Mechanising the Play – Using a Pivot

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I blame ‘Inverting the Pyramid’. Since its release there have been countless tactical blogs, websites and twitter accounts created and although many of them are genuinely extremely interesting there are others that seem only to exist to unnecessarily complicate matters and seemingly reinvent language in the process. It’s this breed of blog/site/account that has led to something of a populist backlash against those that like to research and talk tactics with the term hipster in particular being assigned all too readily, from false 9’s to inverted wingers and registas it’s all to easy to lose sight of the fact that football is in fact a simple game. The subject matter of this article however is one that has been a recognised part of football and indeed coaching vernacular long before Jonathan Wilson released his tactical bible (don’t take this as a slight on the book or its author, it remains one of my favourites) this article will look at the nature and the use of a pivot at the heart of the midfield.

There are two types of deep pivot that you can utilise in your games, the single pivot and the double pivot. I myself have a preference to use a double pivot although in truth there is not really one option that is better than the other you just have to decide and choose which of the two options fits your overall strategy better. Before we look at the use of the pivot within FM though it’s worth recognising the use of the pivot in real terms.



Mechanising the Play – Transitions


Football is a game of transitions, success or failure can often be attributed to whether your side was able to capitalise on mistakes made when your opponent surrenders possession unexpectedly. Creating a tactical system in which you give yourself the best chance of taking advantage of such mistakes is key to doing well in Football Manager 13. What though is a transition? A transition occurs when the ball passes from your oppositions control to yours, or of course vice versa. A lot of the time the AI is at its most vulnerable when they have just lost possession as in the attacking phase they have players moving forwards whom can take time to readjust to a more defensive mindset, this is the simple truth that led to the genesis of the high pressing style of Barcelona et al, indeed managing transitions an extremely important part of the tactical framework put together by Pep Guardiola.

That however is not to say that transitions are only key to tika taka possession football indeed the way that you manage transitions plays an integral part in deciding whether you play a short passing possession orientated style or whether you adopt a more direct approach. In this article I’ll give examples of both slow and quick transitions, both of which occur largely within the same system but with a couple of small tweaks. More

Mechanising The Play – The Linking Midfielder


First of all apologies for the fact this article will more than likely appear rusty, it’s been a while since I’ve written anything, well anything that I’ve kept. In that time I’ve written roughly 4 articles but each one has been deleted almost immediately. I seem to have got past my period of apathy now though so keep an eye out for more articles appearing on the blog over the coming weeks. 

Football Manager today reflects the real world of football in many ways, one of those is of course tactically. It is becoming more and more important to have at least one player that is able to move between the lines of midfield and attack both linking the play and creating overloads thus pressuring the opposition defensive schemes and creating pockets of space that can be exploited by the more creative attacking players in the side. This tactical trend is most evident away from the Premier League with players like Christian Eriksen at Ajax developing the tactical intelligence to perform the role to near perfection for Ajax. In Football Manager the box to box midfielder role is designed to emulate this tactical trend with the designated player supposed to link between the lines and offer both attacking and defensive options. Why though should we use such a player and what does he offer us?


Mechanising the Play – The Defensive Block


For a number of years now I’ve been reviewing others tactics in a bid to help them tweak and improve. One thing that has stood out for me over that time has been that most issues found are defensive ones. It makes sense really, when we create a tactic in game the emphasis tends to be on what we want to achieve going forward with the defensive side of the game almost overlooked. There is however one large aspect of the defensive game that we can look to put in place that will go a long way to negating those defensive issues if it’s implemented properly – that aspect is the defensive block.

What though is a defensive block? Well for the definition I find it’s best to refer to the ever reliable Michael Cox of Zonal Marking “A ‘high block’ means pressing with a high defensive line, a ‘low block’ means sitting deep. A medium block is, obviously, in between.” It really is that simple! By deciding which of these three defensive blocks we are going to use when building a new tactic though we can give something of an identity to our side in the defensive phase and that in turn will give us an effective base to build upon going forward.

These articles tend to hint somewhat at my obsession with Barcelona and indeed with Sergio Busquets but they are once again the tactical model to watch. Barcelona play with a very high defensive block with the defensive line pressing deep and forwards applying the initial phase of pressure, if you watch Busquets during a match though then you can clearly see his influence in setting the depth of the block and leading the side. How though can we implement this in Football Manager?


Mechanising the Play – Ajax 2-3-2-1-2


It will probably come as no surprise but my favourite part of the game is creating and tweaking tactics, occasionally this leads to the creation of a tactic that is slightly out of the ordinary and that you aren’t likely to see on a Sky Sports graphic. In a sense that’s how this tactic has come in to being, as always though there is a degree of theory behind the apparent madness..

The Shape

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In my head this all makes complete sense. If we start in the attacking area I have set two wide strikers both of whom are set basically as inside forwards and are tasked to cut inside to attack the penalty area. Instead of a central striker we have a player in the deeper AM position, by doing so we are looking to draw the AI centre backs out of position to create space for the wide strikers. The rest of the midfield is positioned in the diamond, a setup that gives us strength and flexibility throughout the centre of the pitch. In the wide areas the wingbacks will be expected to advance in to the advanced areas to take advantage of the space vacated by the wide strikers. Does the theory work though? More

Mechanising the Play – The Defensive Enganche


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. More

Mechanising the Play – Diamonds are Forever


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. More

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