Patrick Vieira‘s 1-4-3-3 formation seeks to maintain defensive solidity while emphasising ball possession and clear rules of play in attack. The shape of his formation is evolving and he tries to maintain a balance between 1-4-1-4-1 (less often 1-4-2-3-1) in defence and 1-4-2-3-1 (less often 1-4-1-4-1) in attack.
The functionality with which Vieira changes shapes within the 1-4-3-3 shows the direction the manager wants to go: control possession.
When opponents hold the ball in their own third, Vieira presses high in 1-4-2-3-1 shape with active participation of offensive players. In lower pressing zone it can be more 1-4-3-3 or even 4-1-4-1 setting up the second line in their own half of the pitch.
In attack we often see 4-2-3-1, where the wingers support the striker and try to receive the ball between the lines while Palace build up the action.
When they lose the ball in the opponent’s third, they stay in the offensive formation and using counterpressing try to get the ball back immediately. This makes the midfielders (including the wingers) the key link of the team. Vieira expects central midfielders to take a more progressive, active role in attacks.
The role of the defensive midfielder is very conservative – his main task is to provide balance between the other two central midfielders. The central defenders often omit him completely from the action building phases, passing wide to the full backs or operating between the lines to the higher positioned players. The team’s dominance in the central areas of the pitch is hard to beat.
With a central and point setting forward in attack, a decent left defender and two quality wingers Palace have no problem getting into the opposing team’s offensive third.