Those of you that have read The Blizzard may have seen the piece in Issue Zero written by Michael Cox (Zonal Marking) on the similarity between New Labour and Dennis Bergkamp. In the article he describes the way that Wenger stretched the opposition creating space for Bergkamp by playing a deep midfield and forwards with pace and the freedom to run in behind the defence.

Bergkamp was fielded alongside a pacey central striker – first Ian Wright, briefly Nicholas Anelka, then Thierry Henry – which forced the opposition back four to defend deep. On the other hand the use of two holders (Patrick Viera and one other, most famously Emmanuel Petit) drew the opposition central midfielders up the pitch into battle. The gap between the lines was maximised, increasing the space Bergkamp had to work in.

This idea is one that we can use to great effect in FM albeit with slight alterations given the mechanics of the match engine. Firstly instead of using a player in the traditional Berkgamp role as a striker dropping deep I will use a traditional AM free to make the most of the space the AI will allow him. Secondly we will mechanise our system to instill three distinct attacking waves to maximise the pressure we put on the opposition. The first or move is to have the wingers cut inside. This is a deliberate move to punish the AI should they choose to challenge our AM by having a centreback step out of the line to engage. Secondly the two deep midfielder should maintain a position of around 30 yards from the opposition goal. This means that we always have a passing option should the attack break down. These players are primarily used for ball retention and circulation, this also means that should the AI drop a midfielder back to engage the AM we will dominate the midfield. Thirdly the fullbacks will push forward to take the space vacated by the wingers offering the wide threat and punishing the AI should their fullbacks follow the wingers infield.

The Setup

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All pretty self explanatory there. As you can see Gourcuff will be constantly dropping into space as Mvilla and Toulalan hold the midfield and draw the opposition on to them.

Now on to some pretty ingame pictures.

AI Splitting their Midfield

One of the first things you will see as the AI struggle to react to the system is them splitting their midfield. In other words they will drop a central midfielder back to pickup our AM whilst the other tries to shuttle between both deep midfielders. This will obviously result in acres of space for one of our midfielders.

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Here you can see Mvilla in miles of space with more than enough passing options that the right player will be able to apply pressure on the AI’s weak point thus allowing us to break through.

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This time as Gourcuff begins to run the match the AI is struggling. Here both midfield players are drawn into Gourcuff who is able to rotate the ball straight back to Mvilla. This time Toulalan is able to move beyond Gourcuff into midfield taking the easy pass and bypassing the AI midfield.

The AI Engages the Midfield

As the game progresses the possession and passing of your deep midfielders will draw attention from the AI. The logical step for them is to engage our deep midfield – thus playing into our hands.

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Here Mvilla again has the ball but in an effort to break his passing connection with Toulalan the AI engages both players. This is perfect for us as Gourcuff is free to drift wherever he wants and as an intelligent player is in space to receive the ball and create maximum damage.

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Again we have the AI on the backfoot as Toulalan is in possession. This time both midfield players engage him leaving Goucuff wandering about on his own. Lopez also makes the run in behind the defence taking both defenders with him and leaving Gourcuff to move higher up the pitch maintaining his free position.

The AI is Pinned Back

Eventually the AI will give in and defend as deep as possible hoping to nullify the space behind the defence and keep the lines between defence and midfield tight.

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Here the AI are pinned deep. Mvilla and Toulalan are maintaining their deep line meaning we are able to switch the emphasis of the attack. Cissokho is stretching the defence and offering the wide threat. With this base we are able to maintain and cycle possession waiting patiently for the gaps in the AI’s defensive framework to open up.

As with every other tactical article I have written for Football Manager I am not saying this is the perfect tactical setup. There will be no tactic upload but for those of you willing to try playing with different systems I hope that you find it interesting.