wwfan

The Barcelona Style: My Interpretation

708 posts in this topic

I've been promising to write this for a while now, but never had the time to sit down and do it. Wet weather has curtailed my evening plans, so I'll take the chance to do it now.

I got involved in a debate/rant in the GD forum about the 'unrealism' of tactics and the ME. One of the arguments from the side attacking the ME was that if it were realistic, then it would be possible to recreate the Barcelona style of tactic in FM. It was posited that because nobody had successfully done so, then the ME was patently flawed. I disagreed with the premise, arguing that such a tactic should be extremely difficult to get right, as so few teams had ever approached that level in the real world. The user manager would need to have in depth knowledge of tactical theory, know how to translate that into the game, and also have a team full of the right players to get it working. However, I decided to experiment in designing such a tactic. This is the outcome.

Limitations

Before continuing, there is one serious limitation in the ME that prevents the tactic being exactly like the Barcelona tactic, in that defensive midfielders do not have the flexibility to drop between the DCs when the team is in possession. There is also one override required in the TC, namely the choice of Primary Playmaker. However, everything else in the tactic is done through the TC and shouts, with no manual tweaking.

Flawed Interpretations

The biggest problem I had with those trying to design a Barcelona-esque tactic was their insistence that Barcelona played an attacking style of football. Every time I watched them, they played possession football deep on the park, either moving the ball slowly upfield and probing space or attacking at pace if gaps opened up. Both types of play produced goals, the former through the technical brilliance of their midfield, the latter through the pace and directness of their inverted wingers and attacking full backs.

Barcelona: My Interpretation

My interpretation of the Barcelona tactic is that it has a triple-pivot playmaker system, with Xavi, Iniesta and Messi all dictating play from central positions. Xavi is generally the deepest and Messi the highest, although they often are not that far apart. This creative central trio is supported by three defensive players in the DC and DM positions, who provide a stable base of excellent defensive positioning and simple possession passes. Out wide, the inverted wingers angle into the space Messi creates by dropping deep and the full backs surge into the wide spaces behind them.

The tactic operates on the basic principle of controlling space, being high and tight in defence, and low and wide in attack. This is possible because the team are a hard working unit in both defence and attack and technically excellent in keeping the ball. As they keep the ball so well, they can afford to press aggressively in defence without getting tired, even in hot conditions.

Formation, Strategy and Philosophy

4-1-2-2-1 (4-3-3): Flat back four, one DM, two MCs, AML, AMR and FCC.

Counter: My own take on the Barcelona style is that is closest to the Counter Strategy in Football Manager than any other. When Barcelona get the ball, the first thing that happens is the defence drop deeper, opening up passing space between the defence and the playmaking midfield. The Counter Strategy enables this deep move. As mentioned above, they attack in two ways, the slow probe or the fast counter. Again, the Counter strategy allows this.

Balanced: Because their Barcelona get much of their width from the rampaging full backs while keeping the ball deep, the philosophical system that has the biggest differential between the full backs and the defence is the go to. This encourages both the possession play centrally, reducing the risky pass mentality, while allowing FBs on Attack duties to bomb forward at will. Balanced has the biggest mentality gap in these areas, hence it is my choice.

Adjustments

Shorter Passing: Barca play a short passing game. Anything that encourages this is required.

Greater Creative Freedom: You need to give players their head to create chances out of tight spaces, so encouraging creativity is a must.

Zonal Marking: Actually, not really needed as the shouts will determine this. However, I believe they mark zonally in reality, so....

Heavier Pressing: Barca press when they defend. Again, not really needed as you will use the shouts to do this. However, set it at maximum anyway.

Normal Tackling: Again, I'll use the shouts to set this.

More Roaming: Barca players move from their standard positions all the time. Greater roaming encourages this.

Player Roles/Duties

Sweeper Keeper/Support: Encourages the keeper to play short passes and make quick throws.

DCs/Cover/Stopper split: Barca have a high d-line when defending and a low one when in possession. The split DCs makes sense as it supports both. NB: I actually use a Ball Playing Defender in my tactic because I have players who can do the job. However, it is not a requirement.

Wing Backs/Attack: A key position on both flanks as it gives the team width when going forward. I will happily spend my entire transfer budget on a world class wing back they are so important to the system.

Defensive Midfielder/Defend: Although the deepest lying midfielder in the Barcelona tactic is the least technically accomplished, he is by no means a donkey and is a good ball player in his own right. The Anchor Man role is thus too limiting. The Defensive Midfielder role gives him a little more scope to feed players ahead of him.

MCR/Deep-Lying Playmaker/Support: Xavi's role and vital to ball maintenance. Will rarely get into goalscoring positions, but the deepness of his positioning due to the strategy ensures the payer is invariably unmarked and can dictate possession all match. Override the tactical defaults by ensuring he is the primary playmaker.

MCL/Advanced Playmaker/Attack: Iniesta's role and the key link between attack and midfield. As with Iniesta, might not score many goals, but provides multiple assists.

AML/R/Inside Forwards/Attack: This role encourages both wide men to move into open central space off the flanks when the FC drops deeper. It also opens space for the FBs to advance into on the flanks.

Trequartista: Messi's role, the playmaking centre forward who drops deep into midfield and runs at the defence.

Shouts

Retain Possession: Encourages keep ball.

Pass into Space: The technical passing shout that encourages all the players to play through balls to teammates breaking from deep.

Work Ball into Box: Encourage the edge of box passing moves and close range shots that typify Barcelona goals

Push Higher Up: Increases the d-line height when defending

Hassle Opponent: Ensures heavy pressing from all players

Stay on Feet: Ensures players stay on their feet in the tackle so they are able to immediately play the ball after winning it

Performance

I've only played one full season with this tactic, but results have been impressive. Won 35 out of 38, scoring 89 and conceding 8 in the league. Also won the League Cup and Champions League. Lost 3 matches all season, all of them 1-0.

NB: I'm not uploading the tactic. It can be created in minutes using the TC.

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Firstly, I'm a big Barca fan. They are the team which fills me with passion, they are the reason why I love football so much. I follow their matches very closely, so I will post some notes about their football.

One of the arguments from the side attacking the ME was that if it were realistic, then it would be possible to recreate the Barcelona style of tactic in FM. It was posited that because nobody had successfully done so, then the ME was patently flawed. I disagreed with the premise, arguing that such a tactic should be extremely difficult to get right, as so few teams had ever approached that level in the real world.

Absolutely. Users have to realize, that Barca's style of football is something, which is possible to play only with Barca/old Ajax sides, because the players are teached to play this kind of football from the beginning. In FM this is reflected quite a well. There are no equivalents to Messi, Xavi, Iniesta etc....maybe some users have superhuman regens, but it's important to bear in mind, that PPM's are very, very important aspect of the game and Barca's players generally have a lot of them which significantly influences their way of playing.

Before continuing, there is one serious limitation in the ME that prevents the tactic being exactly like the Barcelona tactic, in that defensive midfielders do not have the flexibility to drop between the DCs when the team is in possession. There is also one override required in the TC, namely the choice of Primary Playmaker. However, everything else in the tactic is done through the TC and shouts, with no manual tweaking.

Barca's DM (Busquets) drops between the centre backs when in possesion, but only sometimes (generally when the opponent closes down aggresively and high up the pitch, so the DM offers a passingoption closer to the GK (Valdes) and the two centre backs go wide). But Busquets generally doesn't drop when it's not needed. Same without posession. Busquets drops only when the opponent plays with two pure strikers (eg. against Atlético last year vs. Agüero-Forlán), which is a very rare thing against Barca. Otherwise there is no need for him to drop.

My interpretation of the Barcelona tactic is that it has a triple-pivot playmaker system, with Xavi, Iniesta and Messi all dictating play from central positions. Xavi is generally the deepest and Messi the highest, although they often are not that far apart. This creative central trio is supported by three defensive players in the DC and DM positions, who provide a stable base of excellent defensive positioning and simple possession passes. Out wide, the inverted wingers angle into the space Messi creates by dropping deep and the full backs surge into the wide spaces behind them.

Xavi's role is a very tricky. In FM terms he should be set as a deep lying playmaker, but he generally does a lot of forward runs as well. I believe he has PPM "goes deep to the ball", combined with FWR set to often should allow him to play as he does IRL.

Few other notes.

- Barca generally don't play with two ultra attacking full backs. Only one of them (Alves) bombs forward at every opportunity. The left fullback is generally much more cautious with his runs.

- Barca generally press very high up the pitch, but they press much higher at the Nou Camp. Eg. in some away games you can see Messi not closing down at all.

- This season we will see a lot of 3-4-3 (especially at the Nou Camp), because it suits Fabregas perfectly. He can act as a pure old school n10 just behind Messi and it's a pleasure to see them playing together. Iniesta and Xavi behind them, with Busquets in DM and we have a pure diamond midfield there. Cruyff's legacy :cool:.

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Agree about the pressing not being an absolute, which is why it is a shout. It might also be possible to do well with a less active DL, as the most advanced MC plays on that side. Would be worth experimenting with.

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I once started a Barcelona team and made a formation like this:

------Messi------

Villa--------Pedro

--Iniesta-Xavi---

-----Busq---Dani A

Abidal- Pique-Puy

GK - Sweeper keeper - attacking

DL - Full back - Defend

DC - Defender - Defend

DCR - Defender - Defend

WBR - Wingback - Attack

DMC - Defensive/control? - Support

MCL - Advanced playmake - Attack

MCR - Deep lying playmaker - Support

AMR - Winger - Support

AML - Winger - Support

SC - Trequartista - Attack

the front 4 players the task to move into channels and did quite well, get 31 points out of 11 matches, where Atletico madrid made a lucky draw. I never played further because it felt easy and I wouldnt be able to live with myself helping barcelona

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I wonder what would happen if you pushed the back 4 into the next strata...

WBL (Attack) -- DMC (Defend) -- DLP (Support) -- DMC (Defend) -- WBR (Attack)

With Guardiola's move to fill his team with midfielders this might not be as crazy as it seems...

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furiousuk, as idea, it seems crazy to me. It wood be awesome if someone was able to pull it off, though I don't think the ME would reat well to it.

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I did just try no CBs with Barca and won 10-0 against Poji Ejido. The line up was:

GK sweeper keeper support

WBR attack

WBL support

DMC DLP defend

DMC DLP defend

MCr AP support

MC DLP support

MC AP support

STr AF

STc Trequartista

STl AF

Not sure how stable it would be defensively, cos at times my team were all over the place, and the DMs do at times push too far forward causing the WBs to drop behind them which is a little silly but offensively it was good.

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I've made a formation with no strikers, which feels much more natural for Barca than with an arbitrary striker. It's the same as your traditional 4-5-1 which wwfan wrote about but instead of a striker, Messi is playing in AMC position, with max creative freedom and roaming on, naturally. Very Fluid, Expressive Creative Freedom, more roaming and have 15 points advantage over Real in February, one draw and no defeats, Messi is averaging 8 and more than a goal per game.

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Well playing Real Madrid with no CBs worked until 30 mins in where my DMs just pushed 30 yards away from the half way line so their front 4 broke easily twice without challenge to make it 2-2 at half time. for the second half, I've moved the DMs back to CB as ball playing defenders.

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I wonder what would happen if you pushed the back 4 into the next strata...

WBL (Attack) -- DMC (Defend) -- DLP (Support) -- DMC (Defend) -- WBR (Attack)

With Guardiola's move to fill his team with midfielders this might not be as crazy as it seems...

I wouldn't go quite so extreme, but DL (WB/Support) -- DMC (Support) -- DLP (Cover) -- (DMC (Defend) -- DLR (WB/Attack) might work well. FBs with the WB role are so dynamic thee is no need to push them up a strata.

I've made a formation with no strikers, which feels much more natural for Barca than with an arbitrary striker. It's the same as your traditional 4-5-1 which wwfan wrote about but instead of a striker, Messi is playing in AMC position, with max creative freedom and roaming on, naturally. Very Fluid, Expressive Creative Freedom, more roaming and have 15 points advantage over Real in February, one draw and no defeats, Messi is averaging 8 and more than a goal per game.

If you add this to the mix, you might line up like so:

GK: Valdes (SK/Support/Distribute to DR)

DR: Alves (WB/Attack)

DC: Maschereno (BPD/Cover)

DL: Abidal (WB/Support)

DMCR: Busquets (DM/Defend)

DMCL: Xavi (DLP/Support/Primary PM)

MCR: Iniesta (AP/Support)

MCL: Fabregas (AP/Attack)

AMR: Sanchez (IF/Attack)

AMC: Messi (TQ)

AML: Villa (IF/Attack)

That would be a very interesting formation. Basically, a 3-7-0.

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- I agree that Barcelona aren't really attacking. It's a good point to make. They really don't have the kind of urgency and risk-taking that an attacking mentality enforces.

- Villa and Pedro don't have identical roles and the distinction isn't down to their personal preference but tactical instructions.

- You can not replicate the role Dani Alves plays. Not his movement and not the passes that the midfield plays to him. Also, the left-back should be way more defensive (or Alves should be more attacking). There really needs to be a clear distinction between the two.

- Xavi is no deep-lying playmaker. It may be down to the rigidness of the ME and it might be impossible the replicate... but Xavi does make well timed runs and is a pretty good finisher too. See the historical El Clásico last year and the 8-0 trashing of Osasuna off the top of my head. Not runs a deep-lying playmaker would do.

- The way that Barca defenders play under pressure... inexplicable. Éric Abidal has some nerves to play under pressure! I reckon he has 'plays way out of trouble' in FM but he still makes hurried clearances he would NEVER make in real life. The same applies to the defence in general. In FM, you can't have a defence as composed as Barca's.

- The 4-3-3 is kinda passé! With the partnership that Messi and Fàbregas form, I reckon Pep will find it increasingly harder to steer away from the 3-4-3. Not too confident that would play out too well with the current ME!

To be honest, nothing you've said here is in any way revolutionary. People have been doing this for ages but the way wnb-Barca tactics play out in the ME just isn't satisfactory. You can try and replicate some mystical philosophy and it might be succesful, but your tactic being succesful in terms of winning doesn't mean it's a succesful replication of IRL Barca. SI obviously haven't had Barcelona in mind when tweaking the ME.

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Is this the actual way you play wwfan or the ideal? I take it you are a top team, I always strugggle to find a decent treqaurtista

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What are people's possession stats and individual passing stats?

It's all well and good winning so many games but if you aren't controlling the ball almost every single occasion bar the odd one or two games then it doesn't feel right. Same with the players, I can't win a game 4-0 with Barcelona only to find Xavi has made 31 passes. Alves has made 72. Iniesta 27 etc....just doesn't feel right.

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What are people's possession stats and individual passing stats?

It's all well and good winning so many games but if you aren't controlling the ball almost every single occasion bar the odd one or two games then it doesn't feel right. Same with the players' date=' I can't win a game 4-0 with Barcelona only to find Xavi has made 31 passes. Alves has made 72. Iniesta 27 etc....just doesn't feel right.[/quote']

Agreed. The results are very nice but you don't dominate possession like barca do.

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Just wanted to say how fantastic this thread is as it helps show you how to build a solid realistic system.

I was wondering WWFAN if you will do any more teams such as Stoke, Manchester United, Arsenal, Real Madrid, maybe some more old school teams such as the 2002 Brazil World Cup.

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To be honest, nothing you've said here is in any way revolutionary. People have been doing this for ages but the way wnb-Barca tactics play out in the ME just isn't satisfactory. You can try and replicate some mystical philosophy and it might be succesful, but your tactic being successful in terms of winning doesn't mean it's a successful replication of IRL Barca. SI obviously haven't had Barcelona in mind when tweaking the ME.

As I said, it is an interpretation of the tactic, not a perfect simulation. The player in the Xavi role might not get forward enough, and the DR might not play exactly like Alves. However, a lot of that type of movement will be down to the player himself, not the tactical instructions. The ME lacks the fluidity of real life decision making.

For what it is worth, by AML and AMR perform very differently even in the same roles. My AML is very much a team player and plays more like Pedro. However, the AMR is a goal sniffer and plays more like David Villa. Partly that is down to their PPMs, and partly down to their workrate/vision/teamwork. The subtlety that these type of things add to overall play shouldn't be ignored.

Is this the actual way you play wwfan or the ideal? I take it you are a top team, I always struggle to find a decent treqaurtista

Yes, although I'm Arsenal in 2030, not contemporary Barca. My TQs are a little forced into the role and don't perfectly fit. However, I have a 19 year old German who's going to be an awesome TQ in a few years.

What are people's possession stats and individual passing stats?

It's all well and good winning so many games but if you aren't controlling the ball almost every single occasion bar the odd one or two games then it doesn't feel right. Same with the players, I can't win a game 4-0 with Barcelona only to find Xavi has made 31 passes. Alves has made 72. Iniesta 27 etc....just doesn't feel right.

Passing stats in the ME are always 20-30% low across all teams, so you'll never match Barca. This is mainly to do with the ball being out of play too long (especially when there is an inujury), which reduces the amount of time played below real life by a good 5-10 minutes. It is also down to the keeper and defenders having too great a tendency to boot the ball long or out of play when under minimal pressure. In real life many defensive headers will result int he opposing team regaining possession and putting together another passing move. In FM, they always go out for a corner or launch a run with ball counter attack.

However, the tactic does dominate possession. The most possession I've had at the end of a half is 81% and at the end of a match 73% (not the same game weirdly). It's unusual for me to get less than 60% unless I am playing a top side. I'm certainly averaging over 60% against mid-lower table sides in my current season. I don't think my team is player for player as high quality as Barca's, so any higher than that is going to be a push. The player in the Xavi role certainly doesn't get enough ball though, which is mainly down to the ME not allowing him to drop deep enough to get easy ball from the defence.

Just wanted to say how fantastic this thread is as it helps show you how to build a solid realistic system.

I was wondering WWFAN if you will do any more teams such as Stoke, Manchester United, Arsenal, Real Madrid, maybe some more old school teams such as the 2002 Brazil World Cup.

Thanks. I'll do a traditional British style system once FM12 comes out. You need the 'Cross Early' shout for it to work properly.

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wwfan thanks for your interesting sharing!

How Messi did for you as a TQ?

Thanks for this thread.

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Messi does well in any role and especially TQ, since it gives him max CF and Roaming license to do what he wants.

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Just wanted to say how fantastic this thread is as it helps show you how to build a solid realistic system.

I was wondering WWFAN if you will do any more teams such as Stoke, Manchester United, Arsenal, Real Madrid, maybe some more old school teams such as the 2002 Brazil World Cup.

I think this is a good idea, not only for wwfan but if people would write about real life formations/tactics translated into FM.

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Limitations

Before continuing, there is one serious limitation in the ME that prevents the tactic being exactly like the Barcelona tactic, in that defensive midfielders do not have the flexibility to drop between the DCs when the team is in possession. There is also one override required in the TC, namely the choice of Primary Playmaker. However, everything else in the tactic is done through the TC and shouts, with no manual tweaking.

Granada CF are currently doing this IRL and it's a shame it can't be emulated in the ME.

They're currently playing a 4-3-3, with flat back four, DMC, 2x MC's, wingers and a striker. When the full-backs get forward, their DMC usually drops back to form a three man defence (effectively becoming a ball playing "stopper"), so the shape turns into a 3-4-3. Likewise, when the full-backs get forward, the wingers often switch to being inside forwards and sometimes swap sides to be on their stronger shooting foot when cutting inside.

The nearest I've been able to get is have the DMC on the most defensive settings possible, but obviously he'll always be much further ahead of the two central defenders positionally. The other alternative has been to try using my DMC as the most central defender, as a ball playing "stopper", but then he's not advanced enough when he needs to be. Tricky one to try working around, for sure and something I've seen not only Granada do this season, but a few other teams in Spain too.

I can't get as close as I'd like to the shape naturally changing, though I can come fairly close with the full-backs getting forward on more offensive settings. Unfortunately although I can set position swapping on my two wingers, they won't naturally switch to being inside-forwards without my instruction.

I'm looking forward to tinkering with some things with FM12 though. Obviously as I'm watching Granada CF every match, I find myself analysing their tactics, their positional play and movement. Also interesting to watch the various ways other teams and players are playing in Liga BBVA too.

I always enjoy the game much more when I can get nearer to something I've seen in action for real, when trying to emulate it in FM. :)

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Granada CF are currently doing this IRL and it's a shame it can't be emulated in the ME.

They're currently playing a 4-3-3, with flat back four, DMC, 2x MC's, wingers and a striker. When the full-backs get forward, their DMC usually drops back to form a three man defence (effectively becoming a ball playing "stopper"), so the shape turns into a 3-4-3. Likewise, when the full-backs get forward, the wingers often switch to being inside forwards and sometimes swap sides to be on their stronger shooting foot when cutting inside.

The nearest I've been able to get is have the DMC on the most defensive settings possible, but obviously he'll always be much further ahead of the two central defenders positionally. The other alternative has been to try using my DMC as the most central defender, as a ball playing "stopper", but then he's not advanced enough when he needs to be. Tricky one to try working around, for sure and something I've seen not only Granada do this season, but a few other teams in Spain too.

I can't get as close as I'd like to the shape naturally changing, though I can come fairly close with the full-backs getting forward on more offensive settings. Unfortunately although I can set position swapping on my two wingers, they won't naturally switch to being inside-forwards without my instruction.

I'm looking forward to tinkering with some things with FM12 though. Obviously as I'm watching Granada CF every match, I find myself analysing their tactics, their positional play and movement. Also interesting to watch the various ways other teams and players are playing in Liga BBVA too.

I always enjoy the game much more when I can get nearer to something I've seen in action for real, when trying to emulate it in FM. :)

Barcelona were doing a similar thing with Busquets at DMC about a year ago, maybe more if I remember correctly. I remember reading a Zonal Marking article about it anyway. And I know SFraser back then was constantly trying to get his Left Back to push forward and the 2 CB's and RB to make a 3 man defence when he attacked, could never get it to work properly and neither could I with Everton trying to get Leighton Baines to push forward and have Distin, Jagielka and Neville form a back 3. Like you, I thought it was really fun watching and attending games, analysing tactics and trying to replicate in FM.

Being able to change shape depending on whether you're attacking or defending (within reason) is something I think is missing from FM, but it must be terribly complicated to implement on SI's side, or I'm sure they would have introduced something. Even if it were just Maximum Mentality puts him in the next band when attacking and Minimum Mentality puts him in the one before when defending.

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I have never had any problems geting the DM to behave and move in the way I want, and yes he does drop into the defense on occasions, my problems with playing this style of football is the demands it put on the attacking players (in order to score while still keep a high amount of possession), and the pressing game (which is close to impossible to replicate in the ME), as a result of this I have had my team drop slightly deeper to still maintain a good defensive shape and focus slightly more on the transition play and counter attacks.....in short my team probably ended up playing a bit closer to Spalletti era Roma then I first intended

wwfan: can you upload some pkm's of your team playing your tactic?

Just wanted to say how fantastic this thread is as it helps show you how to build a solid realistic system.

I was wondering WWFAN if you will do any more teams such as Stoke, Manchester United, Arsenal, Real Madrid, maybe some more old school teams such as the 2002 Brazil World Cup.

I have wanted to replicate Stoke for a long time, but in all honesty, I dont have enough real life understanding of that playing style to make it work in the ME

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I've discussed cover DMCs and shifting defences with Paul on a number of occasions. They are theoretically possible to implement in the ME, but a very complex task. I certainly expect longer term revisions of the ME/TC to embrace such tactical innovations. As for when that might happen ... ???

As with everything in the virtual world, it takes time to bring it up to speed with real world thought. Until it has caught up, we can build tactics that are theoretically sound interpretations of real world tactics, but not ones that produce exactly the same type of movement real life teams do. Of course, buy the time the ME/TC enables these types of moves, new tactical innovations will have occurred and FM will have to catch up with them. It's a never ending task.

I don't have FM installed on this machine. When I have the time, I'll try to upload a few pkms somewhere.

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personaly I think the DMC already possible to implement in the current ME but you need a suitable player and you also need to consider how the players around him play, I think one of the things many dont realize is that the DMC need space to drop back into, and they may ether have the defenders play in a role that is to conservative, in terms of tackling, closing down, creative freedom etc, or simply play on to narrow width (so they already take up that space)

on this current 11,3 ME the wide defenders also moves slightly more central then they used to when defending, then they did on early patches, so it might be a good plan to set the wide play of the lb/rb on hugging the touchline

-------------

if we are speaking about ME problems, im sure that its a much larger problem that the ME think you play with a flat back 5, when you have told your team to play a flat 3-5-2 formation with attacking wingers

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My DM is not particularly good defensively and not quite good enough to be a creative force but he is an exceptional cover DM. Pace, acceleration, anticipation, positioning and decisions mean that he is able to cover very well for either marauding FB whilst he will also slot into DC if my aggressive tight man-marking DC decides to follow an opponent further up the pitch. He is set to tight man-mark as well but he doesn't follow an opponent into the DC area, he is actively covering the space that the DC has left. He has only started behaving like this in the last year or so which I have attributed to his rising decisions & anticipation, particularly decisions.

The cover DM is just as important a role as a DM Destroyer or DM Playmaker.

I've had no success either in trying to get him to drop into a 3-man defence when my team is attacking.

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furiousuk and how aggressive is his closing down? In the middle?

And one more thing, if his job is to cover, wouldn't be better to leave him with zonal and loose?

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I set 'Press More' in the team instructions and leave it at the TC defaults so his closing down is pretty high and at roughly the same level as those around him.

I'd agree with zonal and loose in theory but it seems to work better with tight-man. I'm not entirely sure why but I think he looks to man-mark the free man in the opposing formation, if there is no-one man-marked in his DM area then he'll look for targets further away. I'm assuming how far he looks is down to his attributes, in addition to his very high decisions & anticipation he has low-ish aggression which probably contributes to his decision-making process. My way of thinking is that zonal will keep him closer to his formational position, this is good for keeping a whole team shape but (unless specifically marking an AMC) I want him to be the free man in defence who will go where he is most needed.

In a similar fashion I'm not afraid to play a flat 4141 to see out a game (particularly as I usually play the 41221 which is formationally very similar) - I'll change from my man-marking strategy to a loose zonal system with DM and FC on tight man-marking. The idea is that the 2 banks of 4 hold their shape and is very difficult to pick apart whilst the DM looks to aggressively mark anybody foolhardy enough to operate between those lines.

I haven't had much success in getting a pressing game to operate like Barca's even though my team has perfect attributes for it so I might change to the defensive settings wwfan suggests in the OP.

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Thanks.

When you say you going to change, you mean to zonal marking?

I have another doubt, is it possible to attack with a deep defensive line and defend with a push up one? I mean if we set it higher, it will be like that both attacking and defending right?

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You can use a deep defensive line coupled with a more attacking strategy. I do this against very defensive teams in order to draw them out. Defending with a higher defensive line is useful, in my opinion, against a physically weak team (low speed, low condition), you'll need speedy defenders though.

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Thanks. It would be cool if we could use both at the same time because i really have difficulty finding space with teams who park the bus. So attacking from deep and defending higher could really help

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When you say you going to change, you mean to zonal marking?

Yes. I normally play a man/zonal hybrid where my central 5 players are on tight man-marking and my 5 'floating' players are on zonal.

I sometimes change to a mainly zonal formation with the DM still as a tight man-marker. Zdlr wrote a good thread on defensive systems a while ago, this idea is taken from somewhere in that discussion.

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As far as the DM is concerned, maybe SI could introduced a new PPM that sees him drop back between the CBs. How do you feel about that?

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As far as the DM is concerned, maybe SI could introduced a new PPM that sees him drop back between the CBs. How do you feel about that?

I'd back this, sounds like a cracking idea. There are already other PPM's that work outside the tactical framework so hard-coding this behaviour into the PPM mechanism sounds like a reasonable decision for SI to make, at least until they work out how to fit it into the general tactical framework of the ME.

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I've been promising to write this for a while now, but never had the time to sit down and do it. Wet weather has curtailed my evening plans, so I'll take the chance to do it now.

I got involved in a debate/rant in the GD forum about the 'unrealism' of tactics and the ME. One of the arguments from the side attacking the ME was that if it were realistic, then it would be possible to recreate the Barcelona style of tactic in FM. It was posited that because nobody had successfully done so, then the ME was patently flawed. I disagreed with the premise, arguing that such a tactic should be extremely difficult to get right, as so few teams had ever approached that level in the real world. The user manager would need to have in depth knowledge of tactical theory, know how to translate that into the game, and also have a team full of the right players to get it working. However, I decided to experiment in designing such a tactic. This is the outcome.

Limitations

Before continuing, there is one serious limitation in the ME that prevents the tactic being exactly like the Barcelona tactic, in that defensive midfielders do not have the flexibility to drop between the DCs when the team is in possession. There is also one override required in the TC, namely the choice of Primary Playmaker. However, everything else in the tactic is done through the TC and shouts, with no manual tweaking.

Flawed Interpretations

The biggest problem I had with those trying to design a Barcelona-esque tactic was their insistence that Barcelona played an attacking style of football. Every time I watched them, they played possession football deep on the park, either moving the ball slowly upfield and probing space or attacking at pace if gaps opened up. Both types of play produced goals, the former through the technical brilliance of their midfield, the latter through the pace and directness of their inverted wingers and attacking full backs.

Barcelona: My Interpretation

My interpretation of the Barcelona tactic is that it has a triple-pivot playmaker system, with Xavi, Iniesta and Messi all dictating play from central positions. Xavi is generally the deepest and Messi the highest, although they often are not that far apart. This creative central trio is supported by three defensive players in the DC and DM positions, who provide a stable base of excellent defensive positioning and simple possession passes. Out wide, the inverted wingers angle into the space Messi creates by dropping deep and the full backs surge into the wide spaces behind them.

The tactic operates on the basic principle of controlling space, being high and tight in defence, and low and wide in attack. This is possible because the team are a hard working unit in both defence and attack and technically excellent in keeping the ball. As they keep the ball so well, they can afford to press aggressively in defence without getting tired, even in hot conditions.

Formation, Strategy and Philosophy

4-1-2-2-1 (4-3-3): Flat back four, one DM, two MCs, AML, AMR and FCC.

Counter: My own take on the Barcelona style is that is closest to the Counter Strategy in Football Manager than any other. When Barcelona get the ball, the first thing that happens is the defence drop deeper, opening up passing space between the defence and the playmaking midfield. The Counter Strategy enables this deep move. As mentioned above, they attack in two ways, the slow probe or the fast counter. Again, the Counter strategy allows this.

Balanced: Because their Barcelona get much of their width from the rampaging full backs while keeping the ball deep, the philosophical system that has the biggest differential between the full backs and the defence is the go to. This encourages both the possession play centrally, reducing the risky pass mentality, while allowing FBs on Attack duties to bomb forward at will. Balanced has the biggest mentality gap in these areas, hence it is my choice.

Adjustments

Shorter Passing: Barca play a short passing game. Anything that encourages this is required.

Greater Creative Freedom: You need to give players their head to create chances out of tight spaces, so encouraging creativity is a must.

Zonal Marking: Actually, not really needed as the shouts will determine this. However, I believe they mark zonally in reality, so....

Heavier Pressing: Barca press when they defend. Again, not really needed as you will use the shouts to do this. However, set it at maximum anyway.

Normal Tackling: Again, I'll use the shouts to set this.

More Roaming: Barca players move from their standard positions all the time. Greater roaming encourages this.

Player Roles/Duties

Sweeper Keeper/Support: Encourages the keeper to play short passes and make quick throws.

DCs/Cover/Stopper split: Barca have a high d-line when defending and a low one when in possession. The split DCs makes sense as it supports both. NB: I actually use a Ball Playing Defender in my tactic because I have players who can do the job. However, it is not a requirement.

Wing Backs/Attack: A key position on both flanks as it gives the team width when going forward. I will happily spend my entire transfer budget on a world class wing back they are so important to the system.

Defensive Midfielder/Defend: Although the deepest lying midfielder in the Barcelona tactic is the least technically accomplished, he is by no means a donkey and is a good ball player in his own right. The Anchor Man role is thus too limiting. The Defensive Midfielder role gives him a little more scope to feed players ahead of him.

MCR/Deep-Lying Playmaker/Support: Xavi's role and vital to ball maintenance. Will rarely get into goalscoring positions, but the deepness of his positioning due to the strategy ensures the payer is invariably unmarked and can dictate possession all match. Override the tactical defaults by ensuring he is the primary playmaker.

MCL/Advanced Playmaker/Attack: Iniesta's role and the key link between attack and midfield. As with Iniesta, might not score many goals, but provides multiple assists.

AML/R/Inside Forwards/Attack: This role encourages both wide men to move into open central space off the flanks when the FC drops deeper. It also opens space for the FBs to advance into on the flanks.

Trequartista: Messi's role, the playmaking centre forward who drops deep into midfield and runs at the defence.

Shouts

Retain Possession: Encourages keep ball.

Pass into Space: The technical passing shout that encourages all the players to play through balls to teammates breaking from deep.

Work Ball into Box: Encourage the edge of box passing moves and close range shots that typify Barcelona goals

Push Higher Up: Increases the d-line height when defending

Hassle Opponent: Ensures heavy pressing from all players

Stay on Feet: Ensures players stay on their feet in the tackle so they are able to immediately play the ball after winning it

Performance

I've only played one full season with this tactic, but results have been impressive. Won 35 out of 38, scoring 89 and conceding 8 in the league. Also won the League Cup and Champions League. Lost 3 matches all season, all of them 1-0.

NB: I'm not uploading the tactic. It can be created in minutes using the TC.

This is a very good interpretation of Barca's tactics. But it is worth pointing out that Pep has abandoned dropping the DM (Busquets) between the 2 DCs for some time. He actually now prefers to use 3-4-3 as a variation instead.

A few questions......

What override of the TC you talk about regarding the Primary Playmaker? Is one selected or is one always set up to be the Deep-lying playmaker (MRC) as the "Xavi" role?

Which DC is the "Stopper" and which is the "Cover" - DCL or DCR? I would assume that DCR is the "Cover" as MRC has lower Mentality as DLP, right?

Shouldn't the DL be set as Fullback on Attack Duty?

Which position makes the highest number of passes during a match? How many passes does the MRC make? What is the pass completion % for the whole team and for each player in each respective position/role? I have seen Barca's tactics for FM with tweaked TC settings or done in Classic mode that achieve around 100 passes per game for the MRC role (Xavi) with 90+% completion rate. Can this be achieved with default TC instructions? I personally haven't been able to achieve this.

IMO, individual instructions like RFD, RWB, LS, TTB and Cross ball should be overwritten manually when recreating RL Barca tactic. For example, even Xavi, Iniesta and Messi don't try through balls often and Villa/Pedro don't run with the ball "often".

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Being able to change shape depending on whether you're attacking or defending (within reason) is something I think is missing from FM, but it must be terribly complicated to implement on SI's side, or I'm sure they would have introduced something.

In the older CM-series (before the "split") you could do this. You could choose for each player where to be when the ball was in a given area of the pitch, for both on and off the ball situations. I spend hours making a 442 (assymetrival) diamond this way with great succes.

So I guess it's doable, but they also removed it for a reason. My guess is, the match engine couldn't cope with the levels of freedom it gave you as a mangager, thus making the AI relatively weak.

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You could choose for each player where to be when the ball was in a given area of the pitch, for both on and off the ball situations.

I would love to see it simplified down into Attacking Formation/Style and Defensive Formation/Style. Yes, you would get the managers who defend as two banks of five and attack as two banks of five. But the key to choosing the two formations would be the transition from one to the other. As transition from attack to defense and vice-versa is one of the most important parts of modern football in my eyes. The way Mourinho's Chelsea would defend as a 4-1-4-1 but attack as a 4-1-2-3, Guardiola's Barca who defend as a 4-3-3 but attack as a 3-4-3 etc.

I know this is possible in FM, as it loves to tell me that my 4-2-3-1 (Tactic) is a 4-1-4-1 (Managers Profile), but not to the extend of a 4-3-3 turning into a 3-4-3 with the Defensive Midfielder dropping back as talked about a few posts above.

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What override of the TC you talk about regarding the Primary Playmaker? Is one selected or is one always set up to be the Deep-lying playmaker (MRC) as the "Xavi" role?

The TC assigns primary playmakers in this order (TQ, DLP, AP). If you have a TQ, then you need to override this for the DLP.

Which DC is the "Stopper" and which is the "Cover" - DCL or DCR? I would assume that DCR is the "Cover" as MRC has lower Mentality as DLP, right?

My cover will always be the DC in parallel to the DLP, as his tendency to drop a little deeper gives the DLP more space to work in.

Shouldn't the DL be set as Fullback on Attack Duty?

Full Back Attack or Wing Back Support would both work in terms of making him slightly less aggressive.

Which position makes the highest number of passes during a match? How many passes does the MRC make? What is the pass completion % for the whole team and for each player in each respective position/role? I have seen Barca's tactics for FM with tweaked TC settings or done in Classic mode that achieve around 100 passes per game for the MRC role (Xavi) with 90+% completion rate. Can this be achieved with default TC instructions? I personally haven't been able to achieve this.

Pass completion is usually circa 86-90%. The DLP will usually have the highest completion ratio, but will not make 100 plus passes.

IMO, individual instructions like RFD, RWB, LS, TTB and Cross ball should be overwritten manually when recreating RL Barca tactic. For example, even Xavi, Iniesta and Messi don't try through balls often and Villa/Pedro don't run with the ball "often".

I was trying to interpret using the TC as much as possible. Doesn't mean that other, manually tweaked options can't get closer to the system.

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The TC assigns primary playmakers in this order (TQ, DLP, AP). If you have a TQ, then you need to override this for the DLP.

Ah, I'd never noticed that before.

My cover will always be the DC in parallel to the DLP, as his tendency to drop a little deeper gives the DLP more space to work in.

So my assumption was correct then - if MRC is the DLP, then the DRC is the Cover. That is how I arrange it too.

Full Back Attack or Wing Back Support would both work in terms of making him slightly less aggressive.

Both have RFD on mixed/sometimes, but FB on Attack would have higher mentality than WB on Support according to the Balanced Philosophy.

Pass completion is usually circa 86-90%. The DLP will usually have the highest completion ratio, but will not make 100 plus passes.

I'm very interested to read you post more info on that. Can you provide some screenshots with the pass completion and overall number of passes made of your players individually?

I was trying to interpret using the TC as much as possible. Doesn't mean that other, manually tweaked options can't get closer to the system.

Have you experimented with more manually tweaked options to get closer to the system? If you have, what are those tweaks? If you haven't, do you have ideas of any?

And as a more general question.....Have you tried your interpretation of Barca's tactic with the Barcelona team in FM from the start or you have designed/created it using a current save game with another team (Arsenal if I recall from one of your previous posts)?

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can match engine in 2012 handle 100+ passes per game with over 90% pass completion? and with 75+% of possesion

barca1r.jpg

barca12.jpg

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Perhaps a possible solution to the issue of getting DMs to drop into the last line of defense would be, in a future version of the TC, to allow players to have different roles depending on whether the team is, or is not, in possession.

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can match engine in 2012 handle 100+ passes per game with over 90% pass completion? and with 75+% of possesion

barca1r.jpg

barca12.jpg

Have downloaded FM12 Demo, but yet to play as I'm enjoying my current save of Barcelona and the way I'm getting them too play; but this looks mighty impressive! In my in best efforts in FM11 I have only managed to get Xavi and a fellow deep-lying playmaker, Ganso or Fabregas, to make around 60 or so passes at 90% completion. My full backs will always dominate the passing statistics.

How have you set up Xavi and your team in 12 to highlight the difference in match engines?

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Have downloaded FM12 Demo, but yet to play as I'm enjoying my current save of Barcelona and the way I'm getting them too play; but this looks mighty impressive! In my in best efforts in FM11 I have only managed to get Xavi and a fellow deep-lying playmaker, Ganso or Fabregas, to make around 60 or so passes at 90% completion. My full backs will always dominate the passing statistics.

How have you set up Xavi and your team in 12 to highlight the difference in match engines?

I want to make tactic that will produce real barca statistic and to make it constant in every game; 65%+ of possession, 85% of pass completion, 400+ completed passes, and xavi to get 100+ passes.

Problem in fm 2011 was that most of passes is made by full backs, especially left full back. Its not about xavi set up, but how to make your team and other players (full backs, and cb) to pass the ball to him. I can send you link with my tactic so you can try it and see how it works for you and maybe give suggestion to improve tactic

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I want to make tactic that will produce real barca statistic and to make it constant in every game; 65%+ of possession, 85% of pass completion, 400+ completed passes, and xavi to get 100+ passes.

Problem in fm 2011 was that most of passes is made by full backs, especially left full back. Its not about xavi set up, but how to make your team and other players (full backs, and cb) to pass the ball to him. I can send you link with my tactic so you can try it and see how it works for you

I've found that, especially with such full backs that are so comfortable with the ball; Danny Wilson for me is averaging around 8.0 this season simply because he makes so many passes and defends well.

Playing Barcelona is relatively easy in suffice of winning trophies, but I see the challenge to try and replicate their real-life style of play. So hopefully FM12 will be able to carry this out better than my experiences on 11. Will load up the demo this evening after I've finished my season on 11, so if you could give me a link for you tactic to have a look at would be great :D

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I've found that, especially with such full backs that are so comfortable with the ball; Danny Wilson for me is averaging around 8.0 this season simply because he makes so many passes and defends well.

Playing Barcelona is relatively easy in suffice of winning trophies, but I see the challenge to try and replicate their real-life style of play. So hopefully FM12 will be able to carry this out better than my experiences on 11. Will load up the demo this evening after I've finished my season on 11, so if you could give me a link for you tactic to have a look at would be great :D

you've got link in pm

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Why not put it up for 'public' download so more of ud could give it a go? I'm really, really interested in seeing how you managed to get Xavi's pass amount up to that level ;)

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Why not put it up for 'public' download so more of ud could give it a go? I'm really, really interested in seeing how you managed to get Xavi's pass amount up to that level ;)

well i hope to get some more passing from xavi so i did not put it here, but here is link... any feedback is welcome, I know that there is a lot of fm fans that want to get statistic in game like "real life" barca

http://www.fileserve.com/file/Gahwc4U/Tic-Tac_barca_1.3a_(Barcelona,_Sep_2011).tac

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barca2p.jpg

barca21.jpg

barca3w.jpg

barca31.jpg

All that looks really good (all the screenshots in all your posts).

There are/were two Barca tactics for FM11 that could achieve the same/similar possession and pass completion stats. One was created in Classic Mode, the other one with heavily modified TC instructions.

Is the tactic you are using on FM12 Demo same as the one you were using on FM11? Is it a 4-3-3 and what type? DM+2MCs or 3 MCs? AMRL+ST or 3 STs (wide or narrow)?

I'm guessing you are using DM+2MCs+3 STs, low mentality, extremely short passing and very restricted individual settings (creative freedom, RFD, RWB, TTB, LS, Crosses). For sure slow tempo, narrow width, high D-line, high pressing, tight marking. What is your time wasting set to?

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