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crusadertsar

4-1-3-2 Velvet Blitzkrieg Tactic – Recreating the Mighty Czechs

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I posted this article on Dictatethegame.com. So if you prefer to read it in its original layout and with high quality pictures then you can go here 

Here I posted it in hopes of getting a discussion going not only about this tactical experiment but also to hear your favourite National Football moments and teams. 

Czech 2004 Euro stars

Nedved (attacking midfileder) and Baros and Koller (strikers) - the catalysts of Czech's 2004 success.

This article is dedicated to that amazing team from 2004 which was able to take Czech Republic national football to heights it never experienced since. I believe that modern managers can learn something from the Czechs tactic. Recreating this 4-1-3-2 Velvet Blitzkrieg Tactic, as I like to call it, will be the focus of this article. It will be my last tactical experiment in Football Manager 2019. It is also my attempt to get back to the essence of what makes attacking football so great. That is playing for the love of the game with its eternal goal; scoring more goals than the opposition. So get your game on and read on!

71578794_10157453042584223_1759803106540View of Prague, Czech Republic from Vlatava River

I recently visited Czech Republic and its beautiful capital of Prague. The trip was actually planned before I had the idea for this article. But quite coincidentally it solidified my keen interest and respect for the football culture in this small Eastern European nation. Being a country with a very turbulent history, Czech football went through its share of triumphs and losses. The 2004 Euros in Portugal, were definitely a time of its greatest success.

Pavel Nedved grevin wax museum in Prague
I might not have had a chance to interview the real star, but at least I glimpsed his wax effigy, forever immortalized in Prague, Czech Republic.

Team of the Decade

Czech 2004 TeamCzech Stars: #9 Jan Koller, #11 Pavel Nedved, #10 Rosicky, #15 Milan Baros. And of course one cannot forgot #1 Petr Cech - probably the best goalkeeper in the World at the time.

Czech Republic's team from 2004 Euro tournament was not just my favourite team of that tournament but my top football team of all time (both professionally and nationally). It was a team that was not afraid to improvise and take risks, and at the time was the most exciting offensive team to watch. Due to their wealth of world-class attacking talent, in Nedved, Poborsky, Rosicky, Grygera, Koller and Baros, Czechs were able to play with a lot of panache and technical mastery. This made them almost impossible to defend against, as both Netherlands and Germany discovered the hard way. The Czechs blitzkrieged past the two football giants before coming up against Greece in the Final. In their run they took the concept of attack as the best defence to a whole new level. Before ironically getting stopped in their tracks by the "boring" parked bus of the eventual winner Greece.

Czech Republic 2004 Euro formation

My intention going into this tactical experiment will be to create a tactic not only effective in FM19 but in any future variations of the game engine, including the upcoming FM20. Thus the concepts I use here are intuitive and general with least amount of instructions. In a way, I tried to make it as simple of a tactic as I ever made. I used the Czech Blitzkrieg inspiration to set 3 general waves of attack.

The front five consists of 2 strikers, 1 attacking midfield and 2 mezzalas to spear head our attack. This is to reflect the unstoppable power of Koller, Baros, Nedved, Rosicky and Poborsky. Behind this front spearhead, we have the defensive midfielder and inverted wingbacks. Their job is to take advantage of the chaos caused by the front 5 and pounce on any loose balls or tackle the opposition players who got away and are trying to start a counterattack.

Pavel Nedved in actionPavel Nedved - was the Ballon d'Or Winner and the heartbeat of the team.

So while my formation might not reflect the exact shape of Czech Euro tactic, it is strongly evocative of its style. I believe the reason why the Czechs were so hard to play against was due the shear amount of players moving into space behind the two strikers. They were exceptional in their off the ball running and high pressing. The midfield core of Nedved, Rosicky and Poborsky were extremely hard working and intelligent players. With so much talent concentrated in the midfield the Czechs could not be outnumbered there. Despite playing in very attacking, risky formation, they were able to maintain control over their opponent. It was truly an example of creating superior defence through "balls to the wall" offence.

Pavel Nedved in action

Their Greatest Match Ever

And there is nothing more ballsy than fielding two strikers and three attacking midfielders against a side like Holland. Arguably, it was the greatest match of the 2004 Euro and the decade. Holland desperately needed a win, while Czechs only needed a draw to advance. Remarkably Czech manager Bruckner still decided to put all their guns out and beat the stalwart Dutch side 3-2. At one point in the game, Bruckner had three natural strikers, four attacking midfielders and a winger (as a wingback) playing a weird 4-1-3-2 or 2-3-3-2!

After Baros' equalizer, Bruckner refused to settle for a draw. The new formation switch overloaded the Dutch in the midfield and the Czechs continued to attack. The winning goal came two minutes from end time, as Poborsky masterfully set up Smicer for a simple tap in. The Czechs had qualified from that competition’s Group of Death with a game to spare! In the final game of Group D, Bruckner's gamble paid off again to shock the German side.

Then they breezed past Denmark in the quarter-final, before coming up against Greece. And, of course, that was where it all went wrong. Injury to Nedved, forcing him to leave the game after only 40 minutes, and the Greeks insistence on playing their brand of ultra-negative football, both extinguished the Czech dream that day. In the end, it was one of those games where anything could have happened. Pavel Nedved was the beating heart of the team's midfield core. One might argue that with him present for the full 90 minutes, a victory was within reach. But nothing is a sure thing in football. The Greece went on to win Euro that year and cemented their own legendary status as one of the greatest teams of the decade and shining example of an underdog success story. But that is a story for another time.

Football Manager Recreation

How does all this translate into Football Manager you may ask? Actually quite simple. Its a little similar to my Porto Recreation, with a few key differences. So if you already have a team familiar with that tactic, then it should be easy to implement Velvet Blitzkrieg. Naturally it has to be a narrow formation with all the talent that Czechs had in the midfield. The best instruction to emulate their style is in my opinion to play attacking, possession-focused football. This includes high pressing, short passing, building attacks from the back, and most importantly lots of smart off the ball movement. So make sure that your front five are very good in this attribute, as well as Anticipation.

FM2019 Velvet Blitzkrieg Tactic

One key aspect I want to recreate is the speed of Czech attack. Even-though I tell my team to start out with patient build up, I want the ball to be moved faster and more direct as it moves closer to opposite goal. To help with this I instructed my midfielders to pass more directly as well as favour players with essential PPMs like Tries killer balls often, Plays One-Twos, and Likes to Switch the Ball to the Other Side. The better Off the Ball attribute of your strikers and midfielders the more likely they will pull these moves off and penetrate the opposition defence. I cannot stress the importance of Off the Ball enough. The higher it is the better.

To be completely fair I need to state an important caveat. This is probably not a tactic that you can download and plug into your Bolton side and expect instant results. Or even to expect it to win more games than your usual tactic. For it to work as intended you need a very good midfield. Also essential are a pair of strong, technically well-rounded strikers capable of holding up the ball. It helps if one striker is tall and strong. The Czech "gentle giant" Jan Koller was so essential to their control of the ball.

Pavel Nedved playing for Juventus Nedved, one of the best midfielders of his generation and a Juve legend, where he was given the nickname Furia Ceca ("Czech Fury").

Most importantly, you need a Pavel Nedved "fantasista" type player (read this if you are not sure what that means). Luckily I have my current "Next Totti" candidate Zaniolo who I think is more than good enough to fill Nedved's role. Just like "Furia Ceca", Nicolo has the shooting ability, strength, pace, and determination. Couple that with exemplary defensive and offensive work-rate and you get an atypical complete midfielder capable of playing anywhere in the midfield. With still room to develop, Nicolo's technique, dribbling and passing are only bound to improve, to make him into a true fantasista for this team.

Nicolo Zaniolo FM19 attributes Nicolo Zaniolo, Roma's fantasista, as he looks in my 3rd season with Roma (2020 in-game)

In conclusion, the results started coming in and it is looking rather good, although its only been half a season of using the new tactic. By the middle of December we are in firm position to defend our Scudetto from last season.

FFE435FE253FED2E314CCBA54E6A88491119BC23

The highlights so far have been beating Napoli 5-3, Fiorentina 6-1, Inter 4-0 and 6-1 againt Udinese. It definitely has the potential to be a high-scoring tactic, given the right players and time. But then we also lost against Juventus and Cagliari (surprisingly a title contender this season). Both were games where we controlled much of the ball but barely saw any good chances. So there is still plenty of work to be done with this tactic. You are welcome to try it out for yourself and let me know what you think. All suggestions and improvements are welcome. Feel free to post them @ Dictate The Game’s Facebook and Dictate The Game’s Twitter

FM19 Roma results

 

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2 hours ago, BadAss88 said:

Wrong YouTube link mate! It's a 2-3 win against the Netherlands in 2015..

Oops ... Will have to fix that! Thanks

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Fantastic as always. Really enjoy the effort that goes in to these. Very happy you are on the team :D

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, RyanBrown said:

Fantastic as always. Really enjoy the effort that goes in to these. Very happy you are on the team :D

Thanks mate! Appreciate it and very happy to be on the team :brock:

Edited by crusadertsar

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Posted (edited)
17 hours ago, BadAss88 said:

Wrong YouTube link mate! It's a 2-3 win against the Netherlands in 2015..

Okay so if you check on the original article, the video has been updated to the correct one featuring the games from Euro 2004. Thanks again for catching it. A rookie mistake :ackter:

Edited by crusadertsar

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Would you go further into the logic of Rabiot as an IWB on the left? He's got nobody ahead of him so presumably he functions more like a normal Wing Back anyway? 

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I loved watching that team. I remember that semi final, literally the whole world outside of Greece wanted the Czechs to win - and they probably would have if not for Nedved's injury.

Your recreation is certainly interesting and mostly accurate, I'm curious to see if it can be to turned into a working system on FM. Most tactical recreations I tried failed to translate into anything successful in-game.

My memory might be failing me here, but the way I remember Koller was a quintessential target man who would hold up play for the on-rushing midfielders. And Galasek was a holding player, the true playmaker of this team was Rosicky who often started at a wide position. Same for Poborsky who too would cut inside in which case Baros moved wide right, thus creating space for him. Then again, Nedved and Rosicky swapped postions all the time and Jankulovski was almost a left winger, so I'm not sure how to recreate this system better than you did. A great read nonetheless.

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9 hours ago, zlatanera said:

Would you go further into the logic of Rabiot as an IWB on the left? He's got nobody ahead of him so presumably he functions more like a normal Wing Back anyway? 

I think my main rationale for using inverted wingback on that side is to make Rabiot play closer to the middle and use his superior passing and defensive skill to help out with possession. To make two sides less predictable as I already use a more traditional wingback on the right side. It's an idea I wish to explore more in future tactics 

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, crusadertsar said:

I think my main rationale for using inverted wingback on that side is to make Rabiot play closer to the middle and use his superior passing and defensive skill to help out with possession. To make two sides less predictable as I already use a more traditional wingback on the right side. It's an idea I wish to explore more in future tactics 

Interesting idea. As he's left-footed he'd probably give some natural variation even with a winger ahead of him too. I imagine between him and the attacking Mezzala on that side you dominate the left half-space. Whether that's desirable or not is another thing! 

I'm guessing Kluivert was just in DLP as you were moving positions around, and you're not actually training a two-footed inside forward to be a Regista? 

Edited by zlatanera

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Posted (edited)
9 hours ago, zlatanera said:

I'm guessing Kluivert was just in DLP as you were moving positions around, and you're not actually training a two-footed inside forward to be a Regista? 

Exactly! Kluivert wasnt meant to be there at all. I think he was put there when I changed from my secondary tactic. Incidentally I'm having some trouble getting him to play well. He just seems to be average and not really excel at anything. Might cash in on him while value is high. 

Edited by crusadertsar

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20 hours ago, Enzo_Francescoli said:

I loved watching that team. I remember that semi final, literally the whole world outside of Greece wanted the Czechs to win - and they probably would have if not for Nedved's injury.

Your recreation is certainly interesting and mostly accurate, I'm curious to see if it can be to turned into a working system on FM. Most tactical recreations I tried failed to translate into anything successful in-game.

My memory might be failing me here, but the way I remember Koller was a quintessential target man who would hold up play for the on-rushing midfielders. And Galasek was a holding player, the true playmaker of this team was Rosicky who often started at a wide position. Same for Poborsky who too would cut inside in which case Baros moved wide right, thus creating space for him. Then again, Nedved and Rosicky swapped postions all the time and Jankulovski was almost a left winger, so I'm not sure how to recreate this system better than you did. A great read nonetheless.

I would love to see your take on the Czechs tactic!

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11 hours ago, crusadertsar said:

Exactly! Kluivert wasnt meant to be there at all. I think he was put there when I changed from my secondary tactic. Incidentally I'm having some trouble getting him to play well. He just seems to be average and not really excel at anything. Might cash in on him while value is high. 

Yeah he doesn't really fit well in your shape - you'd think he'd go ok in the AM role but I've struggled to retrain wingers / inside forwards to play well as AMs. He's got a decent personality, good attributes and versatility though so I'd suggest loaning him out, probably for a fee. Just pick the team carefully. 

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6 hours ago, crusadertsar said:

I would love to see your take on the Czechs tactic!

It would go something like this:

 

                      TM(a)                  DLF(s)

                                      AM(s)

WP(s)                                                                    WM(a)

                                     DM(d)

CWB(s)         CD(d)                        CD(d)              FB(s)

                                       GK(d)

 

I'd play on an attacking mentality against most teams. Play out of defence, work ball into box, slightly shorter passing, higher tempo, be more expressive. Counter, counter-press, higher d-line, higher LOE, offside trap.

I'd tell the front five to close down more. AM: roam, take more risks and swap positions with the WP. DLF: stay wider. FB: stay wider, run wide with ball.

Testing very much required.

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On 03/10/2019 at 13:02, Enzo_Francescoli said:

It would go something like this:

 

                      TM(a)                  DLF(s)

                                      AM(s)

WP(s)                                                                    WM(a)

                                     DM(d)

CWB(s)         CD(d)                        CD(d)              FB(s)

                                       GK(d)

 

I'd play on an attacking mentality against most teams. Play out of defence, work ball into box, slightly shorter passing, higher tempo, be more expressive. Counter, counter-press, higher d-line, higher LOE, offside trap.

I'd tell the front five to close down more. AM: roam, take more risks and swap positions with the WP. DLF: stay wider. FB: stay wider, run wide with ball.

Testing very much required.

Thats an interesting set up! I especially like how you interpretted the wide roles. But do you think that short passing and work into box would still be effective with a Targetman upfront? I really wanted to put Dzeko in a classic TM role to reflect Boller but thought that it would take away from our possession play. 

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@crusadertsar @Enzo_Francescoli I think TM-At and WBIB could dovetail quite nicely. The Target Man would push up against the offensive line, potentially allowing for a quicker out-ball getting you closer to the opposition area, but then Shorter Passing and Work Ball Into Box would mean you'd still try some neat possession play to get to a scoring position. 

Of course it could also backfire spectacularly and lead to a very disjointed attack!

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I believe a TM(a) can work in any kind of system. He will lead the line and be a goalscoring threat, but also keep the ball thus helping our possession game. Shorter passing and WBIB shall be viewed in context of team mentality. In this case, they will help balancing the otherwise very direct approach that comes with the attacking mentality. The wide midfielders will help our defense, because narrow defensive systems will fold quite easily if the opponent attacks with multiple wide players on each flank. They will still operate in the half-spaces or even further inside in possession, just like the Czechs did back in the day.

I still haven't had the time to test how all this works though.

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Really enjoyed your Running with Wolves series, it was a fantastic read. This tactic has got me really curious. Its rare now that people (including myself) create tactics with the main priority scoring as many goals as possible. It seems like everyone's main focus when creating is possession and pressing. 

Have you used any PIs?

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