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Pressing and possession football - my approach


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Introduction

The style of play and tactic is heavily influenced by Barcelona in the years 2008-2011 under Guardiola and utilizes a half back and a false 9. The FM replication is based on my interpretation of how Barcelona played during these years.  Deviation is that Barcelona played assymetrically whilst my take is absolute symmetrical. The set up for the tactic is as with water the ball will gradually flow to areas with least resitance.

The main idea is to play as an compact unit ideal for quick one touch passing when in possession ready to immediately compress space and press as a team when the ball is lost. Main advantage of playing this way is very quick transitions between possession and out of possession play. As for Barcelona under Guardiola opponents are pressed towards the sidelines where their passing angles is decreased to 180 degrees. This makes it easier to regain possession.

Width is maintained primarily by the wingbacks which maintains width in all phases of play. All set-pieces are set up for short passing play. The tactic have been used with Rennes in Ligue 1 and produces decent results. Midway into the third season PSG are challenged for the title. The two previous season Rennes finished as sovereign number two relative far behind PSG.

There are three versions of the tactic almost identical with sligth tweaks. The style of play has gradually been evolved to these three versions in paralell with increased team cohesion. It is mainly player instructions that has been changed in this process. Where dribbles, crosses and shooting is discouraged. The three attackers are allowed to take more dribbles and risk in accordance with their roles. The F9 is the only player taking more risk in his passing. The inverted wingers, wingbacks and central midfielders are set to mixed on this. The half back, central defenders and sweeper keeper are encouraged to take less risk with their passing. Settings for passing risk can be further decreased throughout the team against opponents sitting back. This can encourage more one two passes in congested areas. It is utterly important to find the optimum between passing and risk to acchieve decent results.

The tactic lines up in a 4-3-3 with wingbacks positions (2-3-2-2-1). In the build-up phase it changes to a 3-4-3 and finally a 2-3-5 or 2-1-2-5 in the attacking phase. In the possession phase of play positioning and movement is all about creating diamonds and triangles for quick one touch passing. That is the main reason for why this formation and roles are chosen. The 3-4-3 in the build-up phase leads to three diamonds created. One on each side as well as centrally. Roles and PI gives the player in the diamond at the opponents end of the diamond more freedom of action and taking risk in this phase of play. Note the two central midfielders taking part in two diamonds.

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Dominate version of the tactic

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Control version of the tactic

This differs from the dominate version with mentality set to positive and standard line of engagement. Both of these settings makes the tactic more compact both vertically and horizontally as well as more considerate passing. This version is to be utilized against challenging opponents also playing out from their own defence. Against opponents playing direct passing one of the two other versions are preferred. 

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Replica version of the tactic

This version should in theory be best suited for quick one touch passing. Holding shape during transitions should more often lead to players be positioned close to eachother for this type of passing play. PI instructions for central midfielders and wingbacks has passing risk reduced to less for this version. Risk is to be taken in the final third and this should in theory lead to higher possession and fewer counter attacks against own team when they are out of balance.

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Untested /possible improvements to the tactic (Should not change the principle of symmetrical shape)

Holding central midfielders (PI - hold position): Pros -This gives a good balance and the team are rarely caught out of balance / Cons - They do not participate enough in wide passing triangles in the attacking phase?

Pressing traps: Figure out a good set-up for creating wide pressing traps to further increase the effectiveness of the tactic. Tactic is now purely zonal marking, still both man-marking and tight zonal marking can be employe to acchieve this.

Half spaces: IW sitting narrow and WB sitting wide and their movement opens up this space. How can this be further exploited without conflicting movements?

 

In-match presentation of the tactic

The next fixture is at home against Liverpool in the first knockout round of the Champions League. The control version of the tactic will be used at the start of the match. Further explanations to the thinking behind the tactic will be given with screenshots from the match. Focusing on strengths as well as weaknesses of the tactics. Feedback and suggestions are very welcome as long as they are in accordance with the principles mentioned.

Out of possession - weakness of compactness

Focus on beeing compact and protect central areas. This gives up space on in the wide areas. High DL can give up space behind own defensive line. Without sacrificing the compactness and high DL how can these areas best be protected is the important question. The use of OI might be essential to limit the exposed risks.

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Ten seconds later before a minute is played. Alexander-Arnold with the ball and Haaland smelling blood, well you all know the outcome..

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Could tight marking of Haaland help prevent this goal against?

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Out of possession - strength of compactness

The next sequence shows why the tactic seeks compactness in the teams shape. Liverpool have been passing the ball around in their backline unable to advance up the pitch. This is the control version of the tactic and with standard LoE compared to highest possible DL it is an effective high block. van Dijk with the ball are about to make a pass wich will be intercepted.

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Transitions and in possession - strength of compactness 1

Following the action from regaining possession from interception of van Dijks pass quickness of transitions is exemplified. Almada passes to Kamaldeen who is instantly pressured. By beeing compact the team is ready to start circulating the ball and he has several options which can pass the ball to.

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It would have been beneficial to show this in video (suggestions welcomed if this is possible?), the following sequence counting with Almada's interception sees 9 players in the team involved in passing the ball for 27 passes leading to Rennes scoring. Liverpool constantly pressing to regaining the ball. 

In the next screenshot the players with names shown has been involved (7) for 9 passes. The 10th is happening when Ugochukwu passes to Soppy.

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Soppy unable to advance and five passes later the ball is back with Bade.

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5 passes later the team has taken the 3-4-3 shape of the build-up phase again.

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2 passes later the F9 has come deep and receives the ball.

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3 passes later the ball is back with Soppy (RWB).

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 Who makes an angled through ball for Kamaldeen to run onto.

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Who passes towards Doku at the far post who scores.

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This was a very good example of patient probing play and quick exploitation when an opportunity arises.

In the 25th minute Haaland scores again on a Liverpool corner. This also suggests they partially succeeded in exploiting the wide space offered. 

Transitions and in possession - strength of compactness 2

This sequence shows how to play quick one touch passes trough the middle. It starts with Rennes half back and right central midfielder succeeding in winning the ball.

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One pass

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Misplaced shot going far above the goal. Still good play through the middle.

Half time stats

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If possession were to be calculated by completed passes the stats would have been 65 % possession in favour of Rennes. This is decent half time stats when the teams are compared. Still both their goals have come from exploiting known weakness of the tactic used with exposed flanks. 

Since the team are playing good there is no need to change the version of the tactic used at this point. We head into the 2nd half.

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We need to change things a little bit. No chances created and they are probably parking the bus. Rennes swithch to the Replica version of the tactic with attacking mentality instead of positive. Hopefully they will not be able to counter on us with this version on attacking.

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73rd minute and I was wrong. The screenshot is the start of an attack resulting in Haaland bagging his 3rd goal. Now I am willing to take more risk and switch to the dominate version.

 

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Edited by cmonreds
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In the 76th minute again quick one touch passing through the middle. F9 passes through Doku on the right but the goalie saves the shot.

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A couple of decent half chances before the match ended. Still a 1-3 loss at home. 

The tactic has potential but still has weaknesses that can be dealt with. Any suggestions for how to better protect the flanks besides increasing defensive width?

 

Full time stats

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I've saw quite a few tactics on here get punished by putting the full backs in the wingback strata this year. It doesn't seem to take anything away from the support or attack when put in the full back strata.

I've also found using fb support and adding keep wide and run wide helps keep the shape and positioning better than using a wing back. It could just be the eye test though and me thinking it's better, I've not got substantial evidence to back that up

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This has been considered to place the wingbacks in the fullback position, still not tried. Installed the game during christmas and went straight for this set-up and have not had the time to test your suggestion. The main role of the wingbacks/fullbacks is to create and maintain width during all phases of play and contribute in wide passing combos. As long as this is fullfilled which position they are placed in are subordinate.

 

I have not played the game for 7 years and FM is more complex now. Two of Liverpools goals came from the Rennes left side. The left wingback is currently extremely unhappy due to squad rotation system and him not playing enough. This also could have influenced his poor performance and the outcome of the match.

Still I firmly believe this tactic could be real good if finding av way to protect the flanks with the current set-up and shape. The space behind the defenders is partially protected by sweeper keeper, offside trap, relative fast central defenders and the compactness of the tactic. The flanks are the main concern, against better opposition this will be exploited. In the save Guardiola is managing Liverpool by the way. The match was a good opportunity to test the tactic against a top team with top manager.

I will try the different suggestions received next time playing.

List of suggestions to protect the flanks

1) Position wingbacks in fullback position / use fullback role

Edited by cmonreds
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1 hour ago, coach vahid said:

With the FB? Do you use players instructions? 

The last video was with the wingback position and wingback on support duty. Tested uploading of video from the matches. 

Yes, alot of PI's are used. The team is supposed to play in a certain way and hence alot of instructions are given. Wingbacks stay wider/rarely cross/rarely shoot/dribble less/mixed passing risk. Even on rarely frequency they will perform an action if it is beneficial and likely to create something. As I see it tactical instructions are about 50 percent and players (attributes/traits) 50 %. 

Edited by cmonreds
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Against weaker opponents the dominate version of the tactic is working well.

The scoreline could easily have been a lot bigger.

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This is part of the build up phase for the first goal positioned in a 3-4-3 and the wingbacks maintaining width. The shape ensures creation of diamonds and triangles which is necessary for the possession play of the tactic.

 

 

 

 

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il y a une heure, cmonreds a dit :

Against weaker opponents the dominate version of the tactic is working well.

The scoreline could easily have been a lot bigger.

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This is part of the build up phase for the first goal positioned in a 3-4-3 and the wingbacks maintaining width. The shape ensures creation of diamonds and triangles which is necessary for the possession play of the tactic.

 

 

 

 

I understand you like the build up. 

It's pleasant to watch.

I know a lot of people like to have the FB in WB strata for possession style. Maybe it's the way. 

I would like to have more details for your PI's selection. You know like in "dominate version" Gk FB ect..Replica version Gk ect... 

And why you choose these PI...And above all, why you choose the Stade Rennais? 

Edited by coach vahid
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Match preparation is rather simple. Looking at the overview of the opposition in the data hub. Here is an description of their style of play. The next match was Nice playing vertical tiki-taka away. This scenario is typical for the use of the control version of the tactic. Have started to quickly glance at the opposition wide players before the match starts. Focuses on their preferred foot and strength with both feets, as well as attributes and their roles. Inverted wingers/fullbacks are shown onto the foot leading them outside. Normal wingers/fullbacks are shown onto their weak foot to prevent crosses.

I am reluctant to apply OI pressure as this can lead to players out of position weakening the compactness centrally. I am also unsure about how many players will be triggered to press when OI instructions is given to do this. Pressing is best done as a team in a compact shape in my books.

The previous match and against Nice below utilied the mentioned OI instructions for showing opponent wide players onto feet to prevent the danger they pose from this area. Some beautiful attacking football as well as solid defensively. 

 

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Very nice thread and very nice looking tactic. Regarding Liverpool/Haaland I wouldn't worry too much about losing, Haaland is an absolute machine on this edition and Liverpool are one of the most difficult sides to play against

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1 hour ago, coach vahid said:

I understand you like the build up. 

It's pleasant to watch.

I know a lot of people like to have the FB in WB strata for possession style. Maybe it's the way. 

I would like to have more details for your PI's selection. You know like in "dominate version" Gk FB ect..Replica version Gk ect... 

And why you choose these PI...And above all, why you choose the Stade Rennais? 

Hi there,

Stade Rennais are one of the clubs developing most players playing at higher level. They are known for this. This is replicated in the game as well. Stade Rennais is a club with a lot of potential. At the start of the game they have the second highest level for academy coaching and youth recruitment. Excellent for training and youth facilites. The board wants to develop players through their youth system and are eager to improve facilities, academy coaching and youth recruitment. After 1,5 years all of these was at maximum level.

Replicating Barcelona is not limited to style of play but also using youth system to develope own players. Now in the 3rd season 4-5 regens are already future excellent 1st team prospects. Atleast the same number are very good prospects and will most likely take the step. At the start of the game they also have some top and decent prospects in their squads and players partially suiting this style of football. Immediate transfers in was two central defenders with decent pace and Karius as sweeper keeper. The french league is also decently competetive with PSG and also Lyon, Lille, Marseille etc. PSG is a real challenge and in my save they have bougth loads of players like Joao Felix (ATM MAD) and de Jong to name two.

When playing FM seven years ago the same principles were used for creating the tactic with the same wingback positioning. A few more tactical options in FM22and that is good. The dominate and control version have identical PI's whilst replicate deviates with lower passing risk for all players except the attackers. All other PI's the same.

The overall tought behind the tactic and PI is based on two books I red about 9-10 years ago. These analyzed Barca under Guardiola. Replica version is not tested extensively and was added for the last couple of months in the save. It has been used one time with positive mentality against weak opposition sitting back and produced very good outcome then. Control/Dominate are the version normally used. They have been uploaded in the section for downloading tactics under the topic Pressing and possession football.

Edited by cmonreds
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12 minutes ago, w_x said:

Very nice thread and very nice looking tactic. Regarding Liverpool/Haaland I wouldn't worry too much about losing, Haaland is an absolute machine on this edition and Liverpool are one of the most difficult sides to play against

Hi there and thanks,

FM is now much more realistic in that sense. It was probably the worst match to present the tactic with. Haaland is a beast and Liverpool are managed by Guardiola in the save. Also some unhappy players under performing made it worse. The only real option in the match was to continue on control version which worked well and hope for an equalizer. The tactical choice of using replicate version was wrong. Against Liverpool holding shape and reducing pass risk is not the best solution with an inferior team.

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46 minutes ago, coach vahid said:

Beautiful goal... Like the way they build up patiently, then accelerate the movement in final third. 

Great job. 

Thanks, 

When openings arrive they will be taken quickly, hence the high tempo. Still, most teams work hard to prevent giving anything away for free and patience is often required. The link shows how the tactic also exploit space quickly without probing when this is given. The first few clips in the link shows this.

Rennes vs Monaco

High tempo with less dribbles/shooting/crosses, shorter passing, decreased risk taking leads to players looking for team-mates nearby. If the shape of the team doesn't support this possession will be lost and desperate long balls played when player with the ball sees no other options. Using the same PI's and TI's as the tactic and creating a team shape/movement where players are positioned nearby each other can be very advantagous.

This is just my take on it, there are several other options to use. Creating opposite movements is very effective. The tactic use it for the inside wingers and wingbacks to create space out wide, whilst the F9 drops deep and the IW's tries to exploit the space this creates. There are other options like Mezzala going wide, inverted wingers/inside forwards and fullbacks going inside. The main principle is to never abandon is width in possession. 

As with Guardiola in 2008-2011 he emphasized the advantage of compactness both in defence (pressing) and attack (quick short passing). This is a double edged sword to be used against opponents, suits eachother like hand in a glove. Effective pressing is really a must when defending high up the pitch. I watched Man Utd vs Sheff Utd where the latter defended high without pressing last season. It was terrible to watch and only a lacklustre Man Utd that couldn't exploit it fully in the match.

 

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Focusing on training schedules tailored to the tactics. Team cohesion probably needs to be at a high level for the tactic to click. Focusing on this as well with match preparation sessions. Have tried to be systematically and structure the schedules so away matches with two sessions lost to travel will be sessions afforded to loose.

The schedules has been created to ensure that Defensive shape and Attacking Movement will be trained independent of number of matches that week. Both of these focusing on these specifics for the upcoming match. Match practice is maximised as this allows for training on individual roles as well as Team Cohesion and tactical familiarity. Teamwork will be trained atleast once a week independent of home or away match.

Sessions besides match preparation used are physical, possession, transition press, one-on-ones and recovery (a lot to prevent injuries).

These schedules will focusing on team training building team cohesiong, tactical familiarity and other sessions enhancing attributes for the tactics.

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On 11/01/2022 at 08:42, cmonreds said:

List of suggestions to protect the flanks

1) Position wingbacks in fullback position / use fullback role

I play similar roles to yours, WB in fullback position helps to build up but also protect the flanks. Tried FB in attack mode, was more attractive but less solid. I am still not fully satisfied with the tactic but understand what you are trying to build and big kudos for it.

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3 hours ago, Lewis Stewart said:

I play similar roles to yours, WB in fullback position helps to build up but also protect the flanks. Tried FB in attack mode, was more attractive but less solid. I am still not fully satisfied with the tactic but understand what you are trying to build and big kudos for it.

There are a lot of variables that can affect outcome of a tactical choice and it is difficult to obtain "all else beeing equal" to judge the effects. To be sure of the effect of positoning/role/duty prolonged testing and several matches must be watched. My main problem is the time available to do this and instead I try to settle for enjoying my save. 

How do you train with Gegenpress/high intensity tactics? My first schedules led to injuries so had to restructure training. Tested them  on holiday mode and injuries decreased significantly. Going to test them for real now and monitor the improvements.

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8 hours ago, Mutumba said:

Care to share your PI?

Offcourse, roles for both central defenders, wingbacks, central midfielders and inverted wingers are identical.

Control and dominate version have identical PI. Replica has take fewer risks for wingbacks and central midfielders as well. Replica's PI for risk are not carved in stone and might not be the optimal instructions.

 

PI.jpg

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6 hours ago, cmonreds said:

Offcourse, roles for both central defenders, wingbacks, central midfielders and inverted wingers are identical.

Control and dominate version have identical PI. Replica has take fewer risks for wingbacks and central midfielders as well. Replica's PI for risk are not carved in stone and might not be the optimal instructions.

 

 

Thanks! 

 

 

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15 hours ago, coach vahid said:

Can you explain when and why you choose the control or dominate or replica? The table, the odds ect...? 

Thanks. 

The opponents tactical style generally decides which of the version of the tactic initially used for the match. Matchplay and scores will dictate which version is used during matches.

 

Team instructions - in possession

Identical for all tree versions of the tactics.

Differences for the three versions of the tactic are mentality, offensive transition (when ball has been won) and out of possession instructions. Mentality will also have an overall effect on other settings as width and passing direction. 

 

Team instructions - out of possession / transition

Control version

Line of engagement (LoE) is set to standard with the highest Defensive line (DL). This makes the shape of the team vertically compact. Pressing is still aggressive and starts just outside the opponents penalty area. Defensive width is sett to narrow and force opponents outside. Along with positive mentality this makes the pressing block horizontally compact. The result is that it is difficult for teams playing out of their own defence to outplay the pressing block in central areas. Prevent short GK distribution will increase the pressing and often it will be done a little higher than the LoE suggest. I have been pondering about removing it to further structure the pressing and making it even more cohevise and discliplined. This has not yet been extensively tested by watching the in-match effects.

Control version is less intensive and multiplicated with amount of matches during a season it will decrease fatigue and injuries throughout the season. The version is to be used against opponents playing out of their own defence. Head over to the data hub - next opponent - overview to find description of next opponents playing style. Very often which version of tactic used at the start of matches is dictated by this information. During matches if my team is outplayed I switch to this version of the tactic.

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Dominate version

Uses attacking mentality and it will probably lead to defensive width being a little wider. It is still on narrow and forcing opponents outside. LoE is at the highest and pressing is supposed to be done all over the the pitch. This is to be used against teams that will try to counter-attack by playing direct/long balls. The idea is to give them less time on the ball to be able to pin point passes. Also teams playing this way often sits deep and defend. High pressing increases the chance of winning the ball back in their defensive third. If other versions of the tactics is not producing enough chances I try to switch to this version. This version of the tactic has a slightly less compact pressing block due to higher LoE and mentality. Attacking mentality and highest LoE makes the tactic intensive and will lead to increased fatigue and injury risk.

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Replica

Positive mentality and highest LoE. Horizontally compact and pressing all over the pitch. This version has Hold shape for transitions when possession is won. The thought behind this is to maintain team shape to constantly acchieve passing diamonds/triangles. When both holding shape/counter attack is allowed there is an increased risk for passing diamonds/triangles disrupted. This version is to be used against teams parking the bus with PI for risk taken decreased to lowest also for wingbacks and central midfielders. Undecided if this is the optimum but it has produced some very good results with big home wins in such match scenarios.

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OI

OI are in general complementary instructions to be given in accordance with the strengths/weaknesses of your tactic. The use of OI and different marking systems have great potential for creating pressing traps/protecting the flanks to take pressing to a higher level for my tactic. I have not gone further than to show one footed opposition wide players onto their weak foot. Example fullback/wingbacks/traditional wingers with crossing ability are led to their weak foot and led inside to prevent crosses. One footed players with ability to cut inside and create danger are shown onto weak foot and led outside to prevent this. Two footed players are shown inside/outside dependant on their attributes to prevent the least risk of creating danger against us. Two footed players able to create danger both from crosses and cutting inside are not handled this way. Here marking solutions and pressing triggers is probably a better solution. Using OI influences own team and the effects must be understood and it should be part of a clear plan of how and why they are applied. If unsure do nothing. This is the area of tactical instructions I have the biggest potential for learning. I believe the rewards for doing this can greatly enhance the tactic.

I believe the tactical out of possession options given by FM22 enables us to create a lot of tailored pressing patterns/solutions. Pressing can be done in multiple ways and as in real life defence and attack are connected. How you attack dictates how you should defend.

 

Comments

The main principle for the tactic is to find the optimum between possession and creation through passing diamonds/triangles. The team should circulate the ball when in possession untill an opening occur. That is the reason for limitations given with the player instructions for the tactic. Rarely does not mean that an action will never take place, instead it means that players will be more considerate before taking risk. If the players have the ability to circulate the ball this will eventually lead to creation of chances. How I see it this is the way to go when choosing to defend high up the pitch with a high DL and LoE. Unnecessary loss of possession is increasing the risk of conceding goals against.

The tactic is dependant on team cohesion to fully work. This is something that training should be focused on.

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Tactical evolution

Following the same principles as with the original tactic a change of formation/team shape to 3-4-3 is the way to go.

Testing with player not trained for roles and medium tactical familiarity, solely focusing on possession first signs are promising. 

The tactic 3-4-3 control is far from finished. This is solely a basis to work from. The roles/duties has been chosen solely of not taking any risk leading to loss of possessioon such as increased passing risk, dribbling etc. Applying player roles/player instructions to spice up chance creation and better defensive performance has not begun. The tactic has versatility to tailor this dependant of the oppositon.

So far only focusing on possession for two matches:

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