Football has continued to develop and evolve over the years. The modern game is much more professional with players now much more athletic and fitter than they have ever been. The speed at which the game is played is higher with many teams now playing with a dynamic pressing game. To enable teams to play this high-energy style without the ball the classic ‘10’ has been sacrificed as teams cannot have luxury players who do not contribute to the pressing game.
With this tactic, I have built a system around the ‘number 10’ the creative force in the final third of the pitch. Where you come from in the world determines the name of this role with South America using the term Enganche whilst in Italy, it is known as the Trequartista which literally translates to three quarters. The key differences between the roles are that the Enganche likes to stay in the pocket behind the forwards holding their position whilst the Trequartista is much more fluid as they will roam around looking for space to pick up the ball.
When thinking of the classic ‘10’ immediately classic names such as Diego Maradona and Roberto Baggio spring to mind. More modern names would include Francesco Totti, Kaka, Riquelme and Mesut Ozil. Even though Maradona comes from Argentina I would class him as a Trequartista as he would both supply and score goals whereas Riquelme would be more defined as an Enganche as he would prefer to supply goals to his teammates.
In order to play with a classic number 10, you need a formation that uses an attacking midfielder. The shape I am using is the 4-3-1-2, synonymous with Argentine and Italian football. Over the years the formation has been used less and less and now is rarely seen at all. Teams such as Mourinho’s Porto and Ancelotti’s Milan sides of the 2000s won the champions league using the formation.
The formations’ strengths just like the narrow diamond allow teams to have a numerical advantage in the centre of the pitch whilst maintaining two central strikers to occupy the opposition centre-backs. If teams play with a back 3 the midfield will have an even greater numerical advantage in midfield whilst the number 10 can occupy the spare centre back. Without the ball, it can be difficult for teams to break through the middle and instead they will be funnelled into the wide areas or the strikers can press in a way as to force teams into the middle where there are more bodies.
The apparent weakness of the formation is its perceived lack of width which must be provided by the fullbacks. This means the physical demands placed on the fullbacks are much greater as they need to be an attacking outlet providing width whilst also defending wide areas of space which opponents can look to exploit. It is therefore important that the outside central midfielders are able to cover and help stop overloads in the wide areas.
FM 22 Tactic
Like all tactics, systems and philosophies it is crucial to have the right players to play the role you're asking them. For example, there's no point playing a pressing forward who has no stamina, work rate and teamwork etc. The formation is a 4-3-1-2 and to get the most out of the trquartista I am using a pair of pressing forwards, one on attack who will play on the shoulder and look to run in behind and the other is on support who is more likely to drop deep and help pull players out of position in the buildup. Based on attributes and player traits below are some of the players I used or would use for the pressing forward role.
The star of the tactic, the system is built around getting the best out of the creative talent in the final third. I have seen people say don’t use the trequartista as they are lazy and do not offer much without the ball. This is not the case although their instructions are limited to standard pressing, if they have good attributes in areas like teamwork, work rate and bravery you will see them contribute to the team pressing game. That being said to truly get the best out of the player I want the players around him to do the bulk of the heavy lifting allowing them to concentrate on finding pockets of space ready to receive the ball when the ball is won. Again here are some players I used or would recommend using in the role.
Ball winning midfielder
Ball-winning midfielders are staples in a variety of systems and tactics from possession-based to gegenpressing to the classic 442 formation. The ball-winning midfielder isn’t simply a midfield destroyer whose sole purpose is to win the ball back quickly, they must support attacks whether that’s from making runs from deep or having the ability to play a killer ball in the final third. I was looking for my ball winner to join the attack attacking like a hybrid box-to-box midfielder who can pass the ball when needed but ideally, he would recycle possession through the deep-lying playmaker or look for the trequartista. Together with the pressing forward they will be aggressive in the press and aim to suffocate the ball carrier leading to turnovers high up the pitch. It can be surprisingly difficult to find a ball-winning midfielder to suit your needs but here are some of my recommendations.
Another crucial cog in the midfield, they move laterally from the centre to the wide areas and vice versa. They provide a supporting link between defence and attack. They give the fullback freedom to attack by covering the space vacated when they go forward. In defence, they help to stop teams doubling up on the full-back, it is a hardworking defensive role that primarily covers the space and when they win the ball back they look to recycle possession with low-risk passes. Ideal players for the role are as follows.
Deep lying playmaker
The DLP is going to act like the shield in front of the defence, I am using the defend duty so you will rarely see them operating high up the pitch. Often they will take up a position that almost resembles a back three slotting between the centre backs. When the team has the ball he will look to start attacks from deep, always providing a passing option. It is critical to use a player with good vision, passing and positioning attributes. Also, it is ideal if they have traits such as dictates play, switches play to the opposite flank and comes deep to get the ball allowing them to play like a quarterback. Here are some good options to use in the role.
Here it is good to have a contrast, for example, one player who is strong on the ball and is able to bring the ball out of defence when needed. The other can have good passing and look to play diagonal passes out wide etc. Without the ball, they should be able to read the game well and possess good pace and acceleration if opponents are able to break the offside trap.
Key to the success of the system the fullbacks need to be capable of attacking providing the width and being an outlet when the team needs to go wider. They also need to have the pace and stamina to keep getting up and down the flanks in attacking and defensive phases of play.
With the ball
When in possession the idea is to play a form of vertical tiki-taka, moving the ball quickly between the lines to work the opening.
Here you can see how the left centre back has plenty of options on the ball, there are three risk-free passes that can be played. The option of stepping into the midfield is also on which is what happens before playing the ball into the feet of the Trequartista who has found space in front of the double pivot. The full-backs have advanced and are providing the width whilst the strikers are occupying the centre-backs.
Here you can see the goalkeeper plays it short to the centreback who draws Ronaldo in to start pressing. As you can see the midfield three is staggered with the Carrilero coming short to receive the ball easily bypassing the press. The pressing forward has pulled into the channel to receive the ball before dropping it off to the advancing fullback. The ball eventually comes out to the opposite fullback who crosses for the striker to score.
Without the ball
The team is going to be aggressive and actively press the opposition high up the pitch in an attempt to win the ball to start quick counters or to force teams into a pressing trap. When playing against teams with inferior numbers in central midfield such as a 4-4-2 I would force opponents inside using the superior numbers to overwhelm teams and win the ball back. This has the added benefit of leaving opponents vulnerable to quick counters through the centre of the pitch allowing for more dangerous goal-scoring opportunities to be exploited.
Here is a perfect example of the opposition having no option but to play the ball inside, whilst being pressed the ball carrier plays a risky pass allowing the striker to anticipate and intercept the ball and score. The safest option would have been to go all the way back to the goalkeeper.
The aim is to make it extremely difficult for teams to play out from the back, having two strikers and the trequartista enables centrebacks and a defensive midfielder to be covered. The outside central midfielders will push up onto the fullbacks and with cover, shadows limit the passing options to risky balls into the midfield or force the ball to go long. Once the ball goes long the ball can be quickly recycled between the centrebacks and the DLP and begin the counterattack.
The beauty of the pressing forward is by their very nature will work hard for the team chasing long balls and this is the perfect example of the pressing forward grabbing a goal from a nothing situation. The ball is cleared and the central defender thinks they have everything under control, however, whilst the ball was in flight the pressing forward sprinted across the pitch immediately putting the defender under pressure and ultimately knick the ball and bag a goal.