This formation is the exact opposite of the first famous formation, the 2-5-3. The 3-5-2 represents a complete turnaround in football philosophy since its beginning and it’s realisation was one of the main reasons for Jonathon Wilson’s book; Inverting the Pyramid, which you should really fucking read.
In defence, the three players provide excellent coverage against a two man attack. This is because it allows the side to have a free player, who, if one of the other defenders gets beaten they can cover for them.
Another common aspect of a three man defence is to have at least one defender who is confident enough on the ball to be able to bring it out and pick passes. These types of players can be rare these days but a converted midfielder can also be deployed there. This player used to be highly common and was used as a playmaker, who brought the ball out of defence, joined the midfield for the attack and then dropped deep to pick up any passes over the top. The role was called the libero, or the “free one”. However, the defence can be exposed. Firstly, if the teams midfield is caught high up the pitch it can lead the 3 man defence to be easily opened up. Secondly, a three man defence can encounter severe problems if it comes up against a three striker set up by the opposition.
The midfield is fairly similar to the 4-3-3 midfield, which I explained here. The extra man in the centre of the park when up against a 4-4-2 can be very useful at keeping the ball, whilst allowing one of the midfielders to find space so that they can create an opportunity for the two strikers.
A key component on the 3-5-2 is the wide midfielders. The wide midfielders need to provide width and defensive stability on the wings. They can be deployed further back, leading to a 5-3-2 formation. This role is probably the most physically demanding one in the formation because of the area in which both of the wide players need to cover.
Up front, the two strikers combine in much the same way as talked about previously when I discussed the 4-4-2 here. One of them may drop deep whilst the other plays on the shoulder of the opposition defence, or one of them may pull wide to provide width until the wide players get forward.
It all depends on the type of players which make up the squad and their individual traits.
The 3-5-2 is still commonly used in Serie A with both Udinese and Napoli using it. Both of these sides have overachieved in recent years as well showing how useful the formation can be.
Indeed, the use of 4-4-2 is still very prominent in Italy and this formation is one of the most effective against the 3-5-2 system.
The 3-5-2 is an underused formation in modern football. Although its a very useful formation when played against formations with less than three forwards. However, if the other side has three forwards though, it will be easier for them to score than it is in a brothel.
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