Antonio Conte won the league title with Chelsea while employing 3-4-3 formation. It’s influence was massive with several other teams embracing the strategy.
Chelsea won the Premier League in spectacular fashion. And while the London side controlled most of the season, it is easy to forget their difficult start. At the time that Conte made the switch to the 3-4-3, Chelsea was in 8th place. With a good stretch away from the top spot, it looked like Chelsea were on their way to back-to-back unsuccessful seasons.
It was what some pundits called Chelsea’s “formula for greatness” that changed things around. However, the change came out of desperate necessity. Conte first made the change after a clear 3-0 defeat to Arsenal. It was a formation he was familiar with from his days coaching Juventus and Italy. As fate would have it, the formation would help Chelsea to victory in the league and would also prove important for Arsenal later on.
The new formation perfectly complimented the squad of players that Conte had at his disposal. It added strength in defense, an important factor for a team without many options in that position. It offered a pivotal role to defensive midfielder N’Golo Kante, viewed by many as the League’s top player. And it offered additional space for Chelsea’s wide attacking players who were able to feed passes to striker Diego Costa.
Chelsea went on to an incredible winning streak. The London side moved into first place and never lost the top position for the rest of the season. The 3-4-3 formation became very fashionable in English football. The more managers used it, the more their opponents had to respond to the tactic. Often the response was to have a similar formation.
West Ham’s Slaven Bilic experimented with the formation. At times, so did City’s Pep Guardiola and Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino. However, the most noted use of the 3-4-3 was at Arsenal. In fact the change in formation may have saved what otherwise could have proven to been a terrible season. With a string of poor results, Wenger opted for the change as a means to compliment the Gunners’ attacking potential. Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil would usually play behind striker Olivier Giroud. In this way Arsenal went on to win their last five games.
What’s the future of the 3-4-3 formation in the Premier League? Arsene Wenger says it is a system he tends to employ only to mask defensive vulnerabilities. Pep Guardiola also seems anxious to bring in new players and choose a formation more suited for possession football. As for Chelsea, their success seems firmly linked to the formation. And well, why change something which has worked so well and for a such a long time?