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FC BarceIona's 4-3-3: AnaIyzing what makes

the BIaugrana's formation unique



FC Barcelona's 4-3-3 is unique and there's no team that illuminates the advantages of playing the formation like the
Catalans in world soccer. From youth coaches to X-box players, the question is always the same, how can we play like
Barcelona. Well, from a purely tactical stand point we are going to look at what makes the Catalan's formation different
from most other systems that try to mimic it.
t suffices to point out that there are very many variations of the 4-3-3 and how the team ultimately plays is down to
what tweaks the manager decides. To elaborate my point, let me use Barcelona over the years because it's probably
the most rigid team in terms of formation irrespective of who is in charge. Before the manager accepts the job in
Catalunya, he must agree to the unwritten clause of playing the 4-3-3.

Be that as it may, FC Barcelona's 4-3-3 has been different over the years as different Barcelona sides have displayed
different brands of soccer. Bobby Robson's Barcelona was different from Van Gaal's just as Rijkaards' team was
different from the current Guardiola side. Our focus here is going to be on the current side and the things Guardiola
changed when he took charge of the club.
Even though our emphasis will be on formation we are going to delve into the nuances that make the shape work and
why many teams that try to play in a similar manner strike out.
FC BarceIona's 4-3-3: Why it's different
%he striking department
Most 4-3-3s use two wingers and one striker in the central role while some use two strikers and one winger but they
always play a striker in the center. FC Barcelona's 4-3-3 formation uses two strikers in the wide roles in Villa and Pedro
while Messi who some classify as a winger while most see him as a striker plays in the center.
Besides the fact that Barcelona plays two natural forwards wide, their movement along with Lionel Messi's creates a
unique pattern of play that is hard to duplicate. n an ordinary 4-3-3 say like the one Man united plays at times, the wide
forwards would be asked to track the runs of the opposition fullback when out of possession. This would sometimes
mean making 90 yard runs back and forth as you attack and defend. n most cases, wingers are better suited for that
kind of play than forwards. Teams like Chelsea that use a striker like Anelka always had a weak link on that side and
struggled against teams like Everton and Man united when faced with an attack minded left back in the league such as
Leyton Baines and Evra respectively.
Barcelona's style nullifies that problem and even though Villa and Pedro are asked to put in a defensive shift, they cover
about 25 yards which makes it easier for a striker to play in their wide attacking positions because of how much they
narrow the field of play.
Thierry Henry once suggested that the reason he struggled in the wide role in his first year at the club under Frank
Rijkaard was because he was expected to run up and down the touch-line all day to defend and attack with pace yet his
body couldn't handle that sort of stress at his age. When Guardiola was appointed boss, his introduction of a very high
defensive line meant that the distance that Henry was expected to cover shortened and he began to thrive on his way to
a champion's league winner's medal.


%he midfieId trio
The biggest difference between FC Barcelona's 4-3-3 and the rest is their midfield and the overall movement. Many 4-
3-3s play a midfield with a destroyer, link player and attacking midfielder. A good case in point is Mourinho's 4-3-3 that
he played in 2005 that had Makhelele in the defensive role, Thiago in the link up role, Lampard as the attacking player.
Some managers decide to play two defensive minded players in effect transforming the system to a 4-2-3-1 while
others play two attack minded players and one defensive player like last season's Arsenal with Fabregas, Wilshere and
Song.
Barcelona's midfield is different, they use a destroyer but his role is completely different from the typical defensive
midfielder and that's why Mascherano struggled to get a starting role in the team (more on that later). As for the other
two positions they overlap, they do not use a typical link up player who sits behind the attacking midfielder, instead Xavi
and niesta start on the same line with niesta playing to Xavis's left (The whole set up changes with Cesc in the team).
The defensive midfielder must be comfortable on the ball and even though Busquet's theatrics haven't endeared him to
many, his passing statistics are very impressive.
%he defense
Barcelona's first choice defensive quartet seems like any other regular defense with two central players including a
sweeper and stopper flanked by two full backs. Off the ball, it's essentially a regular defense .The difference is when it
comes to their movement on the ball. Most sides that employ your classic back four will have one full back who attacks
a lot and another who stays back to cover creating a back three on the ball. deally, when the right full back moves
forward, the left back stays behind and one of the central players moves slightly right to avoid being caught out on the
counter. The same happens when the left back attacks.
However, because of Barcelona's constant possession, the fact that Dani Alves almost plays as a winger, Abidal also
likes to go forward and Barcelona plays a very high defensive line, Guardiola decided that the defensive midfielder
should be the one to cover the fullbacks by slotting in between the two central defenders to form the back three required
to provide enough cover for the counter attack thus allowing Abidal and Alves to stay upfront as much as they like.
This strategy is used by some other sides but it's not as clear-cut as when Barcelona do it because of the high
defensive line that they keep which means that Busquets can plays a very defensive role while being positioned in a
zone just around the center line which is where most midfield anchormen are accustomed to playing.

A good view of how far up the Pitch Barca's defense played against Villareal
n conclusion, Barcelona's shape this season is not your typical 4-3-3, in fact Cesc's arrival has given Guardiola an
extra dimension and he can now experiment with the 3-4-3 that his mentors ohan Cruijff and Van GaaI Ioved
pIaying at Ajax. Whichever system he decides to play, there will always be slight variations from the rest of Europe
because of Barca's pressing game which forces them to employ a high line which in turn means that their defense plays
near the halfway line so close to the midfield.