Definition of Christmas Tree Formation

Football formations become popular and unpopular at different times in history. There was a time when the 4-4-2 dominated the world, when the 4-3-3 was ubiquitous in Europe and when the 3-4-3/3-5-2 showed its worth. However, nothing was quite as unique as when Carlo Ancelotti's Milan played with their 4-3-2-1 "Christmas Tree" formation.

While AC Milan have not had much success since the 2000s, their team from that decade deserves remembrance. There were 4 defenders at the back, with 3 of them being some of the most legendary players of all time: Paolo Maldinin, Alessandro Nesta and Cafu. In the 3 central midfield spots, you had Andrea Pirlo, Gennaro Gattutso and Massimo Ambrosini. That left the 3 attackers of Clarence Seedorf, Kaka and either "R9" Ronaldo or Filippo Inzaghi.

Dictionary entry - Christmas Tree Formation - What does the term mean, when it comes to the sport of soccer / football.  Specifically AC Milan.The fullbacks like Cafu provided the width of the team, which was mostly central. Pirlo played as almost a quarterback in American football, while being protected by the other midfielders. Meanwhile the strikers stayed high and would run in behind as Pirlo sprayed passes from deeper. The attacking midfielders like Kaka and Seedorf would push up and support the striker for the second ball.

Ancelotti's "Christmas Tree" had a lot of success in Europe. He won 2 Champions League titles and reached another final before being beaten by Liverpool. However, the formation did not lead to much league success, as they only won once in 2003-04.

The Christmas Tree was tested with the English national team by Terry Venables years before Ancelotti adopted it for Milan, but it just didn't work with the players he had. Since Ancelotti's Milan days, the formation has fallen out of use. However, as we've seen in the past, it very well might resurface at any time.