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Young Devils - Home of Bielsa, Total Football and Brazilian Magic Box (Man Utd FM20 Experiment)

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So, being inspired by @crusadertsar and "El Loco" (for me meaning the obsessive one) , and given that I wanted to start at the lowest level of English football (Vanarama North) with a team I'm in a strange way connected with (Boston Utd), I tried to adapt it to my team. We are predicted 5th so we should be favorites most of the games. I would love to hear your suggestions for improvement on the tactic below, maybe I missed or mis-interpreted some things:

2 things that "worry" me for now are :

1. My Center Backs are all quite slow. This means I actually fear the higher DL might make us extra vulnerable to balls over the top from the opposition or other counter-attacks.

2. I don't really have any decent player for the Enganche role, so I'll be in need of searching and finding one. We are especially lacking in the decisions and balance attributes. 

The goal is to overload the right flank with the Carrilero who hopefully can be an outlet on the overloaded flank to bring the ball to the "exploited" flank. I choose the Carrilero in combination with an Anchor Man to "simulate" the 2 holding midfielders Bielsa was using during his Atlético Bilbao time.  On the flanks I first had all IW and WB on attack, but thought this was too attacking and changed the IW to support. Still given point #1 above, I do wonder if WB on attack is a smart choice...

Edit: Personal Instructions are:

IW : Roam from position, Close down more for the right side, close down less for the left side

Car: close down more

Anchor man: close down less

WB: Stay wide

On the left side I also want WB and IW to overlap and I want the Pressing Forward to swap with the Enganche (once I have 2 players who can play in both positions) but I can't seem to find that option?

897334173_AdaptationBielsaBostonUtd.thumb.jpg.993c7b64df37f3832dca7c49e1fc9a2a.jpg

Edited by DJ Sir Matthew

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3 hours ago, DJ Sir Matthew said:

So, being inspired by @crusadertsar and "El Loco" (for me meaning the obsessive one) , and given that I wanted to start at the lowest level of English football (Vanarama North) with a team I'm in a strange way connected with (Boston Utd), I tried to adapt it to my team. We are predicted 5th so we should be favorites most of the games. I would love to hear your suggestions for improvement on the tactic below, maybe I missed or mis-interpreted some things:

2 things that "worry" me for now are :

1. My Center Backs are all quite slow. This means I actually fear the higher DL might make us extra vulnerable to balls over the top from the opposition or other counter-attacks.

2. I don't really have any decent player for the Enganche role, so I'll be in need of searching and finding one. We are especially lacking in the decisions and balance attributes. 

The goal is to overload the right flank with the Carrilero who hopefully can be an outlet on the overloaded flank to bring the ball to the "exploited" flank. I choose the Carrilero in combination with an Anchor Man to "simulate" the 2 holding midfielders Bielsa was using during his Atlético Bilbao time.  On the flanks I first had all IW and WB on attack, but thought this was too attacking and changed the IW to support. Still given point #1 above, I do wonder if WB on attack is a smart choice...

Edit: Personal Instructions are:

IW : Roam from position, Close down more for the right side, close down less for the left side

Car: close down more

Anchor man: close down less

WB: Stay wide

On the left side I also want WB and IW to overlap and I want the Pressing Forward to swap with the Enganche (once I have 2 players who can play in both positions) but I can't seem to find that option?

897334173_AdaptationBielsaBostonUtd.thumb.jpg.993c7b64df37f3832dca7c49e1fc9a2a.jpg

@DJ Sir Matthew Don't worry about enganche. In low league any decent playmaker should work. Remember that the standard for the rest of the league is lower. The slow defenders in high defensive line tactic I would worry about. Because even in Vanarama league pacy strikers can catch you on a break. So I would as El Loco would :cool: Find fast midfielders with decent jumping, positioning and tackling and play them as CBs. Good luck!

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Thanks for the response and the search is on. I presume overlapping happens because of PI and roles, but do you know how I can get players to swap positions with each other? Is that also handled through f.e. the roaming from position PI?

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4 minutes ago, DJ Sir Matthew said:

Thanks for the response and the search is on. I presume overlapping happens because of PI and roles, but do you know how I can get players to swap positions with each other? Is that also handled through f.e. the roaming from position PI?

No problem! You can tell certain positions to swap in tactics screen. If you can find players tab. The one that shows mini pic of tactic with the players represented as dots. Select one of the dots and then there is drop down menu with all possible swapping options.

Roam from Position won't tell them to specifically swap but to go into areas where their role is not usually meant to. Like inverted wingbacks going wide and high like a regular wingback.

Edited by crusadertsar

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1 minute ago, crusadertsar said:

No problem! You can tell certain positions to swap in tactics screen. If you can find players tab. The one that show mini pic of tactic with the players represented as dots. Roam from Position won't tell them to specifically swap but to go into areas where their role is not usually meant to. Like inverted wingbacks going wide and high like a regular wingback.

Found it thanks! 1st impressions of the tactic are quite good, won away vs Halifax (1 division higher) and now home vs affiliate Notts Co (also 1 division higher but tipped as favorite for promotion)  in an even match we drew 2-2. So with the quality injection at the back and more gelling, I can see the pieces falling nicely into place :D

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Q : I found a loanee who works quite well as Carrillero but even better than a Mezzala. Would it make sense to change the CAR to a MEZ role? What are the expected implications? I think it might even be more Bielsa attack-wise, more forward movement, but not sure?

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This is a great thread! Really good to see something like this going and a community formed dedicated to a certain style of play! I’m testing out a few variations of this style of play and will report back with my findings with PSV :thup:

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Fantastic read!

 

@crusadertsar: Thank you very much for providing so much food for thought that I am bursting with excitement. Your detailed descriptions have made me understand how the ME works to an extent never achieved before. Haven't played for 5 years after actually growing tired of trying to understand the ME, feeling it wasn't nearly as intuitive as I felt it should've been. With this thread I am now ready to tackle the problem with new understanding. Keep up the good work!

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On 29/01/2020 at 01:26, DJ Sir Matthew said:

Q : I found a loanee who works quite well as Carrillero but even better than a Mezzala. Would it make sense to change the CAR to a MEZ role? What are the expected implications? I think it might even be more Bielsa attack-wise, more forward movement, but not sure?

For mezzala to work in your formation he will need a more defensive player closer to him in the central midfield. Otherwise when mezzala charges forward you will have no one in midfield as Anchor will stay too deep. Maybe if you move Anchor up and put him on BWM on defend or on support with hold position instruction.

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8 minutes ago, crusadertsar said:

For mezzala to work in your formation he will need a more defensive player closer to him in the central midfield. Otherwise when mezzala charges forward you will have no one in midfield as Anchor will stay too deep. Maybe if you move Anchor up and put him on BWM on defend or on support with hold position instruction.

I've had a lot of success with an Anchor playing behind a Mezzala, but it depends on if you are considered superior to the opponent or not. I won the champions league in 2020 with SLB in a 4141, with an Anchor behind a DLPs on the left and Mez on the right

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15 minutes ago, 04texag said:

I've had a lot of success with an Anchor playing behind a Mezzala, but it depends on if you are considered superior to the opponent or not. I won the champions league in 2020 with SLB in a 4141, with an Anchor behind a DLPs on the left and Mez on the right

For sure it works great in a 4-1-4-1 or 4-2-3-1. But his original formation as in the screenshot was a 4-1-1-3-1. There would be way too much space between mezzala and anchor when in possession. If he changed mezzala into Segundo Volante on Attack then it would work.

Edited by crusadertsar

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@st1p and @Boss thank you for the kind words. It's my pleasure to contribute to this wonderful forum and its community. And feedback like yours is what keeps me going and continuosly getting inspired to write more. 

Expect another update (and something very different that I'm excited about) in about a week 😃

Edited by crusadertsar

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@crusadertsar unfortunately my 4-1-1-3-1 , although doing well during friendlies, completely fell apart once the competition started. We never hit any consistency and while I saw neat triangle play during friendlies, I never something like that again when it counted. Also never saw any overloads on the right flank with subsequent switching to the left flank. Maybe Vanarama League North is too low a lever to try this? I'm a bit puzzled as I also feel out of depth, not knowing what to plug. Considering starting over and using the game's suggestion on formation & roles with next to none TI ? Keep it simple and learn from there? If I capable of any learning that is.

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Hi all

Just thought I would update on progress as this thread has been so helpful to me. 

I am midway through my third season with Arsenal and have built a decent squad and this is probably just about my first choice XI and tactical setup. No particular PI's except tight marking the opposition ST:

20200201092705_1.thumb.jpg.0b1e48c8898b29554d9118751cdb45bd.jpg

For tricky away games - I tend to just drop the mentality back to positive or balanced and leave everything else alone. I've had a couple of unlucky games but generally speaking, results have been good (pre-season was purposefully very easy so I can get the familiarity up).

20200201092557_1.thumb.jpg.c6ecf3ff60dfd925d4cd8ae4fff37232.jpg

And a couple of match examples:

20200201092620_1.thumb.jpg.93dc8688dc67b2c9c5919b71180859d2.jpg20200201092609_1.thumb.jpg.f7593cfe313e57ad4240ff8baba2e012.jpg

That's probably enough but just wanted to update and show it is working nicely. I never would have thought of going with a flat 4141 but the solidity in defence (albeit laser guided through balls are still OTT in my view), the quick transitions and the switching  of play are great to see.

One strange thing I have noted is the possession stats tend to be quite even (see the West Ham screenshot) but actually when you go into the analysis - our average position with the ball is entirely in their half whereas they rarely get into my final third - seemingly content to recycle it along the back line and midfield. 

Which leads me to believe:

1) the shape makes us solid and difficult to break down (again laser guided through balls being the annoying exception)

2) we have possession with intent! Compare the number of shots, and in particular the ratio of CCCs and HCs.

Edited by BrickCommo23

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3 hours ago, DJ Sir Matthew said:

@crusadertsar unfortunately my 4-1-1-3-1 , although doing well during friendlies, completely fell apart once the competition started. We never hit any consistency and while I saw neat triangle play during friendlies, I never something like that again when it counted. Also never saw any overloads on the right flank with subsequent switching to the left flank. Maybe Vanarama League North is too low a lever to try this? I'm a bit puzzled as I also feel out of depth, not knowing what to plug. Considering starting over and using the game's suggestion on formation & roles with next to none TI ? Keep it simple and learn from there? If I capable of any learning that is.

I think for the Lower League, my later 4-1-4-1 would be more defensively solid. Some of the users like @mdougal and @BrickCommo23 (look at his post above for example) had a lot of success with it with a few alterations. Maybe you can look at their feedback on here to see what worked for them. But yes it could be that at lower lower the players are not able to retain the ball wall which is what you will need for the overload. You will need highly technical players with decent levels in Team Work, Composure and Balance. Most importantly don't give up and have fun!

Edited by crusadertsar

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On 06/02/2020 at 07:27, crusadertsar said:

Big Season 3 Update and new tactical style coming on Friday

Is it ready yet? It’s like Christmas Day for me 😂😂

rashidi is also bringing out a new tactic today. Can’t wait lol. 
I’m in preseason eagerly waiting for what you come up with. 

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32 minutes ago, Irn Rvd said:

Is it ready yet? It’s like Christmas Day for me 😂😂

rashidi is also bringing out a new tactic today. Can’t wait lol. 
I’m in preseason eagerly waiting for what you come up with. 

Lol i hate to keep you waiting. Honoured to be mentioned alongside @Rashidi It's rolling out on the Dictatethegame site in little over an hour. And then I'll repost it here. I hope you like Brazilian cuisine :cool:

Edited by crusadertsar

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This first appeared at https://dictatethegame.com/2020/02/07/young-devils-samba-united-and-the-magic-box/ , so go to that link if you would like to read it in its original format.

There are two ways to creating tactics in Football Manager 2020. One that most FM players, myself included, use is to start with an idea of what kind of tactical style you want to achieve. Then look at your team and try to mold your players into the roles that fit such a style. Sometimes this can work very well, especially when starting with a squad that worked under such a system before. For example it will be easier to turn Borussia Dortmund, given their history under Jurgen Klopp's Gegenpress, into a Total Football side than squad previously managed by Mike Pulis. Up to now Young Devils Series has been all about imposing Total Football onto Manchester United squad. But now in my 3rd season with Red Devils, can the opposite work? Can I develop an effective tactic to fit a few, exceptional players?

 

Historical Inspiration - World Cup to Remember

445fedfa6798bf6e4901d155849a8540-1024x90 The Three Football Gods. Spain, Summer 1982 - The rare time we saw Socrates, Falcão and Maradonna on the same field

There is a common thread that runs through the history of the World Cup. Three of the Cup's greatest sides, Hungary 1954, Netherlands 1974 and Brazil 1982, did not actually win the competition. Yet these three legendary teams were renown for their talent and skill. You could say all three were "magical" in the way how they still capture our attention years later. Decades before Galacticos, we had Magical Magyars, Magic Box and the Flying Dutchmen. Football fans at the time were fortunate enough to witness three of the best super-teams ever assembled. I already showed in my examination of 1974 Dutch Total Football, how that legendary team changed the course of football innovation. The 1982 Brazil side were similarly influential. But rather than being the starting point of a revolution, they were the apotheosis of Brazilian jogo bonito style. Samba football at its finest. Before it's fall.

1982_5.png

Even-though Italy won, 1982 was Brazil's year to celebrate its "beautiful game" before its eventual decline. The team assembled by 1982, although without the genius of Pele, was collectively the greatest side ever fielded by Brazil. In terms of technique, creative flair and pure artistry on display it was probably the most creative side ever assembled. If one needs proof that football can be an art-form, one need just watch any clip of that squad play. While Brazilian flair-focused football was overshadowed by Europe's Total Football, it does not mean that it was inferior. Or that it cannot make a comeback.

Time for Change

Some of you might ask, why the sudden change from Total Football and Bielsa-ball? After-all the Devils were doing pretty well with my 4-1-4-1 and 4-3-3 high pressing tactics. And for those interested here is the final version of my Bielsa-ball. There is reason to the madness however.

Bielsa-ball Tactic Download Link: https://ufile.io/rqjns0g4

Untitled2.png?fit=662%2C236&ssl=1

As you can see after a solid season of testing, we ended up runners up for the title. The definite highlight was the two months-long no loss streak. Yet despite the success, we needed a change. I felt like I achieved most of the goals I set out with. Especially in trying to emulate Bielsa's style in FM20.

So what were we missing? Despite lack serious hardware (aside from a lone FA cup) we managed to move United to the top of Premiership. Which is no small feat. Especially when it involves consequently finishing 3rd and 2nd in a highly competitive league. A league that includes two of the arguably best possession-hungry teams in the world, led by two visionary managers.

So after two years of emulating Bielsa, something was missing. We were winning matches and defending well, but coming short when counted most. On the Champions League stage we were missing that exciting spark that often means the difference between glory and heartbreak.

23DB7BAFC452DFA9535474D6D00A58585BE1D1B2

But in the end, I am a manager who thrives on discovering new ways to achieve attractive, attacking possession football. For a while my attempt to recreate Bielsa-ball was achieving just that. I even developed a new team DNA to instill the essence of Bielsa's system at the core of our squad. It will still serve its long-term purpose of directing our future squad building efforts. Hard-working, well-rounded footballers are useful in any playing style.

view-1024x576.png Signs of Total Football at Old Trafford. Total Football DNA custom view download: https://ufile.io/ebgektoi

And in the wise words of Harry Redknapp; "All this stuff about pressing is nonsense – it’s nothing new. All teams who are successful have to work hard." But it is when one marries Hard Work and Balance (in both tactical and individual sense) with exceptional Technique and Flair that real magic happens.

The Spark of Magic

There were only a few signings at Old Trafford in the Summer of 2021. But they were significant. Since our major club DNA restructuring effort (Spanish Armada), there has been less need for big transfers. So during this summer, the focus has definitely been on youth development. One of the two transfers was Ilaix Moriba, the wonderkid from Barcelona. At 18, he has been labeled as "Pogba of Barca". And this comparison is not all that surprising when you look at his profile. Not too bad for a teenager.

Untitled3.png?fit=662%2C372&ssl=1

And Romulo, another wonder-teen from the favelas of Rio de Janeiro. So without further ado, let us welcome Romulo Zaksauskas Ribeiro Ventura! He is truly something special.

Ronaldo-2.png?fit=662%2C372&ssl=1

I am especially excited by his maxed technique, high flair and other mental attributes. Considering he still has lots of potential for growth. He is definitely the poster boy for our new tactical style change.

Ronaldo.png?fit=662%2C372&ssl=1

Our chief scout also agrees with his high 5 star assessment. He seems to think Romulo will be the next Ronaldo.

Young-Cristiano-Ronaldo.jpg

No. Not THAT Ronaldo. Although that would be pretty ace too. THIS Ronaldo.

UPDATE: I was able to buy Romulo from Flamengo for 33 million, bypassing the workpermit. Cannot wait for him take on the Premiere League this year!

Introducing The Concept

Usually I try to fit the team into a predefined tactical system. In the next series of articles. I will show how to do the opposite. Take the players available to you and try to create an exciting tactic. Ideally one geared towards making the best use of their traits and attributes. This is how Young Devil's Jogo Bonito Style was born.

Originally the change came along midway through the second season as I made one important realization. My squad has become filled with world-class attacking midfielders and strikers. Naturally this is not a bad thing. It became problematic however when some of my forwards and playmakers started to complain about lack of playing time. The worst case was probably Martial, whom I felt I neglected the most. He ended up playing 22 games (15 of which were as a substitute). He just didn't fit into a Total Football/Bielsaball-like system. Martial is a very technical and creative player, but not a very hard-working one. Yet I think he is capable of excelling in a Brazilian-style system. Especially as a supporting striker or even shadow striker. It is just a matter of developing the right tactic for him.

Introducing The Magic Box

One must understand why the "Magic Rectangle" (or Box) formation was so popular in South America. This shape helped Brazil National team to dominate through 60s and 70s (especially at 1970 World Cup). Dependable and tested, it was like 4-4-2 in England. But more importantly 4-2-2-2 was chosen by Telê Santana, Brazil's 1982 manager, because it could accommodate his best players. This was no easy task as he had two of the world's best attacking midfielders. Zico who at the time was the world's top footballer, and Socrates, the most cerebral player of beautiful game. Socrates, a trained medical doctor and political activist, was Brazil's answer to Holland's Cruyff, and the Brain of the formation. He saw the field like no other, stringing together complex passes with sublime ease of a general. This was only matched by his precision in hitting the ball.

So eventhough 4-2-2-2 was not a new tactic, what made Brazil's Box so magical were the players in it. With Zico and Socrates driving forward, lets add the other components of the Box, Falcão and Cerezo, into the mix.

ho2kydmtcka75hipybvs3scriex6oxsx.jpg

Typically, in a 4-2-2-2 the two defensive midfielders are its most specialized, key players. In order for the whole tactic to work effectively, you need two pretty special players. You also need them to sit back in front of the backline. Thus the defensive midfielders can cover the defence while the wing-backs charge aggressively up the pitch. In addition to being defensively responsible, it’s crucial for the defensive midfielders to be great passers, especially comfortable with long-balls.

DgZ6iPEW0AIpbF0.jpg Falcão and Cerezo -Defensive Midfield Brothers

Both Falcão and Cerezo were what you would describe as elegant deep-lying playmakers. Cerezo was the more physical (due to his exceptional stamina) of the two. But he was by no means your stereotypical holding midfield destroyer. In truth, Brazilian interpretation of the Anchor role differed somewhat from the gritty European one. If anything the more modern interpretation of Italian regista would be closer to how the two Brazilians played. Their organizational sense and wonderful range of passing made up for any weakness in tackling or strength.

Thus the four best players in the midfield rectangle (with two screening the defence), gave the fullbacks more creative freedom. In another typical Brazilian fashion, fullbacks essentially played as wingers who started deeper. The modern concept of a wingback was born in Brazil. Unlike their European fullback counterparts, they had no defensive responsibilities. The only players tasked with staying back during attacks were the two centrebacks and two holding defensive midfielders. In theory at least. In reality, Falcao and Cerezo acted more as aggressive registas than anchors. Which turned out both the strength and weakness of Brazilian Magic 4-2-2-2.

4-2-2-2's Strengths and Weaknesses

zicosocratesbrazil.jpg?fit=662%2C456&ssl

The main strength of 4-2-2-2 is in how it exploits deficiencies in the space between opposition’s defense and attack. At the same time it maintains a balance in your own defense and attack. Ideally you have six players (wingbacks and attacking midfielders) in any phase of play. At the same time four players (centrebacks and anchors) act as a solid defensive core.

As a result, the kind of players that would flourish in 4-2-2-2 are multi-functional generalists. The only specialists in the system are the defensive midfielders, who act as creative screens for the defence. Thus as mentioned before they need to be good in defence but also very good passers. You will probably have most difficulty filling their roles. Someone like City's Fernandinho would be ideal. The rest of the team needs to be comfortable in both attack and midfield transition. So strikers need to be decent passers to link better with midfielders and wingbacks. While the attacking midfielders need to possess good off the ball and composure to be an additional attacking threat.

Predicted-Brazil-starting-line-up-vs-Eng Fernandinho in action for Brazil

Thanks to the defensive midfield specialists, the front four are free to attack with the support of the two wing-backs. The two attacking midfielders can stray wider (as mezzalas) or cut inside to support the two strikers. And the wing-backs on either side can overlap, adding another dimension to attack. In theory it can be a very aggressively offensive tactic, despite technically keeping four in the back.

The idea is to overload the attacking line down the middle of the pitch. This naturally leaves the wings relatively vulnerable. But opponent's plays there are seen as a predicted collateral, doing no more than limited damage. Afterall they will still need to move centre-wise to score. Having at least one tall and strong centreback is essential here to defend against crosses. Thus you are totally in control of the central area, with no less than 6 players there.

brazil-1982-4-2-2-2_formation-11.jpg

The Brazilians were no doubt beautiful to watch. Especially when in attack they would go from 4-2-2-2 to a free-flowing 2-7-1. In practice, 1982 Brazil lost because they got too reckless and the back four did not perform as well as the front six. The forward runs by both deeplying playmakers left too much space for counterattacks. They were able to score 15 goals in 5 games, but not without leaked goals. Their only nly one clean sheet against New Zealand). Brazil's weaknesses became exposed against a well organized counter-attacking team like Italy. Where things broke down was was when both the full-backs and defensive midfielders went forward, leaving just the two centrebacks in defence.

Samba United - The Tactical Experiment

One exciting thing about my Manchester United squad is that our midfield is packed with great players. Much like Brazil in 1982, our two best players are natural attacking midfielders, Pogba and Oyarzabal. Ideally to get the best of them, we will need attacking roles pushing up aggressively from the midfield. They will need to have good interplay with the strikers. And to take full advantage of the space freed up in making late runs on goal. I believe that mezzalas will be perfect for this.

There's also a wealth of young talent pushing into the first team from the sidelines. Garner was the big revelation for us last season. He firmly cemented his starter spot with an outstanding overall performance. Speaking of Young Devils, Garner is a perfect example of one who is developing to his potential.

9A7B3E384A33DC4943E23FFA93C21858F44D5DDB

But he is more of a deep playmaker, most fitting of the Falcao or Cerezo role. I suspect he will develop a great partnership with Merino in the defensive midfield pairing. While the competition for Pogba and Oyarzabal will most likely come from Gomes, Moriba, and young Hannibal. All three are on the verge of their own breakthroughs into the First Team. Then there are also aging Mata and Lingaard who are great backups in attacking midfield.

Upfront, we also have the striking force to more than match the classic Eder and Serginho partnership. In Rashford/Haaland we have one strong player to bang in the goals (a la Eder). And in Martial/Greenwood - creative supporting partner to hold up the play to give time for the midfielders to catch up. Which was basically Serginho's role. And just as the Brazilian giant did, at times they will need to be able to defend from the front. The attacking striker could be a Poacher or Advanced Forward. While I foresee his partner as a mix between Pressing Forward and False9.

081C756E53EE198FB0D60AA3845DD390D77A267F

So in its essence, this is the formation that I plan to start 2021-2022 season of Young Devils with. The spirit of unrestrained Brazilian attack remains along the wings where I hope the two attacking wingbacks will act as essentially deep wingers. But unlike 1982 Brazil, the balance will hopefully be maintained through two disciplined roles in the defensive midfield. Despite using static roles like anchorman, I am hoping that the players' traits and attributes will lead them to act more like playmakers than suggested by this conservative role. But without actually leaving their positions too much to make those dangerous runs up-field. The defensive core of four players needs to be maintained if both wingbacks are to attack.

Conclusion

As we all know the match engine has undergone some major changes recently. So I think it is a perfect time to test a new tactical system from a relative blank slate state. The plan is to see how my Magic Box tactic fares for half a season with Man United first. And then maybe with another mid-level club. I was thinking that Ukraine's Shakhtar would be perfect, because of its Brazilian influence.

I will be sharing my results and tactical conclusions in the next update. You are welcome to test it on your own. But do keep in mind that some of the roles (especially the strikers) are not finalized. Also, the tactic overall will probably undergo more tweaking as I get used to the updated match engine quirks. Until then happy testing and thank you for reading! And feel free to follow us @ Dictate The Game’s Facebook and Dictate The Game’s Twitter!

Preliminary Samba-Ball Tactic - https://ufile.io/9d7ebhbo

 

 

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24 minutes ago, crusadertsar said:
 

This first appeared at https://dictatethegame.com/2020/02/07/young-devils-samba-united-and-the-magic-box/ , so go to that link if you would like to read it in its original format.

There are two ways to creating tactics in Football Manager 2020. One that most FM players, myself included, use is to start with an idea of what kind of tactical style you want to achieve. Then look at your team and try to mold your players into the roles that fit such a style. Sometimes this can work very well, especially when starting with a squad that worked under such a system before. For example it will be easier to turn Borussia Dortmund, given their history under Jurgen Klopp's Gegenpress, into a Total Football side than squad previously managed by Mike Pulis. Up to now Young Devils Series has been all about imposing Total Football onto Manchester United squad. But now in my 3rd season with Red Devils, can the opposite work? Can I develop an effective tactic to fit a few, exceptional players?

 

Historical Inspiration - World Cup to Remember

445fedfa6798bf6e4901d155849a8540-1024x90 The Three Football Gods. Spain, Summer 1982 - The rare time we saw Socrates, Falcão and Maradonna on the same field

There is a common thread that runs through the history of the World Cup. Three of the Cup's greatest sides, Hungary 1954, Netherlands 1974 and Brazil 1982, did not actually win the competition. Yet these three legendary teams were renown for their talent and skill. You could say all three were "magical" in the way how they still capture our attention years later. Decades before Galacticos, we had Magical Magyars, Magic Box and the Flying Dutchmen. Football fans at the time were fortunate enough to witness three of the best super-teams ever assembled. I already showed in my examination of 1974 Dutch Total Football, how that legendary team changed the course of football innovation. The 1982 Brazil side were similarly influential. But rather than being the starting point of a revolution, they were the apotheosis of Brazilian jogo bonito style. Samba football at its finest. Before it's fall.

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Even-though Italy won, 1982 was Brazil's year to celebrate its "beautiful game" before its eventual decline. The team assembled by 1982, although without the genius of Pele, was collectively the greatest side ever fielded by Brazil. In terms of technique, creative flair and pure artistry on display it was probably the most creative side ever assembled. If one needs proof that football can be an art-form, one need just watch any clip of that squad play. While Brazilian flair-focused football was overshadowed by Europe's Total Football, it does not mean that it was inferior. Or that it cannot make a comeback.

Time for Change

Some of you might ask, why the sudden change from Total Football and Bielsa-ball? After-all the Devils were doing pretty well with my 4-1-4-1 and 4-3-3 high pressing tactics. And for those interested here is the final version of my Bielsa-ball. There is reason to the madness however.

Bielsa-ball Tactic Download Link: https://ufile.io/rqjns0g4

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As you can see after a solid season of testing, we ended up runners up for the title. The definite highlight was the two months-long no loss streak. Yet despite the success, we needed a change. I felt like I achieved most of the goals I set out with. Especially in trying to emulate Bielsa's style in FM20.

So what were we missing? Despite lack serious hardware (aside from a lone FA cup) we managed to move United to the top of Premiership. Which is no small feat. Especially when it involves consequently finishing 3rd and 2nd in a highly competitive league. A league that includes two of the arguably best possession-hungry teams in the world, led by two visionary managers.

So after two years of emulating Bielsa, something was missing. We were winning matches and defending well, but coming short when counted most. On the Champions League stage we were missing that exciting spark that often means the difference between glory and heartbreak.

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But in the end, I am a manager who thrives on discovering new ways to achieve attractive, attacking possession football. For a while my attempt to recreate Bielsa-ball was achieving just that. I even developed a new team DNA to instill the essence of Bielsa's system at the core of our squad. It will still serve its long-term purpose of directing our future squad building efforts. Hard-working, well-rounded footballers are useful in any playing style.

view-1024x576.png Signs of Total Football at Old Trafford. Total Football DNA custom view download: https://ufile.io/ebgektoi

And in the wise words of Harry Redknapp; "All this stuff about pressing is nonsense – it’s nothing new. All teams who are successful have to work hard." But it is when one marries Hard Work and Balance (in both tactical and individual sense) with exceptional Technique and Flair that real magic happens.

The Spark of Magic

There were only a few signings at Old Trafford in the Summer of 2021. But they were significant. Since our major club DNA restructuring effort (Spanish Armada), there has been less need for big transfers. So during this summer, the focus has definitely been on youth development. One of the two transfers was Ilaix Moriba, the wonderkid from Barcelona. At 18, he has been labeled as "Pogba of Barca". And this comparison is not all that surprising when you look at his profile. Not too bad for a teenager.

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And Romulo, another wonder-teen from the favelas of Rio de Janeiro. So without further ado, let us welcome Romulo Zaksauskas Ribeiro Ventura! He is truly something special.

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I am especially excited by his maxed technique, high flair and other mental attributes. Considering he still has lots of potential for growth. He is definitely the poster boy for our new tactical style change.

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Our chief scout also agrees with his high 5 star assessment. He seems to think Romulo will be the next Ronaldo.

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No. Not THAT Ronaldo. Although that would be pretty ace too. THIS Ronaldo.

UPDATE: I was able to buy Romulo from Flamengo for 33 million, bypassing the workpermit. Cannot wait for him take on the Premiere League this year!

Introducing The Concept

Usually I try to fit the team into a predefined tactical system. In the next series of articles. I will show how to do the opposite. Take the players available to you and try to create an exciting tactic. Ideally one geared towards making the best use of their traits and attributes. This is how Young Devil's Jogo Bonito Style was born.

Originally the change came along midway through the second season as I made one important realization. My squad has become filled with world-class attacking midfielders and strikers. Naturally this is not a bad thing. It became problematic however when some of my forwards and playmakers started to complain about lack of playing time. The worst case was probably Martial, whom I felt I neglected the most. He ended up playing 22 games (15 of which were as a substitute). He just didn't fit into a Total Football/Bielsaball-like system. Martial is a very technical and creative player, but not a very hard-working one. Yet I think he is capable of excelling in a Brazilian-style system. Especially as a supporting striker or even shadow striker. It is just a matter of developing the right tactic for him.

Introducing The Magic Box

One must understand why the "Magic Rectangle" (or Box) formation was so popular in South America. This shape helped Brazil National team to dominate through 60s and 70s (especially at 1970 World Cup). Dependable and tested, it was like 4-4-2 in England. But more importantly 4-2-2-2 was chosen by Telê Santana, Brazil's 1982 manager, because it could accommodate his best players. This was no easy task as he had two of the world's best attacking midfielders. Zico who at the time was the world's top footballer, and Socrates, the most cerebral player of beautiful game. Socrates, a trained medical doctor and political activist, was Brazil's answer to Holland's Cruyff, and the Brain of the formation. He saw the field like no other, stringing together complex passes with sublime ease of a general. This was only matched by his precision in hitting the ball.

So eventhough 4-2-2-2 was not a new tactic, what made Brazil's Box so magical were the players in it. With Zico and Socrates driving forward, lets add the other components of the Box, Falcão and Cerezo, into the mix.

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Typically, in a 4-2-2-2 the two defensive midfielders are its most specialized, key players. In order for the whole tactic to work effectively, you need two pretty special players. You also need them to sit back in front of the backline. Thus the defensive midfielders can cover the defence while the wing-backs charge aggressively up the pitch. In addition to being defensively responsible, it’s crucial for the defensive midfielders to be great passers, especially comfortable with long-balls.

DgZ6iPEW0AIpbF0.jpg Falcão and Cerezo -Defensive Midfield Brothers

Both Falcão and Cerezo were what you would describe as elegant deep-lying playmakers. Cerezo was the more physical (due to his exceptional stamina) of the two. But he was by no means your stereotypical holding midfield destroyer. In truth, Brazilian interpretation of the Anchor role differed somewhat from the gritty European one. If anything the more modern interpretation of Italian regista would be closer to how the two Brazilians played. Their organizational sense and wonderful range of passing made up for any weakness in tackling or strength.

Thus the four best players in the midfield rectangle (with two screening the defence), gave the fullbacks more creative freedom. In another typical Brazilian fashion, fullbacks essentially played as wingers who started deeper. The modern concept of a wingback was born in Brazil. Unlike their European fullback counterparts, they had no defensive responsibilities. The only players tasked with staying back during attacks were the two centrebacks and two holding defensive midfielders. In theory at least. In reality, Falcao and Cerezo acted more as aggressive registas than anchors. Which turned out both the strength and weakness of Brazilian Magic 4-2-2-2.

4-2-2-2's Strengths and Weaknesses

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The main strength of 4-2-2-2 is in how it exploits deficiencies in the space between opposition’s defense and attack. At the same time it maintains a balance in your own defense and attack. Ideally you have six players (wingbacks and attacking midfielders) in any phase of play. At the same time four players (centrebacks and anchors) act as a solid defensive core.

As a result, the kind of players that would flourish in 4-2-2-2 are multi-functional generalists. The only specialists in the system are the defensive midfielders, who act as creative screens for the defence. Thus as mentioned before they need to be good in defence but also very good passers. You will probably have most difficulty filling their roles. Someone like City's Fernandinho would be ideal. The rest of the team needs to be comfortable in both attack and midfield transition. So strikers need to be decent passers to link better with midfielders and wingbacks. While the attacking midfielders need to possess good off the ball and composure to be an additional attacking threat.

Predicted-Brazil-starting-line-up-vs-Eng Fernandinho in action for Brazil

Thanks to the defensive midfield specialists, the front four are free to attack with the support of the two wing-backs. The two attacking midfielders can stray wider (as mezzalas) or cut inside to support the two strikers. And the wing-backs on either side can overlap, adding another dimension to attack. In theory it can be a very aggressively offensive tactic, despite technically keeping four in the back.

The idea is to overload the attacking line down the middle of the pitch. This naturally leaves the wings relatively vulnerable. But opponent's plays there are seen as a predicted collateral, doing no more than limited damage. Afterall they will still need to move centre-wise to score. Having at least one tall and strong centreback is essential here to defend against crosses. Thus you are totally in control of the central area, with no less than 6 players there.

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The Brazilians were no doubt beautiful to watch. Especially when in attack they would go from 4-2-2-2 to a free-flowing 2-7-1. In practice, 1982 Brazil lost because they got too reckless and the back four did not perform as well as the front six. The forward runs by both deeplying playmakers left too much space for counterattacks. They were able to score 15 goals in 5 games, but not without leaked goals. Their only nly one clean sheet against New Zealand). Brazil's weaknesses became exposed against a well organized counter-attacking team like Italy. Where things broke down was was when both the full-backs and defensive midfielders went forward, leaving just the two centrebacks in defence.

Samba United - The Tactical Experiment

One exciting thing about my Manchester United squad is that our midfield is packed with great players. Much like Brazil in 1982, our two best players are natural attacking midfielders, Pogba and Oyarzabal. Ideally to get the best of them, we will need attacking roles pushing up aggressively from the midfield. They will need to have good interplay with the strikers. And to take full advantage of the space freed up in making late runs on goal. I believe that mezzalas will be perfect for this.

There's also a wealth of young talent pushing into the first team from the sidelines. Garner was the big revelation for us last season. He firmly cemented his starter spot with an outstanding overall performance. Speaking of Young Devils, Garner is a perfect example of one who is developing to his potential.

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But he is more of a deep playmaker, most fitting of the Falcao or Cerezo role. I suspect he will develop a great partnership with Merino in the defensive midfield pairing. While the competition for Pogba and Oyarzabal will most likely come from Gomes, Moriba, and young Hannibal. All three are on the verge of their own breakthroughs into the First Team. Then there are also aging Mata and Lingaard who are great backups in attacking midfield.

Upfront, we also have the striking force to more than match the classic Eder and Serginho partnership. In Rashford/Haaland we have one strong player to bang in the goals (a la Eder). And in Martial/Greenwood - creative supporting partner to hold up the play to give time for the midfielders to catch up. Which was basically Serginho's role. And just as the Brazilian giant did, at times they will need to be able to defend from the front. The attacking striker could be a Poacher or Advanced Forward. While I foresee his partner as a mix between Pressing Forward and False9.

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So in its essence, this is the formation that I plan to start 2021-2022 season of Young Devils with. The spirit of unrestrained Brazilian attack remains along the wings where I hope the two attacking wingbacks will act as essentially deep wingers. But unlike 1982 Brazil, the balance will hopefully be maintained through two disciplined roles in the defensive midfield. Despite using static roles like anchorman, I am hoping that the players' traits and attributes will lead them to act more like playmakers than suggested by this conservative role. But without actually leaving their positions too much to make those dangerous runs up-field. The defensive core of four players needs to be maintained if both wingbacks are to attack.

Conclusion

As we all know the match engine has undergone some major changes recently. So I think it is a perfect time to test a new tactical system from a relative blank slate state. The plan is to see how my Magic Box tactic fares for half a season with Man United first. And then maybe with another mid-level club. I was thinking that Ukraine's Shakhtar would be perfect, because of its Brazilian influence.

I will be sharing my results and tactical conclusions in the next update. You are welcome to test it on your own. But do keep in mind that some of the roles (especially the strikers) are not finalized. Also, the tactic overall will probably undergo more tweaking as I get used to the updated match engine quirks. Until then happy testing and thank you for reading! And feel free to follow us @ Dictate The Game’s Facebook and Dictate The Game’s Twitter!

Preliminary Samba-Ball Tactic - https://ufile.io/9d7ebhbo

 

 

Brilliant. You article writing skills are awesome. Because I built a team of total footballers using your Beisla tactic, I should be fine moving to this. Im going to test it this weekend.

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Man, this thread has been a huge inspiration to my tactical adventures. After winning two Bundesliga titles in a row with Bayer Leverkusen (Haaland scored 36 goals in the league in his first season!), Real Madrid offered me the job as manager. 
Your latest piece have given me new inspiration for a tactical setup with this lot. It isn’t the hardest working team, but has a lot of technically gifted players, and wing backs that’ll suit this style of play just fine.

Zidane has left me with Telles and Odriozola as the two marauding wing backs, while having Casemiro and Allan as the two physical midfielders. 

I brought in De Light from Juve. He will partner Militao or John Stones (Weird transfer by Zidane). 

The front four excites me. Eden Hazard can play just about any position in the AM-area, perhaps he could be a great SS. In the same positions I have Ødegaard, Asensio, Olmo, Bale, Rodrygo and Vinicius Junior. I don’t see the latter two being a part of central positions though.

I’m pretty short of strikers. Jovic can probably do a decent job, but is quite limited IMO. Looks a proper goalscorer though. Benzema is in a big decline and can hardly run anymore.

I don’t know if I could setup in a 4222 though. 4231 seems to better suit the players I have. Maybe it is possible to do something similar with that formation though. Inverted wingers (or IF) on either side - maybe an AP could be possible too. The AMC and the striker will be a bigger problem I feel. I want them to work together and getting the AMC to function properly seems to be a problem for most people on here. Any suggestions?

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@RasmusI think you could make 4-2-2-2 work. It would even be a surprising tribute to the Brazilian one from 1982. Imagine Eder, the designated striker on that team,was actually a natural left winger/inside forward, sort of like Vinicius or Rodrygo. He was also rather slow but could dribble and had a hell of a longshot. Was known as The Cannon for that reason. So you don't necessarily need a natural striker as your scorer. As long as he has the right attributes. Bale could be your Serginho, the more physical supporting striker. Also Odegaard and Hazard as the Socrates-Zico pairing in midfield. Anyway that's how I would set up. Hope it gives you more inspiration and more importantly have fun! 

Edited by crusadertsar

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Defensively solid. Struggled to make any chances though. I’m unsure how to tweak so goijng to wait for you 😈

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With the update of the new patch, I've started to have more games like this. City is an extreme example but the point remains.

Very solid defensively - tend to concede possession but are dangerous when we do have it. One exception was against Watford playing 3-6-1 and we had only 1 CCC (and missed it)

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7 hours ago, Irn Rvd said:

Defensively solid. Struggled to make any chances though. I’m unsure how to tweak so goijng to wait for you 😈

I think as @BrickCommo23 mentions below the new patch has led to more games where you get something like 30 shots versus single digit shots by opponents. I am struggling to score myself currently. Not sure whether it is my team being naive to the tactic or the ME. Will continue until I have a good batch of test games before reporting. But so far not a fan of the new patch. Kind of wish that I could roll back to the older version. 

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2 hours ago, crusadertsar said:

I think as @BrickCommo23 mentions below the new patch has led to more games where you get something like 30 shots versus single digit shots by opponents. I am struggling to score myself currently. Not sure whether it is my team being naive to the tactic or the ME. Will continue until I have a good batch of test games before reporting. But so far not a fan of the new patch. Kind of wish that I could roll back to the older version. 

My very basic observations are:

1) Higher proportion of CCCs and even HCs are going in - particularly one on one's (which is the right thing to do). I did see that was specifically mentioned as a fix on the SI list too

2) Perhaps as a result (ie, to stop 5-5 draws) the creation of chances is more difficult. 

Given both points above, you wonder about going to some sort of ultra attacking mentality as that may help - as long as you can build a solid base to cover yourself.

@crusadertsar looking forward to seeing how you get on with the Magic Box. I wondered about a similar tactic myself as I have Olmo and Fernandes and it seems a shame to play one on the wing or rotate them in the middle.

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Latest patch has nailed my tactic - we are suddenly having 30% possession at home to United (and lost 2-1).

So - I have taken the unusual step of asking for help here: 

I've name checked this excellent thread though - feels like we are just about there but need a few tweaks!

@crusadertsar - hope you're having more luck with your Magic Box.

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The combination of attacking mentality, high tempo and counter would probably explain a lack of posession. You're telling them to launch quickly pass to goal at every opportunity.

If you want to play counter attacking football then don't worry about posession and maybe lower the defensive block. 

If you want to dominate posession, maybe at least try lowering tempo a notch and unticking counter. 

Edited by bintang
Typos

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7 hours ago, BrickCommo23 said:

Latest patch has nailed my tactic - we are suddenly having 30% possession at home to United (and lost 2-1).

So - I have taken the unusual step of asking for help here: 

I've name checked this excellent thread though - feels like we are just about there but need a few tweaks!

@crusadertsar - hope you're having more luck with your Magic Box.

I agree with @bintang regarding advise for your tactic. You need to make up your mind about the style you want to play, possession or counterattacking. You cannot have both. If you are looking to play a possession tactic then use the advise he suggested about bring the mentality down a notch and slowing down the play.

I have not had much opportunity of testing the Magic Box tactic. Only sitting at the end of August now. But the friendlies and the early matches point to it being rather powerful in attack and defence. 

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A large part of those goals did come from set-pieces so that is a little disappointing. Not sure whether it is the ME or the tactic but it does not look like Brazil 1982 yet. Will keep on testing and report here as soon as I can. 

And on the more exciting note! My Brazilian wonderkid Romulo (the next Ronaldo from the article) scored his first Man United goal in that last victory over Newcastle. A sign of things to come hopefully.

Edited by crusadertsar

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