Diving Into the 3-5-2 Formation: How It Can Help Your Team
Tactical formations, much like fashion trends, seemingly change by the season. What’s hot in today's modern soccer world could very well be extinguished come next winter. Though, much like fashion again, a formation once-thought as dead seems to always come back full circle.
As the professional ranks worldwide evolved from classic 4-4-2's into modern 4-3-3 systems, and then reversed course back to 4-4-2 alignments again, there is one system that was seemingly lost forever that is beginning to rear it's beautiful head back into the game again: 3-5-2
The 3-5-2 of your fathers' time has increasingly been seen in international play of late and provides a system that allows for great defensive balance, midfield superiority, and 2 central targets up front to combine off of. Systems and tactics are really just ideas of starting positions and areas of the field to occupy and attack/defend, but this evolution has become a great option for coaches to use against opponents trotting out in a 4-4-2.
With 3 central defenders, the defensive line can tuck in closer to the opponents center forwards and always have 1 free defender to provide cover.
The outside midfielders can drop deeper defensively to become outside-backs and shift the system into a 5-3-2 in a moments notice, providing plenty of defensive cover without sacrificing attacking threats up the field in wide areas. When the team is in good possession of the ball, the outside midfielders can join the attack higher up the field and provide good width and opportunities to provide service into the box.
In central midfield, the 3-5-2 allows for the midfield trio to either match the opponent or provide a numerical advantage, and can shift depending on the situation; the 8 and 10 can play as dual attacking midfielders when the team needs options to find the ball centrally in the offensive half to combine with the 2 center forwards, or the 8 can drop deeper as a second defensive midfielder with the 6 when the outside midfielders are high up the pitch, allowing the team to stay balanced and cut out counter-attack opportunities.
The center forward tandem has the opportunity to stay connected and play off of one another; one player can stay higher as the target forward and the other underneath to force the oppositions center-backs into making difficult decisions of when to step up and track the deeper forward.
Alternatively, both can stay high and occupy each centerback to provide two targets and two options to make runs behind the defense. As the outside midfielders join the attack and stretch the defense by occupying the opponents outside defenders, it will allow the center forwards to stay centrally on the opponents center-backs and find opportunities to make diagonal runs and get isolated 1v1.
This once-lost but now-found system is providing coaches a great alternative to combat the feisty 4-4-2 and is a great tactical formation, both offensively and defensively.
If you don't believe me, just ask your Dad.