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  1. VITREX 1.5 (2.0) UPDATE WORK IN PROGRESS! - Brand new pre-match panels - Brand new 3D signature Vitrex17 Premier League inspired scoreboard + Lots of other tweaks Stay tuned for more soon guys!
  2. Following the sad passing of Ajax & Barcelona legend Johan Cruyff I'm sure I am not alone in enjoying a Cruyff-inspired Ajax save. I always enjoy a save with Ajax. Developing the club's youngsters and creating a formidable team of home-grown talent. At the outset of this game, I actually intended to move towards the classic Dutch 4-3-3 - which I did actually play briefly - however the lack of inside forwards and abundance of wonderful central midfielders, ball playing defenders and wingers meant a Johan Cruyff's legendary 3-4-3 diamond was actually a better option. After much experimentation I have found a system which I am happy with and has brought great success, perhaps some may be interested and we may prompt some interesting discussion. Real-Life* Resources on the 3-4-3 *Not that FM isn't real life.. Spielverlagerung - Retro Analysis: 1992 European Cup Final - Barcelona 1:0 Sampdoria Spielverlagerung - Retro Analysis: 1995 Champions League Final - AFC Ajax 1:0 AC Milan Spielverlagerung - Match Analysis: Barcelona 5:0 Villarreal YouTube: Cruyff 3-4-3 tactics YouTube: Cruyff explains his Diamond Theory According to Spielverlagerung's excellent analysis, this is the shape we are trying to create. Beautiful, isn't it? As part of the legendary 'Total Football' Holland team of the 1970s, Johan Cruyff's tactical approach follows the same concepts: Positive, proactive, football Complete footballers with strong technical ability, intelligence and fitness Attacking & defending as a team Intelligence & creativity Fluidity & movement Possession Formation, Shape & Mentality Formation, shape and mentality go hand-in-hand as the backbone of your tactic. I don't think there's much sense talking about one without the others so I'll cover them all at once. As you're probably aware by now, in Football Manager your formation refers to your defensive shape. So after a much experimentation, I settled on a 3-5-1-1 shape. Very Fluid: For me, the description below describes word-for-word exactly what we're looking for here. Complete footballers, attacking and defending as a team in a fluid shape playing free-flowing football with high creative freedom. Perfect. Standard: Balance is the key word here. The temptation here would be to select control, or attacking. The reason I went for Standard is that playing a Very Fluid shape means that my team will attack and defend as a unit. This means that selecting a more aggressive mentality would make my entire team more aggressive. In other shapes, such as rigid or balanced, this is balanced out by reducing the defenders mentality but not in Very Fluid shapes. In my experience, Very Fluid shape does not mix well with Attacking mentality. I am sure it could work but in my experience it is simply not balanced. Team Instructions Note on Passing You'll notice that despite wishing to play a possession-based game, I don't alter my passing options. There are two reasons for this: My team consists of intelligent, technically talented players and my instructions give them good movement, passing options and creative freedom. I want to allow these players to pick the best option, rather than the one closest to them. Much of the time the best option will be a short pass, but occasionally they could rip open a defence from range, if it's on. I don't think Cruyff would say 'no' to that! Want to avoid possession for possession sake. We want to dominate possession but also make sure we're creating chances and moving forward. Player Roles & Instructions As per wwfan's influential 12 Step Guide on How to Play Football Manager, in order to successfully play a Very Fluid shape I need to limit my team to 0-1 Specialist roles i.e playmakers, ball-winners or anything with a fancy name. Sweeper Keeper (Support): Distribute the ball to Playmaker, Distribute Quickly Central Defender (Defend): N/A Central Defender (Cover): N/A Central Defender (Defend): N/A Right Winger (Attack): N/A Central Midfielder (Support): Player specific* Deep-lying Playmaker (Defend): Close down much less Central Defender (Defend): Player specific Left Winger (Attack): N/A Attacking Midfielder (Attack): Hold up Ball Complete Forward (Support): Move into Channels *by 'player specific' I mean that I alter the instructions based on the strengths or weaknesses of a particular player. Using the starting XI above as an example, Klaassen is a great, aggressive central midfielder so I have him Get forward, close down more, dribble more and play more direct passes, whilst Van de Beek on the left is more of a patient passer, so I have him hold position, pass shorter and fewer risky passes. I try to balance the two so one more aggressive and the other sits helps recycle possession. Analysis of the Shape The screenshot below comes from the Home Leg of our 2020 Champions League Quarter Final tie with an aging Barcelona side. Ajax are in possession of the ball in midfield with Bazoer playing a short pass towards Klaassen. Here, you can clearly see a wide back 3 with a diamond midfield ahead of them and a centre forward, flanked by two wingers. You can also see the problems this shape is causing for a deep 4-2DM-3-1. Look at the space our our midfielders have. We won this game 4-1 and achieved almost 60% possession. If heat maps are more your thing, here is our Average Position with the ball. Match Analysis AJAX vs PSG 2020 Champions League Final We faced up against Laurent Blanc's PSG side. It was the collision of two very different footballing philosophies. PSG has spend more than £560m since the game began, whilst 7 of the Ajax starting 11 come from the Toekomst academy. PSG lined up in a formidable looking 4-3-3 and I played the system exactly as outlined above, no special tweaks. Analysis without the ball The main reason for choosing to play a 3-6-1 system is it's strength off the ball. The numbers in midfield mean you can press aggressively without worrying about leaving gaps. I'd strongly recommend reading the following article for more insight into the strengths of the shape - 3-6-1: A Logical Step, by Spielverlagerung (I don't work for them, honestly ) Key Instructions: Very Fluid - Defend as a unit, compact mentality structure Close Down Much More Tight Marking Prevent GK Distribution The High Press Here you see PSG in possession at the back and you can immediately see how much pressure they're under. Mbemba narrowly managed to get the ball away to his fullback before my centre forward pounced on him. Now look at the options open to the fullback. Nada. My left winger is up and on him before the ball lands at his feet. Pressing is very simple. You need a formation where your player will be close to the opposition player with ball, i.e no gaps in formation, for example it's difficult to press opposition fullbacks with a 4-4-2 diamond as you have no width. You need players who get there quickly Close Down Much More TI/PI, high Work Rate, Pace and Stamina You need to support that player by covering the gap he leaves, and cutting off passing options, i.e 5-man midfield offers great cover (see article above), and tight marking. Wining the ball instantly with a high press is great, but difficult. The real objective of the high press is to force the opposition into a long ball, when we have 3 mobile defenders and a holding midfielder. The Deep Press Now you can see our defensive structure when PSG have possession in a threatening position in the attacking third. In the absence of Fullbacks, players in the MR/ML strata drop deep and defend as slightly advanced fullbacks creating a very solid back 5-3-2 shape. Bazoer will drop into the defence if anyone is out of position to kill any gaps. This is the premise of my defensive structure. One of the things I like about generalist roles vs specialist is their defensive work-rate. Look at #10 - that's Odegaard, my attacking midfielder still getting tight on Daley Blind, cutting off any passing option there. Analysis with the ball Now for the fun part.. Build up from defence As you expect from a Total Football-inspired team who attack and defend as a unit, our defenders and indeed goalkeeper are the first stage of our build up play. Key Instructions Very Fluid - More movement, creative freedom and defenders encouraged to get involved with play. Higher Creative Freedom Standard Mentality - players pick the best passing option, unbiased as to whether it is a short or direct option. Generalist roles - with the exception of the DLP, players will not be biased towards finding a 'playmaker', again simply choose the best option. This image shows that our formation is essentially two diamonds, with a front 3 ahead of them. Almost all opposition formations will find it difficult / impossible to put pressure on each point in both the diamonds, so you'll almost always have a 'free player' in the build up phase. This is an easy example, as PSG are not pressing at all. There are two key points to the diamond: Deep Lying Playmaker Attacking Midfielder If you missed the link above, Cryuff explains it himself, here: The Deep-Lying Playmaker - Bazoer You may notice I have Bazoer highlighted in a lot of the highlights. The reason for this is that he is my point of reference. Bazoer is the pivot between the two diamonds and always needs to be available for a pass. The reason for having him highlighted is to see instantly if he is being marked out of the game. Bazoer will regularly drop into the back 3 to pick up the ball and distribute forward to my midfielders, wingers or attackers. Key Instructions Playmaker - only playmaker in the team, so he attracts the ball more and has the most passing options. Very Fluid - finds space himself and team mates offer good movement. In addition, higher creative freedom. The Attacking Midfielder - Odegaard Best player on the team. Odegaard is an attacking pivot. Odegaard has two responsibilities: When the ball is behind him, he has his back to goal, finding space for a simple pass and then playing another simple pass to an onrushing midfielder. When the ball is ahead of him, making forward runs and acting as a playmaker or secondary striker. Key Instructions Hold up ball. Get Forward (automatic). NOT Roam from Position - none of my midfield diamond roam from position, as if they roam too much then I lose my diamond. SOMETIMES Swap position with ST, if your ST is a playmaker. Possession in Midfield Here, you can see how we line up as Bazoer enters the opposition half, and plays a short pass to Klaassen. This illustrates: Bazoer's positioning in the centre circle - I want him staying in/around here as a passing option and foil for opposition counters. Odegaard has his back to goal, open to play a connecting pass to an on-rushing midfielder before making an attacking run himself. <- we score a lot of goals from this. Back 3 spread wide in possession of the ball, all in plenty of space. Midfield diamond in an advanced position, ready to transition to attack. Wingers are wide, stretching the defence. Complete Forward is dropping deeper, adding an extra passing option and creating space. Entering the Attacking Third Here, Riedewald finds Nunnely in an attacking position. As we enter the attacking third, you can see: Our shape becomes a 3-3-4. Odegaard is now facing goal, making an attacking run and creating a 2v1 on the opposition centre back. Our back 3 and midfield 3 remain reasonably in-tact, acting as cover to counter attacks and passing options. At times, Klaassen will make a later run into the box. Wingers make attacking runs into the box. I really like the positional play from MR/ML Wingers in a Very Fluid system. They allow us to transition from 5-3-2 without the ball in our half, to 3-3-4 with the ball in attack. The Result We won the match comfortably and this was perhaps the defining match of this Ajax team. We destroyed PSG 5-0, recording 58% possession and preventing a single shot on target whilst a youngster from the academy was Man of the Match and scored a bicycle kick. This side also won the Eredivise, unbeaten and scoring a record number of goals. Odegaard, Nunnely, van Leeuwen and Patrascu all managed >20 goals in all competitions. Nouri, Ayew and Klaassen all achieved goal tallies in the double figures. PKM Download 2020 Champions League Final: Ajax 5:0 PSG 2019 Champions League Final: Ajax 2:1 Juventus If you're interested in the background & development of this team, I have been posting regular updates in the Ajax - de Godenzonen thread in the Player & Team Guide of this forum. - Rest in peace, Johan.. -
  3. Recent threads have focused on re-creating the tactical styles of some of my favourite teams in real-life and implementing them using the Tactics Creator in Football Manager. This time, I want to try something different. I am interested in developing my approach, taking inspiration from some of the tactical trends we are seeing in modern football. Rather than my usual approach of developing a tactic, I intend to develop a framework where I have a consistent playing style and a flexible structure which I can adapt depending on my squad, and the challenges we face. Playing Style & Structure Key Concepts: Playing Style - overall playing "philosophy" for want of a better word. In Football Manager terms, this is primarily the combination of: Mentality Team Shape Team Instructions Structure - the organisation of a team on the field. In Football Manager terms, this refers to a combination of: Formation Player Role Player Duty Player Instructions Playing Style depends on factors such as: How would you like your team to attack? quick transitions and fast attacks? Attacking wide? Controlled build-up from the back? Playing through the centre? Long balls? Counter attack? Tiki-taka? How would you like your team to defend? Intense pressing? High block? Sit deep and maintain structure? Low-Block? Park the bus? Is your approach to give players an NFL style 'play book' telling them exactly how to play, or the freedom to make decisions? Whilst Structure is determined by: What formations can you play with the players you have available? How would you like to structure your defence / midfield / attack? Do you need a playmaker? A target man? Who is provides width? Who is holding in midfield? Who is making attacking runs? Do you really want to play that Attacking Libero with a Regista and aggressive front-6? ...and no, there's no download link available! In order to understand the difference between Playing Style and Structure, consider teams who line up similarly but employ a different style of play in comparison with teams who employ a similar style of play but line up differently. For example: Alex Ferguson's treble-winning, attacking 4-4-2 at Manchester United in 1999 and Claudio Ranieri's title-winning, counter attacking 4-4-2 at Leicester last season. Similar structure, different playing style. Pep Guardiola's 4-3-3 at Barcelona and his flexible Bayern Munich side or Klopp's use of 4-2-3-1 then 4-3-2-1 and now 4-3-3 or 4-5-1. They maintain a similar playing style but structure their teams differently depending on the squad, opposition etc. Previous threads actually give a few useful, Football Manager based examples: The Cruyff 3-4-3 and Sacchi 4-4-2 employ similar playing styles but structure the teams differently. Sacchi, Invincibiles and Brazil all employ a similar structure but different playing styles. Links: Johan Cruyff's 3-4-3 Diamond Arrigo Sacchi's 4-4-2 Arsene Wenger's Invincibles Brazil's Jogo Bonito style Cult Heroes: Wales at Euro 2016 It's important to understand that Playing Style and Structure go hand-in-hand. Revisiting Jonathan Wilson's quote: My interpretation of this is that 'application' refers to Playing Style, combined with the abilities of your squad and strengths / weaknesses of your opposition. For example: If your playing style is to sit deep, draw the opposition out and counter, you need your structure to give you a solid defensive base but also men forward to counter. If you're playing a quick attacking system then you need numbers in advanced positions, in order to attack quickly. If you prefer a controlled build-up then presence in midfield is essential and you'll need players making attacking runs. Defining a Playing Style We're going to begin with a bit of nostalgia. Whilst playing Football Manager 2015, I experienced something of a tactical 'light-bulb' moment whilst experimenting with the concept of 'universality' having been inspired by the movement away from specialists and towards complete footballers throughout world football. -> Universality in Football Manager 2015 (Very Fluid) The thread never really took off, but the under-lying concept was the basis for my interpretation of Cruyff's 3-4-3 and Sacchi's 4-4-2, both of which really did take off. You'll see that the major breakthrough was developing the playing style, essentially using Very Fluid to organise the team into one unit contributing to all phases of the game and then to balance this with a Standard mentality, moving away from my penchant for attack. In the tactics creator: Summary of the playing style: Very Fluid. Standard mentality. Intense Pressing. Intelligent, technical and hard-working players. The 4-4-2 diamond was nice, devastating in attack but the 4-3-3 was more effective at pressing and really dominated games. Side note: look at that beautiful tactics creator screen.. Won everything there was to win at Arsenal, Ajax and Holland and the legacy continued in 2016 again with Ajax and this time Barcelona. Take a look at the Cruyff 3-4-3 diamond and see the similarity in the playing style, roles and even half of the players. It's largely the same system, with a different formation. The same applies to the Sacchi 4-4-2. The team structure is different but the playing style - very fluid, standard mentality, high pressing and intelligent players - remains the same. This playing style was the real legacy of the Universality thread. The idea that you can take your playing style and apply it to any shape you like to fit your team. Evaluating a Structure - 4-3-3 My favourite club to manage in Football Manager has always been Ajax - as you can probably tell from previous threads! The Ajax team of 1995 is one of my earliest football memories. Players like Seedorf, Rijkaard, Davids, Kluivert, Overmars, the de Boers and van der Sar went on to become legends around Europe as I was growing up. Then, of course, there is the brilliant influence of Dennis Bergkamp at my family's club, Arsenal. Then as I got older and learnt more about football, it turned out that a lot of my preferences about how I enjoy seeing football played stem back to the great Ajax teams of the 70s. With a couple of additions - namely Rajkovic in goal after Cillesson's move to Barca and the versatile Augustinsson on the left flank - this was my starting squad: 4-3-3 has always been my bread & butter, but formation can be anything. When deciding a formation, I have a few rules of thumb: The overall formation should cover the field, allowing you to press effectively - for example, this is why I prefer 4-3-3 to the initial diamond. Solid defensive base, generally 2-3 centre backs and a holding midfield player. Look for a strong presence in the midfield area - generally 3.5 - 4 players in central midfield with the .5 indicating a wide midfielder coming inside. One attacking winger or fullback on each flank providing width and stretching opposition defence. A striker who will act as the first line of defence, pressing and offer movement to get involved in the build-up. Most creative player assigned a Playmaker role. You always have two influences. 1. What can you do with your existing squad? 2. Bigger picture, what are you trying to do overall? In this instance. Characteristics of my squad were better suited to a 4-5-1 variant than the 4-3-3. El Ghazi is a better Winger than Inside Forward. Ziyech is more suitable for a central / playmaker role than an Inside Forward. Augustinsson is an excellent left winger or attacking fullback - great versatility, personality and PPMs. Tete and Diks are great fullbacks but don't offer enough attacking threat to be my main wide players. Klaassen is my best goalscoring threat for movement, composure and finishing. Interested in the real-life movement towards the very fluid 4-5-1 variants, particularly from Klopp and Guardiola. A closer look at the structure of the 4-3-3. Effective pressing shape, off-the-ball. Transition either through the central playmaker, or attacking fullbacks. In attack: Complete Forward movement creates space. Inside Forwards attack the space opened up by the movement. Fullbacks provide width. Central Midfielders support. Deep-lying Playmaker combines playmaking responsibilities with holding the midfield, protecting the Defence. Observation: Fullbacks required to run the length of the field in transition - in both attack and defence - in order to provide width. Even the fastest players in the world would take a few seconds to cover that distance. Gives the opposition valuable time to organise their defence Or - in reverse - valuable time for the opposition to counter-attack Wingers start in a more advanced position so have less ground to cover. Passing the ball is quicker than running. Wide Attackers in the AM-strata means the 4-3-3 is perhaps better suited to a more direct transition, e.g attacking mentality. Pulling wide players back into midfield gives more potential for extra numbers in the midfield. Evolving Structure - 4-1-4-1 What changed? Maintain the strong defensive shape and high pressing. Transition now goes through either the central playmaker or wingers. Wide attackers drop back to Midfield strata start for more control of the centre. In attack, we have re-organised the responsibilities. Complete Forward movement creates space. Central Midfielders now attack the space opened up - one has Attacking duty and the other instructed to get forward more. Wingers now provide the width. Fullbacks provide support. Deep-lying Playmaker combines playmaking responsibilities with holding the midfield, protecting the Defence. Benefits: Quicker transitions: Wingers have less distance to run to provide width. Less open to counter-attacks as the fullbacks are better positioned to cover. My best attacking players - Klaassen and Ziyech - are in more effective attacking positions. We won the league, the UEFA Cup - after drawing Monaco in Champions League qualifying - and the youngsters won the Dutch Cup. The system worked very well. At this point I was 90% happy but still had a few ideas to implement going into the 2017/18 season. Take advantage of Ajax' versatile squad by adapting tactics to opposition weaknesses and punch above our weight in Europe. Namely: vs 4-3-3 vs 4-2-3-1 My second shape is the 3-4-3 diamond which is already very strong against 4-4-2 and it's variants. Upgrade the Playmaker Bazoer is a great player, with even better potential however Vision of 14, decisions of 11 and passing of 13 meant he was yet to reach a level capable of being a playmaker at a club challenging in Europe. Question marks over the Deep-Lying Playmaker (Defend) role being too conservative. Considering splitting holding / playmaking responsibilities. Change the Playmaker's position on the field to exploit gaps in the opposition formation. Flexible Structure - Playing against the 4-3-3 It's difficult to talk about the 4-3-3 without thinking of Barcelona - in this case, my opponents in the Champions League, Quarter Final. From Pep's all-conquering, to Lucho's more direct treble-winners they're one of the most famous advocates of 4-3-3. This is how they line up: In the majority of leagues, 4-3-3 is one of the most common formations you'll come up against and there's a reason it is so popular - it's bloody effective. The 4-3-3 consists of a back four, midfield trio and three attackers. In this case, one of the most devastating combinations of attackers in history. Tactically, the main challenge of facing the 4-3-3 is the midfield trio. Structured in a '1-2' triangle consisting of a DMC and two MCs, this trio offers three men behind the ball when defending and two offensive players when attacking. As we have said before - formations are neutral. The football field is a big space and it's impossible to cover perfectly with 10 outfield players. Given the lack of player in the AMC position, the most useful - in my opinion - space against the 4-3-3 formation is between the opposition midfield and their attack. Utilising this space has a few advantages: It allows us to build-up play from deep, through the centre of the field. A player in this position has passing options ahead of him which allows us to keep moving forward. As the opposition midfield press, they open up spaces further up the field. Wide players occupying deeper positions between the opposition fullbacks and attackers should generally be useful passing options. This is why I mentioned upgrading Bazoer and re-thinking the playmaker role. Meet Stefano Sensi, my new playmaker. Possibly my favourite player of Football Manager 2017 so far. Sensi is intelligent, creative, dictates tempo, technically gifted and unpredictable - high flair, plays 1-2s or long passes. How does he fit in? What's new? Split the holding midfield responsibilities from the playmaker role. Sensi comes in as the Playmaker Bazoer advances to an MC(D) role, maintaining his role as holding midfielder. Ziyech moves out to the left midfield spot in a 'free role', acting as an auxiliary midfielder - roaming from position and getting forward more. Augustinsson drops back to full-back but takes on an attacking role in order to provide width. My thoughts on the deep Playmaker roles: Both Deep-Lying Playmaker roles are similar. Both static, holding position and no forward movement. Roaming Playmaker makes more lateral movement. Instructed to roam but fewer forward runs. Has the option to move into channels and dribbles by default. Regista is the Pirlo-esq role, very mobile and slightly more direct. Passing range is increased and instructed to roam with optional forward runs and dribbling. Tough call between the roaming playmaker and regista but I prefer the lateral movement, as there's more time and space in deeper positions to pick out runners and I didn't necessarily want the more direct style accompanying the regista. If there's an issue with the Playmaker not getting into advanced enough positions, I was ready to switch to Regista + get forward more, dribbling and shorter passing PIs. Playing style remains the same. In-Game Analysis Ajax v Barcelona, Champions League Quarter Final Flexible Midfield structure and Pressing Here you can see Barcelona building-up from deep through Mascherano. Sensi and Bazoer combine to form a double-pivot shielding the defence and covering Rakitic and Rafinha. With the cover from the double-pivot, Klaassen leads the press with the rest of the team cutting off passing options. Defending with a 4v3 at the back and a 2v2 on each flank preventing overloads. Dolberg working hard as the first line of defence. Build-up through the Middle Veltman is under pressure from Suarez but lack of support from his team mates means Veltman can bypass him easily. Sensi is in plenty of space with 6 passing options available ahead of him or - preferably - advancing with the ball until he meets pressure. Bazoer has dropped into space providing an easy passing outlet, should Sensi hit trouble. El Ghazi and Ziyech are both in space on the flanks. Width and passing options give us a good platform to build. Sensi advancing into Midfield One of the advantages of chasing a more aggressive playmaker role was that Sensi could advance into midfield and transition into attack rather than just circulating possession. As the Barcelona midfield start to press, this opens space for the further up the field: Bazoer offers a simple, easy option and covers against counter-attacks. Klaassen is wide open in an advanced midfield position. Ziyech has come inside and is using the space ahead of Bazoer. Dolberg drops deep to get involved with the build up. El Ghazi and Ziyech are wide and stretching the defence. Transitioning Attacks El Ghazi has attacked down the right-hand side but been outnumbered so needed an outlet to retain possession in-field. Sensi - this time well in the Barcelona half - again in plenty of space. Sensi has time to control the ball and either advance himself or pick out a passing option. Ziyech has gone forward too early here. Red area is where I'd want him. Bazoer is deeper, once again, offering a simple passing option and cover against the counter-attack. We won this game 1-0 with 60% possession and was probably the performance of the season. At this stage, the squad was nowhere near Barcelona so we really punched above our weight. Unfortunately lost the 2nd leg at the Nou Camp, getting knocked out on aggregate but gives us a real platform to build on next season. Flexible Structure - Playing against the 4-2-3-1 When I think of the 4-2-3-1, Borussia Dortmund - in this case my opponents in the Champions League, Second Round - spring to mind. First with Klopp and now with Tuchel, they've been very successful with the 4-2-3-1 for a number of years now. This is how they line up. 4-2-3-1 is an aggressive formation consisting of a back-4, double pivot midfield, playmaker and 3 attackers. One of the challenges of playing against a 4-2-3-1 is that you can easily find yourself overrun at the back by the 4-man attacking unit but - once again - formations are neutral. This is both a strength and a weakness. With 4-players in the attacking strata, the double-pivot in midfield must be reasonably conservative in order to maintain balance. Dortmund kindly illustrate my point here, fielding Ginter and Weigl - both conservative, holding-type players. Essentially, the 4-2-3-1 naturally divides itself into an two units: Attacking unit - attacking midfielders and striker. Defensive unit - defence and double-pivot. Note: The fullback role is always unknown. With the presence of the double-pivot they could theoretically bomb forward, or sit back and form a solid defence. Compare this with our approach of having the entire team attack and defend as a unit. This is where I see an opportunity to gain advantage. My approach is to isolate & bypass the attacking unit and then to stretch and draw out the defence, then attack the space that creates. No drastic changes but you'll notice 3 structural changes designed to exploit some of the weaknesses of the 4-2-3-1. Bazoer - our holding midfielder - drops to Defensive Midfield (Defend). Why? The central midfield structure in a 4-2-3-1 is a '2-1' shape consisting of MC-MC-AMC where it's a good bet that the AMC is the playmaker so Bozoer drops to DMC to nullify his threat. Also, it's now a very crowded area for me to play my playmaker. van Ginkel comes in as an all-rounder in midfield. Why? Ginter and - particularly - Wiegl can control a game. Van Ginkel is a hard-working player who will put them under pressure. Ziyech is now my assigned the Playmaker role. Why? Ziyech is my most creative and technical player and is positioned in the biggest gap in the 4-2-3-1. Combined with minor tweaks to the playing style: We no longer play from defence because a simple ball directly into midfield bypasses the entire opposition attacking unit and leaves their defence exposed. We no longer focus passing through the centre as there is more space on the flanks. During the match I reduced my defensive line to standard to counter the incredible pace in the Dortmund attack. In-Game Analysis Dortmund v Ajax, Champions League Second Round Isolating the Attacking unit Here is an example of Ginter trying to build up play from his deep midfield position. Back four plus Bazoer creates a 5v4 advantage over the attacking 4. Despite Shurrle cutting inside to create space and Guerreiro playing an attacking role, the attacking unit looks isolated. Klaassen is putting Ginter under pressure whilst the rest of the team cut off passing options. Bypassing the Attacking unit Riedewald finds Ziyech after intense pressure from Dortmund's famous intense pressing. One pass has taken 4 Borussia Dortmund players out of the game. Ziyech has the ball with space to advance into with runs from team-mates giving Dortmund difficult decisions: They could hold their shape, in which case Ziyech advances unopposed into a dangerous attacking space. The fullback could press Ziyech but would leave the Augustinsson making an attacking run unopposed. Either centre back could press but that'd leave Dolberg - one of the most dangerous strikers in Europe, at the moment - space to exploit. One could press and the left-sided defenders drift across but that'd leave El Ghazi open on the right wing. Overrunning the Defensive unit Ziyech is again exploiting the space on the flanks but this time faces intense pressing. This time Dembele has dropped deeper to press, meanwhile the other 3 from the attacking unit look uninterested in helping the defence. We still have 4v3 in the event of a counter-attack. The Dortmund right-back has been drawn to press Ziyech leaving wide-open space for Dolberg and Augustinsson to attack. Weigl has also been drawn across from his midfield spot, leaving van Ginkel open in the centre. Klaassen has taken a very threatening attacking position in the channel between right back and his centre back. El Ghazi is again stretching the defence, preventing them from drifting across without leaving him space to attack. The pass-map also how influential Ziyech was, playing in the gaps of the Dortmund 4-2-3-1. Ajax went into this game as underdogs and came out 6-3 winners on aggregate. This game, the away leg finished 3-0 and the home leg was an epic 3-3- draw where we didn't quite to such a good job of isolating the attacking unit! ================================================================================================= Hopefully some of the information presented in this thread is useful to the rest of the community and inspires some interesting discussions. One final point for those who are here to ask advice from the community. Remember that football is highly subjective. A question like, "how can I play like Jurgen Klopp?" is difficult to answer as my interpretation of Jurgen Klopp's approach will probably be different to yours, which will probably be different to the next guy or girl's. You'll get a far better response by defining the characteristics you'd like to implement, and having a go. It's much easier to help someone with a question like, "this is what I'm trying to do... this is what I've done... and when I'm playing games I'm facing challenges x, y & z". My best advice would be to apply the advice that you read from around the community, then play and experiment, don't give up too soon and ask plenty of questions to supplement what you're seeing in the match-engine. Thank you for reading!
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