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Total Football: Part 2- Applying Johan Cruyff to FM

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Total Football on Football Manager


After reading a few articles about football styles that changed the game, I decided I wanted to create Total Football tactics and use it playing with Ajax.  My first choice was do I go with Rinus Michels 433 (1333) of the 70s, Johan Cruyff's 343 of the 80s or the modern 4231 of Erik ten Hag.


Recently I posted a thread about how I applied Rinus Michels principles to Football Manager. This time I am going for Cruyff’s 343.

Rinus Michels played under Jack Reynolds at Ajax in the 1940s, he implemented a Total Football Style. In 1965 Rinus Michels then became the manager of Ajax and reworked the system which featured Johan Cruyff as roaming centre forward, positional switching and the creation and use of space.


After Retirement Johan Cruyff followed his mentor Michels footsteps and managed both Ajax and Barcelona as Michels did. He joined Ajax as manager in 1985 before moving to former club Barcelona in 1988.

Cruyff used also used the Total Football system, but like Michels again reworked the system. He wanted a diamond in midfield because of the angles it created, but he felt a 41212 sacrificed too much width and would force the wide central midfielders to cover the wide areas and would lead to the collapse of the diamond.


In an era of 442 Cruyff believed having 4 defenders against 2 forwards was a waste so he chose to use 3 defenders and play a 343 diamond. This gave him a 7vs8  which allowed his players to win and keep possession higher up the pitch and still have width.

He used 3 mobile defenders plus a defensive midfielder covering space. The Central player of the 3 players would sit deeper and act like Libero/Sweeper giving the team 2 natural diamonds. The two wide defenders would then need to be able to cover wider areas.

Between Michels and Cruyff using Total Football they won 3 European Cups, Ajax also used the system winning the Champions League in 1995 and ten Hag takes influence from them both, although he generally uses a 4231 the principles are pretty much the same.

In the previous thread I outlined the principles I wanted to apply to FM and possible weaknesses. I will do the same again, the principles are pretty much the same, just the shape changed.

New Principles

  • A fluid 343 with the possibility of any player advancing.

  • Positional Switching, particularly amongst the wide players.

  • A Roaming Attacking Midfielder who can come deep to form a diamond.

  • High pressing line to keep opponents in their half.

  • Winning the ball in the opponents half.

  • Wide Defenders are mobile and cover wide areas

  • Offside trap to reduce the playable area.

Possible Weaknesses

  • High Defensive Line could leave them vulnerable to counter attacks.

  • Lack of Defenders could leave gaps and could leave them vulnerable to counter attacks.

  • Requires players to have certain attributes.



The Tactic

Out of Possession

When I create a tactic I always start with Out of Possession. As I already know exactly how to achieve these principles listed, it's a good place to start. I went with a Higher Defensive Line, a Higher Line of Engagement and Use Offside Trap. I felt that a much higher defensive line would be unnecessary and too risky, and the offside trap will help to push the team up in the press. I don't mess with pressing intensity slider, having more or extremely urgent pressing intensity leads to players being pulled out of position. I'm using a positive mentality so this will set the default pressing intensity as Slightly More Urgent and this is fine combined with the use of PIs. I will ask my wingers to close down more, creating a split block. I will also use pressing OIs on the opposition defenders. I'm using a wide Defensive width so the wide defenders cover the wide areas, if the opponent try's to play out from the back the wingers will cover wide areas forcing the ball into the middle where it is congested. 


This setup will now allow me to keep opponents in their half, win the ball and reduce the oppositions playable area like I wanted.

In Transition

To continue on from out of possession, I also wanted the players to immediately press if they lose the ball so obviously I am going with Counter Press. 

I left the 'when possession has been won' instruction blank, I felt the counter caused my team to rush forward too much (still get counters without it) and hold shape combined with my tempo was a too slow build up. Neither works for me on this occasion.

If asked the GK to Distribute to Centre-Backs so that the CBs drop deeper which can allow the DM to also come deep to receive the ball from the GK in the start of the build up.



In Possession

I heard Cruyff say in an interview that the best way you can help him is by moving away from him, as he liked to go 1v1 against defenders, this is something Cruyff liked his players to do over the years. I initially had the attacking width on fairly wide but have found using Wide allowed the team to find more space to receive the ball and pull the defenders wider. This also allows them to be able to go 1v1 against opponents whilst team mates move into space and offer passing options.

Ajax built up play from the back so Play Out Of Defence is a natural choice and will combine well with the Distribute to Centre-Backs.

I am using Overlaps to decrease the mentality to decrease the mentality of the wingers, and increase the likelihood of the ball being moved out wide into space.

I wanted the players to take their time in the build up and find the correct pass so I went with a Lower Tempo. At first I used short passing, it works okay with the right players but at times it can be difficult to progress up the pitch. More direct Passing combined with the lower tempo and width works very nicely, the sort passes still happen but now they do better at finding the players in space.  I also want cut backs so I am using Low Crosses and I am using Be More Expressive to encourage the positional switching.


Team Shape & Player Roles


As you can see I have gone for a 343 Diamond.

As I already had created the 433 tactic It was a case of adjusting the tactic to the shape. From the 433 I was happy with the GK and the midfield set up, with the defender missing I adjusted the DLP to a defend duty.

The next thing was the Front two, I really liked using a Trequartista in the 433 as I wanted him to drop in and roam but still attack the box, I wanted the role again however this time I used him as an AM in combination with the F9. The Treq drops into midfield and acts like another playmaker and the F9 can drop into to offer a passing option. In the final third the Treq will move forward and the F9 drops back which gives more positional switching making marking your players difficult.

The hardest thing and the tactics biggest risk was the defensive set up. I tried BPDs but didn't offer enough width for my liking and the shape wasn't right, looked like a 3-1 at bottom and I wanted a 1-3 (hope that makes sense). Both wing backs and full backs are to wide. IWB on defend works perfectly for me, they move into the half space in the build up phase giving me the shape I want and plenty of passing options. They will also make forward runs.

If you wanted to use BPDs I would use stoppers so they come out wide to engage the attackers, you could add traits like brings the ball out of defence to get those forwards runs occasionally.

I think getting the right defenders is going to be biggest challenge, you'll need a wing back/bpd/DLP type player. When searching I generally look for the IWB highlighted attributes plus i add heading and jumping reach. 

I know I said about a libero, but that or BPD are a bit risky, you can try it, but you need a BPD who is good, if they bring the ball out and lose it your likely to be in trouble. A CD works better on the Game. 

Roles (no instructions unless stated otherwise)

Sweeper Keeper (Support)

Inverted Wing Back (Defend)

Central Defender (Defend)

Inverted Wing Back (Defend)

Deep Playing Playmaker (Defend)


Shape in build up play. There is diamond and plenty of width


Mezzala (Support)

Advanced Playmaker (Support) More Direct Passes Traits advisable, Killer Balls etc 

Winger (Support) Close Down More Should also have trait Cuts Inside

Trequartista (Attack)

Winger (Support) Close Down More Should also have trait Cuts Inside

False 9 (Support)


Defensive Shape as the opposition try's to play out of defence

As you can see my Trequartista is pressing


Hope you enjoy it, its risky but fun to play with. I use it a long side with my 433 in my Ajax save and work well together. Sontje Hansen is doing well currently in the AM ST or W roles, scored 16 in 19 games so far in season 5

If have any ideas on alternate ways of playing the tactic or you see something different if you have done research please comment.  This is just how I interrupted the system from the research I did so happy to hear suggestions. My main aim is always just to keep getting better and finding new ways to enjoy the game.

Ill make a video for this soon.

Thinking be good to go from Michels-Cruyff-Guardiola, so will probably do a Pep Barce tactic soon. Have Gasperini 5212 and working on Conte 532 so will get them up soon as well. I have a Flick Tactic but Bust the Nets is better so would say watch his video and try that instead.





Cruyff Total Football 343.fmf

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  • 4 weeks later...
  • 3 weeks later...
9 hours ago, markv1 said:

Whats the results for this tactic?

Do u play CB or WB in the LB/RB role, given theres only 1 CB roie?

Pretty good but only use domestically or some CL group games, I use the 433 more, its safer and not been brave enough to try in late stages of CL. I like changing if struggling to break down defensive teams, the extra man up top helps. I was few season in when created this so my players have suitable attributes.

Ideally Id want players who can do both. If got use Wober on the left and Ki-Jana Hoever on right. Both are Natural at WB and CB. 

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