Why 3-5-2 Is Best Comeback Formation

Sam TigheWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterMay 9, 2013

BERGAMO, ITALY - MAY 08:  Antonio Conte, head coach of Juventus, pleads with supporters during the Serie A match between Atalanta BC and Juventus at Stadio Atleti Azzurri d'Italia on May 8, 2013 in Bergamo, Italy.  (Photo by Maurizio Lagana/Getty Images)
Maurizio Lagana/Getty Images

If your team is losing with 20 minutes to play, every spectator—be it in the stands, on the bench, from the commentary gantry or back home on the sofa—will be watching the manager like a hawk, anticipating a change.

With the current penchant for formations utilising one striker (4-2-3-1 and 4-3-3 for example), many believe the obvious solution is to chuck another one on at the expense of a midfielder.

Harry Redknapp's approach this season invariably saw Christopher Samba gallop toward the forward line, forming a massive target for an increased amount of crosses and long balls to force the matter.

Switching to 4-4-2, on paper, has been the thing to do in the past, but astute managers over the past two seasons have been looking at the 3-5-2 as a viable alternative.

It's still placing another striker on the pitch, but the strategy is clear, concise and in no way a blind gamble with neither formation nor approach obvious.

Shifting to a three-man defence immediately squeezes the play and commits more men forward: You're playing out from the back with a three-man line, not four, and it allows one of the centre-backs to surge forward á la Jan Vertonghen.

The centre-backs will spread across the pitch and cover channels one, two and three, easing the full-backs forward and wide into true wing-back areas. Their starting spot on the field is always likely to be 10-15 yards higher up than the centre-backs now, and they're guaranteed to maintain width.

When looking for a goal, it's far more important to create space to play in than to throw more players on up front. Using the width and keeping the pitch touchline-wide is the most effective and simple way to give yourself more room to use.

Stretching the field horizontally gives your midfielders room to move and create vertically, while it also gives you a greater threat from crossing areas.

This justifies the addition of another striker, as you are guaranteed to create for him, be it through increased crossing volumes or intricate buildup in the new areas to work on the field.

The 3-4-3 formation is also a great option, maintaining the three-man line, creating space but also double-teaming the wide areas on each side.

Shaun Maloney's movement in Wigan's 3-4-3 interacts perfectly with Jean Beausejour's touchline prowlings, allowing him to double-team the full-back then drift into pockets of space to draw the centre-back out.

Experimentation with the three-man defence over the past few seasons may not have developed a Europe-wide template for a standard formation, but it has at least shown us how effective it can be when chasing the game.