Definition of 4-3-3

The 4-3-3 (sometimes mixed with a 4-2-3-1) is a formation in association football that has seen large use in recent years, as well as having a storied past. Whether it is the Total Football propagated by Johann Cruyff or the more pragmatic versions deployed by Jose Mourinho, it's a very flexible formation.

A common formation in soccer/football is the 4-3-3 one.  Playing it requires intelligence and technical ability.The defenders of this formation have to be intelligent of when to support the attack, with the fullbacks in particular needing to help out when in possession. The flanks of the formation are where the attacks come from, so they must be helped by the fullbacks.

In the midfield, the formation is quite flexible. 2 attacking midfielders, 2 defensive ones, a trio that interchanges who attacks and who defends and more options are all viable. Famous examples of these trios include the famous Pep Guardiola Barcelona side of Xavi, Iniesta and Busquets and impenetrable Chelsea midfield of Frank Lampard, Claude Makelele and Michael Essien.

As mentioned, the attacks come from the wings, while the striker's primary job is to keep the ball and get into the box to score. Two of the best wingers of the past decade were Arjen Robben and Frank Ribery, who played in a 4-3-3 at Bayern Munich. They would cut inside and either create chances or play off of striker Robert Lewandowski. The wingers can also be more traditional and stay wide before sending crosses in to the striker and midfielders who support the attack.

The 4-3-3 requires intelligence and technical ability to pull off successfully. Whether it's the central midfielders rotating and positioning themselves correctly or the wingers tracking back, it can be a very taxing formation on both the legs and minds. Yet, when done correctly (as seen in the dominant days of Barcelona) it can dominate even the best teams in the world.