Attacking in a 4-3-3 formation


Standard pitch


Balls, cones, goals

No. of players


Session time

Warm-up 10mins, 11v11 zone game 10mins, Wide 11v11 10mins, Central 11v11 10mins

This is a positive attacking sessions that rehearses players in the specifics of attacking in a set 4-3-3 formation. Although a rigid set-up, the intention is to show the flexibility in attacking central and wide targets, with structure and awareness of position key elements.

The session requires the commitment of the whole team – from strikers to full-backs pushing on – and is a rehearsal that we’ll run regularly so as to produce maximum effect on match day.

What do I get the players to do?

Warm-up session

We set up as shown in the diagram. On one side, play starts in a 5v2, with a 4v2 on the other side separated by an empty 10-yard zone. When the team of five makes six passes, one player breaks out and passes to team mates in the opposite box, coming across to form a new 5v2, and the session continues (1a).


• In the warm-up, the team of five makes six passes before a player breaks out, and with it, transfers the ball

To progress, we add three men in the middle section. The overloading team must exchange passes with one of the midfielders before progressing (1b).


• In the progression, passes must be exchanged with a midfielder before play is transferred

11v11 zone game

Using the space in between the two penalty boxes, we add an additional 20×6-yard ‘scoring zone’ at each end. A neutral keeper stands in this space.

In a 4-3-3 formation we play a normal game, except there no corners, and to score, the ball must be chipped into the air for a keeper to catch (2). Restarts begin with keepers, who play out to a defender.


• In the 11v11 zone game, teams build from the back and score by chipping the ball into a keeper’s arms

We’re looking for combination play between the three midfielders, rotation of the attackers and a quality of final scoring pass.

Wide 11v11 game

We rerun, now with four small goals, each eight yards in from the touchline. The coach feeds centre-halves who must find the holding midfield player to spark combination play. Full-backs must decide when to push and when to spin, coming back into the pocket. Throw-ins and corners are allowed, and offsides apply (3).


• In the wide 11v11 game, full-backs must attack space whilst protecting their goals

Central 11v11 game

We now take the structure and attacking patterns coached into a final 11v11 with normal goals – throw-ins and corners are allowed (4a). When a cross is on, there should be at least three players running in ‘between the posts’ (4b).


• In the central 11v11 game, teams must build through sections with quick, effective passing


• When a cross is delivered, the attacking team must make sure three players are running in ‘between the posts’

What are the key things to look out for?

Players should develop a growing understanding of the 4-3-3 formation with each game. Quick combination play, precision passing and the ability to move into space whilst retaining shape are all essential. The role of full-backs is vital in promoting attacking moves whilst protecting defensive space.


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