Introduction to the 3-5-2 Formation


The Back-3 defense was created as a way to counter teams built around an orthodox 4-4-2. Using three Center Backs created four distinct advantages vs. an orthodox 4-4-2. First, with an extra Center Back, teams who played with a Back-3 now had extra defender to provide cover against the opposition’s strike partnership.  Second, with the extra Center Back, teams could now afford to play an extra Central Midfielder, giving the teams who played with a Back-3 a one-man advantage in the center midfield. A three-man central midfield exploits the space between the orthodox 4-4-2 lines with either a free Holding Midfielder (in a 3-5-2) in between the orthodox 4-4-2’s attacking and midfield lines), or a free Attacking Midfielder (in a 3-4-1-2) between the orthodox 4-4-2’s midfield and defensive lines). Third, with the extra Center Back, teams are able to play Wingbacks, giving them more freedom and support to attack. Finally, if a team chooses to play with two Center Forwards in either a 3-5-2 or a 3-4-1-2 formation, they are able to exploit the lack of defensive cover that their opposition has in their defense creating one on one defending for each Center Back against each Center Forward.  Formations featuring a Back-3 were able to exploit the specific weaknesses created by the vulnerabilities of the orthodox 4-4-2.

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Rise of the back three

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