It’s one of the accepted tactical rules not only in Football and in Football Manager but also in Chess. Control the center and you can control the game. How though do you best control the center of the pitch in Football Manager? The obvious answer is to have more players than your opponent in the middle of the pitch, this is not however the only answer. I like to use a midfield diamond to secure control over the AI, whilst we are often matched and occasionally overloaded in the MC position the presence of two designated specialists between the lines with the AMC and DMC means that we always have both the passing angles and the defensive connections to pressure the AI in to giving the ball away and allowing us to build attacks centrally.

When I say I use a midfield diamond that doesn’t necessarily mean with a 4-4-2 or any variation thereof and indeed I decided to use a second case study in which I used a 3-6-1 variation in Brazil to combat the traditional deep defensive box midfield so common in the Brazilian leagues.

I know most of you only read for the in game examples and not to read my ramblings so without further ado..

4-4-2 Diamond

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As standard as standard can be really. When I set up in this system I always make a point of using both a deep lying playmaker shielding the defence and an advanced playmaker providing the connection between midfield and attack. This is purely a means of controlling the centre. I like to have players in both files or lines that are capable of playing the ball and are comfortable in possession to ensure that when we have the ball we aren’t giving it away cheaply and we can hurt the defence with the ball.

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Here you can see illustrated the options available to  the deep wide players in this system. The AI have dropped in to a deep defensive set as this is the second phase of the attack after the first was turned away. Pasqual has an open passing lane to every one of the four midfield players each of whom will face very little defensive pressure. The idea is that the ball should be cycled to one of the three deeper midfield players allowing the advanced playmaker to move through the defensive midfield curtain thus allowing us to pass our way through the centre of the pitch.

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Here you can see the theory realised, well almost. As the advanced playmaker has moved in to the attacking zone he joins with the two strikers effectively giving us a three man midfield but with the attacking midfielder retaining the freedom to drop back off in to the midfield if need be. Pizzaro in the defensive midfield role has the ball in acres of space with the next two players in our midfield setup positioned ahead of them but still in a lot of space. The idea in this role is that the ball will be pushed forward drawing some of the defensive players that have dropped deep out and allowing us to find room for a pass in to the box.

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Again we can see the space afforded to our midfield as they drop back. This time the deeper line is a reaction to our dominance and the positioning of the AM. The opposition has reacted to his threat by dropping the entire line back 10 yards. Again patience is the key here as we cycle the ball forward in to the feet of the more advanced midfielders as we do the AI will eventually engage the player in possession and leave a gap that we can exploit and play through.

3-6-1

I’ve spoken to a few people recently that have been complaining of the difficulty in facing the defensive box setup that seems prevalent in the Brazilian game. For those that aren’t sure what I’m referring to here is a quick graphic;

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As you can see Sao Paulo have set up with four central midfield players in essentially defensive positions. The tendency is to believe that you can therefore attack them down the flanks, if we do though then the combination of the fullback and the DM on that side will make things very difficult for us. Instead we need to find a way to break their central connections and pass the ball through them.

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This time contrary to what I’ve already stated above I have set up the central midfield section up differently in terms of roles. This time the DM is an anchorman purely because I want him to maintain a deep position with very little vertical movement. Given the shape of the Sao Paulo side his is the position of the pitch in which we will receive the most possession and space. The advanced midfielder is a Trequartista since we have a lone striker and I want to ensure that the striker gets support.

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You can loosely see the defensive box in play here, as you can see there is very little offensive intent in the way that their midfield operates despite the presence of Ganso. The advantage that we have though is with the two players that are operating between the lines. Our defensive midfielder is the possession player that is always available to take a pass should the AI be exerting pressure. You can also see that our attacking midfielder is able to move in behind the defensive box to give them a positioning problem.

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Once again we have the ball in the defensive midfield section and again there is very little pressure on the man in possession. This time though I’ve marked up the movement of the ball and the players around the ball as the play moves forward. The defensive midfielder shifts the ball in to the more advanced player and at that point the attacking midfielder makes a move off his marker and is found with a simple through pass. As a result of the simple positioning in the diamond we have bypassed the defensive box in two passes.

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I’ll leave you with a final example of the way the play can be dominated by the player at the base of the diamond. In the 3-6-1 that we’re set up with the fullbacks are also available to be brought in to the play as offensive weapons and with the two central players we have four passing options with which we can advance the ball and change the angles of the attack. The only player that we have actually inside the defensive box is the attacking midfielder who is looking to move in behind to stretch the defensive positioning. By controlling the game from the base of the midfield in this way we are set to drag the defensive setup out of position as the AI will always eventually move to engage a player in possession in deep midfield giving us a new passing option.

In FM13 the diamond midfield is a potent tactical weapon and one that I plan on expanding on in my club and country save that you can read updates for on this blog. In this case at least diamonds really are an FM players best friend…..(sorry!)

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