The 3-5-2 has become one of the most popular formations in the world in recent years. Managers like Antonio Conte (Chelsea) and Massimiliano Allegri (Juventus) have shown other managers that it can beat the most commonly use formations out there, so it’s not surprising that it has picked up steam.
Of course, every formation has its strong points and its weak points, so there are things to consider before moving to the 3-5-2. In this article we will go over some of the most commonly found strengths and weaknesses of the 3-5-2.
Strengths of the 3-5-2
Below you will see three of the main reasons why managers have fallen in love with the 3-5-2 over the last five or so years.
Can Control the Middle of the Field
When you have five midfielders pinched towards the middle of the field, you have a natural advantage. That’s actually why so many coaches have started to use the 3-5-2 and why other teams have had to spend so much time learning to navigate through it.
This control also means that coaches have a multitude of ways that they can use the 3-5-2. They can try to be a high-possession team, or they can sit back and control their opponents defensively. Either way, they know that they will usually beat teams that like to play through the middle of the pitch.
Allows for More Creativity
Since there is an extra midfielder, 3-5-2 teams can have quite a bit more creativity than most other formations. The other midfielders can move outside or stay pinched in the middle of the field. Wing backs can make diagonal runs when space opens up, which can confuse the defense and create even more openings. Even the defensive midfielder can move up the field every once in a while to help out in attack.
With the right players in this formation, teams can break down defenses very easily and, more important, score more goals.
More Attacking Options
On top of being a (potentially) creative setup, the 3-5-2 also allows more players to get into scoring positions on the field. Unsurprisingly, many midfielders love to play in the 3-5-2 because they know they will at least get some scoring chances regardless of where they line up in the formation.
Weaknesses of the 3-5-2
The 3-5-2 is an excellent formation when it works, but the fact is that it has a bunch of weaknesses that can make it unravel quite quickly. Below are just a few of the most common weaknesses found in the 3-5-2 formation.
Tough to Defend the Sidelines
As you might expect from the 3-5-2 setup, this formation is much weaker at defending the outside than most other formations. The only teams that are able to defend the wings consistently are the ones with very athletic central defenders. Even if a player can learn to be a good central defender, they still might struggle in the 3-5-2 if they don’t have the pace to cover their wing backs.
Susceptible to Counterattacks
Since the wing backs are usually pushing far up the field, it should come as no surprise that the 3-5-2 can regularly be hit by strong counterattacks. Even if the central defenders are able to cover the wings, that can still create other holes in the defense. The only way to consistently stop counterattacks with this formation is to press high and hope that the defenders can intercept long balls and through balls.
Of course, a team that plays a solid 3-5-2 will usually have good possessions and can limit the amount of counterattacks that they face.
Hard to Perfect
Since just about every player in a 3-5-2 has a unique set of jobs, it can be tough for everyone to be on the same page at all times. This is why many pro managers give up on the 3-5-2 after a while and only the great managers and teams use it well consistently well.
Teams that are able to perfect the 3-5-2 can have huge advantages over some of the other most popular formations. Until that happens, though, there are plenty of weaknesses in this formation that opposing teams can take advantage of.