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Question: Nike Defence. What does it do exactly? Am I seeing flaws when there are none?

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Hi all,
so i read little on tactics and stuff focusing on early Mourinho Porto/Chelsea/Inter/Real and found an article on another Forum talking about the nike defence.
In Short the explanation on how to set it up was:
And a dedicated holder in central midfield is required.

This should somehow make the defence stable. But I am not understanding how it does that.
What it does from my understanding :
Left Side really deep and hard to break through.
Right Side really high and overly aggressive.
In Attack the FB-A pushes forward to an extreme, so if you lose the ball he is out of position. The opposition will probably attack that side now the CD Stopper rushes Forward to stop the attack if he fails your right side is empty.
In Defence the FB-A and CD-S are also really eager to commit to winning the ball back again making the right side trigger happy and explotable.

There are two ways to set this up as I see it if the FBs are set.
Original Setup I read about:

Image: Explained NikeDefence Setup FB-D; CD-C; CD-S; FB-A

Alternative Setup:

Image: alternative Setup Nike Defence: FB-D; CD-S;CD-C; FB-A

Wouldn't the alternative approach be more stable?
The CD-S is would be covered by the FB-D on his side and the CD-C on the other side.
The FB-A would be covered by the CD-C

So is my assessment on the original wrong?
Am I missing something?
I thought about the holder In Midfield which would either be someone central or the CM on the FB-As side. Would that explain the CD-S on the FB-A side? Wouldn't the holder and the CD-S bump into each other?

Is my alternative approach faulty?
Is it outdated and shouldn't be used at all?


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I was trying to implement something like this with an asymmetrical defensive tactic inspired by 2018 Shakhtar, where the right CD would play stopper with a fullback on the right side and the left CD would play cover with a wingback on the left side. Then a holding DM would shift and fill the spaces accordingly. It didn't work for me because when the aggressive wingback pushed forwards, the cover defender would never close down the space so wide attackers would get through and all the way until crossing position where the cover defender was still covering the forward in the box and the wingback couldn't get back.

Because of that trouble, I would think the original set-up would be best, because ideally your stopper won't only step forwards, but step out wide to close down any wide player that is on that flank meaning that the cover defender can still cover the striker making the central run and the holding DM can close down or mark any central options so that the stopper doesn't have to step forwards always. Last, I think the holding player would have to be a lone DM as any member of a double pivot would mean that he'd either get in the stopper's way sometimes or he would fail to ever cover the interior player in the opposite channel when the stopper moves wide.

Last, if everything works according to plan, passes will be funneled to the middle where your DM ideally will make an interception or your cover defender will sweep up a ball behind. I also don't think this would work well in a system with too high of a line unless you have an incredibly mobile keeper, so I'd stick to a standard or even lower defensive line. 

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I'm not entirely sure I'm following what you want to achieve. On UEFA coaching courses the "Nike tick" positioning of the back 4 that you refer too is a standard placement of a back 4 when the ball is wide. It is seen as a pretty default way to defend with the back 4 and isn't a specific tactic. It can be used in any system of play or style you like. 


It the reason it's called the Nike tick is due to how the back 4 look when positioned correctly giving a good balance of distances to cover each other within the back 4, and a good balance of distance to cover the pitch.


This image was taken from a thread I posted in before. It's looking at the game from the blue's point of view and how a defensive & defensively narrow 4-4-2 /4-2-3-1 might shape up to defend against a superior opponent. This was one example of 3 but it illustrates that Nike tick position you refer too with the back 4.



Back 4 linked:



Hopefully this helps but If this isn't what you referred to please feel free to add as much detail as you can and hopefully somebody can help you.

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Hi @Jack Sarahs ,
TLDR: I'm after inputs to setup an early Mourinhoish defense unit, while also obviously needing more input in how a player with a specific duties in this case Cover/Stopper behaves.

I know that a back four (or any backs) when shifting towards one side of the field should do this sickle movement (German term for it I just translated to differentiate the terms better).
That's not what I am after and I think i can't really influence how the back for shifts in game can I?
Won't they perform this sickle movement as a default never observed something else?

What I want to "achieve" or replicate is the early Mourinho back four.
One fullback who pushes higher (Think Maicon/Marcelo at Inter/Real) the FB-A.
A Central defender with the task to cover (Think Carvalho at Porto/Chelsea or Ramos at Real),
a Central Defender who is there to break up play (Think Terry at Chelsea or Pepe at Real)
And a Fullback who sits deeper (Think of Gallas at Chelsea as LB, Chivu/Zanetti at Inter, Arbeloa at Real)

To not get the wording confused in this thread:
Sickle-Movement: what in englisch seems to be the "Nike-Tick" which should occur when a line of players shifts to one side of the field.
Nike-Defence: this Mourinhoish Back four with these specific duties outlined above. They will also use the Sickle-Movement.

When reading on the topic I have found someone who set a defense like this up (Calling it Nike Defence), like I have shown above but just when looking or thinking about it that seems, as I hopefully have explained well enough, to make one side (in my example the right side) to aggressive.
They would expose that side if the players miss their tackles which I instructed them to do more aggressively with the Attacking- or Stopper-Duty

That's why I am asking whether I missunderstand what I think this setup would do. If I understood the original thread right such a setup should provide stability. Which I, with my rather limited knowledge of the game, don't see as it is split in one half being passive and the other side being aggressive.
And when thinking about it I made my alternative setup which should not split the field in half passive and half aggressive.

I never knew what @dcayton9 brought up with the Cover defender being more or less more interested in covering/marking a striker or the center of the pitch.
I understood Cover defenders as defenders covering holes/spaces. e.g FB-A is missing so he tries to cover the space better. Take tempo out of the attack so the defence can set up again. Which he obviously won't do if he is not stepping out at all.
I am after such inputs, so I don't have to experiment around for a while... thinking about whether my players are at fault or whether I missundertand what the roles and duties do in such edge cases like this one.

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We're a bit confused by what the "nike" lopsided roles have to do with Mourinho.

John Terry played on the left, next to Gallas for much of the 2004/5 season (and for most of his career next to the defensively excellent Ashley Cole) with Carvalho on the right next to Ferreira. Which as you say, is more logical than having the speedy cover player next to the defensive left back and the slow, aggressive stopper next to the attacking fullback. There certainly wasn't any kind of plan to create a lopsided defence.


Easiest way to provide stability in FM is to set both defenders to the standard DC role and tweak fullback roles according to their skills, the quality of the opposition wide players, whether your own winger cuts inside or goes wide and whether you're winning or not. That's more like how Mourinho and most other managers would think about things anyway

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I am sorry for the confusion I don't know how to make it more clear what I want to achieve/ be informed on. But i'll try again :)
Thank you all for taking the time trying to help me.

What the roles have to do with Mourinho:
It seems to me he tended to have these roles.
An Aerial domnat CD the Stopper
An Agile Quick CD the Cover
And he mostly had one Fullback less Attacking than the other one.

I would argue the Defense with Cole and Ferreira as Fullbacks is a special case because both were rather attacking and Terry was protected by Cole being super fast and as you said defensively excellent.
But the Fullback Pairings Gallas/Ferreira(I know down to Wayne Bridge being out a long time), Chivu/Maicon, Marcelo/Arbeloa for me at least indicate that there was an effort to have one way more attacking Fullback

The Nike Part of "Nike Defense"
Thats why i made the pictures: I understood it as such: the unit when looked at on the normal Tactics screen could be described as forming the Nike-Logo. Thats where the word seemed to be derived from.
Thats why I clarified that Nike-Defense here means something other than "the shape of the defense, when it moves to one side of the field". I also never thought of that as again in german I know that as "Sickle-Movement"

What I want to make sense of now is: Is there a benefit to have a specific duty CD next to one of the Fullbacks.

I know I can just put both CDs to CD-D but at some point thats just boring :lol:
As I have shown there are two setups possible. The one I have found online (Cover next to Defensive fullback) and the alternative (cover next to Attacking fullback) I have constructed in my head. (I know I should get an award for coming up with that :lol:)

Me being not the most knowledgeable guy, I wanted to get more opinions.
Maybe my reasoning is flawed due to me working on many assumptions.
Something the first answer I got would indicate: If  a Cover Defenders task really is more to cover the center and a striker, it would make sense to have him next to the defensive Fullback.
So my logic would be flawed as I assumed he would cover open space.

Like you said in reality the Stopper seemed to be next to the defensive Fullback. Pepe next to Arbeloa, Terry next to Gallas. And the Cover next to the Fullback Attack Ramos besides Marcelo, Carvalho besides Ferreira.
Haven't really made my mind up on Inter as Lucio is bigger than Samuel so he was more likely to be the first challenger e.g. the Stopper Defender(?) but than again he was (at least in his Bundesliga time) known for being rapid for a CD so maybe a CD-C(?) Maybe at Inter it was two CD-Ds but thats besides the point.

Ignoring reality:
I repeat myself: Is there a benefit to have a specific duty CD next to one of the Fullbacks.
I normaly try to see my Defense as a Unit which should support each other, so I am not to eager to view the Centerback Pairing in isolation ignoring the Fullbacks.  
Maybe it's has no impact and I try to think in complexity when there is none?

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Sorry to bother you @Justified but that sounds like you have been around a long time.
Could you elaborate what a setup like this should do?
Why it should/could be better than a flat back four( just using two CD-Ds)? What the drawbacks would have been?
Was it maybe just something exploity, not inspired by real world football but by gaming the game?
If it was not just exploity, had those discussions over 20 years ago a preferred setup and if yes why was that setup preferred exactly?
Could some of the knowledge from over 20 years ago even be applied to todays game?

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It was another way to play the game. Ancient ME. I don't know if it be can sucessful now. About theory (Roo, 5x5, 2-6-2...) But its all right for you to test.

Maybe more a FBs next to a CDst and a CDco, next to FBde. A little more conservative. An anchor maybe in DM position...

Good Luck.

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On 28/07/2022 at 23:24, Justified said:

This brings me back to the old CM 01/02 days...

We used to have endless discussions about the Nike defence when setting up wibble/wobble screens :D 

The good old days of wibbling and wobbling! I've still got cm01/02 installed on my old laptop to pass the time when travelling. Once you learned the art, it did work a bit too well, to be fair. 




Why don't you just try in-game yourself? All sorts of different combinations can work in game, provided they are used appropriately - that is, in the right set-up, for the right purpose.

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So I have experimented a bit. Some games with the FBD-CDC and some with FB-De-CD-St.
and I can confirm what @dcayton9 said the CD-C will not step out as eagerly and cover the space left by the FB-A, so not attacking/stopping the winger on that side.
A CD-Co seems to be focused on Covering the direct route to goal and to pick up the direct threat(most often a striker). Something I have seen when trying to replicate Mourinhos Roma when I finally switched my Central Defender to a CD-Co, but there it was logical, because in a three back with him central there is just the space centrally to cover for him. Obviously I missread the role description thinking he will try to cover any space left by the backline.

What has brought me to the conclusion that FB-De and CD-Co on the same side is safer:
I observed one relatively dangerous situation which for me was enough to decide FB-De-CD-St can be flawed:
Gif: FB-De and CD-St,  CD-St steps out leaving a gap. Created with tacitcal-board dot com

This is what happend with a little bit less complexity.
We were countered down the FB-De side. Their Winger came inside prompting the CD-St to step out. Which lead to their Striker running into the space the CD-St left, leaving my CD-C with two man unmarked the Striker and their AMR whoever he marks the otehr one is free and on his way to a wide open goal.
The FB-De did not step inside enough to cover the Striker which is normal behaviour from what I have expierenced so far. Since that is what I instructed my players to do with that setup I have created an easy way to pull apart my defense.
It wouldn't have been as much of a problem if the FB-A would have been in position, but he wasn't and that is also something I want or am at least willing to risk.
Now I will show you what I think would have happend with the FB-De CD-Co Pair on one side.

Gif: FB-De and CD-Co, CD-Co stays in line. Created with tacitcal-board dot com

With the CD-Co if the striker would have made his run the CD-Co would have covered him and the only gap is the outside gap of the CD-St.
Sure if the attack would have been from the other side we would still have the problem of the CD-St stepping out but that would have just widend the already open right side.

I hope, that will help anyone who stumbles on this in the future. It at least explained what I wanted to know for myself.
If anyone has more input please let me and others know.

Thank you everyone for your input. :)

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