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The Art of Attacking Football


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This is taken from my blog https://teaandbusquets.com/blog/

What is Attacking Football

There was a post in The Guardian recently by Jonathan Wilson, were he asked the question what is Attacking Football. That article can be found here;

http://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2016/jan/06/the-question-what-is-attacking-football-jonathan-wilson

But if you want the short version of the article, it came down to the little summary at the end;

Attacking is, like so much in football, nebulous, and is largely dependent on context. In the end, attacking becomes like pornography in Justice Potter Stewart’s famous description: it’s hard to define, but you know it when you see it.

This is why it’s hard to define because it can be achieved in hundreds of different ways. In Football Manager terms it can be done in any of the mentality structures which I’ve highlighted several times over the past year or so. But for this project I wanted to create something proper with an attacking mentality as this seems to be a mentality structure that causes lots of frustration among many people on social media, blogs and forums. It seems they can’t quite get the balance they need and end up struggling. That doesn’t go for everyone but it does cover most of the help topics we see on the SI Games forums from users seeking help and advice.

Basic Principles

Regardless of the actual shape and formation you use, there are some basics that are fundamental to this style of play and should be applied to all formations. So in brief they are;

Penetration – The ability to play through or behind the opposition. Exploit space with good on and off the ball movement.

Regardless of you set up to play or what type of opposition you play against, you need to be able to break them down. There are a number of ways you can go about doing this and we’ll look at them in more depth later in the series. However you need variety to stop play becoming stale and being easy to predict. Focusing on a system that allows you to penetrate the opposition in different ways in the long-term will be much better than one that is limited.

Support – teammates should be available in supporting positions ahead, to the side and behind the ball (first attacker or player in possession). This requires good dispersal when in possession to spread the field. Angles, distance and timing of passes becomes important.

This is probably one of the biggest and most important factors that people get wrong and is the cause of wild shots from range or players being wasteful. Even on an attacking mentality players still need support, if not more so, than in the other mentality bands. Players need passing options, players going beyond them etc. All of that is support and any good tactic will have it in abundance.

Mobility – The ability to interchange positions and provide good movement to support the play. Movement on and off the ball to create space for the first attacker or other players.

Movement in football is key to everything in terms of attacking. Whether the player has the ball or not, his movement will create space and make the opposition players around him react to what he does. This can create space and it’s like a domino effect, if an opposition player moves to follow him then someone else has to cover his duties and so on. For me movement is the biggest thing to consider and the most important thing in terms of being successful.

Improvisation/Creativity – The ability to provide inventive and unpredictable play, either through individual skills or small group combinations. For example: 1vs1’s, 1-2’s, overlaps, feint movements, etc.

I’m not talking about playmakers as such, although they can provide all of this. What I’m talking about is intelligent attacking play. It can be individual brilliance, and overlap, a cross or something else. There are lots of different ways to be creative and some of the more creative ways of playing, you might not think of as being creative to begin with. We’ll be looking at this further later on.

Any system you use should have all four of those elements included in it to be successful long-term. It sounds easy doesn’t it? Well it is in theory and on paper, but like everything, it is another story when put into practise. There is also one more factor that I didn’t mention above that is equally important but I thought I’d keep this separate from the list above.

Width – The ability to stretch out opponents laterally across the field and also provide opportunity for penetration via wide areas. Correct positioning also gives opportunities to switch the play to exploit the weak side.

The reason why this is kept separate is some people like to use narrow formation and while they work perfectly fine, they still need width. If you don’t provide width then everything becomes crowded centrally and it’s easy for teams who defend deep to defend against. This is one of the reasons why people might struggle to break the stubborn sides down. It tends to either be a lack of movement or a lack or width. Or in a lot of cases, it’s both.

Common Issues

There can be downsides to playing on an attacking mentality though and we will touch upon a few of the more common ones below. It’s worth remembering that an attacking mentality is very aggressive, it has fast tempo, high defensive line etc. Things are more faster paced naturally due to the nature of being attacking. Even if you use the team instructions to tone things down, it will still be aggressive because attacking is the base you are creating it from. This often gets lost in people’s thought process, especially those struggling with the game based on the posts I’ve seen a lot of individuals make.

Some of the common issues people have playing on attacking are;

  • Shooting accuracy suffers
  • Play feels rushed
  • Waste good chances
  • You get hit on the counter attack
  • Passing suffers
  • Struggle to break defensive sides down

Those are some of the most common issues we see posted about or mentioned on forums and social media. This series of articles will focus on all these elements and much more.

Shooting accuracy can be a major problem and is something that worries a lot of people and rightly so. I always aim to have 50% of my shots on target, I try to have the 50% as the bare minimum. This is just my personal preference but I feel it’s a good base to work from. In real life for the Premier League I think the real life figure is around 34% of shots on target. So you should be aiming for no lower than that but it’s easier than people think to increase the shots on target ratio as we will discover later.

Rushed play can see moves breakdown or reduce the quality of the shots your side takes. Decision making impacts this and someone mentally weak will struggle with faster phases of play because he isn’t intelligent enough to pull it off.

Wasting good chances is something that can often be associated with attacking play on Football Manager. This can often be linked to support and movement and can show signs that your tactic is failing at providing both those factors.

Getting hit on the counter attack is the biggest downfall of systems that overcommit men in attack. It’s common sense but you’d be surprised at how many people set up camp in the opposition’s final third yet can’t understand why the opposition keep getting in behind them time and time again. You need to account for these type of situations and create the correct balance.

Passing can take a dent in attacking systems. Not all the time though but in some cases it does and again it can be linked to a lack of movement, lack of support or the play being too rushed.

Struggling to break sides down is probably the single biggest issue I see posted about on a daily basis. And more often than not it all links back to the basic principles I talked about briefly at the start. I’ve wrote about this before and it’ll be something I go into details about again but this time I’ll be doing it from a tactical point of view rather than what is happening on the pitch. I’ll highlight how I focus on providing different kinds of options in a tactic so you can be varied and have the correct balanced setup needed to deal with these sides.

I hope you enjoy the series.

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For this project I wanted to create a new formation that I’d not wrote about yet this year and there was two choices. Both of them were loosely based on the club I had chosen, the second best club side of 2011 without a doubt, behind Barcelona. Both choices were similar to how they played during the 2011 season depending on your interpretation. I also liked the idea of using a back three or a back five.

The options were;

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A 3-4-1-2 is what I used a lot in FM15 but never actually wrote about it, so this was an option. The second option was;

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I couldn’t make my mind up which to use so I did a Twitter poll for twenty four hours. After almost 300 votes it finished with equal votes for both. But judging by the comments I was getting on Twitter, it seemed people wanted to read either about both (which was never an option as I don’t have the time) or about option two. So option two it is.

The Team

Have you managed to guess what club I selected for this project?

Club Universidad de Chile

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On December 14, 2011 they defeated Liga De Quito from Ecuador 3–0 (4–0 on aggregate) to win the Copa Sudamericana, becoming the third Chilean team to win a South American tournament, behind Colo-Colo's 1991 Copa Libertadores and Universidad Catolica's 1994 Copa Interamericana. In the tournament, the club had an excellent performance (undefeated, and winning all their matches in Chile), and was nicknamed the "South America's FC Barcelona"

During the season Jorge Sampaoli used many different shapes as you can find out from Joel Sked’s blog https://chileanfootball.wordpress.com/ ;

Joel has lots of in depth fascinating articles about all Chilean football and updates regular. I suggest people spend a bit of time looking around on this wonderful blog.

I could have quite easily decided to use several shapes that was used during the season but as you all know, I tend to prefer just one formation rather than changing. Using one formation will also show people you don’t always have to make changes to the way you play as a lot of people suggest you have to make endless changes or change shape regularly. Which just isn’t true.

Team Instructions

Before I start showing you all how I’m playing, I recommend you all to go and read this by Rashidi;

http://www.addictedtofm.com/shape-mentality-and-the-theory-of-relativity/

As it will answer a lot of questions that you might get from this series. I could repeat what he’s already wrote but that would be pointless 

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The mentality is straightforward. after all, what would an attacking arts article be if I didn’t use an attacking mentality eh?!

For the team shape I’ve used, I’ve over simplified things here and I think this quote from Rashidi’s excellent post above explains it best;

Basically Shape affects the depth of a team. How far each player is from each other and how each player’s roles in turn affect them. A structured shape will typically create more lateral gaps, whereas a fluid one will reduce those. In other words, a structured shape is more disciplined. Each broad role focuses on their jobs, but Shape, affects transitions. This in turn has a knock on effect on systems.

So I’ve gone for something bang in the middle so my side has no preference one way or the other.

The team instructions I use will likely change from time to time but for now, those are what I use. I play out of defence as I don’t want to be wasteful and want to build from the back. Using a system that uses defensive midfielders naturally sees the defensive line drop deeper than systems without a defensive midfielder. In this case, this is why I’ve decided to push even higher up to negate that effect. Plus I want to create a super aggressive system. This also explains why I close down much more. It’s hard to be aggressive and assertive if you don’t close down heavily, so this shout goes hand in hand with super aggressive systems. At least in my opinion anyway.

Player Roles

The roles I have selected for now could change at some point but first I want to explain why I’ve chosen what I have to give you a better understanding.

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Goalkeeper - Just a standard keeper for now but depending on what I see happening in matches I might be inclined to make him a sweeper keeper. He would fit better with an aggressive style but for now a standard keeper is more than adequate.

Defenders - The central defender is deeper than the rest hence why he is set to a cover duty. I think this will provide me balance at the back and allow him to the one who sweeps up and mistakes or balls the other two stoppers can’t win.

Wingbacks - Both these wingbacks are to provide width, this is why both of them have individual instructions to stay out wide. This should allow them to always stay wider when in attacking situations and should provide some excellent link up play with the wide players, who are both set to drift inside.

Regista -  He should offer me the creative drive forward than I need which will allow for a nice steady build from deep situations at the back. He can be the one driving forward with the ball at his feet while everyone around him is running or creating movement.

Box to box midfielder - Every side needs runners from deep and he is this player in this set up. He will also provide support for the players cutting inside or be a decoy and give the opposition and headache on whether they should move to pick him up or not. It’s hard to mark players who move.

Inside Forward - His job is to provide support to the striker. He is doing it from a deeper area though that’s why he is on a support duty. I want to be aggressive but I also want variety and to attack space and the opposition from different areas of the pitch.

Raumdeuter - A very unappreciative role amongst many FM’ers. I wanted to show they can be hardworking and a great role to use. I expect lots of goals and assists in this kind of set up.

Deep Lying Forward - Because I have two wide players who like to come inside then it makes sense to have someone dropping deeper to create space and drag the centre backs with him. This will create space for the wide players to then run into and hopefully exploit.

In the first article I listed five basic things that you need to create attacking football. Those were;

  • Penetration
  • Support
  • Mobility
  • Creativity
  • Width

Do I have these things in the above tactic? I believe I do, at least on paper and in theory. We will need to see the tactic played out in a proper match to be sure though. But in general I see it like this;

The penetration will come from the front three and the box to box midfielder. I have enough variety in attacks to create and break through sides. The opposition should have a hard time staying compact when I’m hitting them from all different kind of angles and players running from various different areas of the pitch.

I have lots of support too. I’m not talking about duties, I mean in terms of what a player will actually do. I have attacking wingbacks who will provide the width for the players cutting inside. This will mean the wide players will not only have players in support centrally but outside too. This improves their options available to them and makes play less predictable. Not only this but I have  late runners from midfield in the Regista and Box to box midfielder. They should both provide a deeper threat and allow us to impose ourselves in deeper areas. Then up front we have the striker who is supporting the wider players and the wide players are supporting him. So we have lots of options.

Mobility is also covered by the above.

Creativity can come in many different forms and doesn’t have to mean what a player does with the ball. Some types of movement can be creative as can little partnerships or small groups of players working in tandem. I believe I have lots of this just based on the roles selected above and how they all link together.

The width comes natural from the shape I use but the wide players are cutting inside. This is why I asked the wingbacks to stay wide to provide the width and allow me to use the full extent of the pitch during a game. Rather than finding out I am too narrow at times.

So in theory we have all the elements needed. Putting it all into practise can be a different thing entirely though no matter how sound something seems on paper. Players preferred moves, their attributes and personality types can all impact how they play out their roles. This is why it’s almost pointless saying ‘this is fine on paper’ or asking for tips for something you’ve not actually tried yet. Which is why in the next article we will focus on if the tactic is giving me the five important factors I think it does.

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Now that we’ve got the introduction out-of-the-way and in the last article, I showed you the shape I’d be using and briefly explained why, it’s time to try to answer a few remaining questions like Does the tactic work as intended? Does it have issues? If so how can we fix those? Those are the questions we will be looking to answer in these next few articles. Before all of that though I will be looking at two particular issues as well. Those being breaking sides down who have little desire to come forward. And the other is looking at how we handle sides who attack us. Both of these brings about two big issues, that we will look at quickly below.

Defensive sides

One of the biggest issues with Football Manager for players is breaking stubborn sides down. One of the main reasons, we find it more difficult against these types of team is because they don’t give space away too easily in the final third. Space is the key to everything, if a player has space then he also has time and allows him to take his time and pick out runners. Against a side who defends deep and is quite compact, it’ll be really hard to play through balls, balls over the top, crosses and so on into the box as there will be no real space for the player to gain that half of yard they need. So you need to think of different ways to break them down when the above isn’t working.

What’s Important

The important aspects of breaking a side down for me are;

  • Space
  • Movement
  • Width
  • Don’t overcrowd areas of the pitch than can work in your favour by being less aggressive.

More Adventurous Sides

From a defensive standpoint playing against sides who attack you often during the match can be a daunting prospect especially if they are superior to your own team. But the upside is, they’ll leave lots of unprotected space for you to play in and use to your advantage. This can do done by mentality changes or just a simple role change.

What’s Important

The key aspects to take into consideration against these type of teams and to take advantage of space are;

  • Look for open space and vulnerable areas when the opposition commit men forward
  • Try and spot patterns in their play, i.e is one side of theirs more attacking than the other
  • Try and overload the vulnerable areas by being more aggressive.

Now the main difference between these two styles of play is that attacking sides naturally give up space so they do half the job for you. Even if you have a tactic that isn’t that great you should still be able to create chances against these type of sides. It’s probably the easiest sort of sides to play against and one of the reason why so many people can beat the bigger sides yet fail against the smaller sides.

If you come up against the more stubborn sides though who sit back and hit you on the break, then creating and using that space falls solely on you and your tactic and this is when tactical set ups can be exposed and show faults. You need to create lots of movement both on and off the ball. This is when you can tell if a tactic is good or not, in the way it handles these sides.

So these are two small points I will be looking at during the games to see how we handle both of these situations.

Another thing I’d like to touch upon is the actual shape you use. If you use a top-heavy formation then in order to create space and movement how do you achieve it? Well think about how the players are positioned and because you are top-heavy, it’ll be deep in the opposition's half. This means movement will be hard to come by especially against a side who is deep. So you need to be aware of this with the duty and role section you use. You’d likely need some of the players to drop deeper in order to run from deep or create from deep. If not they can be too high up the pitch to be really effective. The less space someone has to play or move in then the more it relies on a moment of individual brilliance for them to influence the game.

The opposite is true with formations that isn’t top heavy. In these type of formations you need more aggressive roles in order for the support players to get into the final third quick enough to be able to support the more attack minded players. If not then you could see your squad split into two different bands and not be a cohesive unit.  I often see attacking tactics posted that suffer these issues and there seems little thought process behind how the roles all interact with each other.

I just wanted to touch upon those points as I often feel they get missed at times.

Now onto the analysis.

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Here you can see the opposition is deep and I’m attacking them and have committed men forward. However not all the people I have committed forward are busting their gut to get into the box. This allows me to have deep options in the regista and box to box midfielder. Having support play from different areas is a good thing and something any well-balanced tactic should strive to have. The reason why can be explained below.

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The first cross is cut out but luckily he gets to the loose ball and is able to pick out the box to box midfielder who is deep and unmarked lurking outside of the area.

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Once he receives the ball, he has lots of options around him. Both the regista and the left sides wingback are both deeper options he could utilise if he wanted. Ahead of him he also has a deep-lying forward who is dropping deeper and running across goal. This is creating movement. He pick to take the route of the red dotted line though and passes it back to the wingback on the right side of the pitch.

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When the wingback get’s the ball back he whips the ball across the face of the box. As you can see in this screenshot I have four possible players who can get on the end of it and put the ball into the back of the net. The oppositions defence is a bit disjointed as you can’t mark deep or late runners. A quick stretch of play and the whole backline is in panic mode.

The move in its entirety can be watched here;

In this move you can see all the elements that I spoke about at the start of the post. Movement, space, width, creativity and penetration.

Here is another example of all the above.

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Rojas is my outer left-sided central defender. When he gets the ball here he has tons of passing options who are providing the support. If I used more attacking duties here for the five players who are circled in white, then they’d be much further up the pitch and this would place them much closer to the opposition players. Something which would reduce the space and time they have on the ball. This can in some cases be a bad thing, at least for me. I like players to both create and use space so getting them away from the opposition players initially is something I like to focus on. It makes movement better and like I mentioned earlier, it’s hard to mark players who are constantly moving around. Who picks him them up? And if someone does pick them up then what kind of gaps appear elsewhere on the pitch for other players to take advantage of?

In fact in the image above I do have an attacking player so maybe I should have said four rather than five. The Raumdeuter who is the player circled on the far right is the one out of all the front three who has the highest mentality. The striker is obviously higher because he just closed down moments ago so is more advanced than normal.

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In this image we can see that Rojas plays the ball to my wingback, who then plays it to the regista who then plays it to the box to box midfielder. It might not look like much but this move is simple and very effective because it links players together and is moving the ball from outside to inside very quickly and causing the opposition players to change the direction they’re running in. Which in turn is creating even more space and ahead of them, my more attack minded players are also making movement.

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The next part of the move shows what the box to box midfielder does next with the ball. Due to the way he is facing he realistically has two forward passing options. He has a third option but that’s playing the ball backwards to the regista, which isn’t likely to happen due to the attacking mentality being aggressive. It makes players more forward thinking which can be a good and a bad thing. His options are playing the ball to the raumdeuter or to the wingback. Remember I asked the wingback to stay wide via his individual player instructions? Well this is why, so he can provide the width. The box to box midfielder pick him out with a long ball. So in the space of two or three seconds we’ve gone from one side of the pitch to the other in one fluid move. Using the full pitch is something I mentioned earlier in the series and said we’d focus on. It looks like it’s working so far.

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Once the wingback gets the ball then you can see the importance of my deep three-pronged attacking trio. The inside forward is the one looking to make the biggest run and coincidentally he’s also the one who starts the deepest. But his marker is behind him and never picked him up and the covering defensive player in front of him as no clue that he is there. He is just focused on getting back to cover in his own box.

The raumdeuter is trying to get between the fullback and the centreback and play in that little pocket of space. While the deep-lying forward is less aggressive and makes his way to the edge of the box then checks his run. A simple ball from the wingback and he splits the opposition wide open.

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The ball is in the red circle. Look at the positions my three attacking players have taken up and because of starting from deeper positions, find themselves unmarked in the box. This means the ball falls to the inside forward who then hits it to the arrow that the raumdeuter is running to. Then he taps the ball home.

That’s the move in full so you can look at it.

I think I’ll leave this article like this for now as I just wanted to highlight the importance of width, movement, creating space, having deep runners and so on. As at the end of the day all tactics needs to create these things in order to be successful.

Regardless of what shape you play, ask yourself how you create;

  • Penetration
  • Support
  • Mobility
  • Creativity
  • Width

In your current systems. If you don’t know or aren’t quite sure how, then maybe you don’t understand the system you are using and what it’s about?!

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I was going to use the 3-4-3 that I had posted about and change the roles on it, to highlight what happens if I change the roles of the front three. However someone replied to one of my articles with a system that I think will highlight everything wrong with badly balanced created attacking tactics. So I’ve decided I will use this as the base to show why it’s wrong and give little hints on how to make it better.

Now this user claims he is good tactically and knows how to create tactics that work, but judging by the stuff he’s posted I’d have to question this. He was seeking help and when I pointed out his issues he didn’t take it too well and is one of the users who wants help but always has an excuse or knows better. Users like this are hard to help and I still don’t think he sees the issues now, hence this article.

The tactic

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The shape is based on the Ajax team from 1995. Now the shape you see on the tactics screen is your defensive shape, so already you can see some issues right? Now factor into to this the roles and duties used in the system as well. And you can see the car crash that’s waiting to happen. It’s worth noting that the tactic is on an attacking mentality and uses a fluid team shape.

You can use this shape and be successful but for me it comes under the category of specialist tactics. What I mean by this is, classic tactics that aren’t popular and are difficult to create at the best of times. One of the reasons for this is the shape you use and the settings are only part of the issue. It’s a system that requires specific players, so is a long-term project and not something you can expect to get working quickly. It requires a certain type of squad building and player developing so it works like you’d expect. A bit like what I wrote about with the Arsenal Invincible stuff I wrote about.

If we now focus on the roles used in the setup we can see it’s very top-heavy and attacked focus. The front four is all attacking, this means the players will always be high up the pitch regardless. This in turn reduces space the players have to play in and makes any kind of movement hard to achieve. Also take into account he is playing as Juventus, this means that most teams will sit deep against them and look to hit them on the counter. The overall shape is very vulnerable to counter attacks anyway, especially with the exposure of the wings. There is absolutely no cover at all.

The midfield is also an issue and opens them up to quick counters because they’re focused on going forward and dropping back. Dropping back is good but does he need to congest the final third even more? He already has four players in those areas and adding another two is just overkill. However the real issue with the midfield can be seen from this quote by the creator of the tactic;

I even set the marking up so the two BBM marked opposition wingers, both IF marked opposition wingbacks.

This is just pure suicidal, why? When the box to box midfielders go out to the wings then who covers the centre? The defensive midfielder who is an anchorman will be run ragged. There is no way one player can do his own job and take on the responsibilities of two other players, it’s not possible. The entire centre is opened up and has zero cover when the box to box midfielders track the wide players.

His defensive side of the tactic isn’t that bad in all honesty, at least from the back four perspective. It’s the players in front of those players who are the issue.

Team Instructions

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Those are the team instructions used. He uses roles that dribble a lot yet asked the teams to dribble less, why? He’s also asked players to stick to positions yet he needs players to move about as there is lots of space that players have to cover. So these two team instructions don’t make much sense. Then we have pass into space which increases through balls. However where is the space in the final third going to come from, to be able to do this consistently? The space is limited already so there is no space for balls to be played into, let alone his players getting on the end of them.

So in short the immediate issues are;

  • Lack of space
  • Lack of movement
  • No intelligent play
  • Overly aggressive roles
  • Midfield set up is terrible
  • No cover
  • Wings are exposed
  • No real runners from deep
  • No variation of play
  • Predictable

Those are the key points that are wrong with the above setup up initially. However just saying they are issues without showing examples isn’t really helpful, so here we go.

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I’ve mentioned this before but I’ll mention it again. If you are really aggressive with your attack and extremely defensive with your defensive players then the team is split into two separate teams like the image above. The opposition’s keeper had the ball and my own players have had time to retreat for a good three or four seconds yet are still really advanced. Look at the box to box midfielders too, totally abandoning the deep central areas. It makes it easier for the opposition to dominate these kind of areas.

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This is still the same move but at the point where the goalkeeper has now released the ball. Look at the pressure the anchor man has to deal with. He has five players he has to be responsible for due to the box to box midfielders being too advanced and the inside forwards unable to get into any kind of useful position. In fact, there is still six players behind the ball due to  it dropping into the space behind the box to box midfielders. It’s far too much for one person to deal with.

In order to fix this you have a lot of options you could take. Those being;

Change the roles of the midfield duo. Why do you need them to go forward when you already have four players to attack ahead of them? What you change them to would be more static/less adventurous roles. You get overrun in the middle currently so you’d want to look at roles such as;

  • CM Support
  • DLP defend or support.

Those two roles would offer much better balance and keep the central areas protected better.

Another thing to consider here is using at least one of the inside forwards as a support duty rather than an attacking one. This will allow him to help out more and be deeper in defence and it will also give you variety in attack in those situations. After all you want the team to be a cohesive unit don’t you. rather than a team split into two teams?

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This is another example of  losing the ball and having three players immediately took out of the game. The anchor man is having to leave his position to deal with it as the opposition have three players about to overload this near side. It’s like your front four are spectators for most parts bar on the odd occasion one of the inside forward might be able to track someone. Although those kind of scenarios are nowhere near often enough.

People get hung up on the overall shape you see on the tactics screen. Remember that is only the defensive shape, what’s important is the shape you see when attacking! So what if we can keep the attacking intent of the original tactic but make it better and more realistic to fit the modern game?

I’m going to stop short of writing about a full new tactic as I don’t want to make it too easy but to give you a general idea of what I’m talking about, how about something like this;

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Wide Midfielders!! But I wanted inside forwards. They’re actually set up to be inside forwards because the wide midfielder role is very customisable. They have the instructions get further forward, cuts inside with the ball and dribble more activated. This allows the same behaviour as in the original system. In fact all that will change is how they behave when your side doesn’t have possession. You’ll be more solid and they’ll contribute more from a defensive view compared to using them in the AML/R strata. You lose absolutely nothing in an attacking sense and is the reason why you should consider this instead.

I’ve also changed some of the other roles just to highlight how more solid it looks and more potent in attack. This isn’t a suggested tactic or roles though, I’ve used it just to highlight how simple changes can make a big difference in the overall behaviour of the players.

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The wide midfielders are still attacking but now they actually have space to play in and are harder to mark due to their starting positions being much lower than usual. They can now draw players out and be more involved in both the build up and defensive phases. They’re no longer just bystanders during certain phases of play.

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Even though they are now wide midfielders I’ve still labelled them as inside forwards on the screenshot because that’s essentially what they are. But look at how deep they are compared to using players in the AML/R strata would be like. They are deeper now and this allows the three central players to stay more compact and protect the middle of the pitch because they aren’t being stretched wide by-play.

I could go on and give more examples but I think I’ve made my point quite clear now and can concentrate on the 3-4-3 again in the next update and talk about the defensive side of that.

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In this part of the series I’ll be focusing on the analysis side of things and fixing the big issues my formation has as well as making slight tweaks to be competitive and to give me consistency.

The shape I use looks really impressive at times, especially in terms of overall movement and attacking intent. However, when things are bad they’re really bad and it’s important you understand how and why you’re poor. One of the biggest factors with the shape I use is the lack of midfield players. This means at times we give up the midfield which can make it hard to get a foothold of the game. When this happens then the front three players can become isolated and supply to them is limited at best, which in turn means less likely you’ll score.

At times possession can also be hard to come by due to the shape. Remember the overview you see if that of your defensive shape. This means my front three are really isolated compared to the defence and midfield, making it hard to have them as realistic passing options at times. Your role and duty allocation are vital in shapes that have a few big glaring weaknesses like this, as you need to remedy it somehow. Hopefully how I set out to achieve this will show in this article.

The initial roles I used were never set in stone, it was always just a basic framework that I’d work from and change as time went on. I could probably get away without changing things in all honesty but if I want to be consistent and have an excellent formation rather than a good one, then I need to work on how all the players and roles link together and improve this area. The more I put into this at the beginning the less I have to do overall, which can save you a lot of time over the seasons. It’s one of the reasons I fly through seasons in a few short hours once I’m happy with how my side plays.

One of the main issues people have when playing the game is the stats and the actual context behind them. Stats alone mean very little and it can be deceiving at times in terms of how you are actually playing if you’re following the stats. So to give you an idea of what I’m waffling about, I’ve took one of my games to take a closer look at. This should also give me a great idea of how the team is playing as a unit and give me a deeper insightful look into what might need changing further down the line.

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That’s the score from the match we are looking at, I won the game 2-1.

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At first glance it looks like I had a rather easy game in regards to the amount of shots I had. But this isn’t exactly true at all.

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Only four of my shots were on target. That’s simply not good enough. Against a much stronger side I’d have noticed the impact of the shots a lot more than I did in this game against a very weak side. So to understand this better, we need to use the analysis tab to see exactly what was wrong and why. Once I’ve identified the issue then I can work on potential solutions. I tend to work on a three-point system that is as follows;

Identify > Understand why > Possible solutions

The reason for this is simple, if you don’t identify the issues then you can’t fix them right? If you don’t understand why you’ve got the issues, then again you can’t fix it can you? So you can’t find a solution if you don’t identify and understand why something happens. Then you can try to solve the issues by dealing with the route cause of them. I appreciate this isn’t always an easy task though but hopefully this article will show how I approach things.

As i’ve already posted the shot stats above then it makes sense to start there as that was the main issue not only in this game but in others too. I should point out that you need to not panic if it’s just a one-off this happens. Only think it’s an issue if it happens time and time again. There could be many factors as to why, it might be a lack of balance in the roles and duties used. It could be a case of bad supply coupled with a lack of passing options so people just shoot randomly. This one is actually a big factor that people struggle with I’ve found over the years.

So let’s take a look at the game I’ll be analysing.

The first thing I do is head straight over to the individual player stats so I can see who was taking the shots.

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We can see straight away the players who were taking the shots. But to understand why we need to look at the analysis tab and click on the shots themselves to view them. Before that though it’s worth me showing you the formation overview so you can see where all the players played as it will make it easier to follow.

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The two biggest culprits seemed to be my deep-lying forward who took five shots with only one on target. Then the Raumdeuter took three shots with only one on target.  Those are the two player’s I’ll be look at in more depth to begin with. In order to do this I need to head over to this screen and select the shots for all players;

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This gives us an indication of the areas the shots were taken from and also breaks down the type of shots. The next step here is to click on the dots and watch the shots to see what we can learn. The actual shot itself doesn’t really matter, what we’ll be focusing on is the build up to the shot. By doing this we can quickly establish if it’s a mentality issue and whether the player is rushing his shots when he doesn’t really need to. We can also establish if it was a case of lack of movement from the player himself or maybe it was a lack of supporting options so he was left with no choice to shoot. Or it could be a simple case of there was nothing wrong. Either way we need to establish this. The build up to the shot is something that often gets overlooked I’ve found when people focus on the stats. They see the end product (the shot) as the issue when normally nine times out of ten it’s what happens in the build up that is the most vital component.

One thing that I haven’t mentioned yet though is the mentality I’m playing on. Due to me using a high mentality (control or attacking are classed as high) then play in general tends to suffer in terms of quality compared to slower mentalities due to them being less aggressive. So sometimes the end product is a by-product of everything else and is part of the mentality structure you use due to higher mentalities structures rushing play more, using faster transitions, moving the ball about faster and so on. This doesn’t mean we can’t still produce quality shots or have good build up, it just means it’s harder to achieve than on the lesser mentalities.

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This is the build up to one of the shots I’ve clicked on. The player circled in yellow is my deep-lying forward and is the player who ends up taking the shot. The player marked with 1 is the Raumdeuter. I think I can already see the issue here before I watch the rest of the clip. If you was to make an educated guess based on this screenshot as to what the issue is, what would you guess was wrong?

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Here you can see just as the shot is about to be taken. The inside forward isn’t really a passing option as he’s blind side of Rubio. We then have the Raumdeuter who is marked out of the game and hasn’t made him run early enough. Then in midfield we have the box to box midfielder who has no chance of getting into the box. This means that the deep-lying forward has to take it on himself due to a lack of forward options.

I know I haven’t finished the analysis yet but I’ve identified this issue so now it’s time to explain why I think it’s happening. The deep-lying forward in on a support duty, so I’m instructing him to come deep. This is great for playing in the wide players however here we can see a lack of early movement from the Raumdeuter and the inside forward. So for this game my attack was disjointed and the deep-lying forwards main task of being the link player isn’t working. So it boils down to this;

  • Wide players poor movement
  • DLF too deep
  • No support from midfield

I don’t have to fix all of these issues, I should theoretically only need to address one of them and then it should have a knock on effect. The easiest option to start with would be the striker I think. If you look at the screenshot above you can see he has plenty of space to play in but this means that the oppositions central defenders are having an easy time with no work to do. If I made the striker more attack minded though he would then occupy the defenders and give them decisions to make. This would make it much easier for the two wide players to find space because if they beat their marker, the central defenders would already be occupying the striker. So if they did leave and go to cover, this would also mean the striker is either left alone or is left 1v1 which isn’t always a bad thing.

I only need to create movement in order to fix the issue. The other options I could take would be to mess around with the roles of the wide players and instead of a raumdeuter maybe an inside forward on attack in the hope he darts between the fullback and centre back much earlier and more direct rather than drifting around like the current role does. I could also leave the striker role the same and see if he then plays the ball to the inside forwards instead, if the space is being created by runners.

The hardest one to get correct and what would be a ball ache is the midfield runner. While it is an option to use a central midfielder on an attack duty, I don’t feel he’d help create space in front of the defence which is the real concern in this example. He’d make late forward runs but it seems I need the movement from the other way currently. I need people advanced at the start of the phase of play rather than being so deep. However it is an option but one I’d rather deal with when I’ve exhausted all other avenues.

I could possibly panic and change all three but what would the point in that be? You start small so you can understand how the changes you make impact your tactics and style of play. Changing too much in one go makes it harder to keep track of what is actually happening and why. Were as if you only change one thing then you easily spot how it plays differently.

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Another example from the same game and it’s the same kind of thing we are seeing. In fact out of all the shots this is the common theme the shots share, so I’m right to be concerned. I’m just making it far too easy for the opposition to defend against and this is what’s restricting me to rubbish quality shots.

In the next match I made the striker change, I changed him from a deep-lying forward to a complete forward on an attack duty. The changes worked brilliantly and the front three’s flow was much better. My shot quality also improved.

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I always aim for getting around 50% of all shots I have on target. That’s quite a high target considering I think the real life stat is somewhere more near 37%. But still, I aim high and become unhappy if it’s low as it means I’m being wasteful.

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And the team overview is;

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I follow the same process as I did in the first example and this time we’ll compare the changes on how the build up play before the shots differs drastically.

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Already we can see how more forward thinking we are and now we have the box to box midfielder playing the old role that the deep-lying forward used to play. My complete forward is occupying the defence and pushing them back. Meaning the two wide players are operating in more space and while the inside forward is the late options, the Raumdeuter is the initial higher options who then drops deeper as the phase of play advances.  All three of the front players are offering me different things and more importantly all of them doing it in different areas of the pitch.

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That’s the point the shot was taken. We look much better going forward and this was against a side who used two defensive midfielder’s against us. Just one simple role change and the flow is better and the attacks accuracy is much better due to making it harder for the opposition to defend against. When I used a deep-lying forward, at times we would see the two wide players become isolated due to the striker being far too deep and not able to link play to them. Now though all the examples in this game and others I’ve played since show the balance is much better. Now the inside forward and Raumdeuter are much more involved and able to beat their man often.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the series and that someone can find what I’ve written useful 

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Here we go! This was the one I've been waiting for. I have tried to implement a lot of what Bielsa does with my Hull team, but failed over and over... Can't wait to see how this play out!

Again, thanks for taking all the time do this for the community, Cleon!

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Great series of articles again Cleon! As a collection maybe my favourites!

I'm interested in seeing how vunerable this is to a counter down the flanks however. I sound like a broken record but 2016 might mean that those two wingback expose the defenders a little. Of course all depends on how the back 3 works out , I'll also be interested to see how wide the back 3 go in possession etc.

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Nice work Cleon!! We should do these kinda twitter confabs more often :-)

Attacking systems can be a lot of fun, in fact, last season I was almost exclusively control or counter with ONE shape. This season its a lot more interesting. Last season we lost the title because I drew too many games. (ended up a 2 points before Juv). I scored 34 goals at home and 24 away for the whole season. This season we are 12 games in and have scored nearly 36 goals. I'm a third in and have outperformed last season by a country mile. My last game was epic we went down a man in the 50th min, leading by a goal and away from home. I take off a striker, reduce mentality one notch. Then they equalise. I got mad and changed my shape to structured went back to attacking, changed two roles and we scored 2 goals to win the game 2-4.

All systems are EVERYTHING about mentality/shape and roles. It's like being at a club and they tell you there's this perfect cocktail that goes for $10,000 and there is a sparkling diamond inside. (btw such a cocktail exists) When you get the combination right its a sweet taste.

What's really funny, is that its so simple to do. Its not even complicated. I don't make 10 changes a game. I make like 1 or 2 at most. The systems are all LOGICAL, and commonsensical.

Simply put:

a. Know the "yin-yan" balance of your team, ie. know your spaces - where you are weak and where are you strong.

b. Know your system. If you copy someone else's especially if you download you will never learn. In fact, I daresay you will quit.

c. Take point (a) + (b)= know the attributes that matter. Attributes in an attacking system are slightly different than a counter system. Think about it. If you are high up a pitch do you want a player who has concentration and can anticipate where he's needed? That's so valuable. Do you need everyone to be like that? Where on the pitch is that vital? If you don't have that in supply, what can you do? Understanding what player attributes are key to doing well, isn't the only thing, you need to see how they compare against the other team as well

If you are playing against a top side and they have quicker players EVERYWHERE, what do you do? Change tactics or make a slight change to your shape or roles?

It's not rocket science. Season 03/Episode 01 of the Torino Diaries is an Attacking Special!

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could you perhaps help me with player roles?

The whole purpose of all Cleon's threads and many others on the forum is to give people insight into how other people look to build systems: what specific things do they look to balance?

Cleon has articulated that clearly in the opening posts, so I suspect he won't just lay Roles out on a platter for you, but if you are able to describe what Roles / Duties you combine in an Attacking 3-3-1-2 and why you are using them, then he'll be more likely to see how he thinks your selections fit the way you want to play.

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Really happy to see this thread and makes very interesting reading. Personally my favorite setup is the 41221 and hopefully I can implement some ideas from this thread to help me build a system using that formation. Goals and chances are something I've struggled with this year and I've never really considered playing with an attacking mentality unless losing.

I've just started to try to put something together and ended up with a Regista, a B2B midfielder and a CM on attack. Now when I think that I will be using an attacking mentality, would I be right in thinking that setup is possibly too attacking?

I like the idea of the regista, again something I've not really tried too much. If I drop the CM attack to support I will then have 3 players all on a support duty which I believe would limit movement etc.

Dilemmas already :)

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Hi Cleon I am very interested in thread because I am a secret fan of attacking football. I never seem to get it right so I have stayed well clear from attacking football. Now seeing your post gets the blood flowing again.

I will be playing with my Arsenal Team. I am fan of the 41221/433 set up because I like having a player screening the back four or dictating play from deep. The roles that I would be looking to put in place to achieve attacking football in my system are as follows

Central Defender - Defend

Central Defender - Defend

Wingback Attack - Left

Wingback Attack - Right

Anchor Man Defend

Box to Box Midfielder

Central Midfielder Attack

Inside Forward Support - Left

Inside Forward Attack - Right

False 9 - The Ozil role (when Giroud plays he will playing as a Deep Lying Forward Support.

I will also be playing a Attacking with Flexible Team shape. I decided on Flexible after reading Rashidi post.

Could you please have a look at my role on duty and let me know if I am on the right track or do I need to make any changes to my roles and duties.

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Hi Cleon I am very interested in thread because I am a secret fan of attacking football. I never seem to get it right so I have stayed well clear from attacking football. Now seeing your post gets the blood flowing again.

I will be playing with my Arsenal Team. I am fan of the 41221/433 set up because I like having a player screening the back four or dictating play from deep. The roles that I would be looking to put in place to achieve attacking football in my system are as follows

Central Defender - Defend

Central Defender - Defend

Wingback Attack - Left

Wingback Attack - Right

Anchor Man Defend

Box to Box Midfielder

Central Midfielder Attack

Inside Forward Support - Left

Inside Forward Attack - Right

False 9 - The Ozil role (when Giroud plays he will playing as a Deep Lying Forward Support.

I will also be playing a Attacking with Flexible Team shape. I decided on Flexible after reading Rashidi post.

Could you please have a look at my role on duty and let me know if I am on the right track or do I need to make any changes to my roles and duties.

Whenever I set up any kind of attacking system I decide on shape first. For me flexible is right in the middle, it's fairly predictable. Structured requires you to consider whether you are running TOP heavy. That means you need to consider how many attacking players you have in the opponents half. Furthermore because players are focused on their roles and these then affect transitions, you will frequently find that it becomes an attrition of attributes.

If you are attacking their half and playing with 3 on attacking mentality then those 3 will have a lot to do. So your system becomes important. How do you give them the advantage?

This is going to be a long post and I am at the airport. Guess people will need to wait for the video. The crux is this...You are using wing backs, check the attributes needed for those roles then check the PIs for the roles. Your systems weakness lies there.

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If you use a top heavy formation then in order to create space and movement how do you achieve it? Well think about how the players are positioned and because you are top heavy, it’ll be deep in the opposition's half. This means movement will be hard to come by especially against a side who is deep. So you need to be aware of this with the duty and role section you use. You’d likely need some of the players to drop deeper in order to run from deep or create from deep. If not they can be too high up the pitch to be really effective. The less space someone has to play or move in then the more it relies on a moment of individual brilliance for them to influence the game.

The opposite is true with formations that isn’t top heavy. In these type of formations you need more aggressive roles in order for the support players to get into the final third quick enough to be able to support the more attack minded players. If not then you could see your squad split into two different bands and not be a cohesive unit. I often see attacking tactics posted that suffer these issues and there seems little thought process behind how the roles all interact with each other.

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Hi Cleon I am very interested in thread because I am a secret fan of attacking football. I never seem to get it right so I have stayed well clear from attacking football. Now seeing your post gets the blood flowing again.

I will be playing with my Arsenal Team. I am fan of the 41221/433 set up because I like having a player screening the back four or dictating play from deep. The roles that I would be looking to put in place to achieve attacking football in my system are as follows

Central Defender - Defend

Central Defender - Defend

Wingback Attack - Left

Wingback Attack - Right

Anchor Man Defend

Box to Box Midfielder

Central Midfielder Attack

Inside Forward Support - Left

Inside Forward Attack - Right

False 9 - The Ozil role (when Giroud plays he will playing as a Deep Lying Forward Support.

I will also be playing a Attacking with Flexible Team shape. I decided on Flexible after reading Rashidi post.

Could you please have a look at my role on duty and let me know if I am on the right track or do I need to make any changes to my roles and duties.

Whenever I set up any kind of attacking system I decide on shape first. For me flexible is right in the middle, it's fairly predictable. Structured requires you to consider whether you are running TOP heavy. That means you need to consider how many attacking players you have in the opponents half. Furthermore because players are focused on their roles and these then affect transitions, you will frequently find that it becomes an attrition of attributes.

If you are attacking their half and playing with 3 on attacking mentality then those 3 will have a lot to do. So your system becomes important. How do you give them the advantage?

This is going to be a long post and I am at the airport. Guess people will need to wait for the video. The crux is this...You are using wing backs, check the attributes needed for those roles then check the PIs for the roles. Your systems weakness lies there.

Myself and Rashidi was having a brief discussion about this the other day but not in great detail due to us being busy and not having much time. I'm sure we will continue it at a later date though. But basically for me it came down to this;

I think structured fits systems that are specially created to exploit space in specific areas. A bit like I did with the counter attacking stuff. If you use a shape that is top heavy then I believe in a higher mentality structure like attacking/overload then structured would be wasted and pretty pointless and you should go fluid due to the players starting positions.

The reason I think this is if you're top heavy then you're going to be relying on individual moments to both create and use space due to the starting positions of the players. So you'd want everyone to be that bit more expressive and closer together. Where as on a structured team shape you'd be stifling the creativeness of the side. Unless you can make the roles in a top heavy formation work and provide the correct balance naturally, which will be very hard to do, then I'd always go fluid/very fluid as it makes more sense.

I also think flexible is good too because it's bang in the middle like Rashidi points out above. If you're unsure or don;t really care, then always go flexible and it'll not make much difference. Going to an extreme like structured or fluid will always have some kind of negative effect if the shape you use with the roles isn't balanced though.

For the rest of your question though, look at second post I did and see how you get all of the points I've made from the shape and roles you use. Then like everything, on paper stuff can look good and be poor. The only way to know for sure is see what happens. I've mentioned it a few times to you in the past James, it's no good asking if you are on the right track with roles and duties because only you can answer that because of how it all links up in a game. You're still asking impossible questions to answer accurately as there's no context or specifics. Trial and error is the way to go. Try and understand how your shape functions and why. If you do that then you've won the battle and the game becomes so easy. All you need is an understanding of how the system you use works. Sounds simple but it really is.

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If you use a top heavy formation then in order to create space and movement how do you achieve it? Well think about how the players are positioned and because you are top heavy, it’ll be deep in the opposition's half. This means movement will be hard to come by especially against a side who is deep. So you need to be aware of this with the duty and role section you use. You’d likely need some of the players to drop deeper in order to run from deep or create from deep. If not they can be too high up the pitch to be really effective. The less space someone has to play or move in then the more it relies on a moment of individual brilliance for them to influence the game.

The opposite is true with formations that isn’t top heavy. In these type of formations you need more aggressive roles in order for the support players to get into the final third quick enough to be able to support the more attack minded players. If not then you could see your squad split into two different bands and not be a cohesive unit. I often see attacking tactics posted that suffer these issues and there seems little thought process behind how the roles all interact with each other.

Cleon I am trying to understand more about role and duty in a top heavy formation. I think I may understand team shape now. I went for Inside Forward Support because I wanted a player attacking the box from a deeper position, hopefully surprising the opposition with a late surge in the box. I also have my BBM joining late from deep. because my Inside Forward Attack has a higher position he should penetrate the box quicker. The False 9 will hopefully drop deep creating space for my players to penetrate the box. At the moment I have players penetrating the box from the wings and from deep midfield. My next role duty which I am trying to understand is the RPM and how he can affect the attacking system. I read your post on Squawka and new that any tactic I create would need to have a RPM.

The Anchor Man role is also one I am unsure about because I am sending my Wing Backs forward I thought that I need a Anchor a man to offer some extra security at the back. I see that you play with a Regista how does he help protect your Center Backs. The DMC is the one position I have no clue about and how it will work in my set up.

If you can shed some light or advice that would be appreciated

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Cleon I am trying to understand more about role and duty in a top heavy formation. I think I may understand team shape now. I went for Inside Forward Support because I wanted a player attacking the box from a deeper position, hopefully surprising the opposition with a late surge in the box. I also have my BBM joining late from deep. because my Inside Forward Attack has a higher position he should penetrate the box quicker. The False 9 will hopefully drop deep creating space for my players to penetrate the box. At the moment I have players penetrating the box from the wings and from deep midfield. My next role duty which I am trying to understand is the RPM and how he can affect the attacking system.

So you have an idea of what you want and how the roles should link up. So why seek validation? Why not see if it's working like you think it should be :)

I'm honestly not trying to be an arse but I give you the answers and tell you what they should be doing this won't help you in the slightest. You need to understand this part yourself. Don't be scared to trial and error and then post about the issues you have. It's kinda pointless before that point asking if this will work or what someone thinks of these roles due to the reasons I highlight in the second article.

I read your post on Squawka and new that any tactic I create would need to have a RPM.

What made you come to this conclusion? I'm not saying you're wrong, just trying to understand the thought process :)

The Anchor Man role is also one I am unsure about because I am sending my Wing Backs forward I thought that I need a Anchor a man to offer some extra security at the back. I see that you play with a Regista how does he help protect your Center Backs. The DMC is the one position I have no clue about and how it will work in my set up.

I don't really need protection because I'm focusing on a high pressing game and winning the ball back high up the pitch. It comes down to risk vs reward again and I know playing this way can make me susceptible to counters at times but its worth it. I prefer to dominate the AI high up the pitch and play really high. This is why I don't really need the protection as both the DMC and MC will be deep naturally when I don't have possession. However when in possession I need them to be aggressive like I speak about in the third article posted today because they have lots of ground to make up to support the attacking players.

Sometimes the best form of defence is to attack, and that's how I'm playing currently.

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Hi Cleon,

Great article again. I am learning a lot from you and the likes of RTH / Rashidi.

I was wondering what made you go three at the back? I personally am not a fan of the 3 at the back and I wonder what other formations you feel would suit the attacking style of football? Is it the opposite of the counter where you have as many players as possible in the opposing half with room to move?

Also when you said Top Heavy earlier what did you mean by that?

Thanks in advance.

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Hi Cleon,

Great article again. I am learning a lot from you and the likes of RTH / Rashidi.

I was wondering what made you go three at the back? I personally am not a fan of the 3 at the back and I wonder what other formations you feel would suit the attacking style of football? Is it the opposite of the counter where you have as many players as possible in the opposing half with room to move?

Also when you said Top Heavy earlier what did you mean by that?

Thanks in advance.

I'm a back three kinda guy and that's normally what I use, so that's the reason why. Plus people are always posting about how hard it is to get a back three to work. It's not hard and it provides great utility and allows you play an extra player somewhere higher up the pitch.

The principles of attacking football are the same as counter attacking really. It's still about the key points I highlighted. The key to proper efficient attacking football though is to understand where the space is and how you can use this to your advantage.

A top heavy formation is one that has more than 3 players in the oppositions half of the pitch on the tactical overview. So formations like 4231, 424, etc are all top heavy formations.

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I don't really need protection because I'm focusing on a high pressing game and winning the ball back high up the pitch. It comes down to risk vs reward again and I know playing this way can make me susceptible to counters at times but its worth it. I prefer to dominate the AI high up the pitch and play really high. This is why I don't really need the protection as both the DMC and MC will be deep naturally when I don't have possession. However when in possession I need them to be aggressive like I speak about in the third article posted today because they have lots of ground to make up to support the attacking players.

And..... you have 3 Centre Backs :)

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Woops, posted below in the counter-attacking thread. That one is also great but this one triggered the click:

Great thread again.

I think this time something finally clicked regarding space and movement. The screenshots were really helpful in illustrating.

There are some concepts I have already thought about and will try to implement with my tactic. I currently have a morale problem but I think my attacking movements break down too much as well. The space might be why.

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So you have an idea of what you want and how the roles should link up. So why seek validation? Why not see if it's working like you think it should be :)

I'm honestly not trying to be an arse but I give you the answers and tell you what they should be doing this won't help you in the slightest. You need to understand this part yourself. Don't be scared to trial and error and then post about the issues you have. It's kinda pointless before that point asking if this will work or what someone thinks of these roles due to the reasons I highlight in the second article.

What made you come to this conclusion? I'm not saying you're wrong, just trying to understand the thought process :)

I don't really need protection because I'm focusing on a high pressing game and winning the ball back high up the pitch. It comes down to risk vs reward again and I know playing this way can make me susceptible to counters at times but its worth it. I prefer to dominate the AI high up the pitch and play really high. This is why I don't really need the protection as both the DMC and MC will be deep naturally when I don't have possession. However when in possession I need them to be aggressive like I speak about in the third article posted today because they have lots of ground to make up to support the attacking players.

Sometimes the best form of defence is to attack, and that's how I'm playing currently.

Cleon I actually came up with the RPM in midfield because I wanted a player driving forward from midfield and also being a creative option from the midfield. The other reason because RPM can help also be a late supporting player from midfield along with BBM.

So basically my idea was that the DMC stays back and the RPM and BBM are the late supporting players from midfield. I just had another idea again by just reading your thread again. Because I want that extra security at the back then

I will play the DMC as a half back because he will drop into the back line to make a 3 at the back set up. The wing backs will push up so the Center backs will split and the halfback drops in making it a 3 at the back set up like what you have. This will then allow my RPM to be the deep creative driving force from midfield and the late support from midfield. I think I might understand what I want to do now.

Deep runners and support from midfield in the BBM and RPM, Wing Backs providing the width, creative striker dropping deep and opening space for my Inside Forward Support to penetrate the box and my Ramdueter invading the space left by the Center backs if they follow the deep striker. My Center Backs and Half Back making a back three for extra protection.

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Hi Cleon great thread

If you continue with this thread, could you please discuss other methods of penetration in attacking systems other than crosses from fullbacks?

I use a very similar system, which works wonders, but 90% of my goals come from crosses, which is a bit concerning.

I also use a W(A) instead of an IF(S), since my player I use on the left wing is a natural winger, how would that change the system?

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Would a tactic with Attacking mentality and a deeper defense ever make sense?

Could help with the utilisation of space but the side could become too disjointed if you have too many attack duties high up the pitch

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Hi Cleon great thread

If you continue with this thread, could you please discuss other methods of penetration in attacking systems other than crosses from fullbacks?

I use a very similar system, which works wonders, but 90% of my goals come from crosses, which is a bit concerning.

I also use a W(A) instead of an IF(S), since my player I use on the left wing is a natural winger, how would that change the system?

If I finish it I'll be showing other examples yes as crosses aren't my only source of goals but due to the shape I play then obviously it's heavily wingback influenced.

I'll actually be going one better though and putting the save game up for download so people can explore in more details for themselves if they wish to.

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I might have posted this already but I made some changes to the content and I am sure it changed. My internet is bad so sorry for the double post.

Cleon in response to your question as to why I chose to use the RPM.

I actually came up with the RPM in midfield because I wanted a player driving forward from midfield and also being a creative option from the midfield. The other reason because RPM can help also be a late supporting player from midfield along with BBM.

So basically my idea was that the DMC stays back and the RPM and BBM are the late supporting players from midfield. I just had another idea again by just reading your thread again. Because I want that extra security at the back then

I will play the DMC as a half back because he will drop into the back line to make a 3 at the back set up. The wing backs will push up so the Center backs will split and the halfback drops in making it a 3 at the back set up like what you have. This will then allow my RPM to be the deep creative driving force from midfield and the late support from midfield. I think I might understand what I want to do now.

Deep runners and support from midfield in the BBM and RPM, Wing Backs providing the width, creative striker dropping deep and opening space for my Inside Forward Support to penetrate the box and my Ramdueter invading the space left by the Center backs if they follow the deep striker. My Center Backs and Half Back making a back three for extra protection.

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Really helpful article as always. I applied some of the advice and won my first game 6 - 4. Scoring 6 against a defensive side is huge for me. Now I just need to stop the counter attacking. I think my biggest problem was the lack of A passing outlet for my attacking players when they were pressered/outnumbered.

The link to Rashidi's topic about structure helped me out a lot aswell. I feel like I now fully understand the structure/mentality settings.

Keep the articles coming!

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A variation of Cleon's option 2 (changed a few roles to fit the squad and some minor tweaks elsewhere).

The attacking display from my front 3 is brilliant at times. The way they counter is devastating. Counters often happen when winning the ball back from a failed set piece or the central CD picks up a failed through ball.

Still haven't had a full season there yet as I took over from Bobby Martinez in January 2015. First 6 months were a little trial and error type thing. Weed out the players not capable of performing in a high d-line etc. Well done to Cleon :applause:

256ypOR.png

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Cleon - interesting stuff, as always. Having long been a fan of the 3-4-3 and its various permutations, this immediately grabbed me. Alas, in my current saved game, I am managing at Burton in League 1. Not too many Raumdeuters about. But my side has been going stale of late, and I wanted to give your notion a try. So, instead of a raumdeuter, I used an AP with a PI of Roam Freely. He wound up with a goal and an assist and match rating of 8.8. Not only that, but the whole side played well (except one CD). What impressed me the most was the number of attaching options that developed. The side looked truly dangerous.

One cautionary note - while the only goal we conceded was on a PK, the other side was able to generate considerable pressure attacking up the middle - mostly quick counters. This is partly because my Reg and BTB were gassed and I was short of appropriate subs. The WBs also wore down, so plan your subs carefully.

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I might have posted this already but I made some changes to the content and I am sure it changed. My internet is bad so sorry for the double post.

Cleon in response to your question as to why I chose to use the RPM.

I actually came up with the RPM in midfield because I wanted a player driving forward from midfield and also being a creative option from the midfield. The other reason because RPM can help also be a late supporting player from midfield along with BBM.

So basically my idea was that the DMC stays back and the RPM and BBM are the late supporting players from midfield. I just had another idea again by just reading your thread again. Because I want that extra security at the back then

I will play the DMC as a half back because he will drop into the back line to make a 3 at the back set up. The wing backs will push up so the Center backs will split and the halfback drops in making it a 3 at the back set up like what you have. This will then allow my RPM to be the deep creative driving force from midfield and the late support from midfield. I think I might understand what I want to do now.

Deep runners and support from midfield in the BBM and RPM, Wing Backs providing the width, creative striker dropping deep and opening space for my Inside Forward Support to penetrate the box and my Ramdueter invading the space left by the Center backs if they follow the deep striker. My Center Backs and Half Back making a back three for extra protection.

See you always have an idea of how things should work and what you expect from your side. That's half the battle won already because all it requires now is for you to see if it's working like this in game. If it is then that's great. If not then just tweak and try different things until it does. Your at the stage where practise/trial and error is going to be the most beneficial thing now.

I actually like your thought process btw :)

Really helpful article as always. I applied some of the advice and won my first game 6 - 4. Scoring 6 against a defensive side is huge for me. Now I just need to stop the counter attacking. I think my biggest problem was the lack of A passing outlet for my attacking players when they were pressered/outnumbered.

The link to Rashidi's topic about structure helped me out a lot aswell. I feel like I now fully understand the structure/mentality settings.

Keep the articles coming!

Thank you :)

A variation of Cleon's option 2 (changed a few roles to fit the squad and some minor tweaks elsewhere).

The attacking display from my front 3 is brilliant at times. The way they counter is devastating. Counters often happen when winning the ball back from a failed set piece or the central CD picks up a failed through ball.

Still haven't had a full season there yet as I took over from Bobby Martinez in January 2015. First 6 months were a little trial and error type thing. Weed out the players not capable of performing in a high d-line etc. Well done to Cleon :applause:

256ypOR.png

Excellent. The front 3 is extremely mobile and deadly with the right players. It plays some lovely football at times.

Cleon - interesting stuff, as always. Having long been a fan of the 3-4-3 and its various permutations, this immediately grabbed me. Alas, in my current saved game, I am managing at Burton in League 1. Not too many Raumdeuters about. But my side has been going stale of late, and I wanted to give your notion a try. So, instead of a raumdeuter, I used an AP with a PI of Roam Freely. He wound up with a goal and an assist and match rating of 8.8. Not only that, but the whole side played well (except one CD). What impressed me the most was the number of attaching options that developed. The side looked truly dangerous.

One cautionary note - while the only goal we conceded was on a PK, the other side was able to generate considerable pressure attacking up the middle - mostly quick counters. This is partly because my Reg and BTB were gassed and I was short of appropriate subs. The WBs also wore down, so plan your subs carefully.

It's key to remember what the important roles are in this tactic and I'll be posting about that at a later date. It is the central midfield pairing and the wingbacks though.

The video is almost done..."Dark Arts of Attacking Football"...almost.

About bloody time! Been waiting ages for this (well about 4 days) :D

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vhsdm.jpg

Really satisfied. Managed to win the title although being 7 points behind when I started playing this style.

yypbs.jpglzdvf.jpg

Wingbacks have "Stay Wider" PI, while Inside forwards have "Sit narrower". My central forward has scored 9 times during this 6-game winning streak. Absolutely brilliant stuff.

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Cleon, what do you think it would be the best way to learn and apply the advice you gave in threads like these? After all, there are many formations to use for attacking football, so basically we need to look how to have penetration, support, mobility, width and improvisation?

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Cleon, what do you think it would be the best way to learn and apply the advice you gave in threads like these? After all, there are many formations to use for attacking football, so basically we need to look how to have penetration, support, mobility, width and improvisation?

Yes I said as much in the first 3 articles...........

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Yes I said as much in the first 3 articles...........

I know, I didn't want to make myself of a fool in the first place, just a moment of maximum confusion. I am struggling to break narrow, defensive teams in the second half as Spurs after winning the title. I will read the thread again tonight.

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In the first article I listed five basic things that you need to create attacking football. Those were;

  • Penetration
  • Support
  • Mobility
  • Creativity
  • Width

Do I have these things in the above tactic? I believe I do, at least on paper and in theory. We will need to see the tactic played out in a proper match to be sure though. But in general I see it like this;

The penetration will come from the front three and the box to box midfielder. I have enough variety in attacks to create and break through sides. The opposition should have a hard time staying compact when I’m hitting them from all different kind of angles and players running from various different areas of the pitch.

I have lots of support too. I’m not talking about duties, I mean in terms of what a player will actually do. I have attacking wingbacks who will provide the width for the players cutting inside. This will mean the wide players will not only have players in support centrally but outside too. This improves their options available to them and makes play less predictable. Not only this but I have late runners from midfield in the Regista and Box to box midfielder. They should both provide a deeper threat and allow us to impose ourselves in deeper areas. Then up front we have the striker who is supporting the wider players and the wide players are supporting him. So we have lots of options.

Mobility is also covered by the above.

Creativity can come in many different forms and doesn’t have to mean what a player does with the ball. Some types of movement can be creative as can little partnerships or small groups of players working in tandem. I believe I have lots of this just based on the roles selected above and how they all link together.

The width comes natural from the shape I use but the wide players are cutting inside. This is why I asked the wingbacks to stay wide to provide the width and allow me to use the full extent of the pitch during a game. Rather than finding out I am too narrow at times.

So in theory we have all the elements needed. Putting it all into practise can be a different thing entirely though no matter how sound something seems on paper. Players preferred moves, their attributes and personality types can all impact how they play out their roles. This is why it’s almost pointless saying ‘this is fine on paper’ or asking for tips for something you’ve not actually tried yet. Which is why in the next article we will focus on if the tactic is giving me the five important factors I think it does, above.

One of the things that I think is most difficult when reading an article like this is to understand how to shoehorn tactical concepts into "FM-ese". So much of what drives the match engine is "under the hood" and not easily knowable. We need a translation. I read these pieces in order to get glimpses of what lies beneath.

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Hi Cleon,

iv had a real good read through this - good stuff, im a MASSIVE fan of the 3 at the back way of playing - conte/cruyff spring to mind.

recently been trying it myself, maybe im overcomplicating matters - i set up with attacking/fluid and the following formation...

e721709562efdd9a8564a9571d1ba4de.png

team instructions...

b62448b68aba178d1a7f0cc9b86a5f09.png

iv set player instructions on the IF to stay wider/roam, poacher to close down more as he needs to move forward to create space for the AM to run into who has player instructions of dribble more/more risky passes. The team instructions is to stick to positions but i assume the player instructions for the front 3 would overide that.

it got absolutely demolished in a pre-season friendly after a good 6 weeks of training it up, was trying to follow and implement the LVG/Ajax team of 1995 and how they set up to play. I even set the marking up so the two BBM marked opposition wingers, both IF marked opposition wingbacks.

Iv read the article rashidi has done on shape, seems to drum it home more to me now that it can have a massive impact and leave you open to counters or just genereally vulnerable if your fluid and your defence are pushed right up keeping close to the midfield, also that your defence can be dragged out of position to close down attacking mids etc.

There is a lot of conflicting articles knocking about no doubt, im just trying my best to understand how everything works relative to each other at the moment because i like to KNOW these things i suppose im a perfectionist in that sense that i like to have every angle covered, its a game to most but to some of us its much more involving :)

Have a look see if you can give me some pointers where iv gone wrong with this as it HAS totally gone wrong and does not function, i need to reset and start over but at least if i have a second opinion on whats not right with it i can come from a different angle (which i will be doing anyway).

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Hi Cleon,

iv had a real good read through this - good stuff, im a MASSIVE fan of the 3 at the back way of playing - conte/cruyff spring to mind.

recently been trying it myself, maybe im overcomplicating matters - i set up with attacking/fluid and the following formation...

e721709562efdd9a8564a9571d1ba4de.png

team instructions...

b62448b68aba178d1a7f0cc9b86a5f09.png

iv set player instructions on the IF to stay wider/roam, poacher to close down more as he needs to move forward to create space for the AM to run into who has player instructions of dribble more/more risky passes. The team instructions is to stick to positions but i assume the player instructions for the front 3 would overide that.

it got absolutely demolished in a pre-season friendly after a good 6 weeks of training it up, was trying to follow and implement the LVG/Ajax team of 1995 and how they set up to play. I even set the marking up so the two BBM marked opposition wingers, both IF marked opposition wingbacks.

Iv read the article rashidi has done on shape, seems to drum it home more to me now that it can have a massive impact and leave you open to counters or just genereally vulnerable if your fluid and your defence are pushed right up keeping close to the midfield, also that your defence can be dragged out of position to close down attacking mids etc.

There is a lot of conflicting articles knocking about no doubt, im just trying my best to understand how everything works relative to each other at the moment because i like to KNOW these things i suppose im a perfectionist in that sense that i like to have every angle covered, its a game to most but to some of us its much more involving :)

Have a look see if you can give me some pointers where iv gone wrong with this as it HAS totally gone wrong and does not function, i need to reset and start over but at least if i have a second opinion on whats not right with it i can come from a different angle (which i will be doing anyway).

As far as I can see, there are a number of things wrong with this system. It could 'maybe' work and I stress maybe if you balance the roles correctly but you really do like a challenge. Relative to this thread, it is incredibly top heavy. The front 4 are already positioned high up the pitch and when in possession have no real space to penetrate as you have them all on attack duties. Your BBMS do arrive a bit later but they can be aggressive and do look to get into the box so it is complete overkill. There is a lack of movement, width etc etc. It almost goes against what this thread is trying to teach. Conversely this has a massive impact on your defensive shape. You have committed so many players forward that you leave yourself incredibly vulnerable at the back. You will get absolutely demolished on the flanks and even in the centre of the park you will be dominated in terms of numbers and you leave a lot of space. I would suggest you seriously scrap this formation or make wholesale changes. Dropping the wingers to ML/MR and support duties would be a good start. I admire the effort for something different as I enjoy making tactics that are a bit outside of the box but I'd say youre on to plums with this one.

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As far as I can see, there are a number of things wrong with this system. It could 'maybe' work and I stress maybe if you balance the roles correctly but you really do like a challenge. Relative to this thread, it is incredibly top heavy. The front 4 are already positioned high up the pitch and when in possession have no real space to penetrate as you have them all on attack duties. Your BBMS do arrive a bit later but they can be aggressive and do look to get into the box so it is complete overkill. There is a lack of movement, width etc etc. It almost goes against what this thread is trying to teach. Conversely this has a massive impact on your defensive shape. You have committed so many players forward that you leave yourself incredibly vulnerable at the back. You will get absolutely demolished on the flanks and even in the centre of the park you will be dominated in terms of numbers and you leave a lot of space. I would suggest you seriously scrap this formation or make wholesale changes. Dropping the wingers to ML/MR and support duties would be a good start. I admire the effort for something different as I enjoy making tactics that are a bit outside of the box but I'd say youre on to plums with this one.

yeah i think i have completely gone "gung-ho" with this, however... note that i have set the front three behind the striker to roam so as to create movement in and around the box area, also in defending - i have like i stated tagged the players either side of the diamond to man mark opposing AMR/L and the wide front men to mark opposition wing backs - i have three at the back anyway facing only MOSTLY one striker so they should be able to deal with that threat especially with the sweeper dropping behind them.

the inspiration for this tactic was this...

http://anfieldindex.com/13432/sharpening-flat-3-4-3-diamond-liverpool-fc.html#comment-243121

this...

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xz1d1v_1995-afc-ajax-ac-milan-1st-half_animals

and on paper...

Ajax.jpg

should give you a much clearer picture as to why iv picked the formation i have, i may have the instructions wrong though and i may also have the mentality and shape wrong.

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