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Adapting an aggressive/possession system for an equally aggressive opponent?


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Hi All,

I've been having difficulties for many years now when it's come to enforcing a high-pressing/possession based strategy against a team that plays an equally aggressive gameplan. I see so many people playing shorter passing systems on this forum, so was wandering how people tend to adapt (or not adapt) when playing against strong, high pressing teams.

For some background, I play as Barcelona on my long term save and luckily I have some really talented players who are strong technically and hence very capable of keeping the ball under pressure (one would think). For most of games (particularly in the league), as you'd expect we are strong favourites and opponents will tend to sit off and restrict space to ultimately frustrate us. These games can be frustrating, but ultimately making tweaks where appropriate can allow us to unlock the door in these matches. The real issues that I have, is when playing away from home against the likes of Real Madrid and Valencia, along with difficult UCL games against Liverpool and Utd (to name a few). These teams will press-high and disrupt our build up play in our own half - resulting in nervy clearances and misplaced (rushed) passes from my players.

I'm aware these team will surrender space that can be exploited by more direct gameplans. However I'd like to stick more to the Barcelona DNA and possession fundamentals that they have.

Ultimately when playing in these types of fixtures, it's always going to be difficult and sometimes you need to accept that these games are hard to secure and keep possession. However I'm keen to understand where I can improve,  when it comes to adapting against these opponents, to help give us more control in these games. Essentially by having more of the ball, we should be able restrict/frustrate these teams more - defensive possession if you will.

 

Generally I play a 'controlled possession' system via the following TIs. I've played a lot of different duty combination, but generally play mainly support duties. Classic 4-3-3 DM shape.

1161593979_Screenshot2021-06-10at08_15_29.png.c2a0bdd5d4f6ffe9356b70a0a17d2c3a.png

 

I've tried quite a few different strategies to try and overcome this:

- Reducing the mentality to try and play more cautiously (reduce risk taking)

- Lowering Line of Engagement and Defensive Line to try reduce and restrict space in deeper positions - although ultimately gives the opposition more time on the ball though

- Increase tempo to try and move the ball faster and bypass the press

- Lowering the tempo to try and get the players to take more time (reduce rushed/misplaced passes)

- Tweak passing setting (shorter/more direct)

 

Some have worked, some haven't... Obviously one size does not fit all and different games/circumstances require different strategies.

So I'm keen to hear how this forum adapt's in these games, where a strong opposition looks to press you high and disrupt your build up in a shorter possession game-plan. Any particulars that people concentrate on? Perhaps targeting opposition playermakers?

Also do people have any success by making their out of possession instructions less aggressive in these games? Seems counter intuitive, but ultimately makes you slightly more secure.

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When you are playing a CL / league candidate match it's not the same as playing a mid-table team. They have the players to play around your pressing and they will likely have better pressing players. So, you should expect a decrease in possession. There's always 2 options: you accept it and try to exploit it (dropping the lines and going more direct, for instance) or if you want to keep possession, you might have to go to some extremes: drop the mentality, waste time, play shorter and lower tempo, dribble less. Then, you should check the opposition reaction: if they start to get frustrated/anxious/nervous, change to a more attacking mentality. You talked about targeting opposition playmakers, sometimes more than playmakers, disrupt the build-up: man-mark the DM if they play one, show their cbs their outside foot; or show them their inside foot if your player man-marking their DM is capable of taking the ball away from him (especially if he's strong, brave and aggressive)

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57 minutes ago, Mitja said:

Play the same tactic on lower mentality balanced or cautious. Also higher tempo will put your opponent under more pressure.

Whats the theory behind this, if you don’t mind explaining?

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30 minutes ago, coach vahid said:

And maybe a "much shorter passing" coupled with "higher tempo" or "very high tempo". The famous one touch football with a lot support duties. Youve got players with good composure and first touch? And what about the way they play a "big match"? 

There’s a lot of contrasting views of how to best use tempo. In theory, I would agree that increasing tempo should allow the players to transition the ball faster and not allow the opposition to get close and cause errors. However the counter argument is that players then rush their play, which leads to wasted possession...

Ultimately there is a lot more to it than that - least of which including attributes and where the players are positioned to offer passing outlets in comparison to the opponents (formation and roles/duties come into play).

Perhaps increasing the numbers in the build up by having deeper positioned players (particularly midfielders), to try and outnumber the opposition press a key factor?

Edited by Luizinho
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38 minutes ago, Luizinho said:

Whats the theory behind this, if you don’t mind explaining?

Lower mentality will make you play little more cautious in general and keeping possession much easier. But on standard or lower tempo there won't be much going on and that's where high tempo kicks in. With right players it will produce football which creates nice pressure. But of course it comes with reduced possession stats especially against equal teams. One thing I would turn off in your tactics is hold shape. Let players decide to counter or not.

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5 hours ago, Luizinho said:

There’s a lot of contrasting views of how to best use tempo.

A high pressing intensity forces the other teams players to be more urgent with their decisions in general. Even with your team being instructed to take more time for their decision, your players will make high tempo decisions when they are pressured to not loose the ball. However, if they are technically well suited or the pressing intensity of the other team is not high enough, a lower tempo will tire out the pressing team, as they trying to run at your man all the time.

On the other hand, a highter tempo will allow your players to more often exploit the space behind the pressing defender, which is created by him when moving out of position. But as you said already, the more you go for the rushed decisions, the more you migh loose possession.

So Tempo is more a decision how you want to build up your attack, rather than whether the other team is defending inside your half of the pitch or not. Numerical advantage in your half of the pitch while building up the attack can help to maintain possession. 

Edited by CARRERA
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