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  1. Introduction During a long haul flight I recently endured (who decides it's a good idea to fly from the Far East to Europe at 8 in the morning?) I read the book "Inverting the Pyramid" by Jonathan Wilson. The book details the tactical evolution of various systems since as far back as we have records. One passage caught my eye: the 3-5-2 probably invented by pragmatist Carlos Salvador Bilardo. Using this system Argentina won the '86 World Cup, bringing home El Mundial for the second time in eight years. Another possible inventor of the 3-5-2 is Ciro Blazevic with Dinamo Zagreb in the early eighties. It's all semantics, because within this 3-5-2 the style of the two managers were very different. Before Bilardo took Argentina to back-to-back World Cup Finals, César Luis Menotti had won the Cup using a much more aesthetic and eye catching approach in '78. However, the '82 failure saw Menotti resign and Bilardo brought a new concept to the federation and nation as a whole: win at all costs. For a proud footballing nation this was very controversial and a divide in tactical thinking was created; menottismo y bilardismo. Menottismo is strongly influenced by Total Football and the Dutch way of playing. Menotti used a version of what we know now as the 4-1-2-2-1, or 4-3-3. Mario Kempes was given a free role behind the front 3 as a playmaker and won the final almost alone, making surging runs in the great spaces left by the Dutch team, who couldn't cope with the movements of the Argentine front 3. Kempes scored twice in a 3-1 win after ET and that was that. Bilardismo is much more pragmatic and cynical. Bilardo and Menotti would over the years become footballing enemies and the latter would use every chance he got to criticize the way the Argentine team was playing under Bilardo. Bilardo faced a huge challenge when creating the 3-5-2 - how to implement the demi god of football Maradona in a five man midfield. Back then this was unheard of, everybody knew that a player like that would only thrive in a 4-3-1-2. Bilardo solved this by making the defensive midfielder a "destroyer" and giving free roles to the wing backs when Maradona was man-marked out of a game. The wing backs would then be asked to cut inside and making runs to confuse and break the shapes of the opponents. When the English decided against man marking, Diego he scored the Goal of The Century. When Bilardo explains this it sounds ridiculously simple, I'm sure there was more to it. However, bilardismo is known as antifútbol in South America, even though he had great success. Over the years not only managers, but also the footballing journalists of Argentina have chosen sides. The two schools can be seen as tactical religions and until you as a manager have substantial success on your own, you are either a menottista or bilardista. Although most managers choose the Menotti way (La Volpe, Gallardo, Pekerman, Sensini), the Argentine coach with most success in recent years is a Bilardista; Diego Simeone. This is from an Argentinian website: Despite living in South America for 6 years, I never really knew much about the different tactical schools of Argentine football. I thought to myself, as I was reading up on this, why not make a hybrid of the two and go from there? Turns out someone, IRL, thought of this before me. In other words, in my alternative universe Marcelo Bielsa was never born and I am the one to unite these two theories to create something bastardly and surprising. The 3-3-3-1/3-3-1-3 My idea was to create a system that was both defensively solid and spatially oriented, meaning that I would find a tactic that would work well against superior and inferior sides, needing only slight changes in roles to make changes. I read up on the various Bielsa systems in addition to Bilardo, but never wanting to go full Bielsa I looked for something in between. I didn't want a possession system and I had to find a way to make use of the two traditions of Argentine football: one libero/sweeper and one pure No 10. Both Menotti and Bilardo had each one truly great enganche, or #10 in Kempes and Maradona respectively. Bielsa used the libero/sweeper role that Bilardo used in his system, but used the wingers more associated with Menotti. This tactical posts starts with Indenpendiente in Argentina, I then moved to Benfica after being offered the job as the Apertura 2018 was about to begin. Therefore, some of the contents will deal with the Independiente side that won the Sudamericana and Clausura (I still use those terms, even though they now are one tournament). Then the tactic evolved slightly in terms of roles at Benfica, because the squad there is much stronger and have different types of players. This image is from a Copa Libertadores match against Palmeiras. At Independiente I used a more cautious approach as most opponents are either equal or superior in ability. In this image you can see the defensive shape, where we form a defensive wall of 6 defensive players. It is the job of the two CD's to break play ahead of the libero, to stop any advances from the forward 3 Palmeiras players. Once winning the ball they will look to pass it forward quickly and vertically. The formation here is straight out of the Bielsa playbook, the shape/mentality is not. In this post I will not go into detail on the various settings and roles, I will do that in a separate post. But I think you can see what the objective is: Stretch the play wide to create spaces in the central areas. The inverted wingbacks will serve as central midfielders when we have the ball high up and drop deep to build a wall in defense. The central areas must then be used for full effect, both by our free-flying playmaker and said IWB's. Two examples below of the wingbacks scoring from open play: Both of these goals came against very defensive sides. The leftmost image displays my left winger Blanco putting a low cross in between the goalie and defenders, Fabricio Bustos has snuck free and scores from a simple tap-in. The AP is barely visible, right next to Bustos, also free from defenders. In the rightmost image our right winger Benitez drops back and deep, receives the ball from the DM and using two touches the right wingback Britez is through on goal, scoring. Next up I will go into the tactical side and then finally give you some inspiration in the form of Bilardo vids and hipster blogs.
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