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WHAT IF Guardiola managed Liverpool?

Guardiola's tactical philosophy adapted to Liverpool FC.

By Updated on Sep 21, 2020   20585 views   5 comments
Football Manager 2020 Tactics - WHAT IF Guardiola managed Liverpool?
First of all I would like to apologize for my English. I am Basque and I hope they take it into account. Sorry for the inconvenience.

I came up with a pretty cool idea to carry out: what if ... ?? That is to say, what would happen if certain technicians signed and tried to carry out their own philosophy to that club. This is the first chapter of this series of ``WHAT IF...?? In this chapter we will imagine Klopp isn´t at Liverpool. They don´t want a Gegenpressing style, the want a beautiful play, the have signed Pep Guardiola ! So welcome to WHAT IF GUARDIOLA MANAGED LIVERPOOL??

In the first place, to involve the Guardiola philosophy in Liverpool, we must know the Guardiola philosophy. Logical but difficult to apply. Guardiola´s tactics have always been a kind of Holy Grail on FM and difficult to replicate many times. However, directing Liverpool (for me the best team in the game), it´s a hope to belive that we will not have many problems.


Although many indicate that Guardiola's style is TikiTaka, the reality is quite different. Even the technician himself discarded in that reflection saying he hates that style!

`` I hate 'tiki-taka'. I hate it. Tiki-taka is passing the ball by passing, without any intention. ... Don't believe what they say: Barça didn't have any tiki-taka! ´´ -Guardiola.

Therefore, when we talk about Pep´s i tactics, we only talk about POSITIONAL FOOTBALL. Obviously, this implies maintaining possession in the feet, but keeping the ball to progress on the field, and create goal opportunities. On the other hand, in the defensive area, Guardiola does not intend to mark the man, but his defensive game is based on reducing the opponent's passing lines.

Keep in mind that our tactic must be BASED on Guardiola, rather than being a 100% his tactic. Why? Well, in FM it is IMPOSSIBLE to be able to apply a 100% tactic of the real life, however, we can apply its principles to adapt to our staff. Therefore our principles will be:

-Possession-based attack
-Pressure in rival field in order to reduce the rival's construction.


We all know Liverpool as Jurgen Klopp's team and it is almost a sin to change the Gegenpressing style to Positional Play considering the physical template that Liverpool have.

However, it´s curious that both Liverpool and Manchester City have in the final phase the same formation: 2-3-5. However, the big difference is that Guardiola overtakes his midfielders, leaving the wingers to provide amplitude, so the full-backs (yes, you have read correctly) take care of occupying the space that the midfielder has left.

Klopp, on the other hand, creates amplitude through his full-backs, and keeping the Mane-Firmino-Salah trident in finishing positions. You can see it better in the following video.

I doubt very much that Guardiola when taking charge of Liverpool eliminated the Mane-Firmino-Salah trident from his area of greatest influence. So in our tactics we will follow the example of Klopp in which those in charge of the amplitude will be the laterals.

We know that defensively Klopp proposes an intense team in pressure, to steal the ball as far as possible from his goal. Once the ball is achieved, they counter-attack. He defines it as a Rock and Roll style.

However, Guardiola presses with the aim of retaking the ball at our feet, and once stolen, he does not propose an intense counter-attack as Klopp does. He want to keep the ball. Of course, if there is some space to pass the directly to the Striker, it will we taken.

As for the attacking play, Guardiola prefers a more slow play "Pass, pass and pass", while Klopp prefers a more electric style.


First of all, we will select a 4-1-4-1 (4-3-3) formation, which for me is indisputably the one that Guardiola would carry out and it would not be different from the formation that leads Klopp to win the Premier.

The next thing we are going to do is develop Guardiola's tactical style.

Mentality: Being a team that tries to circulate the ball from one side to another, it seems clear that the most appropriate mentality in this sense is the Positive.

In possession:

- Shorter passing and Low Tempo: Our objective is to maintain possession and have a calm rhythm, but we will not put `` much shorter '' or `` Much lower '' because, as we have said, we do not want a tiki-taka style, but a style in which in addition to maintaining possession we try to gain meters with the ball. Although I do not rule out the possibility that in the future and with the results in hand we will change to a fast or standard short passing style, More Sarriball if you prefer to say it like that, let us remember that our objective is to develop a tactic based on Guardiola's principles and not a Barcelona tactic.

- Fairly Narrow, in my view of FM, the width depends on the space you want to exploit in the final third. If we want to imitate in some way the 2-3-5 formation as we have said, I understand that we have to create open space for the full-backs, and the ideal would be to have a narrow width. Which also means putting the famous trident in its natural habitat. Possible change: Guardiola prefers to give his players room to open the rival defense, so it would not be surprising if we change the width to a more open style with the idea of overthrowing defensive walls, or having a greater horizontal movement of the ball. But in this moment, I´m sure Guardiola would have opted for this option,

- Play Out of defence, in a style based on possession and in Gegenpressing you can see the ball coming out from behind. Our mission will be as a Guardiolista tactic to try to get out with the ball played to get the ball clean against rival pressure. In this sense, a greater width could help. For that, we will say to our Centre-Backs and full-Backs to ``Stay Wider´´

- Low Crosses, quite logical if we take into account the characteristics of our trident, since they are very good at unmarking (Off the ball).

- Work Ball into Box? Or Klopp-style Hit Early Crosses ?: The truth is that I have had a lot of doubt when indicating this instruction. Although Guardiola in the final third is a coach who tries to give the players a lot of freedom, seeing the attributes of distant shooting from the center of the field and taking into account that we are looking for positional play, we could say that the instruction would be ideal to try to Work Ball into Box , since we are also the best team in terms of ``Balance´´. What can condition this instruction? The full-backs have great ``crossing´´ atributtes, so... Would it be better to leave the players freedom to Hit Early Crosses? In a way, Dani Alves at Barcelona crossed a lot of balls (Some of they within sense, but effective in terms of `` tactical '' looking for pressure below).
Guardiola, as we have said, grants a lot of freedom in the final third to his players, so taking into account the great ``Crossing´´ atributes of our full-backs, a posession based tactical style and the freedom Guardiola allows I will try to leave it in Default. However, it is not ruled out to apply ``Work Ball into Box'' or ``Hit Early Crosses´´ in a especific situatión that is required.

- Be more expressive: No doubt about this instruction, Guardiola wants creativity to flow in the team.

In transition:

- Counter-press: In my life I had put such an obvious instruction, Gegenpressing is Liverpool's style par excellence and Her Pep in the same way applies this principle in the defensive transition to regain possession of the ball.

-Counter? Hold Shape?: In principle I would like to leave it in Default for the reason that hemoms exposed before, in the Guardiolist style the ideal would be `` Hold Shape '' and in the Kloppist `` Counter '' but we cannot renounce the Counter-attacking since it is one of our strengths, taking into account we are doing a tactic that Guardiola would apply, therefore, we do not resign but we will not exalt it either. It is not ruled out in the future to indicate said instruction.

- Distribute to the center-backs and Take short kicks: We want to go out with the ball played, and go out above all cleanly, and taking into account the quality of Van Dijk with his feet there is no doubt where we should start that exit. The goalkeeper's short game also helps the idea in a way. These instructions are no different in the Gegenpressing style. The ideal in a Guardiolista style would be to add the instruction `` Slow down the game '' but considering that the counterattack can be deadly, we will not add it (without discarding it in the future)

Out of possession:

First of all, I would like to add that after the update 20.4 I still have a hard time deciphering these types of instructions and making them effective, so I will try to do them from a logical perspective.

-Much higher line of engagement: We want to recover the ball once lost, and this instruction favors gegenpressing, so that we start the pressure as soon as possible. Although I do not rule out the High pressure line, in search of greater solidity.

-Higher defensive line: For me the pressure line in much higher seems to me more risky for long balls. That is why I try always to make a high defensive line, to be able to anticipate those balls better, hence I do not rule out the high pressure line instruction, to gather more the defensive lines.

- Offside trap: We will initiate this instruction by default although we MUST PAY ATTENTION TO THE RIVAL, it does not make any sense when the opponent has a `` Target Man '', who´s a positional striker, rather it is an adequate instruction for those strikers that look to exploit open spaces. For example, the Advanced Forward. Therefore, Offside yes, but with a head.

- Use Tighter Marking: The objective of this instruction is to reduce the opponent's passing lines, in favor of Guardiola's defensive philosophy. Many indicate that this instruction is a marking to man, but nothing is further from reality, we must defensively take into account our objective. In fact, Marcelo Bielsa applies the same principles since, as he says, "if there is a free man at the opponent's ``play out of defence´´, the ball will go there for sure."

-More urgent: In this way I favor the Guardiolista system, seeking to try to minimize the passing lines, instead of looking for the intensity of Klopp. The objective is to press but without leaving important gaps.

-Prevent Short GK Distribution?? For me, this instruction should not be given, we are not looking for the opponent's long ball, but to cause the error in the pass, and that we can do if each is clear about his marking, in this way the goalkeeper or gives a pass to a marked rival or throw long where our most forward defensive line can counter this type of ball.



We all know that Guardiola prioritizes creative players over physical players, therefore our most immediate mission in signings and in selecting our line-up and roles must be technical and creative players. We see in the "Comparison" section, that there should be no problems for our players to be creative since we are the 2nd with the best pace, technique, decisions, vision and first touch. Only Manchester City surpasses us in this aspect (logical).

Another aspect to take into account is that we are looking for an associative game, therefore we cannot exaggerate the duties in, since it would be a real disorder. We prioritize support unmarking over breaking unmarking.

-Alisson: Sweeper Keeper- Attack: Ideal role for what we are looking for in the goalkeeper, offering to go out and play with central-backs.
-Van Dijk: Ball Playing Defender- Defend + `` Get Wider'' to make easier the movement of the ball at the back.
-Joe Gomez: Defense with touch- Defend + `` Get Wider '' to make easier the movement of the ball at the back: Ideal roles for defenders to offer themselves as a ball exit to Alisson and for the style we are looking for. Why in defensive task? Very simple, we need both to be on the same line if we want the offside trap to work correctly.
-Robertson: Wing-back - Attack + Get Wider+ Shoot less often.
-Alexander-Arnold: Complete Wing-back - support + Shoot less often

Later we will explain the decision of the roles of the Full-Backs and the Wingers.

-Fabinho: Here we have two options: prioritize defensive security (Archorman), or prioritize creation (Deep Lying Playmaker). Based on a Guardiola tactic, we prioritize creation. So Deep Lying Playmaker -Defend + Tackle harder (due to his physical capacity) will be adequate. In Klopp´s Liverpool Fabinho would act as a Archorman, it is not ruled out to use it for those games in which you do not start as the favorite team or in the Champions League.

Henderson: Box to Box Midfielder + Get Wider. I know, Guardiola prioritizes creation, but in FM, in my experience we need an element that provides a certain movement and dynamism, which could give a lot of balance to the midfield. In any case, it is possible that with the appropriate signings or by changing the role to Roaming Playmaker who provides that dynamism we are talking about. EVEN A 100% CRYUFISH TECHNICIAN AS QUIQUE SETIEN USED ARTURO VIDAL FOR THIS TYPE OF ROLES.

-Wijnaldum: Advanced Playmaker / Deep Lying Playmaker (What you prefer) - Support: his task is to be the creator of the team, In my opinion, Guardiola would like to sign another technical-creative player for this position or give Keita confidence.

-Mane: Inside Forward- Support: The reason for introducing Mane in support is very simple, we have Robertson, in Attack dutie, exploiting space. Taking into account that we are a team based on possession, we should not exaggerate the breakaways. In addition, it gives some variability in terms of creation of different spaces to exploit.

-Salah: Inside Forward- Attack: I had my doubts to put him the role of Raumdeuter, so that it could Move into the Channels (it is a possibility to shuffle) However, I see the roles Inside Forward more natural and effective.. The attack dute has the same reason that has Mane´s duty., it provides us variability, so thats the reason why Alexander-Arnold remains in the Support duty.

-Roberto Firmino: False 9 + Shoot less often. Klopp has always used Firmino as False 9 in real life. If we look Guardiola´s tactics he introduced that role with Messi in Barcelona, so in must be in our tactic. In this way it gives us an option in the center of the field to filter those final passes (hence the instruction to shoot less often), and also provides us with numerical superiority in the center of the field.



If thiago goes to Liverpool, we can say it is an example of a playmaker that Guardiola would wanted .Also, Guardiola was who made Thiago to debut at Barcelona. Later, Thiago was a great player for Guardiola in his Bayern period.

But now, i think you must sign a Left Full-Back (take into account he must be a Wing-Back role). For example: Alex telles.

So, think about signing creative players and question to your self: What would Guardiola do??


In the middle of the season I will upload the results and the changes that I have made, in principle I will not raise the tactics, because I want you to also be able to experience what works, what does not, or what signings to introduce.

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