The System

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The most striking aspect of the setup is the midfield balance. With two playmakers around the same zone – albeit one deep and one advanced – it is entirely possible that the game could get congested in the centre. Whether that’s the way the analysis plays out though remains to be seen.


Creator: Stu

Style: Tactics Creator

System: 4-5-1 Possession

Site: Unbelievable Jeff


Fiorentina 1 – 1 Chievo

Palermo 0 – 0 Fiorentina

Fiorentina 4 – 0 Lecce

 Roma 1 – 1 Fiorentina

Fiorentina 1 – 1 AC Milan


Streak: DDWDD

Win%: 20%

Draw%: 80%

Loss%: 0%

Average Shots at Goal: 11.8

Average Shots on Target: 4

Average Clear Cut Chances: 1.2

Average Possession For: 58%

Average Possession Against: 42%


Excellent Pressing

The vogue at the moment within football and as an extension within football manager seems to be for teams to press heavily from the front. This is a style that has been popularised not only by Barcelona under Pep Guardiola but also the likes of Chile and Athletic Bilbao under Marcelo Bielsa and Universidad de Chile under Jorge Sampaoli. Here Stu seems to have hit on a winning formula.

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Here you can see Lecce in possession of the ball in the defensive phase.Every AI player within 20-30 yards is effectively covered from one of our forwards or midfielders. When you have a pressing setup such as this it makes it very difficult for the AI to maintain effective possession against you. They will largely be forced to play the ball long thus greatly reducing the prospect of completing a pass. This is possibly the most effective full ‘net’ of pressing I’ve seen during these reviews (they’ve been going for three years now) and given my preference for building strong and weak pressing zones it is an extremely welcome change of pace and direction. Very well done.

Striker works with space intelligently

I’ve made the point before but it bears repeating that when you are using a lone striker it is essential that his movement be intelligent to occupy as many defenders as possible.

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Here you can see the lone striker at the top of the picture pulling off the right centreback. In isolating one of the two defenders in this fashion you effectively shatter the AI defensive structure and stretch the connection between the defenders to the point of breaking. As Behrami advances through the right channel the other centreback is attracted to the ball and Jovetic is free to burst through from the deeper midfield zone for a clear run through on goal.

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We can see above another instance of intelligent forward play. X marks the spot that a static less able striker would occupy easily covered and contained by two centrebacks. Instead our striker has again isolated one of the two centrebacks and not only that it’s the defender on the opposite side of the ball – allowing for a better passing angle. The defender is able to drop a pass in behind the defensive line and the forwards run and initial positioning mean he is able to take advantage of the space to create a simple scoring opportunity.

Excellent layering of the attack

I wrote an article a while back on the importance of layering your attack so that when the initial phase of attack breaks down you have players in position to increase pressure and create second and third phase. Here the layers are present and effective.

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Different colours represent different layers. The initial layer are the front three that create the first phase of the attack. Next come the midfield trio that are supporting and reinforcing the central area of the pitch. Lastly come the wide fullbacks that are able to push on to give support on the flanks. When you play in this way and with the layers relatively close together it lends itself to my first positive with plenty of scope for applying pressure and building waves of attack.


Backwards is dangerous

I’d like to qualify this section by saying that the tactic I use at the moment in my Ajax save is possession based. One of the biggest issued that you see with any possession heavy system is that from time to time your players will frustratingly turn backwards instead of forcing the issue. Aside from being vaguely irritating this can also be dangerous should the AI press the ball and manager to effect a quick turnover.

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My point is illustrated above. Gamberini is in a relatively advanced position and has two passing options which could be considered positive – one forwards one sideways – he chooses to play the ball backwards though. The problem is that the AI is alert and manages to effect a quick turnover which given the high defensive line is deadly. One simple pass and we are under all sorts of pressure.

Direct play can kill the system

The flat midfield has many positives not least the ability to overwhelm the AI in the true central band of play. It can also be isolated should the AI use a direct style with one or two passes essentially cutting the entire midfield out of the equation and isolating our defence to the point of breaking.

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Above you can see that the 1st ball from the full back to the wide striker cuts out our midfield which is sitting flat with no depth from any of the players. The second pass then carves open our defence allowing Francesco Totti to move in on goal. The positioning of the ‘free’ centreback also doesn’t help the situation as his deep starting position means the second ball can be played into space with the striker having little fear of being caught offside.

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Once again the ‘free’ centreback is sitting far too deep and is essentially allowing the two forward players for the AI to push right on behind what should be our defensive line. This means that a single pass from the left back area is able to create an immediate overload with two forwards and one defender. One simple lateral pass and the second striker has an easy scoring opportunity.

What Would I Change?

This is the difficult part because Stu has created this tactic with a very specific aim in mind – possession. It would be wrong of me to make suggestions that would counter that aim. The first that springs to mind though is to create uniformity in defence. Assign the same role to both central defenders to negate the habit the second defender has of dropping deep. Indeed if anything it is better for the player to sit infront of the defence and be free to intercept the play or aid in ball circulation than it is to sit deep and give the AI a target to attack.

I would also allow a little more creative freedom to the more creative players in the side. At times a lateral pass is a good pass and a backwards pass is a good pass – both draw out defences and offer varied passing angles. That said at times the pass forwards even if risky in terms of maintaining possession is the better option. It can be greatly beneficial to press the issue and test the AI defence.


Let’s face it the tactic was undefeated so it has to be positive. There are some very good aspects to the system especially the ferocious pressing and the ball circulation when the team is in comfortable possession.

I always appreciate seeing a tactic in which the creator has a specific idea in mind and sticks to it. Here Stu has set out to create a possession tactic and has achieved that aim. This is the type of system that will improve the more games you play with your team so over the course of a season your players will settle into their roles more effectively.

I think the most simple point to end on is to say that I would happily adopt the tactic into my save – with one or two slight amendments of course…

If you are interested in trying out this tactic for yourself then the simply click here.