In today’s “On the field” we are going to explain Carlo Ancelotti’s Christmas tree. The shape is a 4-3-2-1 that he began to use in 2002 in a Champions League match against Deportivo de La Coruña, placing Rui Costa and Rivaldo behind the forward, defending Mauro Silva and Sergio. While Gattuso and Seedorf playing as central midfielders covered the full-backs.

The Christmas tree is based more on being well positioned than on the players’ movements. Occupy your zone, both in the defensive and offensive phase. The main strength of this formation is the concentration of players in the central channel, being able to have possession and control the pace of the game. The 3 central midfielders plus the 2 attacking midfielders mean that most of the opponents will be outnumbered in midfield.

Another strength of this shape is the passing lines that are created by forming triangles on the flanks, with one full-back, a central midfielder and an attacking midfielder.

If the opponent is narrow to remain compact and avoid progression through the central channel, the full-backs become very important, as in another of Ancelotti’s preferred formations, the 4-4-2 diamond.

The defensive weakness of this system is precisely on the flanks, since the midfielder closest to the wing has to make a lot of efforts to control the pushes of the full-backs. The same thing happens if you want to press high, since the distance between the opposing full-back and the central midfielder is too big.

So, what is Ancelotti’s secret to protect from this weakness? In possession 4-3-2-1 but when the team has to defend switch to a 4-4-2, being easier to transition from one phase to the other. This strategy was used by Ancelotti to win the Champions League in the 2007 final against Liverpool.

The Christmas tree is a rare system in the elite but it has been key in the career of one of the best coaches in history, Carlo Ancelotti.

Other Analysis