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I posted a tactical update in my AEK career update thread but thought I would post a copy here to try to elicit some discussion about my tactics I use with AEK Athens. Tactical Analysis: Controlling the possession. Counter-attacking at pace. Creating Clear Cut Chances. I manage AEK Athens in the Greek Superleague OPAP. I am in the second season and the bookies don't give me much of a chance for the league title. Which is fair, given the players at my disposal and the fact we finished quite far off Panathinaikos last season. Compared to teams in the Champions League and we're given even less of a chance. The football I want us to employ is very basic. Sit back when in possession, keeping the ball away from the opposition. Draw out the opposition and work the ball around them in the middle of the pitch using our numerical advantage afforded to us by having three midfielders and three attacking midfielders. I want slow, methodical passing at the back and between the midfield. When the opposition is forced to commit more players forwards in an attempt to win the ball back from us, this is when we need to catch them on the break using a range of quick passes, fluid movement and through-balls. In the Superleague, most teams play with two central defenders, so we play with three attacking midfielders to overload them. Most teams play with two central midfielders, so we play with three central midfielders to overload them. What this allows us to do it build up play easier through the middle by making use of the extra man. Because we have this extra man it will typically pull in an opposition wide player, and this is where my wing-backs come in handy. Their job is to exploit the vacant space out wide. Whilst we typically will only play through the middle, it is useful having that option when things get a little congested. It also helps to stretch the play when we need a bit more room to work in. Now for the hard part. Putting those thoughts into practice. Playing Style As discussed we are looking to create a playing style that: Has a defensive line that recycles possession, plays with a much lower tempo and draws out the opposition. Looks to exploit the numerical advantage we will have through the central areas with short passing. Affords the players a level of creativity to pick the right passes when unlocking the opposition defence. Not being afraid to play a risky pass to reap to the high rewards. Free flowing movement, creating multiple passing options for the man in possession. Surging runs forward to break offside traps and create one-on-one opportunities when the through ball finds its intended target. To achieve this, I employ a Very Fluid team shape along with the Control mentality. I want us moving up the pitch together when we're attacking and working as a unit together when defending, we're going to be somewhat exploitable on the wings so we need more bodies at the back to protect from the crosses. However, the central midfielders should move across to cover the wings. The Team Shape instructions look like this: Tempo: Much Lower. This allows us to retain possession of the ball, without using the retain possession instruction. I don't want to retain possession all over the pitch, for example, I don't want us keeping the ball in the final third of the pitch. I want us to keep the ball at the back and work the ball around the midfield, but when the opportunity comes for a quick break I want my players to have the freedom to play a risky ball to unlock the defence. Width: Fairly Narrow. Whilst we will inevitably be narrow by virtue of the player positions and roles, I want to enforce the mantra of keeping the ball flowing through the middle of the pitch The Defence instructions look like this: Use Tighter Marking. As I alluded to earlier, we have limited presence on the wings, so I use tighter marking to ensure my defenders stay with their man when the balls are crossed into the box. This is perhaps a contentious issue, given the effectiveness of crossing, but I like to believe the fluid team shape allows for more bodies in the box and this helps keep the opposition covered. I also want to suffocate opposition attacks and remove passing options for them to force them into making a mistake. Tackling: Stay on Feet. A simple one really. I don't want my players diving into challenges. If you're on your feet when winning the ball you can distribute it a lot quicker and maintain possession rather than sliding in and losing control of the second ball. The Build-Up instructions look like this: Passing: Play out of Defence, Exploit the Middle. With the low tempo encouraging possession football and the controlled build up I want to employ, it makes sense to ask the defence to play their way out from the back. Our fluid shape allows for options to do this. The Attack instructions look like this: Dribbling: Dribble Less. I don't want the team looking to retain possession of the ball in the final third by dribbling their way out of trouble. Rather I would prefer them to look to the extra man to make a pass to, or to fire a through ball over the defence to create a better opportunity. It is going to get pretty congested in the middle of the pitch and we don't have a Messi. So this instruction should make the players look for better options. Freedom of Movement: Roam from Positions. It could be argued that our fluid shape allows for more freedom of movement. But I want to emphasise that we should be looking to move freely and draw the opposition out of position. The players need to be available for each other in order that we don't concede possession cheaply. The formation, the player roles and their duties This is the team starting formation. The defence: Our back line is fairly standard. Either side of our central defenders are Wing-Backs on a support duty to offer some width when there the central areas become too congested. My Wing-Backs are afforded a lot of space out wide due to the opposition wide players being forced inwards to cover the extra man we will have against their central players. On a support duty the Wing-Backs contribute to the through balls to the Shadow Strikers further ahead. The are instructed to keep wide, cross more often and to try more risky passes. The central midfield: A very simple three across the middle. A Deep Lying Playmaker is flanked by two Central Midfielders. I don't have any specific instructions for my Playmaker. I think the Central Midfielder role is so undervalued. It is so dynamic and allows you to make changes to the role in game if you need to as you're not restricted to any instructions imposed by the role type. They will balance their attacking and defensive duties, and are perfect for pinging through-balls into my attacking midfielders. To promote this I ask them to play more direct and risky passes. They are also instructed to move into channels to try and stretch the play a little, and to mark tighter. The attacking midfield: The glue that holds our attacking play together is my Enganche. Vieirinha. With 6 assists in 8 games and a 91% passing accuracy, he is key to everything in the final third. He will sit in the middle, drawing out the opposition, creating space for my Shadow Strikers to burst through on goal. He doesn't have any specific instructions and neither do my Shadow Strikers. So, with an explanation of the setup, here is how all of that translates where it counts. On the pitch. The Result of our Play From the league so far we dominate possession, with over 61% on average each game. This is helped by completing 88% of passes, which is also the highest in the league. The quality of the chances we're creating also translated into our superior shooting accuracy. We have more shots on goal than any other team and the best accuracy, due to the quality of chances being created. It is not just the league where we are ahead, in the Champions League we have the highest passing accuracy of 87% and the highest average possession of over 63% during games. To give you an example of the chances we create, this is from my last match. where all but one of our attempts was from inside the box. A few most stats from the current season. Most of our goals are placed shots created by through-balls. Analysis of our Attacking play When we have the ball, we're setup as you would expect. A lot of our build up play is similar to the below. I have provided a couple of examples from the same match. Goal one. In this, my Deep Lying Playmaker (Enzo Zidane) starts with the ball in the middle of the pitch. My Wing-Backs begin to move forwards and my central midfielders are looking to come and offer options for the pass. In this build up, the Deep Lying Playmaker passes to his left to the Central Midfielder who forwards the ball to the Shadow Striker offering himself (shown by the red dotted lines) When the Shadow Striker receives the ball he is immediately looking for the Enganche. And whilst it doesn't look like the pass is possible here, the fluid movement of the team creates space for him to receive the ball. Once in possession of the ball, the Enganche is facing goal and looking for passing options forward. My Central Midfielders and Shadow Strikers are all running forwards ready for a splitting pass. Already the opposition Full-Backs are far too wide here, meaning their two Central Defenders are going to have to contend with four rushing midfielders. My Shadow Striker receives the ball to the right. The Full-Back has been drawn inside now, but the Central Defender doesn't have the positional sense to drop infield to cover the on rushing players. As you can see there's a huge gap that has opened up by our quick counter-attacking play. The opposition does not have time to get back into their defensive shape. The Shadow Striker plays a perfect ball into my on-rushing Central Midfielder for an easy goal. As you can see from the above, a lot of our play is predicated on slow build-up from the back, fast play in the final third to disrupt the opposition. Retaining possession wouldn't allow us to do this, but playing with a lower tempo and the roles we have allow for this type of play to flow. Here are some more examples from the same game, in which we created 27 chances, despite being away from home. Goal two. Here again, we have the ball deep, we've moved it quickly to the Enganche who has spotted the runs of my players and manages to play a lovely ball over the top for the Shadow Striker to run onto. We have a three against one overload here, and although the covering defender manages to get back, the simple pass is on to create an opportunity for the other Shadow Striker. Another simple goal. Goal three. And this time slightly deeper, my Central Midfielder who is instructed to play more direct and risky passes, picks out my Shadow Striker yet again. Another simple goal scored by being patient, keeping the ball and then being explosive when the exploitable opportunities arise. Analysis of our Defensive play It's a lot easier showing defensive shape and play with videos. Unfortunately, SI are yet to fix video exporting for mac. So, I will highlight with a picture and some GIFs to try and show you how we are always swarming the opposition, giving them no time or space on the ball. Restricting their options before forcing them into a mistake. Defensively the shape is quite standard as you'd expect from the formation and instructions. Our back four is easily covering the onrushing attacker. The midfield three create a second wall to force them to try and pass through and the attacking three block the ball moving backwards. The only option is the inside ball (which is this scenario was cut out by my player) or a long cross field ball to the spare two on the other side of the pitch. But the ball isn't there so we don't worry about that. From the below it is easier to show the players movement towards the man with the ball. Always staying on their feet waiting for the right opportunity to nip the ball away before launching into a quick counter attack. This starts from a throw, they manage to move the ball about quite nicely, but we remain patient and when the right time comes we step in, take the ball away and then we're launching into another devastating counter attack and create a new opportunity to score. In this example, their wide player has no space to move in-field and no passing options. He is forced out wide where he eventually crosses into the box for an easy catch for my keeper. Finally, the opposition works the ball wide again here, but their wide player has no options ahead. He has a choice to dribble wider or pass in-field. He managed to find a player to pass to, but our numerical advantage is too much and again we easily win the ball back from them. The Conclusion We've managed to create a system that floods the central areas of the pitch and overloads the opposition defence, making it hard for them to pick up a man each as it leaves a free man. Moving the ball about quickly with fluid movement allows us to disrupt the opposition system and exploit the free man. Defensively, we're a little vulnerable on the wings, but we pack the defence enough to cope with crosses and my central defenders. Thank you for reading. I'd welcome any comments, questions or corrections to anything I've written above. Oliver Jensen