Continuing on from this article explaining the long journey towards this tactic, this article focuses solely on the tactical system. Hope you find it useful.

Formations don’t matter FROM 1ST ARTICLE

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 FROM 1ST ARTICLE

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.


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.

Tactical Discussion

This tactic uses a 4-4-2 as I believe formations don’t matter and as explained in the 1st article, classic tactics give me full control

SYSTEM 4-4-2

My style is to quickly shift the ball around the park. I also aim to have every player maximize his strengths. I always want to retain 3 defenders to cover the space at the back so Vidic(LCB), Evans(RCB) and O’Shea(RB) rarely go forward. Valencia plays as the head-down get-to-byline crossing winger. Evra overlaps down the left while Nani either comes infield but he forms a passing triangle with Scholes and Rooney who plays as the reverse Libero. My 2 central midfielders epitomize the principles I intend to utilize. Paul Scholes epitomizes the passing while Fletcher, the pressing. van der Sar plays is the goalkeeper who acts as a ball-playing sweeper


Note than I use extremes. The match engine ensures players don’t obey extremes so some players still fling long passes around and all. Okay, here goes

Attacking team and a creative one. I want the passing to be quick to ensure no one dallies on the ball and I want it short to reduce risk of losing possession. Tackling is normal, marking is zonal and there is no tight marking to ensure players are not tied down to opponents or positions.

Now the intricacies

I need my team to be compact when without the ball and to reduce the playing space of the opposition. The defensive line is highest to keep the ball high up the pitch in the opposition half. My team is also instructed to close down high up to maintain constant pressing. The cloudy aspect is the instruction to play narrow. I hope this diagram explains it. To get my wide midfielders actively engaged in pressing wherever the ball is, the team without possession becomes narrow and attempts to eat up the space the opposition has. When the opposition shifts the ball wide, the wide players and wide defenders react to close them down but the main reason for playing the team narrow is to make sure my 2 central midfielders are not crowded out. With the use of individual instructions (to come later), I can then direct the attacking movement of all the wide players.


I will now attempt to go position by position explaining how they function into the system. Player Instructions pics added

Goalkeeper: van der SarPLAYER INSTRUCTIONS
He acts as the ball-playing sweeper. Runs with ball encouraging him to be progressive, and always short distribution to a defender usually John O’Shea. A good goalie with the most important attribute being his composure

Across the defence, players mark zonally without tight marking so defenders feel free to move away from their zones to tackle.

He plays as a defensive right-back in a bid to have 3 defenders covering the defensive zones. Like the rest of the side, he is encouraged to cross whenever is on.
Options: Hargreaves (should be the starting player at this position when fit, crossing-17) and Brown

Centre-backs: Nemanja Vidic and Jonny EvansPLAYER INSTRUCTIONS
Both play similar roles. They are encouraged to cross if they find themselves wide so they don’t get caught dallying as centre-backs do when they find themselves wide (match engine madness)
Options: Brown, O’Shea, Ferdinand

Left-back: Patrice EvraPLAYER INSTRUCTIONS
This role is occupied by an attacking left-back. One of the few players in the squad encouraged to run with the ball (for his dribbling ability and pace) and instructed to always make forward runs. He plays as an auxilliary winger so even though the side is supposedly narrow, he provides width on the left (hugs touchline & byline crossing). He is usually on the end of balls from the midfield passing triangle of Scholes, Nani or Rooney.
Options: Irreplaceable because Fábio da Silva is right-footed and always cuts infield. Giggs though can be considered at times

Right-winger: Antonio ValenciaPLAYER INSTRUCTIONS
A true proper EPL winger. One that stretches the defence by running down the byline, to cross into the box. He is the only player in the squad encouraged to ALWAYS run with the ball. You will notice his mentality is set to full defensive so that he always tracks back to apply constant pressure on opposition players with the ball. Because of his individual instructions, he always provides width on the right (hugs touchline & byline crossing)
Options: Rafael da Silva. Given the need to have a defensive right-back, Rafael is well suited to a role at MR with some position training

Right central-midfielder: Darren FletcherPLAYER INSTRUCTIONS
This player epitomizes the pressing game. He is a grafter, ball winner so doesn’t have the skill to run with the ball so he does this rarely. But he makes forward runs and roams from his position to supplement the attack. His wide movement is geared towards the flanks to take advantage of his crossing ability. Most of the time, he joins the strikers to press the opposition defenders forcing them into “Row Z Specials” or “the Carragher”
Options: Ji-Sung Park and Fábio Pereira da Silva. Both work hard and can cross. Fábio has the advantage of being a decent finisher which makes him dangerous around the opposition box

Left central-midfielder: Paul ScholesPLAYER INSTRUCTIONS
The passer, he doesn’t necessarily provide the final spark but he has the vision (creativity) and composure to transmit the ball to open players. He is one of the few players allowed to attempt through passes (sometimes). He is at the centre of the field at all times making himself available for the pass (comes short at throw-ins) and releasing the ball. Some teams will place markers on him so he needs off-the-ball to evade them and composure to work when pressed. As he is the man the team works around, his decision making, teamwork should also be strong apart from the key technical attributes (passing, first touch and technique)
Options: Michael Carrick is the closest you’ll get but his off-the-ball lets him down and his composure is nowhere near Scholes’ 20-rating composure.

The more creative/thoughtful of both wingers. He should be a diversity player possession skill and flair to do the unpredictable and an above average passing ability to complete a passing triangle with Rooney and Scholes. He doesn’t run with the ball as much as the other winger but is still as defensive to keep in line with the team’s pressing game
Options: Giggs may be the preferred option for some given that he doesn’t go off shooting from range like Nani does. Nani’s tendency to attempt long shots against tactical instruction is one of the few things that disrupts the system

He should be a technical maestro (passing, technique, first touch and dribbling). Allowed to run with the ball sometimes and like Scholes and the left-winger, permitted to give some through balls. Like Scholes, he also comes short for throw-ins. As far as I know, there is no better term to describe him with than the reverse Libero as used by Jonathan Wilson. Given how central he is to the team game, he should be very strong mentally (creativity, team work, decisions, anticipation and off-the-ball to name a few). His defensive mentality ensures that he drops back and pressures the midfield when the ball is lost.
Options: Berbatov can be the sub player for Rooney in this role. He can also start if one intends to play Rooney as the top striker.

Finisher: Javier HernándezPLAYER INSTRUCTIONS
He isn’t encouraged to run with the ball but encouraged to always make forward runs. So all he does is release the ball when he gets it until he is in good range for a strike at goal. Finishing, anticipation, composure, off-the-ball, first touch should be his strong points. Initially, I gave him a defensive mentality but noticed he would always hit the ball back when in the box instead of attempting a strike on goal
Options: Rooney can play in this position while Owen (first touch should be trained) and Berbatov are possibilities.


The Thinkers

These players are the players that make things happen. One from each column should be used at a time. The playmakers play in the MCL slot while the target strikers play in the STL slot.

Set Pieces

Another important part of this tactic is the use of short corners only to be followed by crosses. It is more difficult to find accurate corner kick takers than crossers and it is easier to score from a cross with your centre-backs in the box than it is to score from a corner. The playmakers (MCL) should all be set as corner kick takers while the crossing right-winger (Valencia or Rafael) is already set to offer the short option. This way, the ball is passed to him, then he crosses the ball into the box. This usually creates a more difficult situation for the defence to handle.

The tactic also has many players come short for throw-ins to ensure that players don’t attempt long throws no matter how close to the opposition goal the throw-in is (as they usually do).


Excluding players with superb composure, Scholes (20), Berbatov (17), other players especially defenders need to be on composure training. A player such as Javier Hernández who needs first touch training can be exempted from this.

Match Preparation & Transfer Activity

I always have Team Blend on for squad preparation. Normally, when I begin a game, I try to move players around. This time around, I signed a number of players but I’m managing their introduction into the 1st team. The importance of chemistry can not be understated.

DOWNLOAD THE TACTICS FILE HERE – 4-4-2-Press | Hope you find it useful


Now this is just one file. All this shows is you can have the players play exactly as you want with the classic tactics system. The key to continuous pressing is having defensive forwards, attacking defenders and getting compact without the ball (play narrow on team instructions), then instruct individual players to move wide with individual instructions as you wish. Pretty simple right

One thought on “The complete football manager pressing & possession package, not Barcelona

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