Okay guys, I might be on to something here. As it has been said before when it comes to replicating Pep's complicated real life tactics you need to focus on certain aspects and just try to replicate that. For me, what I love most about the way Man City plays is how they position themselves when in posession and attacks mainly through the wide channels and half spaces. So what I wanted to replicate is their attacking shape, the wingplay and the two number 8's as an offensive threat. Wanted to create the two bands of players; 5 attacks, 5 protects circulate the ball. After a full season with Liverpool with a lot of trial and error I ended up with this:
Wow, that looks quite defensive, doesn't it? I don't even use a striker, the formation is deep, but how it plays during the attacking phase is quite fun to watch. There was several reasons I ended up with this. One being that both Sane and Sterling holds width for a long, long time, they get a bit narrow in the final third, getting around the corner edge of the penalty box. In the midfield strata the wingers holds width for much longer and even with an attack duty they track back a lot. But lets start from the top:
Mentality: I ended up using the "Positive" mentality to get some risk taking into the play. I use a really natural defensive formation by nature, so I need my attackers to move high up the field and be aggressive. I used "Balanced" a lot but I found when we were in possession our midfielders and SS were way to deep. I need them to push up and making space. Remember, I did not set out to replicate their cautious build up play, how the back 5 ping pongs the ball around until they can find the free man of the five attackers. I do see it happen though and if I wanted more of that I could maybe lower the tempo a bit but that's what I will be focusing on season 2.
Team instructions: I always like keeping it minimal here but to apply the attacking shape, and considering I am using a deep formation where players starting positions are deep, I need a fair bit of possession to get players up the field and get into our attacking shape. Play out of defence helps with that and also makes the centerback split! It is so cool to watch! The same with shorter passing (and it is a trademark of Pep's teams afterall) helps a bit with our possession. Also I am playing on positive which means players are inclined to be a bit more direct in choosing their passing options, the Shorter Passing TI helps nullify that a bit.
In transitions I ask my Sweeper Keeper to take short kicks and I think it is a lovely TI that makes the keeper play somewhat like Ederson. Sometimes he gives the ball to the centerbacks or he plays it out wide to the wingers or maybe even central to one of the number 8's. It is great to see when the opposition pressure you, you draw them and the keeper bypass the high press with a simple ball into midfield from where I usually have 5 players who goes on to attack. We counter press (helps with the high press) and if we win the ball go attack before the opposition gets back to defend. This TI might mean I lose some possession stats, but I am not interested in extreme numbers of possession. Also Man City do counter incredible fast if the situation is right.
Out of possession I want to emulate the high press from Man City and how they defend. Only thing to note here is that I went to extreme with the line of engagement TI to make my midfield and SS to defend as high up the pitch as possible.
Roles and duties from the bottom:
Sweeper Keeper(S): The first attacker of Pep's teams is the goalkeeper. He is involved during build up play and helps bypass press. Sweeper Keeper on Support does all of this, if you have the player for it. Alisson is that players.
2x Central Defender: Not using any Ball Playing Defenders as I want them both to keep it simple.
FB(s): I fell a bit in love with this role actually. It does a bit of everything, brings support in the wide channel, sometimes tucks in and helps centrally and is conservative enough to not leave the defense exposed. His main job is ball circulation and protect the space that the WM(a) and Mez(s) leaves behind. I could have gone with IWB(s) but I found that he wandered too much into the space that the Mez(s) is operating in.
IWB(d): On support duty he came "too" close to the Mez(a) and if the player has PPM's like "Get forward whenever possible" he sometimes takes up the space that I want the Mez(A) to be in. Defend duty means he will stay back a lot more and sometimes I see him make a 3-chain with the two CD's during build up while the Mez(A) moves high up into space. I am not 100 hundred percent on this yet though.
DM(S). Has hold position. With using 2x mezzalas my midfielders splits really wide so I want my number 6 to move up a bit in midfield central area to offer a link between the sort of two wide bands of attackers and be on the same vertical line as the Shadow Striker. Hold position is for him to not move too far up. And because of Hendersons PPM's he comes deep during build up.
2x WM(A): Okay, so I kept it real simple here. Man City's wingers both make a lot of forward runs. To me, that suggest an attack duty, so I gave them an attack duty. They also stay wide all the way to the final third then make runs into the wide areas of the penalty box. So I give them "Stay Wider" PI. And they also make dribbles, more than usually I think, so I gave them "Dribble more". If there is one thing I am most happy about this tactic it is these two roles. Mane and Salah plays them, sometimes with their strong foot inside or towards the touchline. Despite both not being natural in this position they did really well for me during the season. Salah got 21 goals and 13 assist. Mane 19 goals and 16 assist.
The midfield pair; Mez on support, mez on attack: Guardiola in his sort of 4-3-3 system splits the midfielders quite wide (sometimes they come close to each to help overloading, but forget about that right now). The tactic is all about making space for these two number 8's. Okay, so I wanted one of them to charge into the box and be real high and really aggressive in his decision making, while the other is not so high but helps link defense and attack a bit more while also moving up high when an attack is going on. I've been really happy with this pair and also to see that the match engine can punish you if the opposition gets through your high press - as this is Man City's real life weakness too.
Shadow Striker: Oh my God the trial and error of this position. Tried several striker roles on support - also the PF(d) - and they dont offer themselves enough during build up play. Half into the season I choose to go strikerless and it works somewhat okay. There is a lot of space in the central midfield because of the mezzalas is quite wide, so Bobby Firmino - who plays this role - drops into the space there and helps with the build up - and then charge into the box - running when the cross is being delivered, not standing there - just as Guardiola wants. Main thing with this though - and it is a problem - is that he is sometimes way to deep - also because of his PPM (Comes deep to get ball). Next season I am going to try to make him unlearn that because the Shadow Striker as a role comes deep enough as it is.
Despite this being an experiment the season went really well:
And a screenshot of our attacking shape:
Luis Alberto have come deep to help with the build, 4 attackers have managed to position themselves between the lines and if Luis Alberto manage to find one of them a dangerous attacks can be developed as we then have a 4v4 going. This is taken from the CL-final against Inter, who played in their 4-2-3-1 pressed us quite aggressively so we did have problems getting into our attacking shapes as Inter gave us little time on the ball - but once we broke through we came into good chances and won 4-1.