Communication and a rigorous adherence to the team’s tactics and shape are the essential components of every three man defence, according to Danny Higginbotham.
The former Sheffield United defender told The Star that, while Nigel Adkins’ new system places huge demands on his players’ physical and mental capabilities, it could give them a vital edge over opposition teams if employed correctly.
“The strengths of the system are that it makes dealing with crosses easier, Higginbotham explained. “And that you can also play out from the back easier if it’s done right. But with many teams now playing with only one up front at some point in the game, the three centre-halves have got to be able to pick-up midfielder runners and so they need to be talking to each other all the time.”
Adkins’ decision to adopt a 3-5-2 formation has been the catalyst for a series of improved results of late. Favoured by Carlos Bilardo’s Argentina team during the 1986 World Cup, it was first devised to counter the 4-4-2 system still favoured by many League One teams.
“You need centre-halves willing to go into wide areas which many aren’t comfortable doing,” Higginbotham, now a tactical analyst, said. “They also need to be able to come out with the ball and bring opposition midfielders on to them. Having midfielders willing to help-out the wing-backs is also vital because, otherwise, you can get exploited and overloaded out there.
“Positional awareness and, hence, communication are absolutely key.”