It’s a bit of a blast from the past, I must admit that. The 3-4-3 formation is a very offensive minded formation, but isn’t used very often this day and age. Napoli and the Chilean national side have used the formation at times, but it’s generally a formation from days long gone. That really is a shame, since the 3-4-3 has the intention of providing options all over the field and creating a dynamic, attacking style of play.

The formation

So what would a 3-4-3 formation look like if you actually removed the forwards from the equation, effectively turning it into a 3-4-3-0?


A sturdy back-line consisting of three defenders, two defensive wingers who are covering the entire flank, a defensive midfielder and one box-to-box midfielder and the typical forward trio of a Withdrawn Targetman flanked by two Shadow Strikers.


The 3-4-3 offers a 3 man backline that is very strong against central attacks but can award space to the opposition down the flanks. It is important that one central midfielder has the ability to cover in the defensive spots if a central defender is sucked out side to pressure the ball. For this reason, I have designated a defensive midfielder to shield the back line, and cover when necessary. This tactical maneuver allows the other midfielder to join the attacks with less risk of being exposed on the counter attack. When defending, our average shape looks like this.


The central midfielder must contribute to defending but the defensive midfielder has a head start picking up forward runs in this position. The wide midfield players, our defensive wingers, will be required to pressure out wide in this formation and the central midfielder will be required to fill in the central midfield area. If one of the two outter defenders is sucked out wide pressuring the ball in this formation, the defensive midfielder must drop into a defensive cover position. That last move, the covering run, looks a bit like this.


Our left central defender has stepped out to take on an opposing player. The other central defender, with a Cover duty set, shuffles out wide, whilst the defensive midfielder drops into the back-line in a more central position, thus maintaining the defensive shape.

The 3-4-3 formation allows a team to place pressure on the ball high up the field. The Withdrawn Targetman can pressure the 2 central defenders while both Shadow Strikers sit on their pass to the fullbacks and look to intercept the ball and create dangerous turnovers in the attacking zone. That would look something like this.


The Withdrawn Targetman (#9) is positioning himself between the two opposing central defenders, whereas both Shadowstrikers are tracking a run made by their respective wing-backs. One of the opposing midfielders ultimately drops deep and wide to try and receive the ball, but the opposing team is effectively contained in their own half.


The 3-4-3-0 formation I’ve employed provides a team with 3 forward players and many options to pass the ball forward or play through ball in behind the back line, provided the Shadow Strikers get their movement on and off the ball right. Both Shadow Strikers should look to get onto through balls in the channels between the centre backs and full backs. That should look like this.


The Shadow Strikers should look to receive the ball into feet and take on the defenders 1 v 1. If either Shadow Striker manages to beat a defender with a dribble then the defense will be penetrated, or a defender will be dragged out of position to cover freeing up space for runs into the box by the Withdrawn Targetman or one of the midfielders looking to link up.

In our example above, the ball is played to Garay, the #10 on the left side. He takes on and beats the opposing #6 and #4, dragging the #44 inside to try and cover, which opens up the left flank for Galveias, our #11 to cut inside and link up.

When the ball is out wide the opposite Shadow Striker should attack the back post. This in turn will open up space for the midfielders to link up. That would look like this on the pitch.


Our #7 Auricelio hits a cross into the box, at which point the Withdrawn Targetman Hugo, our #9, should attack the near post and our opposite Shadow Striker Garay, our #10, should attack the far post, thus forcing the opposing wing-back to cut inside to cover the post, which in turn opens up space for our winger to cut inside to pick up any overhit crosses.

The picture I used above also demonstrates the midfielders’ behavior in possession. The box-to-box player can penetrate into the box and remain on the edge for rebounds, whereas the defensive midfielder pushes on a bit but remains relatively deep to pick up rushed clearances and helps recycle possession this way.

The download

Guido is the founding father of Strikerless and main nutjob running the show.


Guido is the founding father of Strikerless and main nutjob running the show.


Gael · April 6, 2015 at 10:27 am

What’s the lowest down the mentality ladder you’d recommend switching to when trying to protect the lead with this tactic?

    strikerlessGuido · April 6, 2015 at 11:03 am

    I never drop below counter, otherwise the AMC’s drop too far back and lose effectiveness.

MANUMAD · April 6, 2015 at 5:35 pm

Another good one!

Still havent tested your other new one as Im currently occupied with a Lyon save where I use a 343 defensive in some matches whereas in others I use a 451 with a flat midfield and two ifs etc as a platform and have pre saved tactics instructions such as Attack/Tiki taka/Tiki taka direct/defend/contain/win possession and trying basically to play reactively by changing between them in matches.

Come to think of it I may use this as my 3rd tactic as it kinda goes with the 343 …

El-Mano · April 6, 2015 at 9:32 pm

Excitin tactic.When will we see a defenseless tactic packed whit DM-CM-AM? 😉

    strikerlessGuido · April 9, 2015 at 6:50 am

    I dabbled in defenceless experiments… Didn’t quite work I’m afraid. I do know Chris Darwen from has tried the same and he had nominally more success.

rodrigo feijó (@pilhoverman) · April 7, 2015 at 2:56 am

great stuff, I was curious to see how you finished it. I saw your tweet with the formation a few days back, and decided to try it out with short passing and hard pressing, and boy how it works. Later up I put the box-to-box MF back to DM and played him even deeper than the regista, as a traditional defensive midfielder. he’s the one who drops into defence, and the regista roams more – it works beautifully. I’m curious to see how your defenders’ roles will work.

    strikerlessGuido · April 9, 2015 at 6:52 am

    If you send me a copy of that formation, I’ll gladly test and review it mate 🙂 If you write some more about it, I’ll offer it on the blog as well 😉

zeMastear · April 7, 2015 at 4:20 pm

How do you setup your Regista in a way he actually defends? Or is it something the role itself does already? The same I wonder about the Defensive Wingers…

    strikerlessGuido · April 9, 2015 at 6:53 am

    The regista is supposed to shield the defence, allow them time to re-organise. He should press relentlessly, which is already part of his job description by nature. The defensive wingers tend to drop back and follow opposing wingers when they go deep.

zak · April 13, 2015 at 3:25 pm

Guido this is fantastic as always, just wondering with your love of the withdrawn targetman, why you havent made a strikerless tactic based on manchester uniteds! Have the withdrawn targetman towards the left side with an attacking winger, rooney as a ss, the mata role as a wp, herrera as bbm, and carrick as regista, be interesting to see if you could get that one sided dominance

MANUMAD · April 19, 2015 at 8:19 pm

Well, Im finding this tactic to be really inconsistent and also cant tweak it to make it more consistent. Maybe the closing down instructions are really zonked in lastest patch and cant utilise properly a strikerless tactic cos none of my others are working great either.

    strikerlessGuido · August 23, 2015 at 9:45 pm

    That’s a shame… If you do want to tweak, try dropping the MC’s into DMC, Regista and DMC(S) as roles.

Grant Schwartz (@sidekickraider) · August 23, 2015 at 9:08 pm

A couple of thoughts:

It would be wonderful to have a post talking about key attributes for each role in this tactic.

Also, beneficial PPMs would be good too – I’m always worried about screwing up the team shape.

    strikerlessGuido · September 5, 2015 at 11:00 am

    Yeah, that’s an article idea that’s been in the pipe-line for ages, but everytime I start working on it, something else comes up. I’ll try and get it sorted, but no promises made.

FM_funnies (@FM_funnies) · September 1, 2015 at 9:48 pm

While I do love this very attacking tactic, I seem to waste loads of chances while my opponents usually score every one of theirs. (Note: My team is the best in the league). Any ideas as to why?

    strikerlessGuido · September 5, 2015 at 10:56 am

    Not really, it can be any from a myriad of factors. It happens, aye. Comes with the style I’m afraid.

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