The 3-6-1 formation, also known as the “Christmas Tree” formation, has seldom been used outside of Germany and Japan, but it has the potential to be a more well-known formation in the future. The idea behind the 3-6-1 is that the team can dominate the middle of the field and, if everyone is on the same page, control the tempo of the game.
While the 3-4-3 formation has some similarities to some of the most popular soccer formations, you will see below that the 3-6-1 has a completely different list of strengths and weaknesses.
Strengths of the 3-6-1
Here are three of the main reasons why managers might choose to use the 3-6-1 formation.
Plenty of Passing Options
One of the biggest strengths of the 3-6-1 has to do with the fact that there are two attacking midfielders up front with the striker. These two players will be finding holes in the defense and coming to meet the ball, giving everyone multiple passing options. This can often lead to the opposing team stepping back a bit when they worry about giving up goal scoring opportunities, making those passes even easier.
Since there will usually be at least five midfielders and one attacker up the field, it can be very difficult for the opposing team to find a way out. This high press style is always tough to deal with, but it becomes even more difficult when you aren’t used to so many players pressing the ball. It can lead to great counterattacking opportunities and it lowers the chances of the opponents finding a clean way out.
Most Teams Don’t Know How to Play Against It
Most managers have never had to deal with the 3-6-1, so it forces them to make game plan changes on the fly. That is never a good thing since it often leads to mistakes, which in this case the team using the 3-6-1 could exploit. One of the reasons why more and more coaches are using the 3-6-1 is because they know opposing teams will be confused by it.
Weaknesses of the 3-6-1
As we mentioned earlier, the 3-6-1 formation is not a very popular formation. There are many reasons for that. Below are just a few of the biggest weaknesses of the 3-6-1.
Weak in the Corners
Since pretty much every player is going to be pinching in the majority of the time, opposing teams can find holes along the sidelines. This is especially bad for the 3-6-1 team when their opponents go on the counterattack. They will have a tough time keeping them from countering straight down the line since they will have to focus on anyone in the middle of the pitch.
Needs a Creative, Athletic Goalkeeper
Unlike in most formations, the goalie is very active in the 3-6-1 even when most of the players are on the opposite end of the field. This is because he or she only has three defenders in front of them, so they will have to move forward and sweep the ball more often than in other formations. Not only that, they will also have to learn to be a playmaker since this is not the type of formation that wants to get stuck defending or slowly moving the ball up the field.
Fewer Defensive Players
While the 3-6-1 does have plenty of midfielders to help out in defense, it’s not actually a formation designed to get a lot of defense from everyone. Two of those six midfielders are offensive-minded, so they might not have the skill to get back do a good job on defense. This is yet another reason why teams using the 3-6-1 pretty much have to win the possession battle.