Arne Slot uses 1-4-3-3 mainly in European Cups. In other matches he is faithful to the 1-4-2-3-1 formation. Slot’s Feyenoord is a classic positional game with obvious inspiration from Guardiola’s style, although it must be said that in the ball possession phase it is the movement of the players that is crucial to free up space between the lines. Slot does not want a slow build-up of action. Feyenoord’s play is vertical, fast and risky. The ball is moved quickly behind the opponent’s lines. They like to play in tight spaces, keep a narrow defensive structure, while maintaining a complete and wide structure in the second line, ready for a positional attack at any phase .
The structure for building action in the first phase of play is largely based on the two Wing-Backs (Pedersen, Malacia) who stay behind the opponent’s first line of pressure. Both feel comfortable in the center of the pitch playing as Inverted Wing-Backs, but they can also maintain width. They line up high while the two central defenders split (Senesi, Trauner) making the goalkeeper partner the ball in a temporary back three.
Meanwhile the two pivots steal constantly in the center taking different positions between the rivals’ lines, which not only stretches the opponent’s array horizontally but also vertically. Their task is to take up space behind the first line of pressure looking to receive the ball and move the action forward. When they receive the ball between the lines they generally have the time and space to turn and pass.
Although they specialise in progressive passing they do not shy away from longer direct passes either. Using the principles of positional play, Feyenoord can suddenly change the way they play and simply attack with the second line omitted. The target of these plays is usually an offensive midfielder (Til) who then acts as a Target Man. If such a pass reaches its target at least three players then show up to play: one of the wingers (Sinisterra or Jahanbakhsh), a striker (Linssen) and one of the pivots (usually Kökçü).
Another scheme for entering the offensive third is to create wide overloads on one side of the pitch to free up a winger or defender on the other side creating a 1-on-1 situation. Overloading one flank forces the opponent to move the entire defensive block across to defend against the numerical advantage which leaves a huge amount of free space on the opposing side.
In an organised positional attack Slot’s team does an excellent job of covering the different sectors of the pitch by always positioning themselves with a view to switching to counter-pressing if they lose the ball. Overloads on the wings make this much easier for them. If they lose the ball they usually have a number of players in that area who immediately start pressing and often regain possession high up in the rivals’ half. It is noteworthy that Feyenoord’s players position themselves close to their rivals, but only sufficiently so that they have space to receive and quickly play the winning ball.