The Santos Experience – Tactical Analysis

I recently wrote about the tactic I would be using for this Santos save in Football Manager 16 and this article will be analysis of the first competitive game I played. Playing in the São Paulo States means I get a few games which are on paper easy to win and this first game falls under this category. The result of the games isn’t important, well I guess it is for job security but in terms of the style I’m aiming to replicate so the style in which we play during the ninety minutes is much more important than the result to begin with. You can always work on results once you’ve sorted the style out.
In order to figure out how the tactic works I have to play the matches in full and analyse them afterwards rather than during the game live. By doing this I can see how it works for the full ninety minutes without any influences from myself to change the course of play during the match. This will provide a much clearer picture and allow me to see if the roles, duties and team instructions chosen are playing as I expect.  So let’s dive straight in.


In the last tactic article where I discussed what tactic I would be replicating I listed the team instructions, roles and duties I would be using but I didn’t mention any player instructions. Normally I like to use these to refine a tactic rather than using them straight away but due to what the articles I linked said about the way some of the players behaved, I am using just one now and that is;

  • The complete forward has moves into channels player instruction

So I thought I’d mention that now before I forget. Another point I’d like to make is that I never really focus on what the opposition is doing. This makes analysing how my tactic works much better I believe because you can really see the roles and if they’re working. It also allows me to create a proper playing philosophy as I’m not reacting to the opposition constantly because when you do that then you lose your own identity. Why worry about the AI when you can make the AI worry about you? Focus on your own set up and learn to understand how and why it works and the results will improve and you’ll show more consistency. It’s also a lot easier to manage doing it this way.

Straight from the kick off you can see how my attackers are lined up defensively,


In the next screenshot I notice an issue already that many might not see immediately.


Can you see were the Trequartista is? While it’s good to see him helping in the defensive phases (some people think a Trequartista doesn’t help defensively but they do) it doesn’t really fit with the style I am trying to recreate. In the article I linked in the previous article it clearly stated that the attacking midfielder (in this case the Treq) was often the most advanced player in the set up, so already I’m seeing him far too deep and not where I am expecting him to be. It’s something I need to keep an eye on and be aware of now.
Another issue I notice with the Trequartista is that when attacks happen he is a little deeper than I like.


While it’s good to see him breaking from deep and running into free space, I believe it would be even better if he was more advanced with his starting position. The inside forward s free on the far left but realistically we aren’t going to get the ball to him. However if the Trequartista was more advanced then maybe the link up play would be better and more balanced. I have players making runs and the Regista is also looking to advance and step up and join in with play but there is no-one centrally to link all of this up. I’ll keep an eye on this during the game but with the last two examples I’ve posted I am already thinking that changing the Trequartista for something more static would be more inline with what I am trying to create. My options thus far are;

  • Change him to an attacking playmaker.
  • Change him to an enganche.

Both could be more suited to the Ganso role I’m trying to replicate so that’s something I will look into depending on what I see happening the rest of this game. I’m only two minutes into this one so far but I’m 99% sure I will change the role for the next game.
I’m also concerned about the striker with the move into channels player instruction. While this is true to the style I’m trying to recreate it is causing issues as you can see below.


The Regista is the hub of play and has many passing options and the triangles look pretty. But look at the complete forward and his positioning. If he was given the ball then he is surrounded by seven players (I kind of cut two players off in the very top circle but you can see their legs :)). So realistically if he got the ball where could he go? Or more importantly what could he do with the ball? In situations like this he is isolated and of no real use. The easiest option here would be to remove his move into channels instruction but then that’s a big part of the tactic I am trying to recreate so this now gives me a dilemma. Removing it should fix the issue almost instantly but that’s not a choice so what can I do? Well believe it or not I do have another choice here and it’s a by-product of changing the role of the Trequartista.


My Trequartista is circled and he’s the reason why there are many players around the striker because he isn’t occupying them and giving them a choice to make. But what if he was in the space where the text is? Theoretically this should mean there’s fewer people around the striker. It would mean the Trequartista was occupied but it would stretch and open the game creating space. The more I watch of this game the more it makes sense to make the Trequartista an Enganche instead. This would be a more static role which would provide two thing that would benefit the team;

  • He’d occupy the defence or any defensive midfielders.
  • He’d be a better outlet to link play and could distribute the ball to either side or to onrushing players.

Currently it looks like my inside forward is isolated because the ball isn’t going to that side of the pitch this early on in the game. Admittedly it’s only five minutes into the game but it’s still a concern because the inside forward is the best player at the club. Plus he is supposed to be the main star and goal scorer here because he is supposed to play the Neymar role.

One of the reasons it’s important that my inside forward needs to receive the ball is for moments like this;


It creates nice overlaps when Gabigol comes inside, the wing back can push up on the outside and offer width.


Then the wing back is in loads of space and has much time on the ball to pick his options. This also has a downfall I’ve noticed because I have no-one in the box. I know I keep saying it but I do believe that changing the Trequartista will help in this situation as there would be a more static option centrally and hopefully he would be positioned just outside the oppositions box. Rather than him coming towards the ball like in the above screenshot. I need players moving towards goal when I’m attacking not away from it like the above screenshot highlights.

The issues I’ve had or seen so far all seem to stem from the Trequartista, so much so that I’m struggling to look at anything else. I believe just a simple change of role will make things click. But am I correct? We’ll have to wait until I analyse the next game I guess. I think it’s pointless carrying the current analysis on because so much revolves around the above being changed and rather than complicate things I’d rather make small changes and not many of them. By doing that it allows me to keep track of what’s been changed so I will know for sure if my changes are working or not. If you change a lot of things all in one go then it’s hard to keep track of if something is working or not and I’m all for making the game easier for myself not harder. So small changes are much more beneficial than drastic overall changes.

Hopefully I’ll have the second part of this up later in the week.


17 thoughts on “The Santos Experience – Tactical Analysis”

  1. Have you noticed that on the Tactics (player) screen the AM strata is now much closer to the CM strata.I hope its just a graphics glitch.

    1. It depends on what zoom you play as. Plus it changes depending on the role and duty used. So it will be closer or further away based on support or attacking.

  2. Really loving these articles! Especially tactical ones. Keep up the good work:) Is it ok to ask a few tactical questions here?

      1. Thanks. Here it goes. I play a flat 4-4-2. My striker on the right side is a DLF(s). My wide mid in the same side is a WM(a). The DLF is a target man type of player. Big and strong and tends to drag a central defender with him when he comes deep and thus creates some space. Question is: how do I get the WM(a) to regularly attack this space? He tends to sit wider and deeper and doesnt really do what I need him to do. Only PI is roam from pos. as I hoped that would encourage him to make better use of that space. I play a possesion-based style, flexible and standard. Shorter passing only TI.

  3. Have you tried the sit narrower, get further forward PI’s? That’s what I’d do, he’d be like an inside forward then.

      1. Preseason took forever;) Havent started the season yet so havent got in to analysing the change in behavior of the wide man yet. Different question: any idea why my tactics familiarity is so far from fluid still? played 12 games preseason. Training set to matchtactics, 50-50,

        1. Did you set match training to tactics? If not it won’t rise. Also changing shape or TI’s will make it take longer as will buying new players.

          1. Yes I did. Match training set to tactics. Slider all the way to the left to maximise matchtraining. No players in or out. Only brought in one staff member (scout). Didn`t make any tactical changes to shape or TI`s. I did tick the box that gives the players a rest day before a match. Does that matter maybe?

      2. So, time for an update on the behavior of the WM(a) right side. I`ve played about 10 games after changing the PI`s and the role is mostly doing what I want.


        I have uploaded 2 pictures. First shows my RPM with the ball and the WM(a) ready to make a run in behind the oppositions fullback. Second picture: pass, run, goal:)

        This is what I want to see from him in the final third so happy with that. Thanks for the tips on the PI`s.

        Additional notes: I am most often the favorite to win every game in my league. These leads to the opp. often playing very def. against me thus compressing space and making it hard for me to break them down at times. Would you mind taking a look at my setup to see if there is anything obvious that could be changed please?


        Please let me know if you do not want these kind of comments on your blog.


  4. It shouldn’t matter enough for it not to be fluid though. After 12 friendlies if you made no changes or signings then it should have been fluid. Maybe you was learning more than 1 tactic? That’s the only reason it would take longer. That aside those are the only things that impact familiarity to it must be one of those somehow.

    1. Thank you for taking the time to answer. Only learning one tactic so this is a bit of a mystery to me. Well, well. We`ll get there eventually:)

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