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Pragmatism, Adaptability & Reactive victories

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I am at heart a perfectionist. I want to do things the best I can and I try to take into account every detail in order to achieve my goals. Even in football I am constantly watching matches, reading books and articles, watching videos...etc. Pragmatism is defined as a philosophy that quantifies and qualifies approaches and beliefs in terms of their success in praxis. There is a widespread belief that perfection is impossible, this is most likely true and therefore our only consolation is taking a pragmatic approach to things. 

So long as it gives my team 3 points I will keep using and developing the different tactics that will arise in this thread with no qualms about the manner the goals are scored. 



Systems are never going to be perfect because they are never absolutely universal, therefore a pragmatic approach requires a high level of adaptability. This translates as different formations and different role distributions in these formations along with a flexible set of team instructions to better exploit an opponents weaknesses and better cover our own deficiencies. four formations should be enough I am thinking a a 433, 4231, 532 and 442. These four formations should be more than enough to face all kind of opposition in several different ways.

Different formations and roles will be adopted throughout the thread as a way of dealing with our opposition along with different methods of attack and defence. 



Reactive fotball has been associated by certain fans with anti football. Anti football was a term first used in argentina to criticize Zubeldía's Estudiantes. Zubeldía and his disciples practiced a brand of football that focused on stopping their opponent's attacks and later scoring from drilled set pieces but could sometimes indulge in unsportsmanlike practices. 

In truth reactive football has nothing to do with being particularly defensive or engaging in unsportsmanlike practices of any kind. Reactive football is just an approach that takes into consideration the peculiarities of your opponent in order to maximise the odds of victory. There is no need to be defensive about this and indeed if a team were to take a defensive approach against a parked bus we would be talking against a failure to react to their opponents choice.

In this save I will be taking a look at my rivals way of playing in order to determine the best way to deal with the threats they pose as well as posing some problems of our own to the opponent.


These three will be the core of this new save where I will take a detailed look at our rivals before deciding how to play to stack the odds in our favor. I will do this by using all the tools the game gives us to analyse the different teams and players we will be up against. I will then come up with a tailored tactic to face our opposition. I have chosen Napoli as my team, I was going to go for a mid tier english team but after the brexit debacle with Chelsea in my Archetypes thread I am a bit scared about doing anything other than a homegrown talent save in England.




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Our next friendly is against Chievo Verona. The first thing I look at is their manager's profile.


At the bottom we can see his usual way of playing, a deep 532 with a direct attacks and zonal marking. We also see that he likes to go with attacking mentalities but I do not trust this too much since Napoli is a much better team than Verona there is a high chance they will go for a more conservative formation.

Next I take a look at their matches to try and guess some things about their team, especially the roles they use:


These are Chievo's average positions against Spezia with and without the ball, The great difference in positions of the their number 11 makes me thing of a BBM while their number 8 seems to be either an Anchorman or a DMd. They seem to be playing with a DLF and a Nº9 like forward like a poacher or an AF. I can also see that their right wing is slightly more attacking than their left one and that there defence is narrower than their attack. 

Next I take a look at their main attacking threats which in this case are numbers 10, 9, 11, 7, 3 & 2 (which are most likely the friendly shirts)


Looking at their matches I see that their four goals in three matches came from the strikers so if I manage to identify their weaknesses and plan accordingly I should not fear their attack at all.

Stepinski is a very average striker, his balanced attribute spread might seem like a hard but to crack but he is weak on the air with a decent but not exactly good height and poor physical attributes. He is good at moving with nice anticipation, off the ball and speed attributes so we must avoid trough balls since that is the one area where he outperforms our defence, his lack of concentration and bravery will also work in our favor.

Pucciarelli is another average striker who while more technical and intelligent than Stepinski is easily bullied physical defenders, they seem to work as a creator-scorer combo but they don't pose any threat on their own to our defence so long as we can keep Verona from attempting a killer pass in front of our area.


these are their midfielders, since I already determined that I can beat their strikers in the air it is most important that I deal with them since they are going to be responsible for the best chances Stepinsky will get unless I do something about it.

Radovanovic is on paper the more dangerous of the two being the more technical, ambidextrous of the pair and having the more aggressive spread but his composure, speed and off the ball let him down. Man marking might be the best idea to shut him out since he lacks a way of dealing with it.

Joel Obi is faster and better at moving across the pitch but lacks Radovanovic's technique and is very one footed, he is however better at defending. I think that showing him on his weaker foot will be enough to neutralize him.


Jaroszynski is undoubtedly the better player in the attacking phase, but he is not a world beater so to speak, he is let down by his off the ball but has no other clear weakness.

Cacciatore lacks composure, off the ball and overall technique but makes up for that with a better defensive game than his partner on the other side of the pitch. 

I don't think they are particularly threatening but I might try to exploit Jaroszynski worse defending abilities to exploit that wing in particular.


I think I can easily turn their attacks into a one dimensional bombardment of crosses by targeting their midfielders, I will try to play a deep 4231 and hit them with fast counters when their 6 man attacking unit gives us the ball.


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A total success

I am very pleased with how the team played. We managed to reduce their opportunities to a minimum. We also scored a total of four goals against them completing our tactical domination of the match. 


I have not included to blocked shots from outside the area. the two shots from inside the area were achieved through set pieces. Our tight marking of their strikers and closing down of both midfielders meant that the best they could do throughout the match was two really speculative shots from far away. As I predicted it was Jaroszynski who proved to be conductor of the attack but Chiriches and Koulibaly dealt with most crosses with ease. Not once did Verona threaten us.


Our defense was excellent at stopping their attacks short, especially their long passes from deep.


a fantastic result against a serie A side.

Next opponent will be Dortmund a stronger side which will pose us much more problems than Chievo and which will prove a much more interesting side to combat against.



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Great idea for a thread, will be very interested to see how you go against stronger opposition. Are you planning on changing your formation and instructions game by game or have a baseline setup that you will adjust depending on the opponent?

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Facing the 433

Last decade saw the rise of the 433 as one of the most dominant formations in the modern game. From Mourinho's Chelsea to Guardiola's Barcelona many top teams have employed this formation to great effect. The 433 is a very flexible formation which can easily form passing triangles all around the pitch, the defensive midfielder can drop in between the defenders to bring the ball out of defense, the striker can drop deeper to link up with the midfielders and leave space for the wide attackers and the fullbacks can stretch the pitch wider by marching forwards with relative safety thanks to the domination of the ball the midfield provides.

The 433 was responsible for the decline in use of the traditional 442 and the reason is explained in the following Mourinho quote: "Look, if I have a triangle in midfield I will always have an advantage against a pure 442. That's because I will always have an extra man. If nobody comes to him he can see the whole pitch and he has time, if he gets closed down it means one of the two other central midfielders is open". 

Indeed, Mourinho reshaped the tactics use in the premier league forever after he introduced his holding midfielder 433, forcing every other english side hoping to compete at top national level to evolve.


So, How does one go around facing such a formation? what are the weaknesses? how to neutralize its strengths?



Favre plays a 433, a high pressing ball retaining 433 and it is my job to find a way of countering it. I will first take a look at their midfielders since those will be key to my approach:


Gotze is their star midfielder when it comes to attacking, while he is not the best at moving around the pitch he is very good at moving the ball around the pitch and is a decent shooter from afar. He is good enough with his weak leg but can be bullied by bulkier players. I think I will try to have Nemanja Radoja mark him tightly but further closing down might also be needed.


Witsel is another great midfielder with a nice even spread of attributes. He is more defensive than gotze and not as good when high up the pitch, again he is a bit static but I am not sure if I want to play with two man marking players in defence, his dictates tempo instruction makes me think of him as the playmaker to Götze's number 8 like role.


Rode is not someone I am concerned about, he is clearly a covering midfielder and won't contribute much to their attack. Maybe some slight pressing might be good for us but nothing more. On the other hand he is one very good covering midfielder so I might want to bypass him and play through the flanks.


Dahoud is just a worse version of Götze so whatever is effective against Götze will also be effective against him. Unless they are resting Götze he shouldn't be starting this game.


Delaney is every bit as as good at covering as Rode with an additional asset in his long shots and aerial game. A BBM through and through marking him is out of the question, he needs to be closed down.


The battle for the flanks is lost before it has even started:


Just what am I meant to do against this trio? I feel is best to abandon the fight and focusing on dealing with their crosses and movements inside. One of my central defenders can play on the wings so I might try that but then again he is one of my tallest, best anti air player so I might want him as a centre back.

Next time I will expose just how I plan to deal with the challenges ahead. You might be wondering why I am not talking about the striker, the reason is that I will simply have on of my defenders mark him tightly. Why? because it is more important to cut the ball before it reaches him than try to do something once the ball has reached him.


He is simply a goal scorer with nothing interesting about him aside from his ability to beat his marker and shoot at point blank. If the ball reaches him in a dangerous position it's all over, as simple as that.


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Facing the 433 part 2


I am not sure what to make of this result. On paper it is a bad result but I had set myself the mission of minimising the chances of a far superior team and if you consider that their first goal was a counter where both Pulisic and Reus (two of the greatest wide players in the game) bet their marker to cross the ball and score and that their second goal was an own goal from our centre back in a corner near the end of the match I wouldn't call our experiment unsuccessful in the defensive end of things.

In attack we had 5 shots, with four of them coming from inside their box but none from our poacher which was what I expected to see, The low number of chances does not concern me for this much since I set up a tactic in a very defensive way to see how it would fare against a team with as good as Dortmund:


The FBd was selected to try to better deal with Reus, I expected the Wb+If+W+AP combo to be good enough to make some passes for our striker but as I said he only shot once, and it was from far away so I will have to look into that.

the instructions are pretty simple to understand, a low block and some instructions for the counter. Against a less threatening opponent I might change the Ws to a Wa the CMd to BBM and the FBd to a FBs, I guess this will help feed the poacher.

One choice I made in the wings that I was very proud of was to tell my players to see pulisic to his left foot and Reus to his right one. Because pulisic played as a winger I thought that trying to steer him inside by seeing him into "the wrong" foot would damage his game. With Reus the opposite was true, since he liked to cut inside seeing him wide was our attempt to neutralise him. In the end it was not enough but I have the feeling that had it not been for these instructions we would have been hammered.

I am also proud to say that Alcácer played no significant role throughout the match so that was another thing to celebrate from our defeat. 

I don't know when I will use this formation again but if you have something to add in regards to making our poacher more effective I will be happy to hear it.

Next game will be the Serie A opener against SPAL like with this game I will first analyse their playing style and players and later publish the result along with some explanations from the chosen formation, roles and instructions.


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An auspicious start

Our very first game against SPAL saw us win 0-2 in a comfortable encounter:


SPAL had only one player capable of posing a threat to us, Petagna:



He is quite a good Target man, 190cm, very good strength, Balance, Teamwork, Jumping reach and Heading along with some very good PPMs. He has two glaring weaknesses that let him down: his one footedness and his lack of composure. Because of this I had Koulibaly, who happens to be even more of a physical beast, target him throughout the entire match by showing him onto his weak foot and marking him tightly. 

Thanks to this we managed to neutralise him. Despite receiving the ball 25 times he only managed to make 9 passes (all of them inconsequential) and shoot once from outside the box.

Because SPAL played a deep formation and relied on their targetman to get things done they lost all capacity to pose a threat to us:


Like with dortmund I had my players show the wing backs into their respective inside foot to try and lower the number of crosses, during this match this worked especially well with SPAL attempting no more than 4 crosses and only ever connecting one of them:



Now onto our formation for the match:


Because I was facing a deep defensive formation I decided to try and focus my attacks on our best attacker, Insigne. I gave him an IFa role and built a combo of roles meant to support him, a F9 to create space for him to arrive into, a WBa to cross the ball into that space, a MEZa to stretch the defence and help create even more space and a DLPs to pass the ball around and orchestrate the attacking unit.

It failed.

Our goals came from an early corner and a long shot from Hamsik during the second half of the match, Insigne only ever shot once, So once again I am proud and happy when it comes to the defensive part of the tactic but have failed to attack as I intended to. Was it the "Focus play down the right" instruction? I chose it because I saw Insigne as the man to arrive into the space and thus not the one who should get the ball into said space, did I "starve" him with that decision? We will see next time we face a parked bus.

With a few tweaks I hope this becomes my anti-parked bus tactic.

Next up is Atalanta, I am already scouting them to see their key players and playing style and I am confident I can earn another three points in the Serie A.

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A "Sequel" match


Once again we were facing a deep formation and once again I decided to go with my 433 against it. This time my biggest worry was the Argentinian Alejandro Gomez:


Atalanta had won 0-2 against Inter and it had all been thanks to his ability to create chances from the left wing by not only crossing the ball but also cutting inside to play a through ball to Duván Zapata, another run of the mill Target man. Alejandro had no glaring weaknesses apart from his air game so even our usual ploy of seeing him on the foot opposite to his role risked not being as effective against him.

This time I decided that above all we couldn't let them weave a string of passes into our own half so I told my front five to mark tightly and close down more so that they were forced to play long balls where Alejandro's poor air game meant that we intercepted most of their attempts at giving him the ball


If you look at their left side you can see the large amount of missed passes searching for their star player, one can indeed acuse Atalanta of playing too one dimensionally but this had more to do with our high press than with a lack of vision or creativity from their part. Against Inter they showed a much more flexible approach to their passing game:


Compared with their match against us they had fewer problems reaching dangerous positions against Inter and this also showed in their shots:


Compared with their two shots on target against us, one of them (their goal) a lucky rebound from a poorly dealt with corner, they were able to provide both Zapata and his substitute with excellent chances against Handanovic. For all of this I was quite nervous before the match and was worried I would be unable to deal with their attack.


My only tactical change in attack apart from the pressing of the front 5 was to tick off the focus play down the right instruction to see if this helped Insigne's game. This time he managed two more shots but in the end 2/3 shots were charged down by a defender and the third was saved by the keeper. I call this a Sequel match because our first goal came from a corner and our second from a long shot from outside the box, just like our second match. S

So the story repeats itself, I was able to asses and neutralise my opposition but couldn't make my attack work how I wanted it to. The whole game is however a step in the right direction so I am not all that worried. 

Has any of my reader managed to make an IFa into the main goal scoring threat? if so, how? creating a consistent attack is clearly beyond me and I need help, I can't live from corners and long shots indefinitely.

My next opponent will be Genoa who play in a similar style to Atalanta so I intend to use the 433 as a building base (because it is working great to dominate deep three man defenses) but I clearly need to change something in my attack.

Edited by Iamarock

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