Defending from the front in a 4-3-3 situation


Full pitch


Balls, cones, goals

No. of players


Session time

As long as required

This session coaches players on understanding defensive positioning. It enables us to teach how to channel opposition passes into areas of strength for us, where we can attempt to turn possession over. Furthermore, it gives players an idea of which passes we can allow and which should be prevented.

As a result, the session will help prevent us from being overstretched, or exposed to positions of vulnerability.

What do I get the players to do?

We set up as shown, 11v11, on a full pitch, with teams lining up in 4-3-3 (reds) and 4-4-2 (blues) formations. The opposition keeper starts play by throwing the ball out to his right-back.

What follows is the gradual learning of a bespoke coaching set-up, with players understanding their roles, both as individuals and banks of players.

By following this outline closely, we can successfully defend from the front in a 4-3-3, as well as still retaining the positive attacking elements that are so prevalent in this offensive formation.

A common problem is when the striker allows the full-back to play the pass into the wide man, enabling the opposition to start their attack. To prevent this we put in place a key part of defending from the front – namely that our striker has to arc his run so as to cut off the line from the full-back to the wide man, forcing him to play inside or backwards (1).


When the ball is played out from the back…
1. The first wide striker moves to block a pass wide
2. The other wide striker covers the threat of a cross-field pass
3. The holding midfielder covers the central area
4. The left full-back should move forward to cover the wide player in the event of the ball going in to him 5. Defending full-backs can hold the line, but must stay aware of the winger

As soon as the striker locks into the right-back, that is the trigger for his team mates to move forward and press. The central striker is aware of the other centre-back, or is in a position to stop a cross-field pass to the left-back (2).


If the full-back plays a crossfield ball…
1. The defending full-back moves to challenge
2. The holding midfielder moves in to block a pass infield to the strikers
3. The back four moves across to cover

Two centre-midfielders mark ‘ball side’ and press inside the ball. The deeper centre-midfielder stops any long ball into the strikers (3).


If the full-back passes infield…
1. The attacking full-back moves infield to make room for the pass
2. The holding midfielder covers the run of the striker
3. The defending full-back moves up to cover the winger
4. The back four moves across and out

Centre-backs hold a deeper line so as not to be turned around. The right-back doesn’t have to go tight to the winger or right-back on cover, but remains aware of the diagonal ball. The keeper sweeps up any longer ball (4).


If the full-back plays a long ball forward…
1. The attacking full-back moves infield to make room for the pass
2. The holding midfielder drops back to cover late runs by attacking midfield players
3. The defending full-backs recover, being aware of the winger overlapping
4. Central defenders cover the runs of the strikers
5. The keeper collects

What are the key things to look out for?

The set-up succeeds or fails on the basis of players knowing their roles and responsibilities when defending from the front. Through intense and repeated coaching, each player can cement his part in the process and, as a result, can create a definite team principle of suffocating the threat that comes when the opposition is in possession.


  • Ball movementBall movement
  • Player movementPlayer movement
  • DribbleDribble
  • Optional movementOptional movement