Football Formation: 3-5-2
How is the 3-5-2 formation used?
Argentine coach Carlos Bilardo is credited as the creator of the 3-5-2 formation. Or at least the first coach to find success at the global stage with it, winning the 1986 World Cup with Argentina. He developed this formation to ensure Argentina had a strong and compacted defense, while allowing his star player in Diego Maradona to have as much attacking freedom as possible.
Antonio Conte is arguably the most well-known and effective current proponent of this technique. Conte, who is currently in charge of Tottenham Hotspur, has employed this formation with the bulk of the clubs he has managed, most notably Juventus, Chelsea, and Inter Milan (all of whom he won a domestic title with). Achraf Hakimi, Marcus Alonso, Victor Moses, and Kwadwo Asamoah are just a few examples of the speedy, durable full-backs that Conte frequently employs, often modifying them to better fit his preferred system. These wingbacks' roles in his squads depend on their ability to quickly move up and down the field.
This formation starts with a modern back three. These 3 central defenders are supported by two wing-backs (a LWB and a RWB) who can drop back and become part of a back five if a team is defending deep. Usually, though, these wing-backs will be the widest part of a midfield 5, with 3 central midfielders between them. These center midfielders can be organized in different ways; sometimes this will be a flat 3, while on other occasions, there will be one central defensive midfielder sitting deeper, and elsewhere there could be 2 CDMs protecting the center-backs, and one CAM offering a more creative outlet ahead of them. Finally, a 3-5-2 uses an attacking partnership. These two strikers are able to press the opposition back four and win the ball in advanced areas while connecting smoothly with the fluid midfield behind them.
What are the strengths of the 3-5-2 formation?
One of the key benefits of the 3-5-2 shape, which is its flexibility, was just alluded to. Wing-backs, who are vitally essential and can quickly rotate between defence, midfield, and attack, help to do this in part. They often play an offensive position, and it can be very challenging to contain the attacking width that players like Chelsea RWB Reece James give. And because there are three additional central defenders providing additional cover, unlike with the 4-3-3 system, having your full-backs attack reduces the amount of space that may be exploited in defensive zones.
Due to its ability to allow teams to produce overloads in various parts of the field, the 3-5-2 formation may also be excellent for controlling possession. This formation, with its three centre midfielders, is excellent at controlling the midfield fight and for providing possibilities for genuine fluidity in these areas. For instance, it's fairly uncommon to see a central defender advance towards midfield while carrying the ball, outnumbering the opponent and confusing them as to who should be marking who. The 2019-20 season saw Sheffield United, a newly promoted Premier League team, adopt this overlapping center-backs strategy to great success as they finished 9th.
The 3-5-2 formation allows for several build-up play variations, including this one. The back three may move the ball down the middle of the field or down the wings, where the wing-backs will often hug the touchline with plenty of room. The two forwards farther up the field provide a great deal of added versatility. They can drop back into midfield and connect up with creators or, if they're up against two central defenders, they can wreak havoc by pressing them in close 1v1 situations.
What are the weakness of the 3-5-2 formation?
The 3-5-2 form checks all the boxes when played well and coached to perfection, which may make it appear like this system is faultless. There are, however, a few flaws worth pointing out. For example, if the wing-backs get smaller and more compact, the midfield may become crowded. Additionally, teams may be vulnerable to counterattacks if the opposition breaches this strong midfield, leaving the back three in 1v1 defensive situations.
Another possible problem is that gaps may be left behind them if your team's wing-backs burst forward frequently and devote the bulk of their energy to attacking, making it challenging to defend wide areas. This basically boils down to the reality that this system is heavily reliant on players who are disciplined, well-trained, and who have a clear grasp of their respective duties. Because it is a complex formation that needs extensive coaching, it is most frequently used at the highest levels of the game. Let's examine some of the most effective 3-5-2 formations in use.
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