Barcelona Tiki-Taka 4-3-2-1 | Football Manager Possession Tactic

Barcelona Tiki-Taka Domination v2 | FM13 Possession Tactics

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Estamos tocando tiki-taka tiki-taka!
Football Manager 2013 possession tactic Barcelona Tiki-Taka

“Estamos tocando tiki-taka tiki-taka”, was the phrase Andres Montes used in the World Cup 2006 to describe the playing style of Spain. Tiki-Taka or Tiqui-Taca has its origin from the Total football developed by Rinus Michel in the 1970’s and is a refinement of the attacking fluid football.

Since 2006 the Tiki-Taka playing style has become world famous, partially because of the success of Spain and FC Barcelona. The Tiki Taka can be described as the Spanish way of keeping possession by working the ball through various channels and play fluid football by taking advantage of brilliant short sharp passes (often in one or two touches), with the help of high degree of movement into open spaces.

The playing style of Tiki-Taka is equally loved as its hated by football fans throughout the world.
What caught my attention and heart, was the accuracy in passing and movement both with and without the ball which overrun its opponents, no matter their playing style or formation. I loved how Spain and Barcelona passed the ball so quickly between each other that it wore out the opponents, both to do more mistakes and to weaken their attacking system.

One important part of the tiki-taka, is the collaboration of the defense and attacking, as the team is always in possession.
Former successful FC Barcelona manager Josep Guardiola, who invented the false nine, once said;
“We want to emulate the amount of running players must do. When you win back the ball, there are 30 metres to goal rather than 80. I want Messi as far forward as possible.”

In this Football Manager 2013 Tactic, which you can download below, I’ve tried to summarize the key essence of the Total Football and Tiki-Taka, and tried to create my own version of the playing style with the focus of what I love about the playing style.

Barcelona Tiki-Taka Domination v2 4-3-2-1

FM13 Best Possession tactic Barcelona Tiki Taka

My Football Manager 2013 tactic Barcelona Tiki-Taka domination extreme is based on some of the aspects from the playing style of Tiki-Taka, and is one of the best possession tactics I’ve ever created for Football Manager. This fluid attacking tactic is developed as a possession based tactic, where I’ve put importance to the passing completion ratio, win possession back quickly and chance creation (half chances, clear cut chances and shots).

I would not be modest if I said you could easily have an average of over 65%(!) in possession through a season, and have a passing completed ratio of around 90%(!). Through my 61 matches I’ve scored 140 goals and conceded only 32, a win percentage of 70%, which is world class, compared to other managers in the world! These stats are improved further with the new version.

Passion for Football Manager profile & career stats

This tactic is custom-made for Barcelona, but will be well-suited for any team who favors a continental playing style similar to FC Barcelona. Of course, the team will need the required types of players and skills to make it successful. I will come back to the key elements and basic attributes required for this playing style in the next chapter.

With this Football Manager 2013 tactic you are able to change playing style or match strategy according to the different opponents, according to how the match progresses or if you’ll need to counter a specific threat in the opposition team, by employing touchline instructions or shouts throughout the match. You can read more about Football Manager 2013 Touchline instructions here, or see preferences of the preferred shouts below in this article.

German Miroslav Klose spoke openly about the tiki-taka style of play and dominance when encountering Spain in the World Cup semi-final of 2010; “When we eventually did get it, we were so exhausted from chasing that we couldn’t do anything with it.”

Barcelona Tiki-taka team instructions
Barcelona Tiki-taka passing analysis

Key changes to the new and improved tactic

- More shots = more goals = more wins!
- Decreased the space between midfield and attack
- More crosses which creates more chances
- Better defensive balance = few easy goals let in
- Increased amount of key passes from central midfielders and striker
- Better pressure on the opposition team with central midfielders who works along each other

Top 5 Important Key Attributes for the Tiki-Taka playing style

Decisions – able to make the correct decision a number of times despite fatigue
Anticipation – able to predict player movement of teammates and have the vision to do the right pass or move
Composure – able to don’t get stressed out so he can do the right thing and use his intelligent to the benefit of the team
Positioning – able to position himself at the right place at the right time both to make himself available for a pass and to be able to press and intercept opposition teams ball movement.
Creativity – able to make the vital key pass or use his vision to see the best opportunities

Tactical player roles, player attributes and key elements

This tactic is all about team spirit and team performance. My aim is to encourage assists, goals and key passes from all the players, not only one or two from the attacking line. By creating this tactic, I’ve tried to replicate the tiki-taka system of 2010/11 and make the team play around their opponents with a short passing system, much movement and create numerous situations of outnumbering the opposition team in the build up; 2v1, 3v2 and so on.

Tactical Player roles – Player attributes

Goalkeeper defend; I prefer to use a traditional goalkeeper defend despite the high defensive line. You can read our guide on how to choose goalkeeper player roles; Goalkeeper defend vs Sweeper keeper.
I’ve tried the sweeper keeper defend, but conceded some horrific goals. I also feels the counter-attacking balls would make you prone to loose possession. It is also easier to buy a suitable traditional shot-stopper, rather than finding a suitable sweeper-keeper.
Version 2: Sweeper Keeper to support the defenders better, and interpret long balls from the opposition team. Average position is almost identical.

Wingbacks Support (DL) / Attack (DR); As I want defensive safety when the team hasn’t possession of the ball I want one of the wingbacks to stay in line with the central defenders. He will also support the midfield by trying to win possession and close down opposition wingers.
Both wingbacks has run from deep often, which makes them likely to overlap or aid the attacking line, if the opportunity arises and its safe. The wingbacks will cover large areas (between 11 to 15km per match). I’ve set the right wingback with attacking duty because of Daniel Alves’ excellent stamina, dribbling, good positioning, creativity and passing. You can change duty according to which of the player position who is best. The one wingback with attacking duty can be described as the third attacking threat, as his passing and overlaps gives width to the attacking line. The wingback attack will record a good amount of assists.
Version 2: Fullback Support (DL)

Central defenders; As compared to the style of Gerard Pique and Carles Puyol I’ve used ball playing defender and limited defender. As I put many players forward in attacking situations the ball playing defender player role is vital. He will aid the build-up with his creativity and passing. The limited defender will close down players before they enters the area.
Both central defenders will need excellent positioning, marking, tackling, in additional to creativity, passing and anticipation for the ball playing defender.

Ball winning midfielder; One of the key players in this tactic is the ball winning midfielder.
He could be regarded as the third defender as he will stay back all the time, mark opposite player and close down opposition players to try to win possession. Since the defensive line is high I’ve discovered that the ball winning midfielder acts like a playmaker against some opponents, as he will have the most passes and uses his creativity to build up attacking play. He will travel a lot of distance and covers the whole midfield. See analysis of his style of play; passing ratio and tackling ratio.

The two different playmakers, deep-lying and advanced; is one of the important keys in the passing completion ratio. They will look to operate in the spaces between the defense and midfield. Both players would need good stamina and work rate. They will pass trough balls often and close down players often to win the ball high up in the field. The advanced playmaker has excellent creativity and anticipation and will move into channels. He will look to arrive late in the area, but also run with the ball often to disturb the opposition defensive line. The deep-lying playmaker will run forward when the right opportunity arises and gives depth in the attacking line when required. He will also need good tackling and positioning. In my save he is the one with the most assists (18 assists).

Inside forwards; are the key to the attacking line. The AMR will look to cut inside to make space for the wingback. The AML will try to unsettle the opposition defender by moving into channels, often between the centerbacks and fullbacks. Both players will close down often to win possession and will require excellent passing, creativity and off the ball, as they will be likely to roam. This way it would be harder for the opposition full backs to mark them out of the game, as they are in constant movement.

Trequartista; Since the early days of life I’ve always loved attacking players who win possession, comes deep to get the ball just to carve out some excellent passes. The trequartista in this tactic will need good work rate and stamina in additional to good anticipation and off the ball. As he will look to be the main attacking threat it could be advantageous to pick a player with good creativity, long shots, dribbling and flair. He will be the first player who will try to win possession. He will also make space for his fellow attacking players and is as deadly with his amount of goals as his amount of assists.
Even though he will have lower passing completion ratio, he recorded 76 key passes in my save!

Important player attributes for the whole team:

When in possession: Technique, passing, first touch, creativity and off the ball is equally important as the main position player attributes.

Win possession: good stamina, work rate, team work, positioning, aggression, concentration and tackling.

Basic Mental Player attributes: decisions, anticipation, composure and creativity

Important Player Preferred Moves:

Ball Winning midfielder:
1) Stays back at all time; as he never will make forward runs
2) Plays short simple passes; as his job is to pass the ball to a more creative player it’s okey if he passes the ball to the foot of the teammate.

Deep-lying playmaker:
1) Dictates tempo; as this will override the team instruction of tempo, and he will decide according to situation the required tempo.
2) Comes deep to get the ball; to open up space for the advanced playmaker and others around him as he will move into space and closer to possession – dragging his marker out of position.

Advanced playmaker (in combination with the PPM’s of deep-lying playmaker):
1) Tries killer balls often; as you want him to play direct passes (through balls) when the opportunity arises.
2) Arrives late in the area (if you’re fortune enough to have this sort of player, as it can only be learned by tutoring); the player will hold back when attacking and arrive late in the box which drags his marker out of position and can create majority in the box. If the player runs into correct spaces he will be a major goal scoring threat.
3) Plays one-twos; as you might want to aid the tempo of passing when trying to work the ball into box. for the opposition team it could be difficult to defend against, as one player will pass and run towards the goal.
4) Move into channels; as you want him to be playable and in position to receive the ball no matter opposition player positioning. He will look to run in the space between the opposition players.

Inside Forward Right:
1) Cuts inside; as you’d like to create space for your attacking wingback. The player will run towards the opposite player from wide positions against the middle of the pitch for then to either pass through balls to an open player or shoot from outside the box.
2)Places shots; as you want his chances to be dangerous every time he takes a shot, by making the shot more unreachable for the goalkeeper. Will look to place the ball in the corner of the net rather than just blasting it against the goal.

Inside Forward Left:
1) Move into channels; as you want him to stay closer to the striker – narrowing the play, and give the opposition team more players to be aware of.

1) Comes deep to get the ball; to open up space for the advanced playmaker and others around him as he will move into space and closer to possession – dragging his marker out of position.
2) Plays one-twos; (See description for advanced playmaker)

To summerize – PPM’s who should be learned:
– Play short simple passing
– Look to pass rather than shoot
– Moves into channels
– Play through balls
– Dictate tempo
– Comes deep to get the ball
– Play one-twos
– Plays his way out of trouble

PPM’s who should be unlearned;
– Runs with ball often should be tried to unlearned for most of your players except your striker, as you want your team to pass their way through the opposition team; not do any solo runs, which increases the chances of loosing possession.
– Shoots from distance; for your attacking line, but could be advantageous if you have an advanced playmaker with excellent long shots player attribute.

– plays long range passes
– switch ball to flanks

NOTE! There could also be other important PPM’s, but I’ve only listed the most important PPM’s to increase the success of this possession tactic.

My Tactical preferences:

My version of Tiki-taka tactics may differ from others, as I want more balance in the team. By using three midfielders instead of 1+2 I wish to provide more attacking depth, so the MC might be the one with the most pass attempts. If you got the right player (with better tackling and marking attribute than Xavi) you could use your deep-lying playmaker in this position. But by using my preferred tactical setup it gives more alternatives when facing different opponents. The MCL (advanced playmaker) can be positioned as AMC (advanced playmaker) to exploit the gaps of the opposition team even more (often used against weaker teams), or you can easily change position of the (Ball winning midfielder) MC as anchor man (DM) when facing tougher opponents who uses an attacking midfielder AMC (for example against Real Madrid).

If you’re struggling to have good possession in the midfield, you could change position of the Trequartista from forward to AMC. This may give you a better link between the defensive zone and attacking zone. But I prefer to use him as an trequartista striker to put pressure on the opposition centerbacks, so they can’t advance with the ball high upfield. Read more about how to win possession and pressurize the opponent in this post.

One certain element about my best possession tactic, is that your players will need excellent fitness and physical attributes. With an average of around 10km in covered distance per match it is important that they can cover a lot of ground (high degree of stamina).

Attacking fluidity and roaming players who runs into space:
Attacking Tactical structure
Defensive structure – pressure the opponents into the box:
Defensive Tactical structure

Team (General) Training – How to increase match performance

Barcelona Tiki-taka Training scheduling

After a successful pre-season and the tactical familiarity levels has reached 100/100, I approach training by setting the scheduling bar to 20%. This gives you one day before next match to prepare for a specific match training. The players will get a rest after each match.

To increase the match performance in regard to attacking situations I like to set the match training to Attacking Movement by default, and can be compared to general training attacking.
But depending on the next opposition it is important to switch to other important match preparations, such as defending set-pieces if playing with Barcelona, or attacking set-pieces if you think your team will get a lot of chances from set-pieces.
In my save I conceded many goals from set-pieces, so it could be important to focus on this match preparation.

When setting up general training I think of attacking general training as the main focus, as it develops Crossing, Finishing, Long Shots, Passing, Creativity and Off the ball. I tend to switch training category to ball control, as it develops Dribbling, First Touch, Heading, Technique and Flair.

If your playing with a team unfamiliar with the playing style and formation it could be important to set general training to tactics, as it increases Anticipation, Composure, Concentration, Decisions and Team Work. This training category is often set to the youth team or reserve teams, as you want to develop their tactical knowledge and be fully prepared.

Preferred Touchline Instructions / Shouts

When assigning touchline instructions I always split my shouts in two different shout instructions; Tiki-Taka with control strategy and Tiki-Taka Direct with attacking strategy;

Tiki Taka – Full Control
This touchline instructions is all about slowing the tempo down, keep possession and look to frustrate the opponents by high amount of passes and be more patient as it lowers the through ball setting to sometimes. I always tend to use this shout no matter opponent in the first minutes of the match to analyze the opposition teams defensive line, width and player instructions.
Touchline instructions highlighted in blue is the preferred instructions to either create space or dominate space.

FM13 tactic shouts tiki taka

Tiki Taka – Attacking fluidity
This touchline instructions is all more about change of passing style – to be more directly. It will create more chances because of more space to roam and will also put more pressure on the opposition team by shorten the space to the opponent by pushing the team higher up. he playing style will be changed to higher tempo, more width and increased through ball settings, to get the ball in the final third.
I tend to use this shout instructions against better teams, but also against weaker teams when struggling to score goals. Of course the defensive line depends on the opposition team, but for shorter periods this has worked very well. Against stubborn defenses it may be advantageous to change the control third instructions from play through defense to run at defense, which might make your MCL to the man of match!

FM13 tactic shouts tiki taka attacking

You can see more examples of shouts and learn more about how to setup sets of touchline instructions in order to create a specific football philosophy in our Football Manager guide to touchline instructions.

How to win possession: Putting Pressure on the opponent

Barcelona Tiki-Taka defensive zones

As you can see from this image of defensive zones, the defensive part of play already begins with the striker and inside forwards. These three players, in additional to the attacking midfielder (MCL), will put pressure on the opponents defensive line and try to win the ball high up, which fits the words of Josep Guardiolas tactical preferences from the introduction to the tactic.

As the team will attack as a unity, it will equally defend as a unity. Behind the first defensive line you will have the wingbacks, ball winning midfielder and deep-lying playmaker with the help of the advanced playmaker to hunt the opposite players down, with the aim of winning the ball quickly back.

With this tactic, the players will need to cover a lot of distance. So with the help of the pitch size you can increase the chances of winning possession by setting the pitch dimension to minimum allowed; at Barcelona this would be 100 metres in length and 64 metres in width.

Read more about how to win possession in this Football Manager article about adapting your match tactics to regain possession quicker

Pressurizing opposition defense to make mistakes


The Barcelona Tiki-Taka Domination Extreme is a team tactic; it doesn’t always matter how good current ability the players have or their attributes and experience. In my latest match against Levante, I decided to let my most promising talents get a chance to improve their match experience. This was done partially because I’m 18 points ahead of Real Madrid in the league, and I wanted to rest my first team players ahead of the Champions League Semi-final against Manchester United three days later. Young players like Sergi Samper (18), Victor Brasil (19), Maximilian Meyer (17), Lucas Andersen (18), Anass Achahbar (19) and FM13 wonderkid Gerard Deulofeu got the chance to shine. And they DID!

This match also shows how excellent Martin Montoya can be in Football Manager 2013. See screenshot of him here.
You can see video of match highlights in the video below.

I guess this match result can show some of the potential in this tactic, and encourage you to use your best talents in not-important matches.

FC Barcelona – Levante, 4 – 0
FC Barcelona Levante 4-0

Videoes of style of play and best achievements

FC Barcelona – At. Madrid, 6-1
FC Barcelona Best Talents – Levante, 4-0 (Excellent Goal from Gerard Deulofeu)

More Records and Achievements

Goal Analysis
Tactical analysis of goals

Team Performance
FC Barcelona Records

Overall League Records
FC Barcelona La Liga Overall Records

You can see screenshots of Home Records and Away Records in these links. It’s quite impressive, especially the away records compared to how many injuries I’ve experienced. Also check out amount of conceded goals at away matches.

Pass completion ratio – La Liga
La Liga Pass Completion Ratio

Competitions won:
2012-13: La Liga – 17 points before R.Madrid
2012-13: UEFA Champions League – 3-2 against FC Bayern
2012-13: Spanish super Cup winners – 2-1 R.Madrid

Manager Awards
2012-13: Manager of the year (without winning a single manager of the month award)

FC Barcelona Alcoyano
FC Barcelona At. Madrid
FC Barcelona At. Madrid 6-1
FC Barcelona Chelsea
FC Barcelona Real Madrid
FC Barcelona Real Madrid 1-1
FC Barcelona Rayo 6-0
FC Barcelona Rayo Passing analysis
FC Barcelona Zaragoza
FC Barcelona Valencia
FC Barcelona Zenit
FC Barcelona Granada 7-0
FC Barcelona Manchester United 4-1
Passing analysis Manchester United

Final Notes!

I) As with the Total Football used at Ajax Amsterdam and Tiki-Taka at FC Barcelona, two clubs famous for their magnificent youth development, it is important to set focus on this playing style in the day to day team management. Setting the correct general training, take advantage of match preparations and to focus on individual training; preferred moves is as important as scouting and buying the “correct” players.

II) Finally I want to point out, that the foundation in this tactic is there to succeed, but it’s up to you to prove your managerial skills by employing “correct” touchline instructions and setup the “best” opposition instructions, to counter specific threats or opponents weaknesses. I’m also pretty sure there are other ways to take this tactic to another level, but with my knowledge of Football Manager, this is what I’ve come up with.

III) You should always play at least 10 to 15 competitive matches before you give your final judgement, as the players need to get familiar with the playing style.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I have in my saves, and we at “My Passion for Football Manager” encourage you to share your feedback on this Football Manager tactic.

Download FM13 Tactic; Barcelona Tiki Taka Domination Extreme 4-3-2-1

DownloadBarcelona Tiki Taka Domination v2 4-3-2-1

A new version of my best possession tactic. Released 09.08.2013 and works for the latest match engine; 13.3.3.
Highly Recommended!

DownloadBarcelona Tiki-Taka Domination v1 4-3-2-1

60000 downloads since April! The original version of Passion4FM’s Tiki Taka tactic.

How to import the tactic to Football Manager 2013?

1) Import the tactic to the specific folder: “Your Documents” > Sports Interactive > Football Manager 2013 > Tactics

2) Go to the Overview Panel of Team Tactics – choose Add TacticOptionsManage Tactics – Choose to open Archive Tactics and add Barcelona Tiki Taka Domination Extreme 4-3-2-1 by Passion4FM

This tactic is tailored for Barcelona and their players with specific PPM’s. You may experience different results with players and teams that do not fit this playing philosophy. If you are trying our Tiki-Taka playing philosophy for other teams, you might change some player roles and do some adjustments to the player instructions to make it work. The amount of possession might decrease if you change player roles. To make the Barcelona Tiki Taka domination tactic work, you will need to spend time working on Player preferred moves that suit the short passing playing style.

No matter how much you like my work, please do not copy images, text or steal the download without asking for permission! THANKS!