In the first part, I outlined what I look to create in this project. For easier reference, the main points are:
Not using a 4-4-2, and using a 4-3-3 instead.
Press the area around the long ball in a bid to regain the ball
Lots of support around the striker
Have a goal scoring midfielder
From what I want to create, it is clear that the team need to have a positive core attacking intent. This means more running on and off the ball, and more risky passes. This will allow us to play more controlled long balls, not the unwanted panicked hoof.
Selected mentality: Positive
Goalkeeper: SK-D - Just a typical goalkeeper, with the added responsibility of spotting counter attacking chances.
Fullbacks: WB-S - In order to create support around the offensive pivot, we need narrow attackers. Thus the provision of width will be by the fullbacks. I don't expect them to be involved throughout, but offer the required support and width when needed.
Centre backs: NCB and CB - Again, typical centre backs, with one given a NCB duty to clear dangerous balls without taking unnecessary risks.
Defensive Midfielder: DLP-D - I want this fellow to dictate the game from deep and ping the ball to the forwards. Instructing the team to play direct should see him become a focal point of our team.
Centre Mids: CM-S and Mez-S - These guys should be workhouses, providing support to the forwards and defenders when needed, keep the ball moving, and most importantly, make regular runs from deep. The Mezzala should be our goal scoring midfielder, which should run in undetected from deep. (PIs: Mez-S: More Urgent Pressing)
AML: IF-A - Our main goalscorer. I envision him to always be around the striker to receive layoffs and should make regular runs beyond the striker. (PIs: Stay Narrower, More Urgent Pressing)
AMR: IW-S - A more conservative version of the IF-A, with the added emphasis on chance creation to offer us variety going forward. (PIs: Stay Narrower, More Urgent Pressing)
Striker: DLF-A - Our offensive pivot. I opted against a TF-A since that I want a dynamic role that regularly attacks the channels, and also to avoid the rest of the team pinging the ball to him at all and any opportunities. (PIs: More Urgent Pressing)
The PIs here are very important in the creation of my style.
They instruct our four most attacking players to press harder, creating a sort of a split press, where these four players try to press the opponent as he receives or intercept a long ball by us.
Instructing our wide players to stay narrower to provide more support to the striker, and also to force opponent mistakes if we lose the ball during an attack.
Much More Direct Passing: Style defining shout. I was reluctant to pick the extreme variant over the More Direct Passing TI, but finally decided to have the players implement direct passing to a large extent. I might lower it a notch in-game to gain more control.
Play Out of Defence: Might sound counter-intuitive, but we are not a hoofball team. We need the attacking players to be in the best possible shape before launching a direct ball towards a player or a run. The POD TI makes us more considered and patient at the back. However, the GK and the defenders could decide to play the long pass, but hopefully this TI and the DLP slows this tendency down a bit.
Fairly Narrow: As explained above, I want to provide support to the striker as a long ball is played. I see we could achieve this by playing narrow. Defensively, this should also makes life difficult for the opponents should be lose the ball in their half.
Counter: Quite obvious.
Defensive Line, Line of Engagement and Pressing Triggers: These three work in tandem together, thus I mention them together. I have two versions of them in order to look out games (Standard DL, High LOE, Standard Pressing) and (Low DL, Standard LOE, More Urgent Pressing). I use the first version against weaker teams and the second version against stronger teams. The main difference is where our block lies. Against top teams and quick forwards, it makes sense to drop our DL back a bit and add some depth to our vertical compactness, which I believe will help us in the second balls. On the other side, pushing the team higher with more aggressive pressing will let us dominate against weaker teams, or teams with slow forwards.
Before going on with the analysis in the next article to avoid this growing too long, I'll leave you with some moves and the initial results I had with this tactic. Please bear in mind that I am not letting the games fly on autopilot, but try to affect the game mainly by changing our pressing intensity, defensive shape and passing directness.
After losing the first game of the season to Sampdoria 1-0, using another tactic I was trying out, we won 5 games in a row, including a 6-0 win against Roma and victories against Inter and Napoli:
In this game against Napoli, our narrow attacking shape forces the Napoli defender to clear long as he is out of options the moment he wins the ball from us. The ball is hoofed towards our free defensive line:
Nastasic, the CB then gets the ball forward to Vlahovic (DLF-A) who has support close to him in Scamacca (IF-A). Vlahovic lays off the long direct ball to Scamacca to score our second goal.
Another nice move came against Inter, showing us direct exploitation of a central run by our IF-A (Bonaventura)
A similar move against Torino, in which the DLF-A (Vlahovic) holds the ball and gets it to Erick (CM-S) who quickly plays a direct ball into space to the on-rushing Mezzala (Seoane)
I know it is VERY early in the season to come to any conclusion, but I liked to share progress on how the style is panning out, and take notes of any your ideas and comments, before going in on a more detailed analysis in a later post.