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Defending against a 4-3-2-1

Terry Venables enjoyed success at Tottenham using it. Carlo Ancelotti won a truckload of silverware at AC Milan deploying it. If executed perfectly the 4-3-2-1, more commonly known as the Christmas Tree formation, can pose all sorts of problems for the opposition’s defence.

Some coaches would argue it lacks width, but if a team has adventurous (and super fit) full-backs they can pose a threat from out wide.

Packing the midfield outnumbers the opposition in a key area of the pitch, but relies on quality in possession with little space to manoeuvre the ball.

The central midfielder player acts a quarter-back, capable of not only shielding the back four, but also dictating the play, much like an Andrea Pirlo. The job of his two lieutenants is two disrupt the opposition by pressing the play and winning the ball back, before giving it to the more creative players.

Once the ball gets in to the feet of two advanced midfielders, that’s when things start to happen. They’re tasked with probing, creating and supporting the lone striker and providing width if given the freedom to roam.

How do you combat all that? By pressing all over the pitch says former Middlesbrough boss, Gareth Southgate.

But there’s more to it than it, as Southgate explains in this video.

Gareth Southgate was talking at the World Football Academy: UK National Symposium. For more information visit