt to a tactic of the opponent. That is the cat-and-mouse nature of playing the game.

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Frequent Questions

How do you play 433? A back four, three central midfielders, two wing players, and one center-forward, or striker, make up the 4-3-3 configuration. The 4-3-3 relies on the Left Back and Right Back, or Fullbacks, to join the attack while in control, much like virtually every formation with four defenders.

Why is 433 so popular? The strength in the middle is one of the main benefits of using a 4 3 3 soccer formation. You’ll control the pitch from the midfield, forcing the opposing attackers outward, with three strong midfielders covering the 4-man defense.

What is the easiest soccer formation? Because it is one of the simplest to grasp, the 4-4-2 is conceivably the most common soccer formation in the world. Because the two center midfielders must concentrate just as much on defense as they do on offense, it also happens to be one of the most evenly distributed formations.