As humans, we have an innate desire to innovate. Whether it’s coming up with new inventions, new businesses or new ways of conducting work, we all strive to create change in the world. There are very few things in the world where this innate need is showcased more than in the world of football. Over the past few years, there has been an increase in specific principles around pressing, playing out from the back and quick transitions. Managers are becoming smarter by the day, constantly looking to innovate, and do something that nobody has ever done before in the beautiful game (relatively speaking of course). One of the most intriguing of all innovations to come to prominence in recent years is the concept of overlapping centre-backs. Essentially, this is an over-arching principle whereby outside-centre-backs in a back-three formation, have not only a defensive role, but a clearly defined attacking one. Teams like Sheffield United and Atalanta achieved widescale success utilizing overlapping centre-backs in the late 2010s, shocking the world with something new and unique that opposition teams simply could not cope with. While the strategy is relatively rare, there is no denying the potential effectiveness of the methodology when conducted right. That’s why in this ebook, I’m going to be breaking down how to coach a team with overlapping centre-backs, and the necessary steps to execute this tactic within your own system and style of play.
Sheffield United were one of the most impressive sides in the Premier League last season, in their first season back in the top flight for over a decade. With overlapping centre-backs and a highly rigid 3-5-2 formation, Chris Wilder's side were one of the most exciting and tactically intriguing sides to watch in 2019-20. With the fantastic performances of the squad as a whole, Sheffield United finish in 9th place last season, winning or drawing 26 of their 38 games. Perhaps most impressively of all, they conceded just 39 goals, the fourth lowest total in the league. After their fantastic performances, nobody would have expected them to struggle this badly in 2020-21. It could have been predicted that without Dean Henderson and Jack O'Connell they might compete in a relegation battle this time around, but nobody predicted them to be one of the worst sides in Premier League history. As things stand, Sheffield United are heading towards the lowest points total in the history of the league, and currently hold a Premier League record for longest winless run. Chris Wilder's side have been bad to say the least, and this Tactical Analysis will attempt to uncover exactly what has gone wrong for the Blades this season. Here is our Tactical Analysis all about Chris Wilder's Sheffield United in 2020-21.
Any team's style of play needs to fit the personnel and formation. But a relatively new, unexplored tactical innovation arising out of the re-emerging rise of back-three formations is the concept of overlapping centre-backs. Teams like Sheffield United and Atalanta have achieved widescale success utilizing attack-minded centre-backs, who frequently find themselves in advantageous positions, attempting to join the attack and create chances for their teammates. By adopting this style of play, these teams create overloads in wide and/or central areas, and push more numbers into the box, where the delivery of crosses can be a great asset. On the surface, this may seem like a very simple approach. But the concept of overlapping centre-backs is far more complex than just the simple nature of a centre-back running around a wing-back. So let's get right into this Tactical Analysis all about Overlapping Centre-Backs.
Sheffield United have been the surprise package not only in the Premier League in 2019-20, but arguably anywhere in Europe's top five leagues. The recently promoted side went from 2nd place finishers in the 2018-19 EFL Championship to one of the most resilient Premier League sides in 2019-20, currently sitting in 7th place in the table with a game in hand. Chris Wilder meanwhile has gone from a manager virtually unknown, to one of the most celebrated in European football this year. His 3-5-2 system of play has been consistently one of the most well-set-up systems in the Premier League this season and every single player just seems to fit into it like a puzzle that has come together better than anyone could have dreamed of. Here is a tactical analysis of Chris Wilder's robust 3-5-2 formation and style of play with Sheffield United.
After years and years of back-four systems being the dominating dogma in world football, back-three systems are now starting to take over. The growing popularity of formations like 3-4-3 and 3-5-2 has been matched by the variety of tactical nuisances that managers around the world have used to innovate these system of plays. 3-5-2, for example, has many distinct variations and teams operating within this formation can feel comfortable knowing that they can easily adapt their midfield structure to match what they want to achieve out of any game. Here are 3 Ways To Play 3-5-2.