A few months ago I wrote a post entitled “Mechanising the Play – Using the Enganche” detailing the use of a creative yet often immobile player in the hole behind the striker. The example that gave the inspiration behind the article was Juan Roman Riquelme, one of the most elegant footballers of his generation. Around the time I was researching this article I came across an interesting piece in which the possibility of using Sergio Busquets as a “false enganche” was discussed. The idea is that Busquets has the idea set of physical and mental attributes to provide a wall in the attacking midfield position in that he can accept possession of the ball before snapping first time passes back in to the feet of advancing midfield players or even slipping the ball through to the strikers as they move through the defence.

In Football Manager Busquets is also ideally modeled to play in this role. Consider his attributes First Touch – 18, Passing – 17, Anticipation – 17, Composure – 19, Decisions – 17, Positioning – 19. The idea that not only does he provide a connection knitting together the midfield and attack but that he also acts as the primary defensive block placing the initial phase of pressure on the opposition.

The Setup

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As always with these articles the initial setup is completely self explanatory. We have positioned Busquets at the tip of a midfield diamond in the enganche position. His role is not to attack or move in to a more advanced position but to hold his space and allow the rest of the team to flow around him. He is also positioned ideally to press the AI defence to try and win the ball back as quickly as possible. The enganche is giving neutral mentality and no creative freedom. He is also of course giving no freedom to run from deep or to run with the ball.

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You can see that Busquets is in the advanced midfield position with two striker positioned in wide positions. With the AI in possession in their defensive position. The short lateral pass to the other centre back is pressured by the left sided forward while Busquets is in a position to challenge any forward passing lane. Of course the AI always has the option to play the ball long but that is a risky pass that could well lead to a quick turnover of possession.

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Once again the AI has possession with the centre back. As with the initial example the simple pass out to the fullback is blocked by the left striker. The right striker is challenging the longer pass to the right back. Our defensive enganche is once again sitting slightly deeper but in position to snap in to the tackle should the ball be moved laterally and short.

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A final example of the defensive block in place. The level of pressure being applied to the AI in this example is untenable and will lead to the ball being turned over either due to a tackle from our front players or via the AI playing a long pass that will be challenged by our deeper players. As you can see Busquets has moved right up to the line to engage the man in possession.

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Now on to the attacking phases of play. Here we have Busquets as the enganche acting as an outlet for a quick wall pass. The ball is played quickly from our defence in to his feet and his first touch pass back in to the deeper midfielder completely opens the angle for the attack. Another first time pass this time beyond Busquets to the other central midfielder moving in to the attacking phase adds depth to the move. This entire exchange takes place in seconds pulling the AI to pieces.

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This time we can see another rapid passing exchange through the entire midfield diamond. Again the initial ball is pressed in to Busquets and as soon as it does the AI midfielder moves to engage expecting that the attacking midfielder will spin in to space. Instead once again the ball is played first time to the deeper midfielder and again it then gets moved beyond the enganche in to the advanced position.

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These combinations are a constant aspect of play with the defensive enganche. Yet again when the initial pass is thrown in to his feet Busquets moves the ball quickly first time and opens out the angle of the attack. By shifting angles quickly in this manner you offer more chance of breaking the AI and their defensive system.

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This time you can see what happens when Busquets takes possession in a slightly deeper position and with players already moving ahead of him. This time the enganche and is able to use his passing and decision making to play the ball in to space for an on rushing teammate. As you can see the ball can either go more direct in to the path of Messi or on the shorter option to Iniesta in a more central area. The ball goes longer to Messi and we go on to score a goal.

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The enganche again takes possession in the central area of the pitch and again he has two options in terms of playing the ball quickly and opening up the attacking options. The easy pass is in to the central area of the pitch where he has a teammate unmarked but once again the ball can be passed through the defence in to the path of Messi moving from right to centre.

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I’ve managed to catch a screenshot illustrating the movement of the other players around our defensive enganche. As we transition from defence to attack the ball is played to Busquets in a deep central position. As soon as he gets the pass he doesn’t move vertically at all and instead holds the ball and allows his teammates to flow around him. Almost immediately we see three players offering vertical passing options allowing us to move the focus of the ball forward.

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I’ll leave you with a final example of the benefits of having a player in the advanced midfield position that doesn’t look to move forward with the ball at all. The ball is fed centrally to Busquets and yet again the ball is immediately played through first time to the third man run. The third man run when the ball is played horizontally and then immediately vertically in to the path of a runner is a key aspect of the play displayed by both Barcelona and Spain.

The use of a defensively capable player that can also pass accurately and quickly to open the angles of the attack can add an interesting aspect to your tactical setup. Whilst there aren’t many carbon copies of Sergio Busquets available there are a number of players with similar combinations of attributes that can be extremely effective.

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