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Flexible switching between a 3 and 4 men backline


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Hey there everybody,

I'm here to talk to you about a tactical solution that has been pretty common in modern football, but seems to be quite hard to replicate in Football Manager. I'm talking about systems that build up play with 3 at the back, but defend with a 4 men backline.

Some IRL examples

What you might think of immediately is the "Salida lavolpiana", which is of course easy to implement: you have a half back or a playmaker (with the "pass it the ball to the playmaker" instruction on), who will drop between the centerbacks and allow the 3 men build-up to happen. Also, the wingbacks can push up higher up the pitch, allowing to kind of replicate Pep Guardiola's build up in his Barca days (before inverted full backs were common).

However, what I am referring to is something used, for example, by Massimiliano Allegri at Juve in his 15/16 and, mostly, 16/17 season, with the latter leading to a Champions League final. This last year, Juve bought Dani Alves, who formed a wingback partnership with Alex Sandro (on the other flank). Now, in order to obtain defensive solidity and fully exploit Bonucci's capabilities (his great ability to build up but subpar marking), Allegri resorted to something between a 4-4-2 and a 3-5-2.

For reference, this is the starting lineup of that unlucky night in Cardiff:

cardiff_lineup.png.fdea8f77cf26f357d0f2b229ba7d1a59.png

This is basically, more or less, how the team would position when defending. Juve would form two 4-men lines, with Alves and Mandzukic coming down to defend in the midfield line.

When building up play, Alex Sandro would push high up the pitch, while Barzagli, Bonucci and Chiellini would form the signature BBC 3-men defense line, with Bonucci acting almost as a libero.

My attempt

What I thought of, when trying to implement this tactic, was to have the following defensive line:

WB(s) BPD(d) BPD(c) FB(d)

I also added a "stay wider" instruction to the LCB and a "stay narrower" instruction to the RB, along with "go high up whenever possible" to my LB.

What ended up happening, however, was quite disappointing. The backline would still act as a 3 men backline even in possession, with the FBs staying both higher than the 2 CBs, and the RB still joining the attack from time to time. Ultimately, I had to resort to a midfielder coming down between the CBs, when pressed.

Now, I tried some other solutions (e.g.: an asymmetric defense with 3 CBs and a LB, which ended up creating holes in the right flank) but to no avail.

Is there really no way to have this kind of hybrid 3/4 men defense?

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3 hours ago, Ledz96 said:

My attempt

What I thought of, when trying to implement this tactic, was to have the following defensive line:

WB(s) BPD(d) BPD(c) FB(d)

I also added a "stay wider" instruction to the LCB and a "stay narrower" instruction to the RB, along with "go high up whenever possible" to my LB.

What ended up happening, however, was quite disappointing. The backline would still act as a 3 men backline even in possession, with the FBs staying both higher than the 2 CBs, and the RB still joining the attack from time to time. Ultimately, I had to resort to a midfielder coming down between the CBs, when pressed.

Now, I tried some other solutions (e.g.: an asymmetric defense with 3 CBs and a LB, which ended up creating holes in the right flank) but to no avail.

Is there really no way to have this kind of hybrid 3/4 men defense?

You should post a screenshot of the whole tactic (rather than just the back four), because roles interact with one another. Therefore, one same role can - and will - behave differently in different types of tactical setup.

On top of that, player traits will always affect the behavior of a player, regardless of his role. For example, if your RB/FB(d) has a trait such as "Gets forward whenever possible" or anything to that effect, he will look to join attack as he sees fit, no matter what. 

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3 ore fa, Experienced Defender ha scritto:

You should post a screenshot of the whole tactic (rather than just the back four), because roles interact with one another. Therefore, one same role can - and will - behave differently in different types of tactical setup.

On top of that, player traits will always affect the behavior of a player, regardless of his role. For example, if your RB/FB(d) has a trait such as "Gets forward whenever possible" or anything to that effect, he will look to join attack as he sees fit, no matter what. 

So, first of all, here's a screenshot of my tactic at this moment:

immagine.thumb.png.7158009c6d50b9e83a379dcaf318afc1.png

As you can see, Pavard is the right back/right center back. Of course, he doesn't have PPMs that brings him that much out of the defense, while that space should be filled by Milinkovic-Savic (even though he's mostly in the half space). A similar scheme works also with Pogba as a left Mezzala, a conservative LB and an offensive RB.

This has been successful so far, even if the build up ends up working with Tonali dropping between the CBs. I haven't tried this same setup with a double pivot system yet, and that actually is what interests me the most.

But ideally it should work here as well, during the build up: Pogba dropping down when needed, Tonali drifting to the right, and the 'M' scheme forming like this:

Pogba Tonali
Romagnoli Bonucci Pavard

When defending, it would be interesting to form a 4-4-2 with Pogba drifting on the left and Zaniolo joining the midfielders on the right, right after the first seconds of intense pressing brought by the front 3.

I tried something like shifting Zaniolo to the right (still as a AM) and Dybala to the center, but to no avail.

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image.thumb.png.9fe11d33a0026b9eba4e802a792caa6f.png

image.thumb.png.bd127a49a1ab92dd3f0e5e732609418a.png

image.thumb.png.833dd8275d2faa8d912c60c648de6d5c.png

image.thumb.png.e2c50f65e1ddef11dd4695859a7bca95.png

image.thumb.png.99664155e5ec5a9a49ec666778f9cc7b.png

image.thumb.png.311353ba4a0292f6d2a33086fa56a187.png

image.png.209e1baab62aca150c838ada1fe14ebd.png

image.png.d056b95c431fbc83fd6a426d2859b6aa.png

image.png.e001ebd4245b2845ecb96631db3bf404.png

image.png.8bc93cf92d0723763cfa75d84a1ec04a.png

image.png.c70ef5d62f678fb66751b77f27fdab4c.png

 

The masterpiece I put together in 10 minutes :D

Obviously can toy with roles like RPM or SV instead of REG, Libero in the middle (tho that clashes with RPM/REG, works with SV).

Edited by rosque
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15 hours ago, Ledz96 said:

immagine.thumb.png.7158009c6d50b9e83a379dcaf318afc1.png

Wait a minute... this is the narrow 442 diamond (and not optimally balanced at that). Whereas the formation in your first post was the 4231

 

23 hours ago, Ledz96 said:

cardiff_lineup.png.fdea8f77cf26f357d0f2b229ba7d1a59.png

Anyway, if you want to use a narrow formation, I fear that you are hardly going to get a fullback to behave the way you want him to, because he will be naturally inclined to move into vacant space on his flank. Short passing and high D-line won't help, either. 

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16 ore fa, rosque ha scritto:

The masterpiece I put together in 10 minutes :D

Obviously can toy with roles like RPM or SV instead of REG, Libero in the middle (tho that clashes with RPM/REG, works with SV).

So, concerning this, I tried something similar in the past: shifting Pavard to RCB and playing without RB. As you probably have seen from your own experiment, what happens is that, once you have the ball again, the RCB still acts as a CB, basically leaving holes in the right flank. In build up it's perfect, of course, but you don't get the defensive solidity of a back 4 (nor of a back 5).

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Thats why you put close down more and also yu can put pressing intensity on OI on the wingers on that side.

I had one or two chnces created playing against middle of the table team on my right side but otherwise it was fine.

I do wonder what guys like @Experienced Defender think of the tactic

Edited by rosque
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3 ore fa, Experienced Defender ha scritto:

Wait a minute... this is the narrow 442 diamond (and not optimally balanced at that). Whereas the formation in your first post was the 4231

 

Anyway, if you want to use a narrow formation, I fear that you are hardly going to get a fullback to behave the way you want him to, because he will be naturally inclined to move into vacant space on his flank. Short passing and high D-line won't help, either. 

Yes, what I posted is, like, the thousand's iteration of an experiment, the one that ended up giving me the best results (winning the champions league with a crazy goal difference and dominating basically every match).

However, my post here is just to try and find out if there's a way to switch between a 4 and 3 men defense freely in this game, without resorting to the DM/CM dropping deep.

For example, how would you organize players so that, after losing the ball and not managing to win it back through the first pressing (done by players close to the ball), they lineup like this?

Mbappe Dybala
Pogba Tonali Milinkovic Zaniolo
Pellegrini Romagnoli Bonucci Pavard

Also considering that, for example, I'd like Zaniolo to act like a Shadow Striker when the team has the ball?

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6 minuti fa, rosque ha scritto:

Thats why you put close down more and also yu can put pressing intensity on OI on the wingers on that side.

I had one or two chnces created playing against middle of the table team on my right side but otherwise it was fine.

I do wonder what guys like @Experienced Defender think of the tactic

I played a couple of matches with something fairly similar (I did not however put the "close down more" instruction) at the beginning of the season, and the results were not stellar. Not terrible, but far from what I got after I adjusted it again to a back 4.

immagine.thumb.png.e4283f340c503e3554cce7191b68145d.png

Sure, this is a "messing around" save where I play multiple teams (also Ajax) just for the hell of it, and exploit delations in payment and unrealistic moves (Higuain won the Balon d'Or and was bought for ~90M)  to build a dream team. So results are definitely not because of an unbeatable tactic. But switching Pavard back to FB at the beginning of the season made quite a difference (8 goals conceded in 5 matches vs 4 in 16 matches).

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Except close down more is a must if you want to use fake FB in dcr spot. When you do not use close down more and/or OI pressing intensity of course he will act as center back! Try out the exact same tactic I posted. Everything same, don't change stuff and see how it plays

Edited by rosque
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1 hour ago, rosque said:

I do wonder what guys like @Experienced Defender think of the tactic

I personally never use asymmetric formations and hence don't feel competent enough to comment on them. And if the tactic works for you, then my opinion is completely irrelevant anyway ;) :thup: 

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1 hour ago, Ledz96 said:

For example, how would you organize players so that, after losing the ball and not managing to win it back through the first pressing (done by players close to the ball), they lineup like this?

Mbappe Dybala
Pogba Tonali Milinkovic Zaniolo
Pellegrini Romagnoli Bonucci Pavard

Also considering that, for example, I'd like Zaniolo to act like a Shadow Striker when the team has the ball?

Really tough question, I have to admit, especially the Zaniolo part. Maybe - but just maybe - I would try something like this (in terms of roles and duties at least):

AF      F9

IWsu    CMde    DLPsu    WMat

FBat    BPDde   CDde      FBde

But again - I am not confident at all that it would work the way you hope. 

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23 minuti fa, Experienced Defender ha scritto:

Really tough question, I have to admit, especially the Zaniolo part. Maybe - but just maybe - I would try something like this (in terms of roles and duties at least):

AF      F9

IWsu    CMde    DLPsu    WMat

FBat    BPDde   CDde      FBde

But again - I am not confident at all that it would work the way you hope. 

I did try something like that, although with a WB(s) instead of FB(a) and BBM instead of CMde. The problem was with Zaniolo staying definitely too wide all the time, and not getting in the middle switching place with Dybala.

SS is a tricky role, because it often does exactly what I want offensively, but then is defensively lacking. In this case I'd want him to defend as a RM, but in the case of Ajax's 4231 (very similar to Ten Hag's), for example, I'd like Van de Beek to be the first man to press and then drop and defend as a CM. With Ajax I also can't replicate Frenkie dropping as a LCB and Blind drifting to the right as a CB (with De Ligt being the RCB): De Jong only drops in between the CBs unfortunately.

I have to admit that I definitely like way too much the idea of players moving around and filling each other's positions in offense (some form of positional play, but maybe a tiny bit more structured), but then sticking to a more traditional defensive approach if the pressing doesn't regain you the ball. Which doesn't seem to feasible in FM (along with the normal positional play, which I had a lot of trouble trying to replicate).

Anyway, thanks for your help!

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I've tried/trying something similar with a flat 4-4-2 becoming a narrow diamond in possession to varying success.

I would say that such intricate positional swapping is difficult to replicate in FM without roles that are specifically created to do this (e.g. IWB defending as a FB/WB but attacking as a DM/CM).

Currently I use an IWB-D on one side and a DLP-D on the opposite side of central midfield (e.g. right central midfield and LB or vice versa. This creates more of a box shaped defence in position, but it does still create a 3 man back line of sorts when we are being countered.

Say for example this us our setup:

AF-A   F9-S

W-S   CM-A   DLP-D   IW-A

IWB-D   CD-D   CD-D   WB-S

SK-S

Say hypothetically the opposition are countering down our left, my left sided central defender will funnel out to press the opposition winger and my IWB-D will drop back in. Similarly the IWB may move out wide and the CD will stay central. So this isn't quite what you (or me) are after, but its been a successful compromise for me as not only does it situationally allow for the three man defence, the defensive box also provides really good defensive cover and ball recycling options.

Hopefully this helps and gives you some food for thought

Cheers

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