If by any chance you land on this page and aren’t interested in my jargon, here’s the tactical article The complete football manager pressing & possession package, not Barcelona

When writing this, Barcelona Tactics on Football Manager, I ended with this, “striving to attain Guardiola’s system is what this tactic attempts and I think it does.”. I now think I have come closer to the Barcelona system than I could have ever imagined possible. My excuse for failing to attain the perfection I desire has always been, the match engine can’t hack my tactics (I rate myself that highly :)). But it seems the match engine can handle this tactical system I have created. Here goes

Formations don’t matter

Let’s begin with that, it’s not the formation. The tactical system is what matters. Take Barcelona’s recent 5-0 victory over Villarreal, Josep Guardiola used a 3-4-3 formation that played without orthodox centre-backs. While everyonetends to agree that Barcelona normally use a 4-3-3, Messi’s deep position at times translates more to that of a true number 10 making the team have something of a diamond in midfield. The main point of this is that the formation is not the main factor.

Constant Pressing and Possession dominance do

What makes Barcelona special is the ability to retain possession. The whole system is based around the need for possession. It provides the basis upon which players like Xavi, Iniesta, Messi can function. Everything the side does is geared towards having possession so when possession is lost, in comes the unending pressing. The team becomes compact (a defensive term?) and assaults the opposition player with the ball. All energy is geared towards regaining it as the side is ineffective/useless when not in possession. Simply put, if all Barcelona players strutted around the pitch like Javier Pastore, Mourinho would already be a Champions League winner with Madrid or Madrid may not even need him to displace Barcelona.

Some stats

As stated already, the aim is the ability to retain possession always and press relentlessly when not with the ball. And when I finished building this tactic or as anyone should be able to after reading this, the solution becomes obvious. So here are my possession stats for Manchester United so far into the game to help you decide whether to continue reading this –

Mainz 0-1 MUFC 42%-58% Pre-Season (PS)
Gillingham 0-3 MUFC 33%-67% PS
Valencia 2-5 MUFC 38%-62% PS
MUFC 2-0 Arsenal 57%-43% PS
Chelsea 0-2 MUFC 40%-60% Community Shield
Newcastle 1-3 MUFC 37%-63% EPL
MUFC 1-0 Stoke 71%-29% EPL.


Frustrations of a frustrated gamer

About two months back, I started watching full matches. I was frustrated with goals conceded out of nothing, relying on player motivation tables, player ratings tables, assistant managers who wouldn’t report things until your team got hurt. As something of a tactics geek, I used individual man-marking a lot and then suddenly, I would see my left-back run to mark a central-midfielder then the opposition winger would freely cross and I would concede a goal (this usually happens if the opposition manager tweaks his tactics). So to solve this, I started watching full matches.

NB: If you consider yourself a tactics geek who likes to tweak things a lot, then watch full matches to break things down

Full matches reveal a lot

With full matches, you are in the know. You can notice the individuals messing you up. A centre-back may have a low rating (6.3) only because he’s blazing over headers on set-pieces not because he’s defending badly. Substituting such a defender would be a mistake. Players who don’t complete their long bullet throws can also see their match ratings suffer. So now I was in full control but I still wasn’t satisfied. I still had that concept of possession football in my head. Now that I saw everything, surely there couldn’t be a better time to re-create the possession football so I started but kept getting disappointed. In a short passing system, some players kept throwing hopeless long passes or performing “Row Z specials” under little pressure so I thought more.

Surfing the forums

So I took to the forums, not posting, just reading tactics and downloading them. Some I didn’t understand and as a tactics geek, I never used them up. The ones I understood, I didn’t feel they were alright. One though helped, not that it was accurate but it gave me the insight into getting this solution.
Project Totaal Voetbal. Now while this tactic was nowhere near what I wanted, it helped me a lot. I decided to start tweaking individual player sliders a lot. I tested new things, tactics and at one time, thought I had come up with the answer with a weird system but no, I hadn’t. In one particular game, I felt my team was more fluid with a very rigid philosophy and from that moment I was done with the new tactics system. I switched to the old tactics.

Total Control

As a tactics person, I want to be in full control of everything my team does. In total control of how we play. No hidden/automatic sliders. Everything controlled by myself. And with this came the complete control I had always wanted and the ability to have my team play as I wanted.

Tactical Discussion
So now I’ve gone on and on without discussing any tactics. The main tactical discussion/breakdown is

The complete football manager pressing & possession package, not Barcelona

2 thoughts on “Football Manager tactics, the Holy Grail?

  1. Hello,

    I have a question. What pitch size do you normally use for this tactic? I know that possession tactics tend to use maximum, but since this tactic presses a lot in the middle, I could be opened up if my opposition has a decent playmaker.

    • Use maximum pitch size because the aim is to constantly attack. If the team understands the system, you should have the ball most of the time so you need to ensure the pitch size suits your attacking needs.

      Pressing by its nature stifles creativity, so playmakers in the middle should have little time to work their voodoo. Playmakers out wide are also closed down by the wide players, attackers or ball-winner in midfield. Hope this answers your question

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