IntroductionThis formation is inspired by a number of master tacticians but with a large part contributed by the philosophy of Josep Guardiola and little parts from Arrigo Sacchi's philosophy of high pressing and attacking football. The aim or the formation and tactic is to keep possession of the ball as much as possible with short and effective passes.
To keep possession as much as possible does not mean keeping it for keeping sake, it means keeping it to find the right space to attack but with that in mind, patience is required. Passing the ball sideways for the fun of it makes no sense. A midfielder or defender should be able to properly break lines to get his team in advanced positions faster without having to hoof the ball.
That is easier said than done, the players off the ball have to put a lot of effort to create as much passing options for the player on the ball and also have to create numerical superiority in certain areas of the pitch. No team in the world (even peak Pep's Barca) can keep the ball for the whole 90 minutes, so when the ball is lost high up the pitch, the players have to go into pressing mode immediately and if the ball is lost in areas closer to the goal the pressing is reduced and the team shape is more important.
The False 9 is also important to this formation, he links the play up and drags defenders out of position. The False 9 is actually occupying the CAM position in this formation. Reasons why he is in that position and not the ST position will be explained later. Inverted wingbacks are also favored over normal fullbacks in this formation. All these would be explained later in this post.
"I loathe all that passing for the sake of it, all that tiki-taka. It's so much rubbish and has no purpose. You have to pass the ball with a clear intention, with the aim of making it into the opposition's goal. It's not about passing for "
Tested with Crystal PalaceI went with Crystal Palace in my saved game because I am not one to use big teams in Football Manager and I also liked the characteristics of their midfielders; namely Yohan Cabaye and Ruben Loftus-Cheek, I aimed to use them how Pep uses Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva in half spaces. I also liked the characteristics of Wilfried Zaha and Andros Townsend, I aimed to use them as Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling as pure wingers.
Lastly, Jairo Riedewald, the game puts his natural position as a CB but he is a deep lying playmaker for me all day, his passing (he has the second best passing percentage in the league) and defensive abilities make him perfect for the role.
Also, my Inverted Wingbacks were important as they create space for the wingers and CM's. I did not start my season with this formation, I started with a natural 433 formation but for me Benteke was not effective at all and the wingbacks were very poor at crossing so I decided to switch it up when Zaha came back from injury.
The player that helped me achieve that false 9 role was Gustavo Scarpa, I scouted him from the Brazilian league. I advice you if you have not bought him, do it now. He is an absolute steal and he has very nice stats.
This screenshot is taking from the Chelsea vs Manchester City game where Pep Guardiola used Walker and Delph in midfield positions instead of natural wide positions. This enabled Silva and KDB to have alot of space because Fabregas and Kante could not cover both the Inverted Wingbacks and De Bruyne and Silva at the same time.
Like I said earlier, the formation is a 4-1-2-3-0. Almost all my players bar the wingers are instructed to dribble less so I do not lose possession stupidly. The instructions and roles of the players will be explained below:
Sweeper Keeper: The sweeper keeper as the name implies has a role to come out and sweep the ball when a long ball is played or a player is through on goal. The keeper should be outside his box on most occasions because the team play a very high line. Coupled with his sweeping responsibilities, I instructed the keeper to roll the ball to the center backs(this automatically makes the center backs split during build up and helps maximize the width of the pitch). The keeper also has instructions to distribute slowly so i do not lose the ball easily. The keeper is very important as the first phase of build up starts from him so he has to have high stats for passing and composure. As Pep Guardiola said "How fast the ball goes is how fast it is going to come back" he said this in a press conference vs Napoli when a reporter asked if he would stop Ederson from passing and kicking it long.
Inverted Wingbacks: These two positions for me are the most important in my system. Inverted wingbacks unlike the traditional full backs stay in field beside the defensive midfielder instead of running down the flanks. The reason why i use them in this role is to have numerical superiority in central areas of the pitch and to me when they are in their traditional fullback position, in build up they get the ball a lot more and i do not want that, i want the first pass if possible in build up to be from my center back directly to the winger(this will be shown in the pictures below) so we can affect the game alot more faster instead of building up with the midfielders but if that is not possible the wingbacks can help outnumber the central areas making build up easier. These wingbacks are normally marked by the oppositions winger so when they go infield, the winger follows them into midfield making the path from my CB to Winger easier. The instructions for this position are "Sit Narrower" "Hold Position"(I do not want them too far upfield to avoid counter attacks) and "Shorter Passing". Apart from creating overloads in central areas and creating space for wingers, these players also create space for the CM's especially when playing against a 352 where there are no wingers to mark them, therefore the opposing midfielders have to mark them and therefore leaving the CM's free(Reference to Chelsea vs Manchester City, 2017/2018).
Ball Playing Defender: The two center backs have to be ball playing defenders for obvious reasons, they are so important to the first phase of build up. Due to that, They have to be composed and be able to pass between lines and not clear the ball for any reason. They have instructions to pass the ball shorter. In build up, the CB's split to maximize width.
Deep Lying Playmaker: The DLP has no special instructions in this formation. He has the basic role of a DM but with emphasis on shorter passing and coming to join the CB's during build up to maximize passing options.
Mezzela & Advanced Playmakers: What i will say for this position is that you can use any role, any role that will enable the player to get forward alot and influence play. I have used these two roles because it favors my two CM's and it allows them to go forward and into the halfspaces alot more. The players in this position are bound to high have key passes and creation stats because they are normally free as a result of the space the inverted wingbacks make for them in certain occasions. I have instructed them to run wide with the ball in order for them to link up with their respective wingers easily. They also have a role to get ahead of the False 9.
Wingers: These two positions are one of the most important for this system. I instruct them to stay very wide in order to maximize width and create space for the midfielders. These wingers should be fast, technical, be able to cross and be able to finish because they will find themselves in goal scoring areas a lot as a result of space created by the false 9.
False 9: I call the position a False 9 position but in game it is actually an Advanced Playmaker position. This can be called the most important position. While the Inverted Wingbacks create numerical superiority in the first third of the pitch, the false 9 creates superiority in the final third, normally linking up with the Mezella, AP, DLP and the two IWB, so basically when you think of it you have about 5 players controlling the midfield, that ensures the midfield battle is won. I must say the player in this position has to be very technical, mobile and have a high work rate. Ideally, when he moves into midfiled, the CBs follow him and leave space for the wingers. He also has a responsibility to get to crosses and score goals but also to dictate. In the screenshots below, you will see how the False 9 has more assists and key passes than goals (Although he got injured for two months). The payer in this position was Gustavo Scarpa. I gave him special instructions to get forward, move into channels and roam from his position.
I instruct the team to play at a lower tempo in order for them to analyze all the possible pass options and to be composed at all times. I also tell them to stay very wide, as wide as possible to have enough space to play in the middle.
High Pressure is one of the main features of this, i want the team high up the pitch at all times to be closer to the oppositions goal and win the ball back closer to the oppositions goal.
Prevent Short GK Distribution is also enabled so my players press high, with Tighter Marking it gives the opposition less time on the ball. I also want my team to pass the ball shorter and retain possession as much as possible.
Play out of Defence is enabled obviously as build up is very important in this. I also want my players to stick to their positions in order for every space to be occupied. I also put Look For Underlap because i have no marauding fullbacks and because I have alot of runners from midfield.
As I said before, the formation was changed to this after the Tottenham game. This has big wins against Liverpool and Arsenal and draws against both Manchester clubs. Over the period, only one loss occurred.
As you can see in the picture above 3 of my most important players in terms of chance creation are top 10 in key passes. This shows how much the Cm's influence the game because of the freedom they get. Also my False 9 has alot of key passes too. He is probably supposed to be first place because he has been injured for a while. If you also look bottom left, you will see the average rating, my players are top 3 in the league. This system has made them achieve a lot.
You can also see above that my wingers are top 10 in goal scoring charts. This is as a result of the space they get up field and the space they run into. That is why in my team instruction i have Pass Into Space option enabled, because of these wingers.
You can see my position as above.
As you can see above, my team has scored the more goals, best average possession, second most passes completed.
Also here, you can see the amount of goals and assists my forward players have. My wingbacks do not have assists as they do not really go forward.
As you can see above, these are results against big teams, I did not just play on the counter or win by luck. I actually had alot of the ball, shots and chances.
As you can see in the picture above, build up is starting from a goal kick, the opposition press very high. My center backs are split apart and my wing backs are in the middle with my wingers far wide ready to receive the ball directly from the center backs. This organization helps build up work a lot easier and effective. Also note how the opposition wingers have followed my wingbacks infield. In this situation, the pass went directly from Tomkins to Zaha (you can see Tomkins already looking at Zaha, LOL!).
Here Loftus Cheek is playing the false 9 role, and you see how he has come to join the midfield. And notice my wingers high and wide, stretching the pitch.
Here you see Hennesy being pressed but he does not hoof it, he easily passes it to Tomkins. This happens because my CB's are wide and he can easily find them.
Here you see how high my backline is and you see my players tight to theirs in relation to the ball.
Here you see how wide the wingers are with Townsend on the ball and you can see Cabaye right in front of him, unmarked. It is then easy for Cabaye to turn get the ball, dictate play, find a killer pass etc.
Once again look at Cabaye wide left, totally free. He is occupying a wider position which confuses the opposition midfielders. They either go to mark him and leave space behind them or the leave him alone and he can still disrupt.
ConclusionI did not put my corner routines up here but i defend zonally in corners and when i attack i use basic attack methods but during freekicks, if the freekick isn't direct enough to score from, I instruct my player to pass it.
Additionally, I delegate team training to my assistant manager but I take control of individual training. I must say this formation has weakness, you have to have really good composed CB's and wingbacks with good technique. Not everyone can play this kind of style. Overall, your team must be very technical and have high work rate.
As I said before leave the False 9 in the CAM position not in the ST position, he is much more effective there. Also make sure your CM's are technical CM's and have a good work rate. The formation helps a lot of players over achieve but like I said it is not perfect. This is inspired by Pep Guardiola.
Thank you, I hope it works for you.