Football Manager Pressing Styles; Counterpressing, 6-second Rule + More
Welcome to one of Ryan Tank article, where he will guide you through how to utilize pressing and counterpressing in Football Manager. This guide is a great follow up to how to create space and chances by using wide players.
Firstly, let me define what pressing is from my point of view. Pressing basically is an attempt to steal the ball from the opponent or an attempt to force opponents to make mistake. Forcing mistakes from your opponents able you to exploit gaps and spaces to launch counter attacks or create better chances, by make use of them.
The concept of pressing in football is more popular in the era of modern football. From time to time, the development of pressing concept undergone many changes (most notably is in its intensity). You see pressing since the era of AC Milan; Arrigo Sacchi with his Corto Streto, Borussia Dortmund; Jurgen Klopp with Gegenpressing (Counterpressing), Barcelona; Pep Guardiola with the 6 second rule, or Germany; Joachim Low era, and, of course, Marcelo Bielsa.
Pressing is one of the most lethal tools in modern football. Pressing combined with fast attack, is a very effective combination. Once your team win the ball, as that soon you can launch your attack. AC Milan was known with their pressing, Barcelona with their Guardiola’s 6 second rule, Dortmund with the Klopp’s high intensity pressing concept. Modern football evolved into a form where Pressing Play find its “home”.
Many Pressing concepts has been shown by the world class Managers, one of the most famous is the “6 second rule” of Pep Guardiola’s. A concept with its main aim, getting back the control of the ball within the shortest time (after losing the ball). Within 6 seconds, players are expected to form a Pressing Formation. Press the ball carrier by the closest player(s), “waiting” for the moment when the opponent makes mistake, so, team are able to regain possession, and launch an unexpected attack. If you see the match of la Liga 2008-2009, when Barca 4-0 Valencia, or, Barca 3-1 Manchester United (UCL Final 2011), these were the matches where Pressing Play are perfectly executed.
By Klopp, this concept is “enhanced” (it may be more appropriate if I call it “extremed”). Klopp says, the best time to get the ball back is when the team lose the ball, because, at that same time the opponents begin to think, where to direc the ball or where to move. Klopp wants, when the boys lose the ball, his 1 to 3 players nearby do quick pressing (combined with body charge or hard tackle is allowed), with one main goal, winning the ball back in the shortest time and launch direct counter-attack, as soon as possible. The first goal of Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Dortmund against Arsenal (UCL 2013), is a good example of how counterpressing blow the Arsenal defensive line by its high block pressing game.
1.1. See the narrow Dortmund players positioning. Shortly after losing the ball, Reus and Lewandowski directly Closed Down Aaron Ramsey, robbed then forwarded it to Henrik Mkhitaryan who then scored the opener.
Gegenpressing. That’s how Klopp calls it. Or, Counterpressing, in English. There are 2 main ideas in terms of pressing; pressurizing the opponents and Counter (attack) in the shortest time. An idea to press the enemy as soon as the team lose the ball, get the ball back, and attack with minimum number of touches. People call it Vollgasveranstaltungen!! Which roughly means High Tempo with win or die spirit (as the soul) emphasized on Passing, Speed, Attacking and Closing Down.
So, how can we apply gegenpressing in Football Manager? Let’s see it together.
Pressing once again is a very effective weapon. And so help you winning your match. This is a fact, both in real and Football Manager (FM). In FM, intense pressing can nervous your opponent. Pressing forces them making mistake. Pressing can be implemented on Attack or Defense.
Before continuing with deeper discussion of how we can implement Pressing in FM, you need to realize, that, Pressing is also like another tactic. Pressing requires criteria to make sure it goes well complying the plan.
To run Pressing play, you need players with appropriate Attributes. With
appropriate Attributes, pressing more leverage is applied. This is absolute. Because players are human being who build the system foundation who are running at the same time. Team with Determination, Hard work, Intelligence, and Stamina, are able to work collectively and ideally for High Intensity Pressing Play. Once again, with the appropriate Attribute, Pressing will reach its peak performance.
To press your opposition, you need to do so as a unit play. This must be understood properly. It’s not only because Football is a collective sport. But more than that, Pressing which is done as a comprehensive unit will create enormous pressure on the opponent. Pressing will reach the level where the opponent feel as there is no room for breathing or
just take a deep breath for a moment. That’s the ideal Pressing. There are system and players.
Let’s look at some screen shots from my save. I hope you get the early pictures, of how Pressing works and how it should be.
2.1. Look at the Dortmund high defensive block deep into the Real Madrid’s own area. The yellow arrows are the direction of pressing. In this match, I use Asymmetric shape (MR and AML). The combination of the Asymmetric shape + the pressing play, forces the goalkeeper of Madrid to direct the ball to their left side, where Ousmane is positioned deeper at his starting point. But … See the 2nd and the 3rd SS below.
2.2. Once Luka Glumac received the ball, Ousmane amazingly uses his speed to press him. See the two other 2 pressing possibilities from Romelu Lukaku and Ivan Kujevic.
2.3. Booom …. Ousmane took over the ball from Glumac.
So, that’s one simple example of how pressing and speed could put your opponent into much troubles. You just have got to make sure to utilise the pressing with fast counter-attack, in order to kill your opponent as soon as possible. That’s how you use the offensive pressing concept to the right. That is how you ideally use the pressing in the attacking transition.
Let’s take a look at the pictures below. These are the images which show you how pressing can also protect your defensive line.
3.1. Bakkali the MR of Madrid tries exploitating left side of Dortmund Defense. There are Balanta and Benito track him back. Shortly, the Dortmund duo keep the space tight, Bakkali then holds up the ball to seek another option.
3.2 Bakkali passes the ball to Meyer (RB) who made “Run From Deep”. When Meyer tried to get the ball into the penalty box, this is what Dortmund players quickly do, Barreau, Oikonomopoulos, Benito, and Balanta make simultaneous movements (Pressing shape) to terminate Meyer in the shortest time. See the yellow arrows, the indications of the pressing direction. No space to go for Madrid players.
3.3. There is no place for moving and no time for thinking. Four players surround the mediocre Meyer. See the tightness shape of Dortmund player. Left no space.
4.1. in this occassion, Meyer receives the ball deep in the Defense of Madrid. Dortmund players quickly press the Madrids. But…. wait, take notice on Meyer, who comes deep to get the ball. he receives no pressure. Really? You should see the image below.
4.2. As soon as Mayer received the GK distribution, Jonas Hoffman presses him immediately. Followed by the movements from another players of Madrid who are trying to offer passing options for Meyer. But, my players have anticipated it. Hoffman getting closer and closer to Meyer.
4.3. Meyer doesn’t have many options, as all Madrid players are being pressurized tightly. So, just to be safe (at least according to Meyer), he passes the ball into the empty space near the middle. The really empty space. Haha
4.4. Gabriel Barbosa, the Madrid striker drops deep and tries to pick up the ball, but, Oikonomospoulos has anticipated it. The ball intercepted. In very short time, Dortmund regain possession.
An effective high intensity pressing forces the opposition to do unplanned actions, as there is no much option to choose caused by the intense pressing.
So, guys, you’ve seen the importance of Pressing play for both Defense and Attack, in Football Manager. An effective pressing is a deadly weapon for you. From the images I showed above, you would think, “wow, I should implement Pressing Play for my side”. Or, “pressing can help me win the match”. That’s true. Yes. That’s completely true. But, bros, there is a “but”. As I said above, Pressing is an idea, it’s a concept, which basically an effort to steal the ball from the opposition or force your enemy to make mistake. An ideal pressing is, a pressing which is created by a system, by a unit. This is the most interesting part of Pressing play in Football Manager. The interesting part, where a lot of difficulties also being the part of it. But, that doesn’t mean Pressing is impossible to implement. Of course, as you’ve seen from what I showed above, you can see how my players press and how lethal the pressing play is. And, how it becomes very usefull for your tactical aspect.
To maximize Pressing Play, you need to attack. By attacking, your defensive line will naturally be high, which forces your opposition trapped in their own area. When you press high up the pitch, your opponents are forced to play the ball in their defense and they much possibly make some unnecessary actions, which may become mistakes and benefit your team. By pressing your opponent in their own defense is also giving you huge opportunity to get closer to the goalkeeper, which means you got more opportunities to launch direct-fast attack to the Goalie.
If you press in one un-comprehensive unit, Pressing is no more than nonsense. It’s just like chocolate shit-flavoured. To make sure the pressing is a chocolate in real chocolate flavoured, you have to press as a unit. As a team. So, it make sense if you choose Very Fluid or Fluid Philosophy for the basic of your pressing concept. As it would allow your players to be more flexible in terms of move, to be more universal in their role, being a cohesive unit, which all sounds to be very ideal for pressing play.
On the other hand, you need to make sure, you are instructing your players to play in Highly-Aggressive manner, such as, High Tempo, Hassle Opponent, Fast Passing Play, and all things in terms of Highly-Aggressive Play. Make sure that your players press your opponent more and more.
I manage to play this strategy after 5-6 season save. At that time, my Team Reputation has already been high level (to find out how high your Reputation, you can see the inbox message when the odds released for the order of the Champions League winner, if you are ranked as the number one, that is the time when your team are at the top level of Reputation). I got everything at that time. I have Defenders with superb combination of Attacking Attributes. I got “wrestlers” Midfielders with Wesley Sneijder’s intelligence. I have Attacking Midfielders with amazing ability of Play Making and Defensive capability of Daniel de Rossi. And, I have Striker with strong-big body, quick, and capable to help the Defensive Line and press the opposition Defenders as well.
This is why my pressing play runs so fluidly. This dares me to play highly intensity Pressing tactic. And, it takes many years for me to play such pressing play. After 6 years I finally able to win the UCL. Pressing Play really helps me making it happens. I may be too paranoid to avoid high intensity pressing play and wait too many years to play it. Hahaha. I don’t know.
But, without a player of the caliber of Dortmund players as I have in my save, you can still apply this tactic for your team. The differences, are, (1) you need more time before your players really familiar with
pressing concept, (2) with difference caliber of players you will get difference level of pressing play, better player Attributes are better for pressing play.
Let’s see how pressing performes in my TSV 1860 Munich, in Germany Second Division.
5. See my the positioning (1860 Light Blue shirt). By seeing the positioning, you can evaluate whether the High D-Line Pressing you had planned has been well implemented by your players.
6.1. Pressing high up the field. See the player positioning of TSV 1860 Munich. This is a good initial indication for Pressing Play.
6.2 My players are pressing. However, the pressing intensity and consistency have not fully successfully put the Paderborn players in the situation of “no where to run and breath”. As you can see, Strohdiek
manages to find way to get out of pressure.
6.3. Ziegler tries to escape from the pressure, he “Run with Ball”. See how Bierofka out of his position. This is what I say, my players are pressing but its effectiveness has not reached the maximum level. Stahl is close to Ziegler, he then presses Ziegler in one on one situation. Here you will see Gegenpressing utilized in Football Manager.
6.4. Stahl presses Ziegler. Stahl then takes control of the ball. See the positioning of Osako. He is free. In Gegenpressing concept, players are required to do the pressing as soon as possible, get the ball as quickly as possible, and do a counter-attack as soon as possible. Jurgen Klopp calls it Heavy Metal style of play. Immediately after rob the ball, Stahl forwards it to the free Osako.
6.5. Gegenpressing: Stahl takes control in the enemy defense, as soon as possible, after that, he moves the ball forward, to Osako. Osako is free to one on one with the opposition keeper. Clear Cut Chance (CCC) is there.
6.6 How did he manage to miss that? This is what I call Gegenpressing not perfectly run. I imagine, in this moment, when Lewandowski or Mohemmed Ousmane (from my Dortmund save) in the position of Osako, it might be
different end result.
This is why you have to watch the game (Comprehensively or Full). No other way. You have to monitor, analyze and evaluate. In this match (TSV 1860 Munich) at home I lost 0-1. From a lot of occasions, I can see Gegenpressing has been tried to be implemented by my players, although the end result is still far from expectation. What does it mean? It means, I have to give my players more time to fit with this concept, while I myself have to find the right set up to accommodate it into our play.