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A 4-3-3 for You and Me!!! (New Update - Roles and Duties)


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My two pennies worth:

433 is a great formation because it's easy to split the team into two units: one behind the ball in possession, and one in front of it in possesssion. 

5-5 and 4-6 are the most common splits. This should be enough to protect you against counters and control the game while also having a strong attacking presence. 

Where some might start having problems is when they overcommit attacking players. If you have a 3-7 split for example, you'll be more vulnerable on the counter and less effective in attack because of a lack of depth. Most set-ups like this will depend on the quality of your team.

Deep blocks and an isolated striker are issues for teams mostly playing on higher tempos and narrower width settings. Lower tempo and wider width will help you move those deep blocks around and give time for players to come up in support. 

 

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3 hours ago, coach vahid said:

Good writing. Pleasant to read.

If I may... Keep it up. 

There will probably be a bit of time between posts, but I’ll keep going a bit at a time...

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2 hours ago, Jaye said:

My two pennies worth:

433 is a great formation because it's easy to split the team into two units: one behind the ball in possession, and one in front of it in possesssion. 

5-5 and 4-6 are the most common splits. This should be enough to protect you against counters and control the game while also having a strong attacking presence. 

Where some might start having problems is when they overcommit attacking players. If you have a 3-7 split for example, you'll be more vulnerable on the counter and less effective in attack because of a lack of depth. Most set-ups like this will depend on the quality of your team.

Deep blocks and an isolated striker are issues for teams mostly playing on higher tempos and narrower width settings. Lower tempo and wider width will help you move those deep blocks around and give time for players to come up in support. 

 

The 5-5, 4-6, 3-7 split is a nice, simple way of thinking about it! You're also right about the 3-7 split.  It can work, but you need to have a very strong team with a lot of varied passing and movement or else you'll just be pounding against a brick wall while remaining totally open the counter.

I have a different way of breaking down low blocks, but the low tempo + wide width makes a lot of sense.

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Yeah, you can go about it in different ways.

Low tempo/wide is all about moving blocks from side to side with switches of play. It's good if your team is technical and intelligent.

But you can also brute force it as well. Lots of dribbling, crosses, and numbers in the box. 

Both are viable. I prefer the low tempo option because it results in fewer accidents.

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Posted (edited)
12 minutes ago, Jaye said:

Yeah, you can go about it in different ways.

Low tempo/wide is all about moving blocks from side to side with switches of play. It's good if your team is technical and intelligent.

But you can also brute force it as well. Lots of dribbling, crosses, and numbers in the box. 

Both are viable. I prefer the low tempo option because it results in fewer accidents.

You’re definitely right about the later, but I’m okay with some accidents sometimes!  Brute force is sometimes an option, but I like to use  varied movement and to either pull defenders out of position or to give wide open shots from the edge of the area if no one comes out to close down. 
I’ll go into more detail in later posts, but I’ll be curious to get your thoughts!

Edited by 13th Man
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17 hours ago, Jaye said:

My two pennies worth:

433 is a great formation because it's easy to split the team into two units: one behind the ball in possession, and one in front of it in possesssion. 

5-5 and 4-6 are the most common splits. This should be enough to protect you against counters and control the game while also having a strong attacking presence. 

Where some might start having problems is when they overcommit attacking players. If you have a 3-7 split for example, you'll be more vulnerable on the counter and less effective in attack because of a lack of depth. Most set-ups like this will depend on the quality of your team.

Deep blocks and an isolated striker are issues for teams mostly playing on higher tempos and narrower width settings. Lower tempo and wider width will help you move those deep blocks around and give time for players to come up in support. 

 

Can you explain a little more. I find with lower tempo play too sterilne and with more width fullbacks become too involved which leads to milion blocked crosses and corners. I know lower mentality, underlaps and cross less helps a little but otherwise I am clueless about low tempo wide width combination and would love to hear your thoughts.

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In so far as tempo is concerned,  I tend to think of it as an expression (at least in part) of how much time a player spends on the ball before moving it on (or otherwise doing something with it). By lowering the tempo, you're giving your players more time on the ball and potentially increasing the chance that they pick out the pass that unlocks the stubborn block. 

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Posted (edited)

@Mitja To  me tempo is a very much contextual instruction in any possession-focused formation like 4-3-3. That is I will always start the match with tempo at default and then adjust according to opposition. So if I am playing a superior or equal side that is pressing me hard then I will increase tempo one notch to reduce the chance of them stealing the ball. Simply because my players will spend less time with it before passing. On the other hand if opposition is sitting back and not closing down my ball-carriers aggressively then I will lower the tempo one notch in hopes of getting that perfect pass to unlock their defence. That's it. Pretty simple

Likewise width is contextual too. I would not change width from default unless playing against a defensive side packing the middle. Then increasing width will help in creating more space. 

 

 

Edited by crusadertsar
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On 12/05/2021 at 18:37, Jaye said:

Yeah, you can go about it in different ways.

Low tempo/wide is all about moving blocks from side to side with switches of play. It's good if your team is technical and intelligent.

But you can also brute force it as well. Lots of dribbling, crosses, and numbers in the box. 

Both are viable. I prefer the low tempo option because it results in fewer accidents.

Thank you again your posts really opened my eyes. Wide width looks to be crucial for opening channels and bringing inside forwards into play. New dimension opened for me. Of course crossing works better too. Thanks.

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On 13/05/2021 at 04:23, crusadertsar said:

@Mitja To  me tempo is a very much contextual instruction in any possession-focused formation like 4-3-3. That is I will always start the match with tempo at default and then adjust according to opposition. So if I am playing a superior or equal side that is pressing me hard then I will increase tempo one notch to reduce the chance of them stealing the ball. Simply because my players will spend less time with it before passing. On the other hand if opposition is sitting back and not closing down my ball-carriers aggressively then I will lower the tempo one notch in hopes of getting that perfect pass to unlock their defence. That's it. Pretty simple

Likewise width is contextual too. I would not change width from default unless playing against a defensive side packing the middle. Then increasing width will help in creating more space. 

 

 

I can see where you're coming from here.  I'm all about fast tempo, so I almost always keep it a notch above default unless I'm trying to protect a lead and want to smother the game with possession.  I never want to let the opposition get comfortable, which is why I keep the tempo up.  It doesn't always work out, and it might not even be the right move, but that's how I want/like my team to play.

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Two inside forwards? Two BPDs?  What are you thinking?

I planned to do all this over at least one more post, but it’s all so intertwined that I couldn’t quite figure out how to do it, so here it all is - roles and duties with a dash of team building thrown in.

 

In this post, I’ll go over the roles and duties and the basics of how they interact with the general TI’s, plus the player movement. Here’s the full tactic just to save a bit on scrolling.

 

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Overload and Isolation

Before going into the nitty gritty of the roles and duties, I want to point out a key element of this tactic - kudos to @sixpointer for the language - this tactic has an overload side and an isolation side.  In this case, the left is the overload side [with WB + Mez + IF(s) all operating in close proximity] and the right is the isolation side [IF(a) high with the CM(s) sitting deeper].  The theory behind this is that you can have a variety of ways of attacking depending on what the opposition gives you.  I’ll get more into how each of these works, but the general idea is that if the opposition shift to the overload side they leave themselves open for switches of play and/or 1v1 opportunities on the isolation side. If the defence holds its shape and you can outnumber them on the overload side.  For this reason, I didn’t find that focus play down left was very useful, as my tactic actually looks to score down the right by pulling players left - as you’ll see later.

 

One note - I’ll talk a little about transfers here as I go through the “current” squad, but won’t go into great depth.  I might at another time if there’s any interest. Looking back, I’m surprised at how much I was able to spend, but I was actually tending to only spend a bit more than I brought in, at least until I paid a lot for Oyarzabal in the third year of the save (21/22).  I also have not checked out any of these players in fm21 as I’ve been managing a Livorno team that has been playing in the Italian lower leagues and I just got them up to Serie A.

Roles and Duties

Defensive Unit


The defense must find the balance between keeping its shape (even as the wingbacks contribute a lot to the attack, serving as the only true width) and being aggressive in not allowing opposition to get any easy long balls out of their half. I try to do this by using relatively conservative TIs (for a high line type tactic) but using aggressive players.

 

Goalkeeper - Sweeper Keeper (defend)

 

With my high line and aggressive players, I do need my keeper to come out on occasion, but I don’t want him feeling quite like an 11th outfield player/playmaker extraordinaire.  On defend duty, but with the distribute quickly and be more expressive TI’s, he’ll still start counters or find an open man in the midfield, but I prefer for my CBs and WBs to hit the long balls when they’re on rather than my keeper.

 

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Though I stuck with Angus Gunn for the first two years (in real life he seems a bit #@$% but in the game he was solid) but with my transfer budget 

 

Fullbacks - Wingbacks (support)

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With both wide forwards cutting inside, the wingbacks are the width, and as such they need to push forward to support attacks. The fullback role is too conservative (oddly, it worked well in fm19 I found, but not fm20).  Yet with this tactic using both wide forwards as forwards and not wingers, they also can’t just bomb ahead with reckless abandon. They usually end up about halfway into the opposition half in the build up, only crashing forward when the opportunity arises - and the wingback on the other flank will stay a bit deeper to keep some numbers back for cover. 

  • Stay wider instruction is to make sure they keep the width

  • Close down more is situational. The wingbacks can get overloaded so if I’m playing a good team with width I will turn this off. If I’m the favorite and am likely to just be facing the wingers in the buildup, it stays on.

 

I usually give both wingbacks the same PIs as I do like symmetry at the backline and wide width from both fullbacks.

 

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I picked up Castagne from Atalanta in the first winter transfer window (£11m) and he proved an excellent purchase.  Quick, well rounded, hard working, and determined he slotted right in as a starter.  He’s especially good at picking his times to go forward and finding space, but still solid enough defensively.  He is also comfortable on the left side, which occasionally proved valuable.

 

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Jan Valery is the backup rightback - he’s a solid, homegrown player that tends to get good ratings but I just can never quite trust him.  Part of it is that he’s not comfortable in big games (though he’s actually done well on occasion) but the other is that he lacks aggressiveness or bravery.  Still, he’s a Southampton product and he does well so I never felt the need to move him on or replace him.

 

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I bought Pellegrini from Juventus for £9.5m before the 20/21 season as a backup to the previous starter Bertrand.  He developed well and took Bertrand’s starting place before the end of the season. His aggressiveness in defence was especially appreciated as he often proactively attacked long balls to opposition wingers, and had enough about him to win a lot of those balls.  It was this aggressiveness that won him a place in the starting 11 - I found there were far more attacks down the left when Bertrand was on the pitch than when Pellegrini was even though the former had better defensive attributes at first glance.

 

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Centerbacks - Ball Playing Defenders (Defend)

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This is one spot in which this is not a possession tactic. While I obviously look for defensive skills, I also prefer my defenders to be good on the ball.  Along with usually building from the back, I want them to have the option and ability to hit a long ball over the top for the strikers/wide forwards to run onto when it’s on.  It will lead to loss of possession a lot of the time, but can also result in sudden goal scoring opportunities against somewhat deep block teams by hitting them in behind before they were fully set.  It also is just a take more risks PI meaning they’ll try to find a teammate even in a risky situation which can be good for keeping possession. If I have players that don’t have decent passing or vision, I will leave them as a standard CB(d).  In this team, though, both Prongracic and Mancini are excellent with the ball at their feet.

 

When looking at defenders, I want solid all around players, but they need to have some pace and aerial ability, and they need aggression.

 

The one element that I don’t like to give as a TI, but rather try to find players who naturally do this for me, is I want my central defenders to be aggressive in the air.  Not allowing low block teams get the ball to their (usually) single striker is crucial for protecting against counters, so I can’t have defenders with low aggression.  Across fm19 and fm20, I had several otherwise excellent defenders with low aggression that performed terribly in my system because they’d let the opposition win the first header and then they were in.  So while I don’t like adding PI’s for close down more or tackle harder I look for defenders who will aggressively attack the ball rather than letting it come to them. 

 

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Pongracic was an absolute monster for me in fm19, and he was really good for me in fm20 too. I didn’t expect to buy him again as he didn’t seem quite as good, but he was such good value (£15m) that I took a punt on him after my first year and he quickly commanded a place in my starting 11.  Along with his solid decision making abilities and anticipation his strength allowed him to muscle most players off the ball and his pace meant most attackers weren’t going to be able to blow by him either.  He was also very good on the ball and his passing was both crucial in the build up and got him a handful of assists every season.  In fm19 his passing attribute was 18, but even in fm20 he was a quality passer considering his position.

 

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Mancini was a big purchase for me in the offseason going into the third season (21/22), costing £37.5m, but he fit the bill perfectly and I had the money after some good sales and qualification for the Champions League.  He was aggressive, intelligent, hard working, very strong in the air, and solid on the ball as well as defensively sound.

 

The two of them together made an incredible duo, giving the rest of the team the ability to go forward knowing they had two solid, dependable players in the back.

 

Central Midfield 

 

This is where this tactic takes a lot from Klopp’s Liverpool set up. This is the engine room, and this tactic calls for hard workers. Obviously, passing is also important, but for the most part they need to be merely good at passing as their (and the forwards’) movement should allow players to find space in which to receive the ball.

 

Defensive Midfield - Deep Lying Playmaker

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This is the creative hub of the team and the cover for the backline.  He is the start of many attacks, and is always available to recycle possession or switch the flank by staying deep when the ball is in the final third.  First priority is a player that can pick a pass of any range and has the technique to pull them off.  He might lay it off to the more advanced central midfielders, or he might hit a 40 yard diagonal to an open inside forward.  He doesn't have to be super defensively sound, but he needs to be hard working, with plenty of stamina as he’ll often need to cover the wings in transition until the rest of the team can get into position.

 

In my first year the role was filled fairly well by James Ward-Prowse, but I was on the look out for someone to really do the role justice and allow Ward-Prowse to do his thing a bit higher up the pitch.  My scouts managed to unearth this little known young talent out of Italy that, after careful consideration, I decided to take a chance on...

 

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[In case it wasn’t obvious, yes that was a joke. Everyone and their mother knows about Tonali, and I tried to resist buying him, but he was the perfect player for the position in this 4-3-3 and he was so completely affordable when Brescia went right back down into Serie B, with a relegation release fee only £14m!  I couldn’t help myself when my scout came to me all proud of himself for “unearthing” this Italian youngster…]

 

Tonali is the perfect player for this position.  He’s excellent defensively, hard working, determined, quick, with lots of stamina, and an excellent passer of the ball. His player traits make the fit even better - this tactic is made for killer balls and long range passes, and his does not dive into tackles trait is very good for a player that’s meant to screen the defense and buy time rather than aggressively win the ball back - which he can also do with 14 tackling and 14 strength. [Side note - I haven’t seen him in fm21 and I know he’s with Milan now, but in fm20 it seems like he would have made the perfect libero. Great with the ball, good defensively, strong and also decent in the air...]

 

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Tonali’s backup/insurance in case a top team turns his head is 19 year old Marco Kana, brought in for £23m from at the beginning of the 21/22 season - he can serve as a backup center back too.  Like Tonali he’s smart, hard working, and good on the ball.

 

Right Central Midfield - Central Midfielder (Support)

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Depending on the player this position can be a box-to-box or sometimes a carrilero (though that can mess with the right side isolation) but its purpose in the team is to be the in-between player. They’ll be needed to track back quickly when possession is lost to protect the right flank, but also be available to support attacks. When deep in the opponents half, this player lurks outside the box ready for pull backs.  They either attract a defender and pull the opposition out of shape or lead to an open shot from distance.

 

In fm19, I also had this as a DLP, but it was too static (not to mention the issues with having two ball magnets so close together) so I switched it up in fm20 to bring more of a creative runner that could be a (small p) playmaker rather than a Playmaker. 

 

The role does not require dribbling ability or any great technical ability. This player will ideally be a very good passer but the most important part is a willingness and ability to run.  

 

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For example, though he’s very much a back-up by the third year, Harrison Reed fulfilled this role very well the first year, even scoring several crucial goals, despite being a very average footballer for a Premier League side.  He’s still a very capable and reliable backup and rotation option too.

 

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Mr. Southampton aka James Ward-Prowse plays this role to perfection. An incredibly hard working player with a good eye for a pass, he is the true engine room of the Southampton squad. He is often available in space as he’s asked to roam a bit, and is given the freedom to pick tricky passes when they're on. (Roam from position + take more risks) The fact that he does so well shows that this position doesn’t require incredible intelligence or skill, as Ward-Prowse is only average to below average in these categories.

 

Left Central Midfield - Mezzala (support)

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This is another runner, but with more forward thrust and menace. He is the string that connects up the left wingback, the left IF, and the CF, and is crucial to the left sided overload. Depending on the forward thrust I need, I’ll sometimes up his mentality to “attack”, but I usually find this less effective as he’ll push to far into an overcrowded box. Like the right sided CM, the mezzala is most effective lurking in dangerous positions in the channel, near the top of, or just outside the box, able to create or drive into the box to try and score themselves.

 

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I picked up Palacios in the first January transfer window for £6m (I was using the original database so he hadn’t moved to Germany yet) and he played the mezzala role for the better part of two years. He wasn’t as much of a goal or penetration threat, but his excellent passing and reading of the game made him very effective as a supporting mez, and while his ratings were often not great, he was crucial to the way the side attacked and he was missed when he went down with a serious injury for the last quarter of the 20/21 season. His defensive ability and work rate also made him very good at executing the split block and covering for the three true forwards in the formation.

 

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A massive deal when I finally went in for him and paid his £64m release fee in January of 2022. Now that Southampton was a quality side, I found I needed a more skillful player who could penetrate through both passing and dribbling ability and be more of a goal threat. What made Oyarzabal perfect was that he was all of those things and a hard worker and pretty decent defensively too (his ability to play across the front three was also a big plus).

 

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This is one for the future. He’s not as good defensively as either, but he works hard and is a playmaking threat in the final third.

 

Forwards

This is meant to be a true 4-3–3 in attack, though one wide forward is expected to come back and help out defensively as well. This is why I’ve gone with two inside forwards instead of the more conventional IF/IW combo (though that’s what I started with).  I want a dynamic front three that operate on slightly different levels but all are looking to attack the channels and central spaces, and specifically to receive the ball in dangerous places.

 

All three were given two PIs -

  1. close down more - along with the mezzala, the forwards make up the split block

  2. Roam from position - I want all the forwards to move to where they can be dangerous and find pockets of space in the defense. The (generally) wide width is designed to give them a lot of space too. I want them to be unpredictable. Ideally, they’d actually switch positions, but while it happens sometimes, it’s not really a thing the ME can do to my knowledge (and it’d be a tough ask to program that level of complexity...maybe someday soon?)

 

Right wing - Inside Forward (attack)

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This tactic is designed to set this player up to be almost a second striker - a goal scoring threat that is only secondary to the center forward. They stay forward and more central, even in defense - but they’re also part of the split block meant to slow down opposition attacks and transitions without having to resort to heavy pressing throughout the team.

 

With the RCM in a more support role, and the overload on the left side, the right forward will often have the opportunity to go one-on-one with an opposition fullback - either by relieving the ball and facing them on the dribble or, better yet, getting a cross field diagonal while they cut between the fullback and CB that puts them through on goal...or at least attacking the goal at pace.

 

In my fm19 save, the shape was flipped and this role was filled (eventually) by Moise Kean on the left, who was absolutely deadly when found by a cross field ball from the right flank, either from deep or when he was crashing into the box. No fullback could match him physically, and once he had the ball at his feet and running at full pace, center backs had no chance as they tried to shift from left to right.

 

In fm20 the first player I brought in to play here was Jarrod Bowen, who I got from Hull in the first window for £13.75m.

 

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He’s a player with good but not elite pace, a very good dribbler and finisher, and yes, a very hard working player. With his so-so first touch, I wanted him to get the ball in space (or through on goal). I also knew that he’d work hard, be a good out ball for the defense, and he’d play direct and aggressive on the ball. It worked too - he scored a lot in his first two years.

 

In the third year (21/22), he lost his first 11 spot to Dejan Kulusevski, which wasn’t surprising. But I was surprised that Kulusavski excelled as the attacking forward.

 

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I’d brought in the promising young Swede from Atalanta for £25m in (including future instalments and clauses) before the 20/21 season, liking his versatility but expecting him to start on the right wing. However, with his passing ability and only decent finishing, I’d expected for him to become the support forward (which I’ll get into next) especially when he has the looks for pass  trait. Instead, he started banging in goals, assists, and generally being very dangerous when in the attack role. His performances weren’t nearly as good when played on support.

 

It took me a while to figure out why, but then I realized that his outstanding all around physical quality made him a mismatch for both fullbacks and center backs, and his passing ability, composure and intelligence also made him deadly in transition.  Despite only having decent finishing ability, he was getting such quality chances that he only needed to keep his cool to score. He was also dangerous high up the pitch because he would find other players with cutbacks and crosses when they were in better positions.

 

Left wing - Inside Forward (support)

 

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In fm19 i used this position almost like a playmaker that scored a fair amount too (I managed to nab an out of favor Bernando Silva for only £37m!!) and this is how I expected to be using Kulusevski - as a player who would link up with the mezzala, wingback, and center forward and sometimes look to attack the channels as well as into the box. In fm20, though, due to the players I ended up with, this became a dribbling role - the first being Nathan Redmond. At first, I gave him the role of inverted winger, but he was rarely a factor in the game. I found that he dribbled too much to the byline, where he was ineffective - no threat on goal and without enough to aim at in the box for a cross - or across the top of the box where he would be too far away to shoot and would end up in the same spot as the mezzala. When I switched the role to inside forward, the performances improved dramatically. 

 

The more narrow positioning and the diagonal runs into the box made him much more dangerous. He wasn’t a top finisher (hence the “shoot less often” which was my way of saying “don’t shoot until you’ve got a clear chance”, they still shoot plenty) but his dribbling and speed made him dangerous attacking the box.

 

I was looking to switch to my previous tactic with a passer in the support role but, I ended up with an elite dribbler and speed merchant in Vinicius Junior.  

 

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This was my coup of a purchase from my fm20 save - I got him for only £10.5m in the first winter window after he had a falling out with Zidane. He wasn’t actually the kind of player that I normally go in for - a dribbler with only ok passing ability and work rate. However, with his ceiling I felt like he was worth taking a risk with, even if my original plan was to sell him a few years down the road for a big profit.

 

I’d always expected him to end up in the attacking forward role, but at first Bowen was the better finisher and Junior was rotating with Nathan Redmond (who was a bit more defensively sound) so I wanted Bowen in the advanced role. Junior took to the support role surprisingly well, scoring a lot of great goals. He was much less effective, too, when I flipped the formation and made his the isolation side. 

 

Why? Because he was at his best when receiving the ball in a deeper position then taking on his man with his top end dribbling ability.  It also worked on the overload side because if the defense didn’t shift to his side then he’d have one-on-one opportunities and a defense that didn’t know who to mark. If they did shift, then his ability to dribble allowed him to operate in tight spaces and beat several players before attacking the goal. Though his finishing isn’t top notch, between his technique and the quality of chances, he scored a lot of goals.

 

I also realized that his dribbling ability gives the team a different dimension. For one, he can not just start, but be an entire counter on his own. His dribbling also can unlock stubborn low blocks when necessary.

 

Center Forward - Complete Forward (attack)

(I’ll often use a pressing forward or sometimes advanced forward, both on attack.)

 

This is the position that makes this tactic a bit tricky - it needs a truly good, all around striker. They need to be able to score, pass, and work hard. Using a complete forward on attack (or AF or PF) is another way in which this is not a possession tactic. I tried the DLF a bit, but didn’t like the way it congested the middle and brought defenders into the space I wanted my IFs to attack. I want the striker to be pinning the d-line back and pulling them out of position laterally rather than vertically. I do want a good passer of the ball, but their primary job is to score and lead the line.

 

From the start, Southampton have Danny Ings, who does a great job. He’s tenacious with and without the ball and a very reliable finisher.

 

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I mostly played him as a pressing or advanced forward, and he did okay in the DLF role too. He’s really a perfect fit, even if he’s not elite in any category, he’s very good to very good at almost everything. With his injury record, I rarely gave him two starts in one week and generally kept him healthy.

 

When he finally went down in the 21/22  preseason with a significant knee injury to miss the first month of the year though, he lost his starting place to young Sebastian Esposito, who I bought in the first transfer window for £20m (including future installments, clauses, etc) when he was already a good backup at just 16! It was probably unrealistic for the board to let me do that, but when I saw the scout report I had to have him.

 

3VcLdNAztdGlfosijdS4j0btuYg8CveCJvsUv-7xStlORqe89u3DAe2bh1B0fJadGfTVxYJ2X-K-TXeZOt0WzYPdg76_lyhWVm6vC8RiBwZBU0NT85phorL5kN9mhVMKgU9PqOfT

 

By 21/22, he was a monster. His physical attributes are nuts, his finishing and ability on the ball are excellent, and he has a determination about him. I wish he was a bit more brave and aggressive (he’s less convincing than he should be with contested headers in crowded boxes) but he scores a lot and definitely strikes fear in the hearts of defenders. 

 

Putting it All Together

 

The tactic is designed to give a variety of ways of attacking, backed up by a reasonably solid defensive shape - with the higher players pressing and the lower players keeping shape. With the isolation side, they can hurt the opposition with mismatches or by attacking space, and on the overload side they can either neatly pass through teams, or use the dribbler to cut through stubborn defenses. If not properly marked or closed down, the slightly recessed central midfielders can get good looks from around the top of the box or just inside, play the forwards in, or they can recycle possession with Tonali or the center backs deep.

 

While I had a style of play in mind and a type of player I wanted, it’s also important to be flexible and adapt the tactics to the players that are in the squad or that become available in the transfer market.  While Southampton have Premier League money to spend, and my successes increased that budget, they couldn't buy finished, top class players that were exactly what I wanted until the third year, which is why I looked for deals (or steals) like Vinicius Jr, even if he didn’t match exactly what I was looking for (though he does have a very high determination!).  In the end, he gave my team another dimension that I hadn’t expected, as did some other players.

 

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All together you can see how the movement meshes together.  The mezzala and the left sided forward often move in the same spaces, but at different levels.  They will occasionally get in each other's way, but more often it creates marking nightmares for the opposition.  If the opposition shifts to the overload side, then the right sided forward is 1v1 with the fullback on the outside - and the rightback is lurking around the midway line, ready for a switch of play or to support the right sided forward.

 

Here’s an example from a 21/22 season CL game against Athletico Madrid (weirdly managed by Pep Guardiola!) in which Southampton managed to overcome a 1-0 loss in the first leg, winning 2-0 at home.  This is one way in which the overload/isolation combo can cause havoc.

 

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After an attack down the left came to nothing, the ball was given back to Tonali (#7) to recycle possession. He is pressed hard by the Athletico RW (they’re playing a 4-3-3) so he drops it to CB Mancini (6).

 

You can also see the general attacking shape, with both wingbacks tracking back after the failed incursion, the LW slightly inside and in line with the LCM, the RW higher and narrower, and the RCM slightly higher than the DM.  The Athletico left winger would be in a place to counter should Athletico win the ball back, but Ward-Prowse (16) is in decent position to cover for RB Valery (43) who’s gone a bit more forward than usual and would likely be able to get back by the time a crossfield ball reached Athletico’s number 11.

 

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Mancini sees both LW Vinicius Jr (11) and LB Pelligrini (3) on the left, and hits it first time to Vinicius Jr.  The wide width gives both plenty of space to operate in, and with Oyarzabal (12) occupying several midfielders, Vinicius Jr and Pelligrini have a numerical advantage.

 

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Vinicius Jr charges quickly at the opposition fullback and Pelligrini continues his outside run.  Athletico’s right center mid moves out  to get out to press Vinicius Jr, so he keeps the ball moving on to Pelligrini, pushing the ball into the space down the left flank.

 

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Athletico start to shift to their right (Southampton’s left) to try and counter the threat, but it’s too late already.

 

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Pelligrini has plenty of time and space to deliver a cross to the far post to where RW Kulusevski (10) is making a good run.

 

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With both Athletico CBs marking CF Esposito (13) Kulusevski is isolated against the poor fullback, who has no chance against Kulusevski’s aerial ability and strength.

 

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Poor Athletico LB Hermoso tries to challenge but Kulusevski brushes him off to bury the header and make it 1-0 to Southampton.

 

[You can also see Southampton’s attacking shape in this still.  CF Esposito is lurking near the goal just outside the 6 yard box, mezzala Oyarzabal is just inside the box, LW Vinicius Jr is charging in from the top left of the box (right in this still), CMR James Ward Prowse is a bit outside the box in space, RB Valery is available in suport, and Tonali (top rightish) is available in space to recycle possession.]

 

This was an example of the attack down the left leading to a goal from the right - just as the tactic was intended! - but it was also an example of the importance of the quick tempo and wide width.  Just before the first still, Southampton had moved the ball quickly between Ward-Prowse and Tonali in midfield after a failed attack down the left.  Athletico were set up to press hard within their own half but stay compact and narrow in defense.  With Mancini and Vincius Jr both moving the ball on quickly to the very wide Pelligrini, he had plenty of space to pick out the cross.  With Athletico shifting to try and counter the attack down the left, Kulusevski was able to crash the far post and score an easy goal against a mismatched rightback.

 

Summary

 

While the tactic is set up much like a possession tactic, with varying interwoven movement and passing options, the speed with which I ask the players to move the ball will lead to loss of possession.  However, if Southampton had been measured and slow against Athletico, they wouldn’t have had the chance to hit them so quickly after it looked like Athletico had fended them off - two quick passes and a cross and the ball was in the net.  There were several other chances like that which came to nothing, of course, but on the whole it often led to fast transitions, confused defenses, and clear cut opportunities.  Still, I don’t go all out and crazy, so there’s plenty of times when an attack down a flank fizzled out and the players stopped, turned, and found Tonali or a centerback to start a new move.

 

UP NEXT (maybe) - What if? The Tweaks!

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  • 13th Man changed the title to A 4-3-3 for You and Me!!! (New Update - Roles and Duties)

I had a look to this and tried to replicate this in FM21 but I can’t set the pressing intensity for the IF’s, CF and Mez to more urgent🤔

image.png.7aef65e354335e0d68409d39f6857d5c.png

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21 minutes ago, Skywalk3r83 said:

I had a look to this and tried to replicate this in FM21 but I can’t set the pressing intensity for the IF’s, CF and Mez to more urgent🤔

image.png.7aef65e354335e0d68409d39f6857d5c.png

Funny, looks like it already has them on full pressing! Where is your pressing TI set? I think my screenshot shows “press more” but that’s situational.

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1 minute ago, 13th Man said:

Funny, looks like it already has them on full pressing! Where is your pressing TI set? I think my screenshot shows “press more” but that’s situational.

Yes that’s it! 
 I plugged it in for my next match against PSG. We did great😱
image.png.e09232e699e05860e3efbc8dd68f62b5.png

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3 minutes ago, Skywalk3r83 said:

Yes that’s it! 
 I plugged it in for my next match against PSG. We did great😱
image.png.e09232e699e05860e3efbc8dd68f62b5.png

Wow! That’s great! It totally makes sense that it’d be good for Ajax now that I think of it. I had some really good champions league victories with the tactic - though PSG took me down in the final!

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1 hour ago, 13th Man said:

f2yMFH_j7h2zGC-gw_0tBE0i8ma5Fz37lKTkregGfOak3SxuQ-hUfBl8vkTdYBEtYA88xCdsianH_fKNXlo3VPCjE7AE4XTFy5nHo0gU3YIeLwqxzQ4ZJCBuSMBTHL9qp34rvjE5

Out of curiosity -- what program did you use to make this graphic? 

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9 minutes ago, 13th Man said:

Wow! That’s great! It totally makes sense that it’d be good for Ajax now that I think of it. I had some really good champions league victories with the tactic - though PSG took me down in the final!

I have to play the return at home in a bit. Will let you know 👍🏻

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Posted (edited)
14 minutes ago, Prolix said:

Out of curiosity -- what program did you use to make this graphic? 

I found a free image when I was doing my Livorno career tactical write up. I couldn’t actually find it online again, but luckily found it on my computer again. Then I just used Preview’s edit functions (I’m on a Mac, not sure but I’d guess there’s a windows equivalent?) to make the circles, lines, and text. Much simpler than I’d expected!

Edited by 13th Man
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36 minutes ago, Skywalk3r83 said:

I have to play the return at home in a bit. Will let you know 👍🏻

Won 1-0 at home💪🏻  
Semi-Final against Manchester United 

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1 hour ago, Skywalk3r83 said:

I had a look to this and tried to replicate this in FM21 but I can’t set the pressing intensity for the IF’s, CF and Mez to more urgent🤔

image.png.7aef65e354335e0d68409d39f6857d5c.png

You can buddy.

First you have to set the defensive line to standard and the pressing intensity in the middle (which makes it "slightly more urgent". After you have done that, you should be able to adjust the player instruction "pressing intensity" of the 3 forwards. After you've done that, you can put the defensive line higher again, and the pressing intensity back to "More urgent".

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1 hour ago, Skywalk3r83 said:

Won 1-0 at home💪🏻  
Semi-Final against Manchester United 

Nice!!! Take that PSG! Good luck taking out the Red Devils!

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24 minutes ago, Skywalk3r83 said:

Lost 4-3in the first match away from home. What a match it was😱

3 away goals though...

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7 hours ago, 13th Man said:

3 away goals though...

Yeah it’s going to be tough. Rasford scored a hattrick. He’s so fast. Maybe setting up some  OI against him 🤔

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8 hours ago, Skywalk3r83 said:

Yeah it’s going to be tough. Rasford scored a hattrick. He’s so fast. Maybe setting up some  OI against him 🤔

do often drop my lines to standard DL and lower LOE to combat pace as long as you have pace in your team too to hit on the counter. That’s also a time I might use counter press and/or more pressing so that the opponent can’t get clear chances to pop balls behind.

good luck!

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29 minutes ago, 13th Man said:

do often drop my lines to standard DL and lower LOE to combat pace as long as you have pace in your team too to hit on the counter. That’s also a time I might use counter press and/or more pressing so that the opponent can’t get clear chances to pop balls behind.

good luck!

Will give it a try. 

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 22/05/2021 at 23:38, Skywalk3r83 said:

Update: I won the CL with a 1-0 victory against Liverpool. Totally undeserved but who cares😂

Somehow missed this! Congrats. I felt like I got a lot of surprising or “undeserved” victories with this tactic - but if it happens enough times that means that they are deserved! It’s just a tactic that doesn’t always dominate possession or lead to high ratings across the board, but which produces results! At least when I used it...

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On 23/05/2021 at 16:38, Skywalk3r83 said:

Update: I won the CL with a 1-0 victory against Liverpool. Totally undeserved but who cares😂

Did you just use a straight replication or adjust it to suit your players?

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34 minutes ago, nick1408 said:

Did you just use a straight replication or adjust it to suit your players?

Plug and play. Didn’t change anything 

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5 hours ago, Skywalk3r83 said:

Plug and play. Didn’t change anything 

I'm actually surprised it worked as a plug and play like that!  I do think it's a well designed and flexible tactic, and a club like Ajax has the right kind of players, but I tended to make a lot of tweaks depending on my squad and the opposition.  Happy that my tactic worked well for you though!

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