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Progressive Positional Play / OP FM21 Tactic

Tactical Football at its finest. Overpowered tactic for Football Manager 2021. Enjoy!

By on Nov 23, 2020   20033 views   2 comments
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Downloads: 1927 / Size: 80.8 kB / Added: 2020-11-23
Football Manager 2021 Tactics - Progressive Positional Play / OP FM21 Tactic
My Philosophy is heavily influenced by the Netherlands sides of the 1970s, inspired by the Total Football philosophy of Rinus Michels/Johan Cruyff and further developed by the Progressive Football styles of Marcelo Bielsa/Jurgen Klopp/Pep Guardiola, where sides would regularly interchange flexibly between 4-3-3 base formation creating a 3-4-3 (in-Defensive Shape) and 2-3-5 (in-Attacking Shape and Possession Transitions) creating overloads In every section of the pitch.

Formation Base:
4-3-3 DM



Core Philosophy/tactic Values


High Defensive Line
My 4-3-3 tactic sees two ball playing centre-backs paired with a deep lying defensive midfielder play a high defensive line, splitting both centre-backs wide, assisting with ball retention and forming a solid defensive base for Progressive Play.
The players in front of the base three will interchanging between each other, offensive minded wing-backs will overlap and push into midfield and attack help to form formidable six-pronged attacking phases.

This high-risk strategy requires both ball-playing centre-backs comfortable with bringing the ball forward and distributing it carefully. One of Bielsa’s defensive ideals is to always have one more-spare defender than the opposition’s front line which is the deep lying defensive midfielder (Half Back).

Defensively, wing-backs are expected to work the hardest in the system, closing down space down the channels and re-joining the central defensive trio to form a bank of five at the back out of possession. A defensive midfielder or two would also sit in front of that bank of five providing added protection while the five furthest players try and narrow the pitch and win possession back at speed.

Importance of Wide Wing-Backs


Klopp was one of the pioneers of Wide wing-backs, bucking the trend of staying wider in possession and carrying the ball into the wide channels in the attacking third and helping midfield.

They need to be athletic, strong all-rounders, making runs to support attacking phases, whilst ensuring they are not caught in possession or out of position.
They act as wide auxiliary midfielders when the side are on the ball, and are fundamental to the success or failure of his system.

They cover vast distances on the pitch supporting attacking phases whilst tracking back into position and strengthening the defensive line. After recovering the ball, wing-backs must build possession from behind through a series of short passes.

Tight Man and Zonal Marking System

Bielsa will always ask his side to press their opponents heavily, cutting of passing lanes and zonal spaces but his game plans also involve man-marking opponents extremely tightly, so much so that clear formations become blurred, and an obsession with winning individual battles in every position becomes more important.

The players must adapt fast to marking their targets out of the game. Depending on the opposition, Bielsa and his coaching staff will instruct wide players on their tight man-marking and central players on Zonal marking duties.

One downside to Bielsa’s system sees it sometimes encounter problems in deeper positions, where man-marking leaves sizeable gaps at the back or exposed down one flank but this will be nullified because of the spare man (Half Back) creating solid defensive security when counter-attacked.

Dominating the Flanks and Half-Spaces


Wide Wing-backs and Inside forwards are expected to dominate the flanks and utilise the half-spaces down the wings to stretch opponents.
The wide wing backs will be involved in pushing both high and wide as well as the inside forwards sitting narrower and cutting inside, working triangles with midfield and deep lying forward, drifting into pockets of vertical space.

As we saw last season from Klopp Premier League Wining Liverpool side, a vast amount of chances was usually created from wide areas. Wide wing-backs staying wide to stretch the pitch and occupy the wide spaces, central forwards will interchange narrowly and vertically to overload the half-spaces.

Vertical and Compact Football


Klopp/Bielsa/Sarri/Nagelsmann/Guardiola are well known for their preference of playing progressive vertical football, which is essentially shifting the ball at pace from the back line to the final third as quickly and effortlessly as possible without having to resort to playing many long balls.

They also believe in the value of retaining possession, with there being an ideal distance of no more than 25 metres between the centre-forward and centre-back. Catching opponents off guard and punishing opponents with pace and precision are integral to his plan.

This philosophy/tactic will see your team work extremely hard on their shape which contorts, contracts and morphs to outsmart the opposition.
The master tactical plan is no stranger to utilising the deep lying defensive midfielder in defence as they are faster and more effective at commencing counter-attacks.

The midfield is always marshalled by a defensive deep lying holding player who drops back into defence to aids the defensive line, high press, supporting build-up play, assisting with ball retention and offering an outlet to recycle and progress attacking play.

Fluidity, Flexibility and Rotation

Fluidity, Flexibility and rotation are at the core of Bielsa/Klopp/Guardiola’s style of play. Players will be expected to play in a variety of positions, interchanging with teammates and taking up temporary positions during a game.

Creating a 2-3-5 attacking shape and 3-4-3 defensive shape throughout the game.
This is where intelligent positioning comes into play. Anticipating where the ball will be played and potentially lost before such moves are made. Fast transitions from the back to the front are extensively worked on, as is tracking back and morphing into a defensive shield when possession is lost.

Set-Piece Masterclass

Attacking Corners:

Utilising the Attack Far Post corner ideology with guarantees consistent goal threats from attacking corners as the ball will be constantly directed to your aerially dominant centre-backs or players though whipped far-post deliveries.

Defensive Corners:

Utilising the mixed zonal and Man-marking defensive corner ideology which gives you the pros of both the zonal marking and man-marking defending corners strategies. Your tall defenders can pick up the tall opposition. Other players can man-mark while you also have the zone of the six-yard box covered.

Progressive and Relentless Attack


Attacking is the primary focus of Progressive Positional football. Passing and movement is made at a rapid pace, and requires a substantial amount of mobility to make it work.

Tip: Recruit players who possess enough pace, intelligence, quick-feet and decent to excellent technical quality to make it work.

This will always use three forwards made up of a central attacker to drop deep and lead the line while two inside forwards push higher on either side interchange to offer goal scoring threats through direct running and variety of crosses/cut backs from the wide Wing Backs.

The Central Midfielders, and wide wing-backs are runners from deep positions will collectively support attacking phases and look to capitalise on overloads in wide areas and half spaces.

Bielsa/Klopp/Guardiola prefer to play with a striker that possesses good technical quality, good off the ball movement and good finishing.
This tactic often asks his centre-backs to play the ball into the feet of his central forward, who would often drop deep/hold up play and look for support to adopt the correct positions.


Download the Tactic (Set Pieces tactics and player instructions included) and Enjoy Beautiful Progressive Football.

Written by DANIEL SHABA.
© 2020/2021

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Downloads: 1927 / Size: 80.8 kB / Added: 2020-11-23
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