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I have drawn my inspiration for this post from Massimiliano Allegri after reading his UEFA Pro thesis which he completed in Coverciano, the Italian coaching school.

Six time Scudetto winner Allegri, distinguishes himself from others by basing his tactics on available players, rather than recruiting players to fit tactics, Magnus is no different.


The Central Structure

The midfield trio can be set up in two different ways, either with a deeper lying player (low director), which I will refer to in this piece as ‘top down’.

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The alternative structure of the centre of the field is to flip the triangle on its head in favour for an advanced playmaker, again this will be referred to as ‘top up’.

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The technical and tactical attributes of the three midfielders must be very different depending on whether you choose to play with your top up or down.

Requirements of playing top down

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The number 4, “director”

Ideally the individual must have score high in the following attributes;

  1. Good technique, the director will operate as the metronome of the side and will need to ensure that they can complete a higher number more challenging passes or long balls.
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2. An excellent sense of positioning, often the director will drop in to act as defensive cover, this attribute will help to ensure he is always in the right place to pick up interceptions and break up the oppositions counter. In an attacking sense, high scoring positioning will enable him to find space and act as a reference point during the attack.

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The number 8

I see the perfect 8 as being the engine of the trio, ideally the individual must score high in the following attributes;

  1. An excellent work rate and stamina, the level of physical demands on the 8 is higher than that of the 4 or 10 as his role will need him to expend high levels of energy when not in possession of the ball.
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Wylan Cyprien (8)

2. Anticipation, in order to predict the movements of the opposition and other actions of his team mates, this sound ability to read the game will help for the 8 to become a real enforcer.

3. Tackling, the ability to strip the opposition of the ball and then distribute to one of the playmakers to hit the opposition during the transitional phase.

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Although the number 8 has less technical qualities than the number 10, he must also be able to have an influence on the game in the attacking third and a stronger physical presence is also desirable.

The number 10

To the uninitiated, the ‘number 10’ in football is that archetypal player who links midfield with attack, floating between the two and becoming the playmaker of the side. He must have the ability to control the game and be within and without everything that happens going forward for the team, ideally the 10 will score high in the following attributes;

  1. Dribbling, the ability to jump from the midfield with the ball at feet will enable you to create numerical superiority
  2. Vision, the ability to perfectly execute the killer pass
  3. Long shot, in order to not only contribute in terms of chance creation but to also possess a threat to the opposition within the final third.
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Requirements of playing with the top up

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When you play with the trio set up with an attacking midfielder, the characteristics of all midfielders in question are completely different to those mentioned above, playing with the top up, the midfield two are fundamental for the balance of the team.

The duo should never vacate the centre of the pitch, they can accompany the action but should never be found above the line of the ball, in both attack and even more so defence.

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Above, you can see an image that shows us both players with the arrows depicting the subtle differences in their movement and actions. One is the more defensive player (4) whilst the other has the licence both to drop deeper to progress play and burst forward, offering support to the attacking line (8).

The number 10

The playmaker or the attacking midfielder, this individual will have minor defensive duties and will need to score high on the following attributes;

  1. Off the ball, the player will need to move and offer himself as a passing option, he will be the reference point for attacks. Often popping up in space between the oppositions midfield and defence.
  2. Dribbling, again essential to help create a numerical superiority.
  3. Technique, he must posses the ability to perform more challenging technical actions when on the ball
  4. Flair, the ability to attempt unexpected actions when on the ball.

The Advantages of playing with the top down

Playing with the top down when in possession of the ball offers you greater offensive options, the added security of the director enables your midfield due to support in attacks and provide support to overload the opposition within the final third.

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An example of this can be seen in the above image which highlights how the opposition can be breached from the channels, the ball sitting with the 7 who plays the ball inside to the DLF who then lays the ball off to the 10. Due to the defensive cover supplied by the 4, the 10 can now either play the pass down the channel into space for the 11 or the 8.

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Another example of how the top down structure can aid internal and external penetration is highlighted above, here the ball is with the 11 which, after checking his run plays the ball infield to the DLF who quickly lays the ball off for the 10 making a run into the vacant space in behind. From here the 10 has three options he can play a key pass to either the 8 or the 7 supporting the attack from the opposite side of play or attempt a shot on goal himself.

Advantages of playing with the top up

This structure, despite many thinking offers more attacking options actually has more defensive characteristics as the 4 and 8 are needed to provide the cover for the back four. In order for the manager playing top down to have a greater attacking impact he will need either one or two full-backs to provide the offensive support.

This top up structure is more effective when attacking a team who operate with a deeper defensive line, with the wide players operating slightly lower to attempt to force the defender to pull out of his defensive line and then open up penetrative passing lanes or space in the wide channel.

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The above image shows how the ball can be manipulated in order to create space in the wide channel, here the ball starts with the 3 who plays the pass to the 8 which is lowered. The ball is then shifted to the right hand half-space which the (RMD/IW) has taken up his position, here the ball can be given to the 10 who uses his ability to play a ball to the advancing 2 who can hit a cross to the 9 the 11 (front and back post)or even the 10 if he advances to the edge of the box for a driven shot.

How the role will be implemented on FM21

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L'anchois et Les Aigles deux.fmf L'anchois et Les Aigles.fmf

Edited by MattyLewis11
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