THE FIRST DRAFT – EMULATING FILIPAO’S 3-4-2-1

This is the second article in the series by DylanTM.

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A first draft, but by no means is it a final one. This is going to need work in the key positions: namely The DM and The AMC(L). I would say that the Team Instructions are pretty close to final, barring ‘Be More Expressive’. I’m going to experiment with Flexible and Structured to see which is more solid too. Anyways, here’s my thinking for now.

GK-D (PI: Take Long Kicks, Distribute Over Opposition): This was a time before sweeper ‘keepers and playing out from the back. Marcos took huge kicks into the opposition half to try to keep the opposition on the back foot. ‘Distribute Over Opposition’ allows my offensive players to run onto a breaking ball.

CD-D x2: Two regular centrebacks, with nothing fancy added in. We aren’t the type to play from the back, so Ball Playing Defenders aren’t necessary. There’s no advantage of to having Limited Defenders, so regular CD’s it is.

DM-S (PI: Get Further Forward, More Risky Passes): Subject to change a lot, as I’m planning a future piece comparing this to a half-back. Basically, I’m choosing a DM-S first since he steps into midfield when we are in possession, and ‘Get Further Forward’ allows him to charge into the opposition half. ‘More Risky Passes’ also allows him to hit through balls himself, when the time is right. However, he doesn’t seem to step back into the defensive line when out of possession. He sits in the hole, which is not what I want. The reason that I’m opting for a role in the DM slot instead of a BPD or a Libero (aside from the fact that Libero’s don’t work as intended in FM) is because of another article on Zonal Marking. It was talking about an article in The Guardian about the return of the sweeper. It noted that the modern-day sweeper wasn’t a CB bursting into midfield, but rather a midfielder dropping back into defence. Think Sergio Busquets. Yaya Toure has also played this role during his time at Barcelona. The skills required to play this role are, I quote: ‘good reader of the game, an excellent passer (especially over long distances), a decent tackler and competent in the air’. Most DMs have these qualities, and these were the exact qualities an old school sweeper had. We’re just slightly changing how they move, but essentially, they are the same role.

WB-AU (PI: Stay Wider): Wing backs are great for wide attacking play when they are the lone wide men, and the automatic duty allows them to bomb forward and track back to form the four at the back (due to the absence of our third CB/DM). I’ve decided not to activate ‘Get Further Forward’ so that I can keep this effect. Choosing a specific way to cross isn’t necessary(does anybody ever do that?) I’ll consider whether or not to activate ‘More Risky Passes’. It just seems to be an extra, unnecessary instruction. However, I have activated ‘Stay Wider’ which has two advantages. It stretches the opposition in attack and gives me width in defence.

CM-D: Acting as one of the two Anchor Men in midfield, this is the Gilberto role. The Invisible Wall. The holding midfielder keeping the midfield together in the absence of the injured Emerson. He already holds his position and closes down opposition ball carriers. He’s the perfect match for the position. No need for a fancy role, your friendly neighborhood Central Midfielder is all you need. May try out a DLP-D aswell, but this role is likely to remain the same.

BWM-D: The second, more mobile central midfielder in The Kleberson Role. This could easily change to a BWM-S or even a BBM-S. A box-to-box midfielder however, might end up travelling too far forward and congesting the attacking third, especially with three other players already solely focussed on attacking.  The BMW should operate as a solid defensive midfielder who can feed the more creative players in front of him.

AM-A (PI: Run Wide With Ball): The Rivaldo Role. There are many possible roles that can replicate Rivaldo’s role. I’ve mentioned them many times, but I started with a generic Attacking Midfielder role. I tell him to ‘Run Wide With Ball’ because that’s what he did a lot for Brazil, as did Ronaldinho. He runs wide and links up with his wing back, distributes the ball into the space he just left, or takes on the opposition centre back or full back.

AP-A (PI: Runs Wide With Ball, Roam From Position): Ronaldinho was Brazil’s prime creator. There’s only one role for him, which is The Advanced Playmaker. It’s worth noting, that just because it’s an attacking duty instead of a supporting duty, doesn’t mean that he’s automatically more advanced. With an attacking duty, he drops deeper and attacks from deep, just like Ronaldinho did. I have ‘Run Wide With Ball’ and ‘Roam From Position’ to emulate how Ronaldinho played.

CS-A: There’s only one role for Ronaldo. He is THE Complete Forward, so he has the Complete Forward role with an attack duty. Basically, he’s up there and he does what he wants.

TEAM INSTRUCTIONS

Play Wider & Exploit Flanks: I’ve already gone through this in the first post. The majority of Brazil’s goals come from wide play, and there is a clear emphasis on using the wings. I’ve used both of these roles to stretch the opposition and play in the wing backs and the attacking midfielders.

Pass Into Space: Watching some highlights from the Brazil team, there’s another notable source of goals. Through balls into space. Often, centre backs cleared the ball long over the top of the opposition for Ronaldo to break away and run onto. In other cases, Ronaldinho or Rivaldo just threaded a simple ball through. Attacking the space, especially the space created by running wide, was a large part of the Brazilian game.

Close Down More & Prevent Short GK Distribution: Brazil press their opponents and force them to make mistakes. They hassle and hassle and hassle. That’s the Brazilian way. Also, you can see in watching Brazil matches, let’s say for example the final versus Germany, that Ronaldo tries to close down Oliver Kahn making him pump the ball long.

Get Stuck In: There’s no doubt about it, Brazil have some of the hardest hitting defences in the world. Many players have noted that Brazilians are the most rugged and aggressive players they’ve ever faced. Alongside closing down their space and hassling them, this is also good for dispossessing the opposition. Brazil’s defence was physically strong and a very organised unit, and this should create that. Fouls may be a problem, and I’ll keep an eye on that as we move forward.

Much Higher Tempo: Higher tempo is crucial to the tactic. The Brazilians may have played with flair, but their work rate was crucial. Jaap Stam has said: ‘Cafu just kept going – up and down, up and down – and never gave up.’ Laurent Blanc said:’I played against him in Italy when he was with Roma, and he never stopped running up and down the right side of the field. He has brilliant energy and stamina, and oh, what skill too.’ Work rate doesn’t just apply to Carlos and Cafu, but the rest of the team too. Kleberson’s mobility and work rate pushed him into the side ahead of Juninho. The entire team is a group of hard workers.

Be More Expressive: Looking back, I probably shouldn’t of added this TI, but I don’t think there’s much harm in having it for now. I know that I mentioned that quote about Brazil actually being a very structured team with individual bits of brilliance, but giving players like the two CMs the freedom to maybe move outside of their roles could make the team work. I’ll keep an eye on how we play over the next while with this on and off.

MENTALITY AND SHAPE

Control: Control is the lightest (for the lack of a better word) form of the Attacking side of mentalities, yet it’s still an attacking mentality. As much as Filipao’s side had that rigid defensive structure, I’m not sure if you can replicate the attacking prowess of The Three Rs and the wing backs with just Standard. I will experiment with Standard too, but I think Control could be the mentality all the way through this tactics development.

Flexible: For those who don’t know, Team Shape basically contributes towards to primary things: (a) the compactness or sparseness of your team shape, i.e. how much space is between your lines and (b) the creative freedom your team has. I know that I definitely do not want to go to the Fluid side of things as I want to keep the core of the team (CBs, DM, CMs) strong defensively and organized without wanting to be involved in the attacking phase. At the same time, I do want some roles (namely my WBs) to get involved a lot. I will experiment with both Structured and Flexible to find The Gold Standard.

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Let’s see how this works initially in Defence. I’ll take this from a friendly versus Peru side, Cesar Vallejo. Note: This is with the tactic currently at ‘Competent’, just over half full. I will wait until it’s completely fluid to judge fully.

DEFENCE:

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He we are defending, just before our first goal. Our wing backs have tracked back to form a four man defence (but, frustratingly, they are quite narrow). Alison, our DM, doesn’t fall back into the defensive line but instead sits in the hole. He ends up acting as an invisible wall to their #8, which is fine. Lucas Lima, in The Gilberto Role, does the same to their #7, which is also promising. Our ball winning midfield, Leandrinho, emulating Kleberson as a mobile anchor, closes down the player in possession. We are in the right positions and we win the ball back, leading to a goal. A best case scenario, but this is only one case early in the game.

We defend well for the rest of the first half. We remain rock hard and stubborn, denying them any easy chance. However, in the second half, we crack.

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Trust me, this diagram makes sense when you read this. Basically, our #3, loses a high ball and gets caught out of position. Our two wingbacks, (#16 came on because of an injury) drop back to cover, but Alison tries to close down the man in possession. The space marked with the yellow box is exploited as their #11 makes a run and the easy pass is picked out. Vladmir makes the save, but Zeca stops tracking his man and their #9 scores the tap in. Perhaps just a set of mistakes due to tactic unfamiliarity, or something else I’m missing. Again, let’s see if this becomes a recurring problem in future once the tactic is fluid.

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Interestingly, Valencia does come deep to become part of a somewhat deformed back five (which does appear to have mild scoliosis). However, once again, we are too narrow. Look at all the space that the #9 could exploit. Our two anchors act as invisible walls, but their #14 is free. This is probably the wrong time for Valencia to form a back five. Instead, he should be on #14, like above, forming 4 at the back. This play leads to nothing as our WB disarms their #15, but literally one or two passes could shift the play to the other side of the field  to their #9 (or to their unmarked #14), which could potentially leave us in some serious trouble.

On some other occasions, Valencia tracked back to form the five at the back. This makes me wonder why Alison was keener on going forward than staying back.

ATTACK:

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In this picture, yellow is player movement, white is ball movement. We open the scoring early through our DM, Alison. This is a good thing, since I do want him bombarding up the field whenever possible to help out with the attack, while also defending (which he doesn’t do correctly, as you have seen above in the ‘Defence’ part of this post). Leandrinho, our BWM in The Kleberson Role, wins the ball back in midfield by closing down and tackling their player. He quickly feeds The Complete Forward, Ribeiro, with a through ball into space. Our Ronaldo runs onto it as our DM (Alison, #6), our AP (Crispim, #7) and our AM (Rodriguez, #11) bomb forward into the opposition half. The defensive line pushes forward in unison while our two holding midfielders, #9 and #8, hold their position in front of the defence.

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As the complete forward continues his run, Alison, Crispim and Rodriguez continue bursting forward to support him and get into a scoring position. Meanwhile, both of the wing backs abandon their defensive line to support the attack, leaving us with a two-man defensive line with the two anchormen sitting in front of them.

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The #3 for them is forced to come across to meet Ribeiro, who pulls the ball across. Alison meets it with a strike which hits the bottom left corner of the net. Also in this picture, you can see the best angle for seeing out defensive line and holding midfielders. Our wing backs, especially #5, can easily track back if a counter attack were to break away.

So, here are the positives: exploiting the width, exploiting the space, hard-working wing backs, transition to two at the back, DM gets forward, late runners, defensive solidity in case of a counter attack.

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This is the next goal, mid-way through the second half. Edwin Valencia, #22, my DM, has won the ball in midfield. He immediately feeds Crispim, the playmaker, who plays the ball wide to our wing back (who once again has changed, due to injury). Guedes moves forward before playing the ball back to Crispim. We move into our two at the back as our wingbacks and DM move forward (I didn’t put the DM movement on the diagram). Once again, our anchormen stay back. Their defensive line drops back.

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Both wingbacks continue moving forward, but instead of playing the through ball into the space that our WB is running into on the bottom right, he plays it centrally for Valencia and then Gabriel (who moves out slightly to get the ball, drawing out the defender). Oliviera runs a ‘C’ line, coming onside before running onto the space in behind. Gabriel plays him through and Oliveira scores at the near post. Out CBs remain back while our two anchor men, who dropped slightly to the right of the pitch to offer a recycling option to Guenes and Crispim, move back centrally to cover their #9.

So, the positives we see here are: exploiting the width, exploiting the space, hard-working wing backs, DM gets forward, defensive solidity in case of a counter attack, creative freedom, anchor mobility.

That said, we’re not perfect, as you’re going to see in the ‘General Play’ section.

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Strangely enough, we seem better on the counter than anywhere else. Here we are defending a corner. The ball gets cleared down the wing for our complete forward Oliveira to run onto. I can’t really make out specifics, so basically, everybody and their mother come flying out of the box to support (or defend, in their case).

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This is a rough estimate to what happens. Oliveira runs to the edge of the box and their defender comes to meet him. Our DM (Valencia), our playmaker (Crispim), our AM (Gabriel) and even one of our anchors, Lima, bomb forward. Possibly worrying? Probably not, considering a such a counter attack where they’ve committed so many men forward. Anyways, the wingbacks attack their respective flanks and our defenders get into position.

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Oliveira draws the defender and passes (my inner rugby player is impressed). Gabriel, in our Rivaldo role, takes the ball and fires it into the bottom corner to make it 3-1. I’ve noted how congested all of their players are too. They’re all in a small area on the right side of the pitch. No danger of anything dangerous coming from that.

So, once again, we have the same positives: exploiting the width, exploiting the space, hard-working wing backs, DM gets forward, late runners, attacking midfielder scoring.

Again though, we aren’t perfect.

GENERAL PLAY:

Again, I’ll have to wait until this tactic is fluid and I’ve played a few games, but right now there are quite a few problems with how we are playing at the moment.

Firstly, we seem to by trying too much direct balls. I’ve no problem with the passes into space since they work (as shown by Alison’s goal), but it’s almost every time we get a ball. When we’re defending we clear it in a panic. When we’re in possession of the ball in our own half, we seem inclined to just boot it blindly. This become quite annoying since once we get into the opponents half, we seem fine with playing the ball around with short passes (as seen by Oliveira’s goal). This in turn creates our next problem.

We don’t get enough possession. The possession stats are astonishing, and as seen by the heat maps below, we are always on the back foot.

Our shots are all coming from long-range. We don’t seem to be able to get into their box, due to our lack of possession. We were quite lucky to win, because they decided to abandon their possession tactic and go more attacking, which allowed us to get our second and third goals.

All of these above problems can be fixed by doing one or more of the following: activating TI’s (shorter passing, retain possession, work ball into box, etc), decreasing mentality (standard), increasing tactic fluidity (currently competent, just over half way), more conservative roles. (support roles in the front three). Most likely, I will try to get them to do ‘Shorter Passing’. I will keep ‘Be More Expressive’ so that they can try to play the ball long if they want when the time is right. However, I will wait until the tactic is completely fluid before I decide.

Here are the stats, and heat maps. It’s also worth noting that Alison picked up MOTM:

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You can see what I mean. We were kept back in our own half for the majority of the game as they kept possession and pressed us. We only had our Complete Forwards operating in the opposition half. Everybody else was pressed back by the opposition. They had their lone striker and five midfielders. They had more shots, better passing, and more possession. I know shots mean nothing without showing where they’re from, so I’ll show you where both teams’ shots were from.

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Us first, then them. Our only four shots of the first half were four outside the box. We only started getting chances in the box when the opponent abandoned their possession game and tried to play a more attacking game. God knows why they did that, because up until that point, they were dominating. That said, they still had too many chances inside our area. We really need better over from our DM and WBs.

Had they had a more competent finisher, they would’ve definitely won that match by three or four goals. I guarantee that.

Another thing I’m interested in is our low passing completion, probably due to our constant long passing. This also most likely caused our lack of possession (which is more evidence to why ‘Shorter Passing’ may work.). I’m curious to who the culprits are…

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Aside from our goalkeeper, who is supposed to take long kicks, our main culprits are our two CBs our DM, our AP and our AM. Here are their incomplete passes in that order, from top to bottom.

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The vast majority of the incomplete passes are long passes. More reason to try to go for shorter passing.

In comparison, here are their completed passes, again in the order of CBs, DM, AP, AM top to bottom.

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Interestingly, the majority of our CBs completed passes are also long passes. Considering how good they seem to be at long passes (or lucky clearances), I won’t try to work from the back. However, the rest of these players show clearly that they completed all of their short passes and only missed out on long attempts (depending on your definition of long, one may argue a case for The Attacking Midfielder, who completed a decent amount of medium length passes). Shorter Passing seems to be becoming more and more likely, but this is only one match.

Finally, I want to do a small bit about my Advanced Playmaker, The Ronaldinho Role. I’ve already highlighted his passing above, he makes a fifty attempted passes and forty-two completed ones; more than anybody else on the team. He also made 10 attempted runs, completing 7 of them. Again, that’s more than anybody else. You can see them all below.

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Ronaldinho was able to skip past opponents with ease. Let’s see if Crispim can become a player like him…

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That’s how I am starting out. I will use this formation without change for my opening few games to see how it plays before I decide to make any changes. I already know that I will try out a number of different roles for different positions like The DMC and The AMC(L) , but I may also try out different CM roles like DLP-D or BWM-S or BBM-S. For now, however, this is my base and my starting point.

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