Tactical Visions

An Introduction to Football Tactics
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If you’ve read books such as Jonathon Wilson’s ‘Inverting the Pyramid’ then hopefully this serves as a handy reminder. 3. or which system is best. Football was quite simply a charge towards goal. You might agree with some points and disagree with others – in which case I have done my job.2 Tactical Visions Tactical Visions Football Manager 2010 sees a seismic shift in the way tactics are approached from the human perspective. while passing was considered unmanly – though long forward passes would come to be grudgingly accepted. We were the first to have a hissy-fit about rules and threaten to take our ball away. The aim of this article is not to tell you how to play. The focus is no longer on finding the correct settings to master the simulation. seeking to replace ‘slider think’ with football speak. 2. then hopefully this will give you some ideas how to put your tactics together. For all the technical innovations of the last century or so. because you are thinking about football and not computer games. with the younger boys ‘backing up’ – lining up behind him in order to pick up the ball if it bounced loose. Kicking lumps out of your opponents shins. We don’t understand how our own creation works and our tactics have the subtlety and sophistication of a herd of stampeding elephants with toothache. based on bravery and iron will. The best way to understand the new tactical system is to look at what the real tacticians do. The rudimentary form of the game adopted within public schools in the early 1800s involved a senior pupil dribbling the ball towards the goal (by which I mean nothing more technical than propelling the ball forwards). Beginnings As an Englishman I am obliged to stipulate three things. 1. but to provide a solid platform on which to build your own ideas. or ‘hacking’. but on understanding how to create a coherent tactic using proper football terminology. the only change in requirement to describe the modern English game is to replace the word ‘was’ with ‘is’. was perfectly legal at this time. We weren’t the first people to think of kicking a ball around. If not. thus creating the modern version of the sport played worldwide. . Which is pretty much how we do everything round here.

Indeed. That is. usually finding space to attack or denying space for opponents to attack. Throughout the history of football the great tacticians have used formation to answer a specific problem or requirement. no formation is overtly defensive or attacking. merely a means to an end. Likewise. yet it was employed as a rigid spoiling tactic and was vastly different to the fluid football of Cruyff and Neeskens.a. as the heading suggests. playing more forwards does not automatically mean you will be able to attack more. but rather it is the instructions that are issued to the players that make it so. Swiss Bolt) employed the same 1 -3-3-3 formation as the imperious Dutch brand of ‘Total Football’ that dominated the 70s.Tactical Visions 3 Formation – A Means to an End Formation Neutrality Ideally your first question should be “how do I want to play” rather than “what formation should I play”. this is merely functional as player roles and duties cannot be assigned without defining the formation first. . Though formation is the first step in the Tactics Creator.k. Rappan’s ‘Verrou’ (a. Formation is. The formation should come about as a conclusion to your chosen style of play and overall aims and in itself is neutral. Withdrawing forwards may actually increase possession and therefore create more attacking situations. it may be difficult to get the ball far enough forward to take advantage of the extra men.

Notation versus Shape As football fans we have become accustomed to referring to formation by numerical notation. and the central midfield partnership of Roy Keane and Paul Ince took up deeper positions. Alex Ferguson claims that he has never played a standard 4-4-2 at Manchester United. if only as a pragmatic short term solution. It may not have been as explicit as the formation that featured Rooney. it is the . so in the meantime it is worth considering the formations suggested in the Backroom Advice section. Many of the top managers see this as a rigid media device that does not reflect the true complexity of their tactical master plan. Eric Cantona played in ‘the hole’ behind strike partner Mark Hughes. Alterations to style and formation may require some aggressive action in the transfer market. it is worth noting two things . Ronaldo and Tevez. the 4-2-4 employed by Brazil in winning the 1958 and 1962 World Cups could just as easily be described as 4-3-3 or 4-5-1. it could be argued (and has been) that the formation employed in the midnineties was actually 4-2-3-1 and not a 4-4-2 at all.firstly that you will be inheriting a squad designed to play your predecessor’s preferred formation and secondly that most tactical innovations came as a result of subtle alterations to the previously employed formation. Attacking shape is a product of situation or context rather than explicitly defined as a secondary formation. In other words. New managers playing players in their preferred position is often credited with a turn round in form. Likewise.4 Tactical Visions Pragmatism and First Steps Before you get too carried away. In fact. but rather he has always employed split forwards. but there is no denying the similarity. Ryan Giggs and Andrei Kanchelskis played as advanced wingers.

we need to look at an example rather more mundane than those discussed so far.Tactical Visions 5 instructions given to players and the way they react to them as opportunities arise or their path is blocked that defines attacking shape. is the aggressiveness with which the Chelsea wingers would attack. in this context it was more commonly referred to as 4-5-1. The 4-3-3 formation he employed at Chelsea does exactly that by employing two wide players who operate between the midfield and forward line. placing considerable stress on his defence and midfield and resulting in a 2-3 home loss. rather than merely offer support. The difference perhaps. In case you are wondering. in employing a 4-4-2 diamond for Portsmouth’s relegation six-pointer against Bolton in September 2009. while the midfielders on the right and left side of the diamond were left to deal with a central midfield opponent and an advancing full back. neglected to take the opposing 4-5-1 formation into account. That may sound like stating the obvious. that is a none-too-subtle clue as to Football Manager 2010’s approach to changing from a defensive shape to an attacking one. Like real football. but it is easily overlooked. Jose Mourinho talks about breaking lines. Matching the Opposition In setting out your team’s formation it is easy to forget that it does not just define how 11 players play. To demonstrate this. With no width in midfield. . While Bolton played the same formation under Sam Allardyce. assigning duties produces more dynamic and less robotic movement – that is. it is contextual rather than predefined. but at another time would look more like 4-1-4-1. but that there are 22 players to consider. even by real life managers. the full backs were over exposed against Bolton’s advanced wingers. If you could freeze the action during the match then sometimes it would look like a 4-1-2-3. Paul Hart.

the greatest triumphs have come about by balancing attacking play with defensive structure. but compensated the loss by moving the inside forwards back into the midfield. Brazil may have placed an extra man in defence. The easiest way to match an opponent is to play exactly the same formation (which explains the widespread adoption of successful formations. but it allowed the full backs scope to attack from deep positions. . though this can reduce the game to a simple test of quality rather than system – something Portsmouth would be ill advised to attempt when facing Chelsea’s diamond system. as Bolton frequently got behind the full backs the nearest centre back was drawn across and with him the rest of the defence. leaving Portsmouth vulnerable to the ball being switched to the opposite flank. The aim of formation is to somehow create a spare man in both attack and defence – something that cannot be achieved without first taking the opponent’s formation into consideration.6 Tactical Visions Meanwhile Bolton’s lone striker regularly drifted into the space occupied by Portsmouth’s defensive midfielder. taking away valuable cover for the overworked pair in the centre. Managers are often left perplexed when individual errors consistently affect results. Herbert Chapman’s ‘WM’ (3-2-2-3) withdrew a midfielder into the defence. Balancing Requirements Throughout the history of football. even without the elements that made them work). but this can easily be explained as a failure of system placing defenders under undue stress. Worse still.

Zonal marking is often conceived as two banks of four covering one entire half of the pitch. Instead they are reacting according to the situation . Loosely speaking.” In this example. but it seems that players are not ‘glued’ to their markin g responsibilities in text book fashion. speed has to be taken into account. your right centre back is slightly deeper on the cover in a position that he can see his left centre back ’s shirt number and your right full back would be pushed up in level with your left centre back. Zonal marking allows the defence to react to dangerous situations rather than dangerous players. the 4-2-2-2 that has become popular in Brazil balances two overtly defensive midfielders with two out and out attacking midfielders and the 4-2-3-1 maintains a similar balance of attackers and defenders. it is not clear what marking system the defence is playing (though it sounds a lot like zonal). decision making and good old fashioned teamwork (coincidentally all player attributes in Football Manager!). The covering centre back will position himself with reference to his man or zone. anticipation. Defensive Structures Situational Defending Speaking to forum member ‘footynut’. Applied in such a basic manner it would result in large gaps appearing. Brazil are one of the best exponents of this). to back up an overloaded zone or to close down an attacker who has bypassed another zone and poses a significant goal threat. whether it is to cover a team mate in an advanced position. Zones expand or contract according to demand. .positioning. but will anticipate the threat in behind his partner. but in reality is a good deal more dynamic than that. Zonal Marking These days it is relatively uncommon to find a team that does not employ a four man defence marking zones. whereas more defensive teams may prefer to use zonal marking to maintain defensive shape and form an impenetrable barrier to goal. zonal marking relies on anticipation and communication rather than speed – though with the pace and athleticism of the modern game. The primary function in an attacking strategy should be allowing the full backs to get forward and attack or to support the midfield (again. your left centre back is marking his player. Ray Wilkins describes how the defence react in one given situation: “If the ball is coming down your left hand side your left back presses the ball. Much of the defensive work that takes place during a match simply comes down to common sense .closing down. marking or covering according to both player and ball position. allowing defenders to cover each other as the situation demands. Man marking is largely consigned to the past – a legacy of Brazil’s most dominant years.Tactical Visions 7 Coming up to date.

Wind the clock back to 1953 and Hungary provided an early warning of the deficiencies of man marking as they destroyed England 6-3 and a year later 7-1 by instructing players to interchange positions or to drop into ‘the hole’ – causing much confusion in the English defensive ranks. However. but that is not to say they are unheard of. the system can be broken down by pace and movement (and red cards!) as Reading found to their cost when Manchester United beat them 3-2 on New Year’s Eve in 2006. .8 Tactical Visions Man Marking ‘Global’ man marking systems employing the whole team as man markers may be rare in modern football. Man marking can work very well when formations provide an obvious player for player match up – as two opposing ‘WM’ formations would have prior to the formation’s demise in the 1960s.

the formation was much the same as Rappan’s Verrou. though again it should be noted that the original asymmetric nature of Catenaccio pitted the defensive side of the team against the opponent’s attacking side. and perhaps a flatter back four. This is not specific to man marking and can apply equally to zonal marking – remembering that zonal marking still requires the defender to close down or mark attackers in certain situations (such as having the ball). It should be noted that man marking in this sense applies purely to the overall team setting and not individual player settings (player x follows player y wherever he goes) or opposition instructions (the whole team keeps a close eye on player y). When Greece won Euro 2004. rather than stand off him). but with the wingers withdrawn into midfield.Tactical Visions 9 That defeat owes a good deal to the naivety of the English in failing to adapt to the situation – closing down or marking players when they should have been covering. ensuring that any break down of the man marking system is covered. While Greece were undeniably superior to the Swiss team of the 1930s. they employed a sweeper behind three man markers. . their success owed something to the surprise element. Coaches and fans alike will often refer to getting ‘touch tight’ (mark the player tightly. but that is speculation on my part – it may just be a way of packing the midfield. providing a player for player match up. a five man midfield and a lone striker – in essence. The five man midfield suggests that the extra man acts as cover for four more man markers. whilst still prioritising the man more than zonal marking does. FM is a good deal more sophisticated. limiting how far players will stray from their position to follow their man and maintaining a degree of common sense. Fortunately. Mixed Marking Sweeper systems such as Catenaccio place a zonal marker behind three or four manmarkers.

Manchester United did this against Barcelona in 1994. Most real life mixed marking systems only employ one defender and perhaps one midfielder with different instructions to the rest of the team. There is a middle aged woman sat behind me (and a few seats to the right. it can also be used to turn defence into attack. though it bore little resemblance to the original system beyond the spare man. . Football Manager 2010’s ‘Default’ marking assigns zonal or man marking according to position. placing his teams in a much better position to attack and containing the opposition in one half of the pitch. where the yelping increases and the passage of play is generally characterised by one of my friends using the phrase “we’re sitting too deep. thankfully) who yelps every time the ball enters our penalty area. it was referred to as ‘the donkey line’ in Brazil as it was considered stupid – pass one man and you pass them all. The Transition Phase Space Management For the past few years I have been a season ticket holder at my local club. playing a high line in combination with the offside trap and aggressive pressing. Herbert Chapman’s Arsenal team did this by sitting deep .10 Tactical Visions During the 1980’s and 90’s the sweeper was commonly deployed in a 3-5-2 formation and was often referred to as Catenaccio. While this was successful in Europe. it seems to work. even when there is clearly no danger. If you are comfortable with that (i. Sweeper systems deal with the opponent’s attacking unit as a whole by adding a zonal marker to a man marking system. This meant that possession was won higher up the pitch. or it fits your tactical vision) then there is no reason to change it. Portsmouth. while the remaining three defenders retained their zonal responsibilities – though a lapse in concentration allowed Romario to run onto a through ball and score. This combination can be reversed.e. role and duty and could result in a 50/50 split. before launching a swift counter attack into the space created.” The defensive line is all about controlling the space and while the failure to control it may result in conceding sloppy goals. Now this may be an over-reaction. drawing the opposition out of defence and holding them at the edge of the penalty area. using full back Paul Parker to mark Romario. Valeriy Lobanovskyi took the opposite approach with Dynamo and USSR. shortly before conceding. adding a man marker to a zonal defence to deal with a specific individual threat. but there is generally a stage in the match. That is not to say you should only stick to systems that real managers have used.

who are afforded greater freedom than they would have in other systems. covering the empty space left behind and snuffing out attacks before they get started. This is because of its importance in making the whole team function. Equally. a standard midfielder with a defensive duty is performing the same task in the attacking phase. When the England team lacks a good defensive midfielder the question is often asked “why do we need a holding player anyway?” The answer is perhaps that we don’t necessarily need one – but it doesn’t half help. This is particularly true in a three man midfield where a triangle will frequently exert greater control than a flat line. Brazil’s rampaging full backs and the artistry of Pele.Tactical Visions 11 Both strategies require a strong back line. both strategies require concentration as there is less margin for error. Defensive Midfielders You are probably wondering why I have singled out just the one position. but are not necessarily the preserve of world class teams. Where they differ is in their approach to possession – a deep line prioritising quality of possession over quantity and a high line the opposite. The only difference comes with the position adopted in the defensive phase – . Football Manager distinguishes the defensive midfield position from that of a ‘standard’ midfielder. but to all intents and purposes. The 4-2-3-1 formation used by France in the 1998 World Cup uses two holding players as a platform for the four attacking players. Zico or Ronaldinho are made possible by the protection that a defensive midfielder (or two) offers when play breaks down. and also allows the full backs some attacking scope. When possession is regained the defensive midfielder becomes the fulcrum around which the midfield pivots.staying behind the rest of the midfield.

analysed 100 matches and concluded that 80 percent of goals come from three or less passes. boo back passes and yell “get it forward”. Somewhere amongst the rambling excuses there will most likely be some kind of reference to having ‘the lion’s share’ of possession (i. Austria and Hungary then showed the true potential of the passing game. by realising that a good first touch meant that the ball could be released quicker. leaving the opposition battered and bruised. which actually means that there is an 11. it can be highly effective for teams looking t o punch above their weight. English fans may get impatient. but his deeply flawed analysis fails to properly account for another statistic – that 91. or for that matter shots (a common complaint on Football Manager forums). this appears to support getting the ball forward quickly. Counter attacking football actually relies on having less possession than the opponent.” Goals win football matches. It came as something of a surprise then in the 1880s. but it is quite obvious that you can’t score goals when not in possession of the ball. Charles Hughes. celebrating the technique and artistry of football more than winning – though they frequently did win – and taking their time over possession.5 percent of moves consist of three or less passes.12 Tactical Visions the defensive midfielder covering ‘the hole’ while the standard midfielder who defends forms a line with the rest of the midfield. Attacking Play Possession Football Losing managers are often asked why their team did not win a match that they seemed to control.e. Uruguay.5 percent shortfall in the number of goals that should be scored. Occasionally a more pragmatic manager will simply say “They scored more goals than us. . but as Wimbledon and Watford proved in the 1980’s. You may remember we started this article by talking about the English predilection for moving the ball rapidly in one direction only. It’s certainly not pretty. If it is true that attack is the best form of defence then possession is the mechanism by which attack and defence operates. more than the other team). The relationship between possession and goals is not clear cut. The Long Ball Game Teams adopting a long ball game are often derided as playing anti-football – partly because it goes hand in hand with a more physical approach. who unfortunately was made Technical Director of the Football Association. but paradoxically they still expect to retain possession of the ball. thus creating better quality chances. not possession. On the surface of it. Argentina and Brazil took it a step further. when Scotland lined up in a 2-3-5 formation and used short sideways passes to maintain possession of the ball and patiently wait for an opening – though the game ended in a goalless draw.

The apparent exception to the rule is the partnership of Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka. Perhaps the only quality they shared was the ability to hold the ball up. this ignores their obvious qualities beyond mere goal scoring. At first glance they could be described as a typical creator/scorer combination. What it does give you is ‘penetration’ of enemy territory. In Football Manager. Football Manager 2010 does give you some pretty useful data in the match day ‘Stats’ tab. There are other combinations that work of course. they either have a specific target. physical target men to look for (as Bolton do today in Kevin Davies) and willing runners from midfield to collect the knock downs. Strike Partnerships While 4-5-1 is gaining in popularity. many formations still rely on a two man strike partnership. This will often see one man drop into the hole as deep lying forward. but that doesn’t take into account Henry’s blistering pace or Bergkamp’s aerial ability. at least at Watford) tended to play a pressing game to re-balance possession in their favour. Real Madrid won La Liga five times in a row in the 1980s with two strikers who didn’t even like each other and rarely dovetailed. At the other end of the spectrum. which made them as effective as any big man/small man combo. support striker or trequartista (three-quarters). statistics and percentages (it is doubtful many lower league managers take such a scientific approach). provided the long balls are not just aimless – that is. or in the case of David Beckham. Many pundits doubted that they could work together. The key to any successful partnership is division of labour and this is perhaps what makes it easier to get two men working than a lone striker. However. the passing is of a high quality. That is not to say that it couldn’t fail spectacularly when meeting a team with enough technical ability to maintain possession under pressure. considering them too similar in many aspects of their game.Tactical Visions 13 Long ball football is likely to produce a high turnover of possession and that is perhaps why the more successful exponents (as Graham Taylor was. achieving a good deal of success without relying on technically gifted players. While long ball football does not necessarily have to be about analysis. but in Hugo Sanchez and Emilio Butragueno they had a power and subtlety. Portsmouth found moderate success due to Kanu’s flair and Benjani’s work rate and determination. as in real life. Arsenal’s Bergkamp/Henry combination is perhaps one of the most complete partnerships. Both Wimbledon and Watford had big. but there is no denying that the almost total split of abilities worked to good effect. it is much easier to mark two strikers who play in line with each other. or the ‘big man/small man’ combination (small man usually implies pace). while the other takes a more advanced role. That division most commonly comes in two forms – the ‘creator/scorer’ combination. Like the Bergkamp/Henry combination at times they can be a . or their ability to swap creative and goal scoring roles.

Most players. Didier Drogba is another take on the theme. At Arsenal. Michael Owen and Stephane Guivarc’h are perfect examples. of course. winger or striker. Manchester United’s front four of Rooney. Bergkamp dropped deep and Henry drifted out wide. since their abilities blur the lines between midfield and attack. Giggs and Tevez interchanged between three attacking midfield berths and one strike position (more on this in a minute). doing little other than breaking up attacks and playing short simple passes to his more creative team mates. much derided for their limitations. or hybrids such as Christiano Ronaldo. complimenting his power and strength with moments of finesse. but frequently the key component in victory – in Guivarc’h’s case. Though the lines are much more blurred (particularly since both can operate as lone strikers or do each others job when playing together). Even so Jose Mourinho (Makelele’s manager at Chelsea) is quick to bemoan English coaching for failing to create young players who are multi-functional. Claude Makelele was often held up as the perfect example of a defensive midfielder in his heyday. If you are lucky enough to have a hybrid or two it is worth remembering that. their position tends to follow as does withdrawing a striker. Valeriy Lobanovskyi called this ‘universality’ . they are there. The universal player is unpredictable and. Further back. This has given rise to two very different types of footballers. dribbling and finishing – that mean they can pop up in different areas of the pitch and be equally adept as a playmaker. World Cup victory.to which the specialist would be the philosophical opposite. at his best. Thierry Henry and Wayne Rooney combine multiple abilities – creativity. Ronaldo. unplayable. . Universality versus Specialisation The heroes of the past were the wingers. explaining why a long line of Argentinian playmakers have failed to become ‘the next Maradona’. playmakers and goal poachers. Emile Heskey. while the specialist plays purely to his strengths. fall somewhere between the two extremes and the top teams employ a mixture of hybrids. Maradona was a midfielder who could play as a support striker.14 Tactical Visions big man/small man combination and at other times a creator/scorer combination. there are fewer mistakes and less gaps (even if the Match of the Day pundits would have you believe otherwise). but the modern game is an altogether different beast that does not allow room for so called ‘luxury players’. specialists and ‘general purpose’ players. ‘Complete’ players. Improvements in physical fitness and defensive organisation mean that space on the football field is limited.

with much of the work carried out off the ball. Revisiting another of our previous examples.Tactical Visions 15 Drogba. For example. but stationary players can be easy to mark. Players in the 13-3-3 formation interchange along vertical lines. It was different to merely swapping positions as two wingers would do. Total Football is often seen as the ideal – defenders attacking and attackers defending in one fluid formation. Alex Ferguson maintains that it is better to have forwards attack from wide positions and move into the centre towards goal. Movement and Interchanging As we have already seen with Hungary’s destruction of the English. This is perhaps why many teams employ a big striker to hold the ball up. good movement and good attacking play go hand in hand. even if it would be difficult to implement at the pace the modern game is played. again. it is not totally without structure. The aim of this type of movement is to present defenders with a threat that is unpredictable in its direction and nature. The reality was a good deal more organised than it sounds. Rigid formations have their place. if the left midfielder came forward. but left the remaining six outfield players out of the equation. but in partnership with Nicolas Anelka under Carlo Ancelotti. supporting or attacking within their normal roles. operating on his own as an out-and-out striker under Mourhinho. Manchester United’s front four used a similar interchanging of roles to good effect. concentrating on grinding the opposition down rather than ‘pattern weaving’. having more to do with balancing forward runs and freedom to roam with defensive responsibility. defending. is an exception. than . Even then. the left wing forward would cover.

it is also fair to say that defending teams looking for an ‘out ball’ will have greater luck finding strikers who have drifted wide. Teams once attacked with eight players and defended with five (midfielders in a 2-3-5 operating in both phases). From the time the first formation was dreamt up forwards have been withdrawn into midfield to look for space and midfielders withdrawn into defence to deny it. This may indicate why the 4-5-1/4-3-3 has become so popular. As with all tactical elements there is no definitive rule – Ruud van Nistelrooy is a good example of a striker who starts in the middle and stays in the middle and gets a lot of goals. as it uses two advanced wingers that converge on the goal.16 Tactical Visions to start in the centre and move away from goal. The 4-4-2 defends with two banks of four. such as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. but at the most will only send three of the four midfielders forward to join the two strikers . while Arsenal echoed their counter attacking ploy of the 1930s by allowing Thierry Henry to drift into wide positions to devastating effect. Looking beyond the obvious wisdom of Ferguson’s point. The Numbers Game The title of Jonathon Wilson’s book ‘Inverting the Pyramid’ is a clue as to how the balance of attackers and defenders has changed. though he would have had another striker to run the channels. but this is generally reversed in modern football.

but this is generally recognised as the end of a more naïve era. but by the use of just three attacking players. characterised. A Final Word My own management career (from the first Championship Manager to the current Football Manager) has followed a similar path to the development of tactics in the real game. withdrawing players does not necessarily mean teams are less attacking. Defenders sat deeper. Italian football is often seen as overly defensive and negative. reducing the number of men required to be goal side from three to two and precipitating Chapman’s WM. only Uruguay gave any thought to defending. seeing football merely as a test of ability. I simply found the best players I could. Shifting the right numbers between attack and defence is perhaps the key component of style of play – more so than starting formation. I say ‘apparent’. because as we have seen. Scoring is almost a secondary aim and the national side in particular are famed for their 1-0 wins. It shouldn’t be forgotten that they also defended in greater numbers – though again the less frenetic style of play made this much easier. in an attempt to overload the defence. Argentina found this out to their cost as they lost the 1930 World Cup to Uruguay. but crucially. The luxury of a playmaker gave way to grinding out results. not by formation. Then came the 4-3-1-2 formation and a desire to create beautiful football. so Brazil were less likely to be caught on the break and their world class players consequently had the kind of space the modern game rarely allows. .Tactical Visions 17 This apparent trend towards negativity was set in motion by a change to the offside law. winning the World Cup three times between 1958 and 1970. The first aim is to avoid conceding – you can’t lose if you don’t concede. Early on. Both teams liked to attack in numbers. Brazil attacked in numbers. albeit it through text commentary.

In both cases the formation is the end result and not the starting point. Another approach is to control the midfield space and play to individual strengths in a 42-3-1 that uses two playmakers. I finally feel that I have reached a point where I understand why my tactics worked and why they subsequently stopped working – which is why I am genuinely excited by the prospect of taking over a Portsmouth team that has sold a team and a half of quality players and replaced them with second rate journeymen. leading to a more defensive approach and thankfully plenty of 1-0 wins.which I would hope to achieve by employing a 4-4-2 that morphs into a 4-3-3 using duties and individual width to reshape the formation. One line of thought is to create a spare man in attack and exploit gaps in the opponents back four without sacrificing my own defensive stability .18 Tactical Visions or rather fear of losing took over. Both methods also require one or two additional signings to make it work. three willing runners and a target man. so with no money to spend it may yet be back to the drawing board! .