Buffalo Wing – A 4-3-3 Tactic


Hi all. This is the first tactical effort I am putting up for you all and I hope there are more to come. This one is one of my favourite formations for its balance and flexibility. In case you were wondering, the name came from one of the earlier versions. In that version we had an F9 and two inside forwards. The name came to me watching that old classic Zulu with Michael Caine where discussion is had of the Zulu military tactics of the centre holding and falling back as the wings went around in behind the attackers.

In this case the theory was that the F9 would fall back into midfield creating space for the Inside Forwards and a particularly aggressive central midfielder to exploit. In practice, I perhaps should have paid more attention to the defence. It played some lovely football and the results were good but I felt that it was awfully fragile. A 5-0 loss to Leverkusen with my 1860 team led me to seek advice from the oracles on Slack (have you joined Slack yet? Have you? No? Shame.) who were of great assistance working on tweaks of the original while maintaining its attacking style.

I think that it has been a success.

Anyway, I have been using this in the Bundesliga with my newly promoted 1860 and you can see how we have gone in my career save Always White and Blue! so I shall not overburden this post with the results which are extremely positive.

Onto the tactic!


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The formation is a 4-3-3 that has two wide men and two quite aggressive fullbacks. The strength of the tactic (for me) is the anchorman. When combined further up the pitch with the two central midfielders he can be involved as the base point of the triangle they naturally make. He doesn’t get forward so can provide excellent defensive cover and neutralise attacking midfielders, but pleasantly he also provides an outlet pass for the midfield and often you will see him switching the ball from side to side when we are forward. He doesn’t try any crazy, aggressive passes but (in my mind) is a Deschamps style facilitator.

In attack the LB bombs forwards and creates natural overlaps with the W(S) that is on his side. The W(S) role also allows the MCL to get forward, which he does. On the other side we have a FB(S) who covers that flank for the IF(A). Stefan Aigner has been amazing for me in this role and seems to always be involved in the play.

Essentially, it is all about manipulating space. Apparently quite aggressive it is actually quite patient in how it plays which we shall see later. If I may make one suggestion early on? If you have a goalscoring central midfielder, he will ADORE that CM(A) role.

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As for the instructions, they are pretty standard. We play Standard/Fluid unless chasing a goal in which case we move to Attacking. I have tried to minimise the TIs because we don’t want to be one dimensional in how we attack. Be More Disciplined works very well as it ensure that players don’t needlessly give the ball away. We may be a Bundesliga team, but we essentially have the same squad that was predicted to be 4th in last season’s 2.Bundesliga! The beauty of the 4-3-3 lies in the ability to make changes. I consider this setup to be excellent but it is up to you whether you would change or retain anything in this tactic.


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Pretty bog standard really. The only thing being that we want the ball back in action as soon as possible so he is set to get rid of it quickly and distribute it to the fullbacks.

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The LB is actually a fine creator. Overshadowed by the players further up the park, he gets some assists and generally helps in stretching the field.

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The RB plays a similar role to the LB. He just doesn’t get as fair forward as I believe that the IF(A) needs a slightly more “stay at home” player behind him. The RB still comes forward to fill space and create an option but is more cautious.

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Zzzzzzzzzzz… *snort*…. Huh? Oh. This guy and his mate are CBs. Nothing to see here. Although closing down less does keep the defence more in line and has greater solidity.

Screen Shot 2017-03-30 at 3.11.40 pm.png

The (arguably) most important man on the pitch. He screens the defensive line and harasses attacking midfielders, allows us to maintain possession being an outlet while being more than ready to react in the event of a counter attack. Interestingly for what appears to be a very defensive role, he is probably the lynchpin of our attacking moves too giving the attacking players more confidence to go forward.

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I like my CMs to get forward. And the CM(S) does get forward quite a bit. But he never gets quite as far forward as his partner in crime and combines well with the anchorman.

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Aggressive as all get out! He usually causes the defence fits as he makes late runs into the box, pushes into the channels to force decisions and unlocks the defence with very aggressive passing. Lovely to watch.

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There to create more width, if you have a player with a cuts inside PPM he can be devastating. I hear you thinking why not make him an IF then? My answer is that it isn’t essential that he cuts in and he doesn’t do it all the time. The W(S) role is great as he drags defenders to his side of the pitch leaving space for the IF and AF to do their work.

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Is it a bird?

Is it a plane?

NO! It’s a goalscoring winger.

With the space that is provided by the movement of the other players, the IF(A) usually ends up with acres of space to exploit. Finishing is actually quite important for this guy as he will get into great positions for one on ones and shooting chances.

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Just a pretty general AF role. Leads the line and certainly gets his fair share of goals. Naturally creates a different dynamic than the original F9 but I am coming to enjoy the play much better as it means there pretty much always an option forward that someone can pass to.

Analysis.pngScreen Shot 2017-03-30 at 3.13.09 pm.png

This graphic includes matches played under the old system. But it goes to show that the 4-3-3 is very effective.

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It creates a chance apparently every 51 minutes or so. Conceding less than a goal a game and coming up on 2 goals per game scored.

Here are some tables for your edification.

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57.88% possession as a newly promoted side. Lovely.

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We also take good care of the ball. Which I think is very important. Not tiki-taka possession for possession’s sake. But still…

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The only concern one might have is the amount of cards we receive. it is quite a lot. But at the moment it is a byproduct of how we play. We try and get the ball back so as to counter with speed. Sometime we give away fouls. *shrug*

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That’s the real crux of it. It gets results. I’m quite happy with it but am also quite satisfied to make any changes that will improve it.



2 thoughts on “Buffalo Wing – A 4-3-3 Tactic

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