In-Match Illustrations & Screenshots – FM22 Ajax Tactics
Third Man Runs & Combination Play (Left Flank)
To illustrate how third man runs and combination play might look like in Football Manager 2022 we have a perfect example here.
Berghuis plays a supportive pass to Blind. Blind got different options. If he’s pressured he can play it straight back to Berghuis, to Alvarez, Martinez or make a progressive pass toward Gravenberch who moves into the space left by Berghuis, or make a direct pass towards Haller.
Once Berghuis has made the pass, he moves wide – dragging his marker towards the wide channel while both Gravenberch and Haller makes forward runs. These runs can be described as third man runs – aimed to cause chaos and pocket of spaces for a player to receive the ball in more advances areas of the pitch.
Ajax 2-3-5 Shape in the Final Third
I’ve mentioned it earlier but Erik ten Hag’s Ajax tactics transforms into a 2-3-5 shape in the final third. This is a great illustration of the positioning and movements in the 4-2-3-1 system when entering the final third.
Despite Tadic and Antony is instructed to Stay Wider in the build-up, they will tuck inside and play alongside the Target Forward in attacking phase. As this image shows, there will be four players taking up positions inside the box, while Gravenberch and Mazraoui will hold position on the edge of the penalty box – ready to block off counter attacking initiatives and breaks, or be a passing options (either via a lay off or a cross aimed at far post.
This screenshot also shows the 2-1 shape at the back as the two centre backs protects the half spaces while Alvarez holds position in the middle of the park (just like a single holding defensive midfielder would do).
Alvarez Role as Single holding Midfielder
The role of Alvarez will be very important in order to create a system that’s defensive solid.
Out of possession he will hold position in front of the centre backs along with the BBM.
When the team is building up play he needs to cover larger ground by moving sideways helping his teammates to have several passing options and outlets to bring the ball forward.
This illustration also shows how the fullback sits narrower to create an ideal passing angle from Martinez onto the left flank where the Inverted Winger holds a wide position.
PS! If we used an inverted wingback support for the right back in this system, he would take up a position approximately in the same area as the DLP-D. This is something we want to avoid to adhere to the rules of positional play.
Creating Several 10s / Moving Into Channels
Overloading vs Underloading
FM22 Ajax Tactics Performance & Statistics
The testing of this vertical Tiki-Taka tactic was carried out at Ajax and Anderlecht. In fact, I’ve tested it out since the first version of the FM22 ME. In a poor financial situation with a limited transfer and wage budget, a young Anderlecht squad managed to battle for the Belgium Jupiler Pro League title two seasons in a row. The first season, I was topping the league 6 points ahead of KRC Genk before the Championship Group took place and ended in 2nd despite the League table shows me 2 points ahead of KRC Genk.
With an average squad age of 22, the second season became a difficult test, especially coming up against Oostende’s Makhtar Gueye and Nick Bätzner and KRC Genk’s Paul Onuachu. Despite only conceding 25 goals but scoring the second most, I ended up in third place after two losses against Oostende and KRC Genk away in the last two matches of the season. The season wasn’t won there. With a few terrible draws against poorer opponents where I had enough chances and shots to win but which the opponent often snagged an easy equalizer.
The xG Table shows I should have scored 83.9 goals compared to the 77 goals we managed, and that I should have won the league if I had converted all the expected goals. Unfortunately, that’s not how it works in reality.
However, since this testing was merely done through a number of different versions of the match engine, I decided to a final test with the 22.4 ME with Ajax. Here’s the most important statistics from the Ajax save.
Through my tests, the replicated FM22 Erik ten Hag Ajax tactics have absolutely dominated the possession charts. The 60% possession and an average number of 843 passes completed per match at Anderlecht has been superseded by 63% possession and 936 passes completed per game at 93% pass completion with Ajax.
In fact, it was numerous times I encountered more than 1000 passes made!
Dusan Tadic was Ajax’s creative force by completing 100 key passes or 4.14 key passes per game. He topped the charts for most Chances Created (26), made the most assists (13) and ended up with an assists per 90 minutes at 0.54.
Not far away, Antony managed 12 assists with 72 key passes completed.
Pulling the strings was the player in Edson Alvarez’s role – making an average of 136 passes per game at 95% pass completion ratio.
The season ended with 88 goals scored, or 2.59 goals per game. We scored the most goals from corner (8) and direct free-kicks (4). We created the second most chances (152) and recorded the second most shots (616) but we topped the statistics for most shots on target (297) with a shots on target ratio at 48%.
At the other end, we had the lowest shots against in the league with 254 shots against. Only 105 of those shots against were on target. Since we dominated the opposition in their own half, it meant we didn’t need to make lots of blocks or interceptions. At the same time, we tops the chart for the least number of possession lost with 2823 meaning there are less turnover of possession to the other team which goes along with our great records of keeping possession over a longer period of time.
We were also the team who made the least number of tackles (291) and made the least number of fouls (318). Perhaps, if we had been a bit more forceful and combative out of possession we would have managed to reduce some of the goals against as we were frequently hit by counters and the opponent scored lots of goals where they only made 4-8 shots on target. In fact the feeling I have after the 22.4 ME is that the opponent scores ‘easy’ goals more often than my team and I need to fight every ball over the line as the opponent is better at blocking shots, anticipating runs and intercepting moves. At times, it’s like player’s defensive positioning and awareness of ball paths is below par.
Nevertheless, I hope you’ll enjoy my replication of Erik ten Hag’s Ajax tactics and that you’ll do as good and perhaps better than me to win titles and glory.
Thanks for reading! Stay tune for the next piece! This time, I promise it won’t be as long wait!