Playing with Three at the back

Javier Hernandez of Manchester United is tackled by Maynor Figueroa of Wigan Athletic during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Wigan Athletic at Old Trafford.

Now since about Christmas, Roberto has started to use this tactic. I read a post over the time that it was a similar style to which Italian club Napoli were playing with. And they are doing pretty well with it (sitting in fifth in Serie A). So what is so good about this system?

Well I am going to have a look how three players have managed to be the bed rock of the second half of Wigan Athletic season. I know me getting technical, it doesn't happen very often. But when you look at the stats it makes for good reading.

Since the turn of the year we have had a much better for card than before hand. But we haven't lost seven on the trot so its not hard to beat that. But what we have also beat, is the number of goals we have conceded and scored. Even after a bad start to the year. We eventually managed to turn it around.

In 2011 we picked up a total of 15 points from 18 games, however in 2012 we have picked up 13 points from 14 games having only lost six games. Which you have to say is a fantastic record. It shows you how because of a stong back three we are picking up points.

That relates to having conceded 37 goals in 2011, and only 20 in 2012. That's 17 less goals, and if you were to take out January were we lost all four games. We would have only conceded nine goals and picking up the 13 points in the process.

You have to wonder why we haven't been playing like this all season!

Now this is where I explain what is going on. You see we are playing with three centre backs with the two wing backs providing the width for both creative and defencive play. This means that we have more men in the box to defend and attack due to relying only on two players to control the wings.

Those roles have fallen to Emmerson Boyce and Jean Beausejour of late, both of whom have fallen into their roles really well getting forward when they have to and falling back deep when the team has come under pressure. Then explosively breaking wide, which allows Victor Moses and now Shaun Maloney to play more central roles and play off the central striker.

And all of this because of three center backs in the form of Antolin Alcaraz, Gary Caldwell and Maynor Figueroa. They have improved drastically together and started to learn how to work as a unit and a back three. The idea of a back three use to be one where you would have one player as a sweeper.Usually fast and agile. They would intercept and close down attacking players.

In modern day football the idea now is to have one player who is your vocal point (Gary Caldwell) their role is to head, tackle and control everything with in the defence. While the other two close down and move forward with the ball into the space. And that suits our defensive players.

It means that both Figeroua and Alcaraz can have the freedom they need to break forward and get the goals they can score. That was shown by when Alcaraz scored the first goal against Stoke City, breaking from deep to put a header past Asmir Begovic.

Its a system which is flexible and allows us to defend in numbers and attack quickly on the break. The hope now isthat it can topple Manchester United on Wednesday night.

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