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Is "Lower Defensive Line" a "Lose Now!" button?

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On 16/01/2021 at 13:33, Jack722 said:

I think the reason why you might consider the lower defensive line a "lose now button" is because, a lot of the time in real life, it is. In fact, it is rarely used ever, and if someone from these forums claims that they finished top half in their league using a lower defensive line on a balanced to low mentality all game every game, they would have my respect, because i wouldn't even know where to start.


Let's take the game's definition of the defensive line for now


and let's see what a lower defensive line in a standard, balanced 442 looks like.


So, this is asking your defenders to stand just outside of the box when the opposition have the ball in their own half. Which teams do this in real life? Well you may assume that Sean Dyche's Burnley do this, especially away against big teams, because Burnley are for sure the premier league team most associated with the low block. Below is a screenshot of Burnley playing away against Manchester City. 


Look how high their line is. You can't even see the box in this photo because it isn't even anywhere close. This is actually so much more defensively solid than a low line previously shown due to the compactness that it creates, City would struggle to play their typicaly short passing game in this situation beause Burnley are so compact horizontally and vertically. When you think about it, they are so compact that you can't even replicate this structure in FM with a standard 442. You have to start to use wacky strikerless formations to achieve this compactness. This is how I would recreate Burnley's defensive structure from this picture in FM:


So then why does FM even include the low line, if it is hardly ever used? Because, it has its place. The low line can be used situationally to 'park the bus' and I mean to fully park the bus, when you know that you are going to be outplayed, and when either a 0-0 would feel like a win, or you are already winning. 

Let's take one of the most iconic defensive performances of all time. The second leg of the 2009/10 Champion's League semi final between Internazionale (white) and Barcelona. Inter won the first leg 3-1 at home, playing attacking football and pressing Barcelona up to their GK. Even during the second leg at the Camp Nou, they played some attacking football and pressed relatively high. It wasn't until Inter went down to 10 men in the first half, that Mourinho decided to park the bus.

Here is Inter's defensive structure late on in the game:

image.png.beee06282dd55d6b5b557ec129644a76.pngEven in this incredibly defensive performance, you can see that Inter's Dline is still a little further up than their own box (assuming the furthest player back is just about to get into position after a clearance). But you can see from here that this shape gives absolutely zero attacking threat, with only one player left forward to press the centrebacks and provide an outlet (although he even looks like he is running back into a deeper position.) Trying to park the bus like this late on in a game is one of the very few times where I would use a balanced low defenive line, and even then, you have to use non-conventional strikerless formations to achieve the correct level of compactness, as seen below:


*with an added third player in defensive midfield as Inter only had 10 men

Bear in mind that Inter still lost this second leg 1-0, so if this was a stand alone game, the strategy would've backfired, and Mourinho would've recieved intense criticism. But here it was a correct decision due to multiple reasons

  • They were up by two goals
  • They were down to 10 men
  • They were away against one of the best teams in the history of football

So low line tactics do have their place in FM, it's just that the place is as a second or even a third tactic, with an incredibly bottom heavy formation, to be used when you would be delighted if the game finished with no more goals scored for either side.


Nice post and theory but FM doesn't reflect real life unfortunately. If you play where Burnleys defence above is situated then you will give up balls over the top time after time. 

Did not know that the games definition of d-line was when the ball was situated in the opponents half so thanks for that. 

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8 hours ago, Obaaa said:

Nice post and theory but FM doesn't reflect real life unfortunately. If you play where Burnleys defence above is situated then you will give up balls over the top time after time. 

Did not know that the games definition of d-line was when the ball was situated in the opponents half so thanks for that. 


Perhaps that wasn’t the best example, as I’m pretty sure that Burnley got pumped that game, so it may have just been a poor strategy In general and in FM. I also think that the line in the picture is too high for my liking. 

But my point was more to demonstrate that it’s really not so common at all to use a Dline just outside your box across a whole match, let alone a season. Defensive teams are more likely to have a very low loe while keeping a standard line. And I wanted to find a Burnley game as they seem to be assumed to use low blocks a lot.

Edited by Jack722
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This season Burnley rarely play the low-block style they were famous for in previous seasons (except for certain periods in a match when they want to preserve a result they are satisfied with). Nor do they now insist on long-ball football anywhere near as much as they once did. 

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  • 8 months later...

First of all, my english is bad. But I'll try my best to give you some info.


Let put it this way, no matter how good your formation and tactic, your opponent can use the same exact tactic too right? And then it will always go down to who has the better players, correct? That's what Guardiola mean.


This is the situation where Low Block come in handy and u should use it only for this situation: Great inferiority in qualities of the players. Never use Low Block for your main strategy. Even Simeone's side won possession and defend higher up too when facing relatively inferior team. Actually they're pretty good at playing attacking football and got some skills.


Now if you found a situation where the chance of winning really thin no matter what you do, then you must use Low Block. It's the only choice left and you'll be forced to use it, doesn't matter you like it or not.


Low Block main trait is to defend deep, congested central area of your box (defend narrower), slightly left spaces out wide and slightly let the opponent crosses more but make sure you always ready to win the final ball (mostly with a jumping header), it will be lot of physical clash, agility, balance and strength will be tested. Frustate and outnumber them in your own box.


You will be under pressure for most of the time and that's natural, because you're playing defensive football with lower defensive line! This is the purpose of it, so it's not right to hope for another outcome. The frustated opponent more likely forced to shoot from distance. Beware of it and closing down their central midfielders fast.


The main aim of Low Block is to force a draw. But no team in the world can defend for 90 minutes nonstop without making mistakes or lapse of concentration. To lower this probability, you need to run down the clock by wasting time. You can only waste so much portion of  time so you'll need to make possession by passing the ball around too.


Nobody satisfied with only a draw right? Now why don't we raise out chance of winning even by a really small amount and consider it as a bonus.


You can utilize fast direct counter attack (fast tempo and more direct passing) to catch your opponent off guard when they're really focus on attacking and left spaces behind. Don't forget to utilize your set pieces to the fullest. Make every setpieces count. Direct-Indirect FKs, Corners, Throw Ins, etc. Instruct your players to seek for the set pieces.


My final conclusion on the Lower Defensive Line: It's not lose button as long as you only use it when you have to and your team really understand (trained) how to utilize it.




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