Download FM15 Possession Tactic Carlo Ancelottis 4-4-2 System
Hello and welcome to yet another great Football Manager 2015 Tactic from Passion4FM. Are you struggling to win games? Do you want your teams to play brilliant attacking football, while being very solid defensively? Look no further, because you’ve found the tactic for it! Assemble a team of technically proficient players, and dominate your opponents.
For our first published Football Manager 2015 Tactic, we give you the system Carlo Ancelotti uses with Real Madrid. You’re all familiar with the brilliance that the current Champions League holders can produce on the football pitch, and I believe I’ve managed to replicate this. You will see high possession ratings, while not playing pointless passes. The team will go forward with purpose, and be dangerous both on the counter as well as in organised attack. Your team will create lots of chances, and shot opportunities.
Carlo Ancelottis 4-4-2 Formation
We play, what on paper looks like a 4-4-2, which it will be when defending, but will move into a 4-3-3/4-4-2 hybrid when in possession. This helps to give you numbers in midfield, as well as being difficult for opponents to mark and predict. In defence we hold a standard defensive line, as we don’t push up too high, but neither do we sit too deep. This allows our defenders to adapt fluidly to what is happening on the pitch. Our fullbacks will aggressively push up to create width, and will often serve as wingers in the tactic.
The midfield consists of four playmaking roles. The deep lying playmaker will be the one to control the tempo, and be the main passer in the team, also providing good defensive cover when needed. His partner in the centre is the roaming playmaker, who will be the link between our midfield and attack. On the left flank, we have the new role in FM15 – wide playmaker. This player will cover the flank when in defence, but create a 3-man midfield when in possession. On the opposite flank, we have a advanced playmaker, who will act as a winger, inside forward, and a playmaker in one. In attack we have a partnership of a deep-lying forward, who will serve as a link and a goalscoring threat, and a complete forward who is given the task to be our main goalscoring threat.
The Playing Style
First of all, it’s important to point out that this playing style is demanding. It requires technically proficient players, who will be able to pass the ball quickly and purposefully. That is not to say it won’t work in the lower leagues. The point is that it won’t work with every player. You will have to tailor your team to the tactics needs, and find the players you feel are working. Some players might work in some roles, if you don’t have other options, but it is in general a good rule of thumb to acquire players you feel will suit your system.
You can see Toni Kroos, the DLP and the main passer situated in the middle of the field. He has full overview of the pitch, and has lots of time and options to spot a good pass. You can see the ML coming inside from his flank, making himself available and in lots of space. Both fullbacks begin to push up, while the rest of the midfield and attack moves around to find space for themselves, drawing to themselves a lot of opposition players which creates more space in other areas
With that said, let’s describe how we want to play. The formation and player roles are set up in a way to give your players lots of passing options. We do not play tiki-taka, but we don’t launch the ball long relentlessly. Instead, the team will be flexible in how to score goals. This gives you a better opportunity to exploit certain weak spots in your opponents defence, as well as make you less predictable. In general, we prefer shorter passing, but we aren’t limited to them. You will see dominance in possession though, usually around 65%.
Here, we lose the ball just outside of the opposition penalty area. The pressure is then instantly applied on the man on the ball (here by our DLP and RPM marked in red). Here, Fletcher has 3 passing options marked by the numbers. Number 1 and 2 are however marked by our strikers. The only sensible option is passing long to number 3. Fletcher buckles under the pressure though. Our CMs force him into hoofing the ball long, which our centre back calmly intercepts. We have possession again!
This isn’t pointless possession though. We create loads of chances, and usually have lots and lots of shots on goal. The players will go forward in numbers, and instantly try to win the ball back, if they lose it. If the opposition manages to keep hold of the ball, we calmly revert to our 4-4-2 defensive shape. We press the opposition as a unit, making it easier for opponents to make a mistake, and for us to win back possession.
Modric now on the ball, creates a 4-3-3, coming in from his ML position. This movement forces one of the defenders to push out to close him down, leaving Cristiano Ronaldo free to run into the space behind him, where the pass is played
You will notice that the shape and player movement allows us very diverse passing options. The player in possession, usually one of the CMs, will have options to play it forward, or out to the flanks. We will constantly make our opposition chase the ball, and force them to reorganize, as we move the ball around, until an opening presents itself. Because of the movement from our players out of their designated positions, it will create gaps, and break an organized defence.
The two strikers prevent the ball from being played back to the centre backs. They will also join the pressing if the opposition CMs have the ball. Everywhere else you see 1v1 situations, and a solid defensive shape
In defence, you will play a solid two banks of four, with the midfield responsible for applying the pressure and the last line of defense covering, and putting in tackles where needed. Now, this is not to say you will have a defence that doesn’t let in goals. You will always concede at some points, and misplaced passes and mistakes by your own players will usually leave you exposed. But the defensive play overall is very solid, and well balanced with the offense.
The Player Roles
As mentioned before, you will require certain types of players to make this tactic click. I’m sure you’ve watched Real Madrid play under Ancelotti, or AC Milan when he was the manager there. The players there are a good rule of thumb, when thinking about what players might work well in this tactic. Of course, it can be difficult to have players of that calibre in your ranks, but it’s much easier than it sounds. Below, I will quickly describe what you should look at in each role, and some players who fit the description. This should give you an idea of what the player should be able to do. In general you should look for your players to have good ratings for decisions, passing, composure, teamwork, work rate and other attributes that create a good unit.
The goalkeeper will be your standard shot stopper. We do not use a sweeper keeper, so you do not have to put an emphasis on technical attributes or his ability to pass. It is, of course, a bonus if he can hit the ball straight but not something you need to be concerned about. Your man in goal should have good ratings for all the attributes that make up a good keeper. For a good overview of what you should look for read this article.
Nothing fancy here either. Just get as good central defenders as you can. The more complete they are, the better. They’re not set as Ball Playing Defenders, because I want them to calmly distribute the ball to the midfield(they will still pass it long if the opportunity is there). Remember to look at their attributes when deciding which ones you want to play. Short, quick defenders will need anticipation to compensate their lack of height, while the big, slow ones will have to compensate with their positioning. Attributes to look for: tackling, heading, marking, strength, jumping reach, positioning, anticipation, bravery, composure, concentration. Player types to consider: Inigo Martinez, Dede, John Stones.
Both of the fullbacks are set on attacking duty. They will have the major responsibility to create the width in the tactic. With their desire to run up and down the field, they will need to be hard working and have good stamina. Because they will occupy most of the time in the opponents half, they should have attributes that will allow them to be a threat. This will be passing, pace/acceleration, dribbling and crossing. In defence look for attributes like positioning, anticipation, marking and tackling. Sometimes you can compensate lack of dribbling skills on a fullback with good off the ball/work rate or acceleration/pace. Look for players like: Cesar Azpilicueta, Gino Peruzzi or Ben Davies.
The introduction of this role in this years’ edition of Football Manager opens up loads of new tactical options for us. The role is very flexible, and allows for a variety of new tricks. In this system, he will create a 4-4-2 in defence and 4-3-3 in attack (basically what Angel Di Maria did last season). This player will create a good link between the midfield and attack, as he positions himself in between those two lines. His movement off the ball creates confusion for the oppositon, and usually allows him to be in lots of open space. He will often find himself in dangerous positions for the opposition. To allow him to perform, he will need attributes like passing, vision, composure, decisions, teamwork, work rate, stamina, dribbling, first touch and anticipation. Positioning and tackling are nice bonuses. Player types to look for: Koke, Luka Modric, Angel Di Maria.
Deep Lying Playmaker
This is the holding player in your midfield. He will usuall stay deep, but gradually join the attack as an extra passing option when the situation is risk-free. More often than not, he will come out as your main passer, both in passing accuracy and amount of passes. This player is important, as he dictates the play, and adds security and composure to the pace of the game. You will, alot of times, notice him in the centre of the pitch, distributing the ball as he thinks is best. In defence he will join the pressing and win back the ball where possible. Because of that, look for a player who is skilled at passing the ball, but also at defending and winning the ball back. Look for players with good ratings for passing, tackling, composure, decisions, concentration, teamwork, work rate, stamina, anticipation, positioning, first touch and vision. Players like Kevin Strootman, Arturo Vidal or Jordan Henderson are good examples.
Another new role introduced this year! This player is the more creative version of the Box-to-Box midfielder. He does less in defence(though not little), and contributes much more to build up and transition. He is patient with the ball, and moves around to offer himself as a passing option. Because of this, he will not score often, but should grab plenty of assists. Along with his partner in central midfield, he will attempt to control the match. This player will run from one end of the pitch to the other and his dynamism and superior technical skill will allow to play through the opposition. Because this player role requires a well rounded player, you should look for a lot of attributes, to make him as complete as possible. Look for players with attributes for dribbling, technique, passing, tackling, anticipation, decisions, composure, vision, work rate, stamina, teamwork, first touch, off the ball and flair. Examples of such players can be: Paul Pogba, David Silva or Leon Goretzka.
Perhaps one of the most popular roles in FM, and for good reason. The role offers lots of possibilities and different variations. In this tactic, the player positioned here will act as a hybrid between a winger and an inside forward. He will score alot and assist alot. He will often find himself and lots of space and have options to cut inside or run down the wing to put a cross in. His partnership with the fullback will be very evident here, as they exchange passes often. This player will also help out in defence, tracking back opposition fullbacks. For him to play well, he will need good ratings for dribbling, technique, first touch, passing, vision, anticipation, decisions, teamwork, composure and flair. Look for players like Eden Hazard, Ross Barkley or Kevin De Bruyne.
Your main goalscorer. He is given lots of creative freedom, to use his ability where he thinks it’s most needed. This is a complete striker, who will be responsible for several phases of the game. He will drift to the flanks, drop deep and sit in the box, depending on what the situation requires. This role represents Cristiano Ronaldo, but it is fairly obvious you will not find a lot of players like him. Instead just focus on attributes that will allow him to be as complete a striker as possible. As such, he will require both physicalily, some speed and technique. Look for players with good attributes for first touch, finishing, dribbling, passing, technique, composure, off the ball, teamwork, strength and pace/acceleration. In addition it’s a good idea if he’s tall, so he can be an aerial threat. It’s often easier to find players like this than you might think. Good examples are Romelu Lukaku, Robert Lewandowski or Diego Costa.
Deep Lying Forward
This player will help to link the midfield and attack, as the team prepares to attack the final third with purpose. He will drop deep and act as a number 10 for your team. This movement will create confusion for the opposition who will have to choose between following him and leaving their position or ignoring is movement and allowing him space and time on the ball. This player will also score goals and notch up assists. He will need good attributes for first touch, dribbling, finishing, passing, decisions, composure, technique and teamwork. Good bonus attributes are strength and vision. Look for players like Domenico Berardi, Wilfired Bony or Gabriel Barbosa.
The training for the team is fairly straightforward.
Pre-season: Fitness – Very High. Match prep: 50% Match Tactics or Teamwork if fully fluid. No rest before or after matches.
During season: Balanced – Average. Match prep: 30% Defensive Positioning. Rest before and after matches.
I consider the pre-season to end one week before the first competitive matches. It might be a good idea to switch to the training you’ll use during the season then.
I train my players individually according to what I believe will develop them best.
Goalkeeper – Sweeper Keeper (all duties)
Central Defenders – Ball Playing Defender (all duties)
Fullbacks – Full Back (all duties)
Wide Playmaker – Wide Playmaker (all duties)
Deep Lying Playmaker – Box-to-Box Midfielder or Roaming Playmaker (depends on where he needs to improve)
Roaming Playmaker – Roaming Playmaker
Advanced Playmaker – Advanced Playmaker or Complete Forward if possible (all duties)
Complete Forward – Complete Forward (all duties)
Deep Lying Forward – Complete Forward (all duties)
When it comes to player preferred moves (PPMs), I don’t train them in anything particular. Usually I will train quick players with poor dribbling to knock the ball past their opponents etc. In general, PPMs that will help them be better players. Also, I try to unlearn PPMs I think might interrupt with the tactic, such as shoots from distance, stops play or holds up ball. Your own judgement should be enough here.
These are very hard to test the effect of. You can try not using any, or using your assistant manager or another staff member for help. You can also use what I’ve noticed helps, but nothing is certain. Here is what I use, see if it makes it work better or not.
So now that you did some reading, you’re probably interested in how the tactic performs. It has given me lots of success with various teams, and I’ve won everything in the full season I’ve tested this tactic with Real Madrid. Now, you might say ”oh, not that difficult to play with Real Madrid”, and I agree. I’ve tested the tactic with several teams at different levels and it performs very well. With the right players, you will get results. The play is often beautiful and satisfying. So, without further ado – here are some results.
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