The Overview of Real Madrid 4-3-3 Formation

(Photo by Oscar Gonzalez/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
(Photo by Oscar Gonzalez/NurPhoto via Getty Images) /

The 4-3-3 formation has been the formation that has brought Zinedine Zidane success since his appointment in January.

It is looking like Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane will be using the same formation in the upcoming season. The 4-3-3 formation can be very simple if it is used effectively with all its variations. This formation is used to maximized possession of the ball in the most effective manner.


In the modern game, it is very important for the goalkeeper to distribute the ball well. Keylor Nevas is a very poor distributor of the ball. He usually take the safe route by clearing the ball instead of passing it to an open teammate. Pep Guardiola has benched Joe Hart in the last Manchester City two games because of Joe Hart’s inability to distribute the ball.

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In order to fully maximized possession defenders must be good with the ball at their feet. Especially the two center back. Pepe and Ramos are very comfortable with the ball at their feet even though Pepe ability to pass the long diagonal ball is not entirely accurate.

Real Madrid fullbacks are very comfortable on the ball going forward. Most of the plays depends on them and their abilities to cross the ball with accuracy help produce goals.

Building Play From The Back

For the 4-3-3 formation to work well, it is necessary to keep the ball at all time. In order to so, it is important to build up play from the back. There are zones in which the two central defenders must utilized while the two fullbacks pushes up into two different symmetrical zones.

The picture above illustrates zones that are utilized in football and each zone have a specific role. During the build up play from the back, the two center backs occupies zones 1 and 3.

football formations
football formations /

Typically, oppositions play with two center forwards. When Sergio and Pepe spread out in two different zones, they can stretch out the opposition center forward. By doing so, Casemiro or Kroos can drop between them in zone 2 right in front of the goalkeeper.  With 4 players in close proximity two different triangles can be created. Sergio, Casemiro/Kroos an the Keeper (Nevas) can form a triangle. Casemiro/Kroos, Keeper (Nevas) and Pep can also form a triangle.

The numerical advantages make it almost impossible for 2 center forwards to press. In order for a team to keep possession it is important to start the play from the goalkeeper.


Real Madrid have two of the best center midfielders in the world. Modric and Kroos can indeed boss the field unlike any other players in the world right now. Their ability on the ball is uncanny and they are also very capable defenders when they are play in their respective position.

I have always believe in order to have a formidable midfield, a team needs 3 type of players in midfield. In my own terms, a Rock, an Engine, and a creator. A rock is player that is defensive astute. Real Madrid have that player in Casemiro. Casemiro involvement in the defensive phase is very important for Real Madrid’s attacking game. Kroos and Modric are both engines and creators because they can run up and down during the entirety of a game.

The Utilization of Zone 14 is also very important for teams that play 4-3-3 because most of their play takes place in front of the opposition box. Kroos have characteristics or does things on the pitch that Modric can’t do as well. Kroos ability to slow down or up the tempo of a game can only be match by Xavi Hernandez.

For such reason, Kroos should be the one next to Casemiro dictating the game from deep while Modric should occupy zone 14.


The implementation of 4-3-3 in most cases is to keep the ball. The point of having 3 forwards is to provide width and numerical advantages in midfield; especially if the center forward is playing as a false 9. Benzema is more of a 9.5 than a pure 9 because of his ability to tie the offense together.

Most teams that play 4-3-3 are usually good at keeping the ball, and for such reason, their opponent are usually forced to defend deep in their own half. Having two wingers can help provide width. Since Ronaldo isn’t as efficient on the wing as he used to be, Marcelo occupies the winger position when Real Madrid have the ball.

Basic Tactics

In order to play 4-3-3 formation, pressing is a must. Gegenpressing is one of the most efficient, coordinated way to press the ball. Real Madrid needs press well and efficiently. Zidane haven’t fully implement such tactics. There are signs of Gegenpressing in Real Madrid’s preseason game, but it is not fully functional yet.

Real Madrid players should be able to rotate on and off the ball.

For example: If Benzema drops into midfield, Modric or Kroos, should take his place as a center forward. This is call total football. The ability of the players to play each other positions and read each other movements is important.


This tactical inquiry is very basic. Their are more variations that can be explain in details but can only be done when the season starts.