The System

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Something genuinely interesting here. Dr Poods ( I really can’t get used to that username) has set up with a traditional sweeper system, the reason I say traditional is that  a lot of people still confuse the sweeper and libero role. A libero is more of an attacking option looking to bring the ball out of defence and start the attack, a sweeper on the other hand is meant to sit behind the central defenders and ‘sweep’ looking to move laterally left and right to whichever side the opposition are attacking, If any of you saw the Community Shield match between Manchester City and Chelsea the Belgian Vincent Kompany performed the sweeper role drawing on his anticipation, pace and power to negate the initial phase of Chelsea attacks. That said the sweeper role tends to be one of the hardest to get right in the Football Manager match engine.


Creator: Dr Poods

Style: Tactics Creator

System: 5-2-3 (Loosely)

Site: Unbelievable Jeff


Catania 1 – 1 Fiorentina

Fiorentina 5 – 2 Parma

Atalanta 1 – 1 Fiorentina

Siena 1 – 4 Fiorentina

Fiorentina 1 –  1 Genoa


Streak: DWDWD

Win%: 40

Draw%: 60

Loss%: 0

Average Shots at Goal: 14

Average Shots on Target: 6.2

Average Clear Cut Chances: 2.8

Average Possession For: 49.2%

Average Possession Against: 50.8%


Defensively Solid

In 5 matches we conceded 6 goals, with no clean sheets. Perhaps it’s a little contrary for me to claim that one of the tactics strengths is that it’s defensively solid. For all of that though three of the six goals conceded were a result of set pieces with another two being attributed to direct individual errors. A large part of the defensive solidity can be put down interestingly to the performance and setup of the sweeper.

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Here you can see the basic setup of the sweeper within the defensive system. Felipe is at least 5 yards deeper than the two centre backs giving him the ability and space to react should one of the two defenders lose his striker. He is free to drop further or move horizontally across the pitch to deal with any attacking threat from the AI. The two wingbacks are also tucked in giving the sense of a loose back five and preventing any real threats down the sides of the three man back line.

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In this example Catania are trying to build an attack and have the ball just outside the penalty area in the central area. There is nowhere for them to go though. The centre of our defensive base is extremely solid with the sweeper having moved up to challenge the ball and the two flanking defenders preventing the man in possession from being able to shift the ball quickly to the left or right to take a shot at goal. I have also highlighted the two wide strikers for Catania and you can see that they are again being loosely marked by our wing backs should the ball be rotated to them.

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As an aside from my point about defensive solidity and contrary to my saying that this was an example of a sweeper and not libero system the above screenshot shows that the free defender is capable of starting the attack for us. He’s stepped out from behind the defence but refreshingly instead of looking to play a short possession game the sweeper uses the wide attacking options, both of whom look to spin and provide some penetration from deeper positions. This stretches the pitch and causes the AI real problems.

Interesting Play in the Wide Areas

Using wingbacks along with wingers has always been something that I’ve steered clear of believing apparently wrongly that they would get in one anothers way. The beauty of this system in an attacking sense is that when the ball is in the wide areas there is a strong connection between the wide player and the wingback that can lead to some interesting interplay.

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Here we can see the attacking move developing up the right hand side of the pitch. Cassani and Cerci are playing relatively close to one another and as Cerci moves infield in possession of the ball Cassani starts to make his move and accelerates up the line. The lone striker drops off the line to receive the first pass before moving it again first time into the path of Cassani who has moved into the space made by Cerci moving inside.

This is a regular feature when you watch either the extended highlights of full match with the two wide players regularly interchanging positions and pulling AI players out of position. The combination with the striker also happens to be excellent.

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Here you can see the side building an attack on the left hand of the pitch. Once more Pasqual and Vargas are in close connection with the added strength of a midfielder moving across to create a triangle to play around the AI. One of the best aspects of the tactic is that it does not necessarily rely on the short pass with the wide players being more than happy to put the ball into the box from the deep position. This mixes the play up and causes the AI more problems.

Interplay between three attackers

In the base system we have effectively a front three with a poacher flanked by two inside forwards. When we have the ball in a sustained period of possession working through various phases of attack then the front three can get close to one another and provide some excellent movement to pull the AI defence out of position.

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When the ball in in a wide area the opposite winger tends to tuck in giving us at least two attacking players making inroads into the box. Here you can see that the central striker makes a move towards the near post and closer to the man with the ball. This move essentially takes out two AI defenders both of whom move to negate the threat, thus our far winger is free to move into acres of space and get on the end of the cross. This move is almost impossible for the AI to defend against.


Three Man Defence is Difficult to Implement

One of the biggest problems in setting up a sweeper system is that the three man defence is so difficult to get right. This may sound strange after I praised the defensive solidity but there are still a number of issues defensively that could be addressed.

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One of the problems comes when the AI launch into a quick transition from defence to attack. Here you can see that Parma shift the ball quickly with the initial pass from Giovinco to Blasi and with our right hand centre back already having been attracted to the ball the gap has already been made. By shifting the angle with the short pass Parma are able to split our fragmented defensive line with a simple straight pass.

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Here you can see an example of what happens when the sweeper switches off defensively as Bolzoni advances with the ball one of the Siena strikers moves from the right and makes a run across the face of our defence. Natali lets him go and Felipe in the sweeper role also fails to pick the run up as the ball is slipped though. This is a symptom of confusing the marking type across one band of the pitch. In the interest of continuity I find that keeping marking the same across the defence whether it’s man or zonal really helps. In this case the two marking centre backs are both set to man mark while the sweeper is set to zonal.

Midfield can be Outmatched

This is always going to be an issue when you setup with two central midfielders and give more emphasis in terms of initial positions to the wide players. The lack of a third man whether sitting in front of the defence or making a three man line means that the two can be played around quite easily at times by the AI putting us on the back foot.

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Here you can see that I’ve illustrated the connection between our two central midfielders and they have all but matched up against their direct opponents. The problem arises in the fact that Atalanta have a free player that moves centrally from the wing. He is able to provide the connection between the midfield and attack playing in the huge gap between the midfield and the defence. Indeed when he picks the ball up he has the freedom to play an easy square pass to shift the angle of the attack or slip the ball through to the advancing wide player.

The Lone Striker can be Isolated

As I said above we start with a poacher and two wide inside forwards, if we are attacking in a sustained period then this can lead to the three players joining effectively. In the initial phase of attack though as we move to transition from defence to attack the striker can find himself relatively isolated making it more difficult for us to build effective attacks.

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Here our lone striker has the ball in the central area and as you can see there are really no options going forward. The AI has overloaded their defence and have more than enough players to stop Gilardino from making any in roads should he try to make a run down the channels. At the same time our wide strikers are effectively marked out of the game. Our two central midfielders are a good base for us if we are enjoying wave after wave of attacks but neither tends to move towards supporting the striker.

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This time the striker has moved into the right hand channel to pick the ball up. In doing so he has vacated the centre of the pitch and our left inside forward has moved inside to fill the gap. Once again though other than those two players we have little in the way of attacking intent from the other players.

What Would I Change?

This is a difficult question to answer given my respect for the fact that the creator has tried to do something different. There are a couple of tweaks that could make the system a lot stronger. One of those is possibly the most drastic.

I would change the shape of the initial system slightly. By moving one of the wide forwards to an inside forward position you will be able to connect the midfield and attack more effectively. Which side I would implement this on would be entirely dependent on the players at my disposal. At the same time I think that one of the two central midfield players needs to be released into a more advanced role to add layers and depth to out initial attacking moves.

In defence I touched upon one change earlier in that I would keep the marking system universal across the defence and personally change every setting to zonal marking. At the same time the closing down for all three players should be lowered and uniform to stop the rushes of blood to the head that can happen sometimes.


All in all an excellent effort. I can’t speak highly enough of someone that is willing to try something new and different and put it out there for others in the community to share. I like that it’s not tiki taka and that you aren’t afraid to allow your players to put the ball into the box early in an effort to unbalance the AI. The sweeper is almost there and is capable of releasing the ball long.