Right at the start of this article I have a confession to make, Lionel Messi is not my favourite Argentinian football player, shocking isn’t it? Nor is it Diego Maradona, Carlos Tevez or even Javier Mascherano. No, my favourite Argentinian player of all time is Juan Roman Riquelme. The mercurial Riquelme shone at the tip of the midfield for Boca Juniors (over two spells) as well as in Spain with Barcelona and Villarreal. He operated in a role that has been synonymous with Argentinian football for the last half a century, the Enganche.

The Enganche is literally the hook, the player that is more commonly described in modern tactical discussion as the pivot. Traditionally in Argentina the Enganche is the player that sits at the tip of the midfield and knits the possession together. He is the player that receives the ball and chooses how and when to release the ball to maximise the potential of the attacking movement. Ironically it was when I started to think about the use of the position within Football Manager and given its links to and popularity within Argentinian football I found the perfect Enganche in Brazil, Paulo Henrique Ganso of Santos is the ideal player for this system. The Enganche therefore is an integral part of our system within Football Manager when we are looking to use a style that maximizes possession and sees the opposition happy to sit back. How then do I use the Enganche?

 The System

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

All relatively straightforward and you can see that Ganso is in position at the tip of a midfield with two runners from midfield backing up and advancing wingbacks to give a notion of almost false width. The system has been built to maximise the potential of the Enganche as such I am in no way claiming that this is some kind of ‘super system’

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Here you can see the systemic movement that I expect to see around the hook. As Ganso holds his position the two deeper midfielders will make diagonal forward moves to take his wall passes. The Right wingback is given more licence to push forward because I have Neymar as the left striker free to drop onto space. Finally the deep midfielder will push in to hold the shape and base of the midfield.

The Enganche in action

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Here we can see the initial phase of the attacking play with the ball in our possession on the right hand flank. Ganso is in position in the centre of the pitch but as you can see there are three defensive AI positions in close proximity and well positioned. Let’s see what happens when the ball moves on.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

As soon as Ganso takes possession of the ball he is pressured from behind by two players with a third approaching from the front. His role however is not to take the ball and dribble into space or to try and beat his man. We want to attract players towards him to allow his other players to flow around him and create passing angles. Straight away the two advanced passing options will cut out an entire phase of the AI’s defensive setup. The third immediate passing option is to the advancing base midfielder that will allow us to shift the angle and emphasis of the attack. As you can see the Enganche is a magnet both for the ball and the opposition.

The Enganche holds his position

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Here we see Ganso in a slightly deeper role in position to take the ball from the base midfielder. As he does so his position is perfect to give the ‘wall’ pass round the corner to either of the two central midfielders with either pass being able to cut out the AI’s midfield system. He also has options out to the right wingback and the short pass back to the base midfielder in order to draw the opposition out.

The Enganche can also draw players out and move into space

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Above Arouca and Ganso swap possession in the midfield and as they do the AI push their central midfield players onto Arouca obviously playing a high pressing game. As they do so Ganso is free to drop into the large area of space in front of the AI attack and be in position to take possession again and move the attacking phase further up the field.

The Enganche or hook isn’t a role that I use in every game nor in every system but it is a trick that can be used to devastating effect if you have the right player. If that Riquelme esque newgen appears at your club in the future then this article may give you some idea on how best to use him.