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Tactics Thursday: 3-4-3

Exploring Allegri's Three Man Back Line in the 3-4-3.

Claudio Villa

I received an interesting comment on Monday regarding Allegri’s new 3-4-3, which led me to an interesting point. We have never really discussed it, sure we have discussed the 4-3-1-2, 4-3-2-1, and even the 3-5-2. However, Milan’s new systems is relatively new to many and the AC Milan Offside as well.

No surprise Allegri’s newest deployment uses three at the back. Tactics are, after all, a copycat game and it seems the en vogue formations presently all have three at the back, they why is surely a question for another day but now Milan is finally on the bandwagon despite the fact that maybe it lacks the players for such a formation. First and foremost, I always believed the 3-5-2 was out of the question, Milan’s lack of wingbacks make that formation suicide on the flanks, but by having one less body in the middle and one more forward it requires less of a wingback, but more of a simple fullback. A smart move, and one based on the personnel at hand instead of shoehorning players into responsibilities or traits they cannot support. The problem is it requires a bit of balance in those wide forwards which works well with say an Urby or El Sharaawy, who seems to be working well everywhere, but no so much with the rest of the lot ie Binho, Pato, Bojan and so on.

It does however help one of Milan's most technically gifted players, Ricardo Montolivo, in dictating the tempo and flourishing in front of the defense. By "protecting" him in more of a 3-1-3-3, it gives him time and space to operate, but most importantly link play from back to front, a huge gap at the moment for Milan. It also gives Allegri the flexibility to deploy alternatives to the formation by making substitutions that remove a striker, add a defender, or congest the middle. For example, striker off midfielder on or remove a CB drop a Full back back and add an attack minded player. All and all it is a more dynamic foundation that affords the Coach flexibility despite not always having the personnel needed.

It is important to note that this is very much remains a work in progress. Conceding goals still remains a major issue, and while this formation affords almost infinite passing options possession has not improved dramatically. It also congests space with allows for more pressing with the right movement, but many of the players still appear a bit uncomfortable. Mind you this is natural when learning a new formation, and for many this is their first experience with it! Tactically it is one of the most demanding and challenging formations to teach and deploy, a tall order, but one that can be swallowed considering the team's inconsistency and poor start, unless of course you had delusions of grandeur for this season.

Personally, it is not my favorite, but I understand the decision to go this route. It would benefit Allegri to choose three at the back and stick with it, and at the same time build a spine of the team that is also consistent. Right now he appears willing to expose every player on the roster to the formation and see who sticks, in the same sense he is also seeing who is failing so may patience for tinkering is wearing thin, but a necessary evil in getting this just right. There will be a reward at the end of the road, just depends how much patience you have for it!