Last time, we did an experiment where we had the Bielsa Tactic do its work for England at the World Cup which saw the national side lift the cup in great fashion!
Today is a different type of experiment. This time I’ve picked what some of you might reckon to be the best manager in the world Pep Guardiola to manage USA. To make this FM22 Experiment as real as possible I will implement my interpretation of Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City tactic for the USA.
The key reason behind the idea was the fact that the USA is not exactly a team that anyone is expecting to progress very far in the competition, however, do have some quality players. Therefore, it is a team that is quietly sat under the radar & could cause some type of upset, if they approach things the right way and use Pep’s style of play, will be something of interest for sure!
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Pep Guardiola’s 4-3-3 Tactic (Man City Recreation)
Player Roles of Pep Guardiola’s 4-3-3 Tactic
So, Pep Guardiola uses the above typical 4-3-3 formation. I will break down why this isn’t your typical 4-3-3 by position.
SK – The keeper will look to come outside of his area and be available for a pass back if required as well as starting off the play. The keeper will be comfortable with the ball at his feet and have good distribution attributes, especially passing. In-game, he may roll this out to the centre backs but can also have the ability to spray a ball forward for a counter if required.
BDP – These centre backs are not rushing about, they will calmly get the ball and pass it about and expect to take the ball up the pitch before making the next pass, rather than just hoof it up as we see with some teams. Typically, these guys will start the play and look to play some nice patterns and also be high up the pitch, instead of just sitting back. They will also be slightly wider too as they will have a DM in front to protect them, who can just be in front when required, another player to pass to before making further movement up the field.
IWBs – These 2 positions are mainly in place to provide extra support & overloads in the central areas. This is another option for a pass and move type of play. As these players come more narrow and offer support, they also can drive up the pitch and provide extra support on the attack. Finally, as these positions are sat narrow, the team rotation allows the midfielders to move into wide spaces and stretch the pitch, which will leave gaps in the opposition’s line.
DM – This position holds responsibility. The main role is to sit and protect the backline, whilst the team make rotational movements all over. The key job is to sit in and be ready to intercept when teams try and come on the attack and ensure the 2 centre backs are not left unprotected. Then, when moving forward, this position will look to pass the ball off and this won’t be hard with the number of options that will be presented ahead of the pitch. A lot of the time, the ball is being played through the centre, so this player will look to be on the ball quite often, either in a defensive position or attacking.
CM – This position, will look to join in on the action and make late runs into the box. We see this with Gundogan, who drifts forward and then ends up being in a position when the attack is building. This is one of many positions in the midfield, which is an option to make something happen or even score. Thanks to the DM, this position has the freedom of drifting forward and trusting the player behind to do its job.
MEZ – This position is one of my favourites. This player, will find space or move into space to create something special. It will look to drift wide and find openings, just how De Bruyne does for City currently. Another position, that will find themselves in the box or as another option to get a shot off on goal. The MEZ is also key in confusing the opposition backline, especially with all the rotational movements going on, which again creates openings and opportunities to strike.
APS – I could have gone with Wingers however, I felt APs were more suited for this particular tactic. The reason being is because of the rotational movement and coming inside to create openings. This position can sit out wide but also roam which gives the opposition, even more, to think about. The AP scenario is when City use the likes of Foden/Grealish out wide, rather than Sterling or Mahrez.
F9 – This position may not get much credit but is one of the key factors in why the overall system does so well. Its main duty is to drag the opposition central defenders so, all the attacking midfielders as mentioned can get in behind and cause chaos. This position will look to score and be positive but when it comes to the attack building, this player will find ways to drag defenders all over and also be an option for a pass during the attacking movement phase.
Examples of how effective the system is:
Example A – The IWB (Bello) has the ball in the central area and the MEZ (Aaronson) can be seen drifting wider and going into the space between the opposition LB/CB. The number 8 which is the F9 makes things even more complicated by trying to drag out the CB number 12, which gives the MEZ a clear chance through on goal.
Example B – The F9 (Dike) in this case, has dragged out the centre half and as we can see, now is giving the other attacking players to make runs in behind and look to outnumber the opposition.
Example C – (Dest) the IWB has been given a clear corridor to make a clean pass, thanks to all the rotational movements by the other players. As we can see the MEZ (Aaronson) has already broken for a run forward and is ready to get on the end of that (Dest) pass which will split the opposition.
Now, for what matters. Looks like, the tactic did some damage in the group stages and even gave Messi’s Argentina a torrid time. Bearing in mind, this is with a side that is one of the lowest-ranked in the competition, I think it worked very well. Croatia was too strong in the knockout phases and scored on the counter in the final moments. Speaking of counters, this tactic has its pluses as we can see but the one big downside is being caught on counter attacks by the opposition, so I do suggest your backline is a strong one.
Now, let’s get into some statistical data on how effective the tactic was in the cup.
- Avg Shots On Goal: 19 per game
- Avg Possession: 59% Per game (3rd in the competition)
- Avg Xg: 2 Per game
- Passing completion ratio: 91% (5th in the competition)
As we can see above, a lot of the play comes through the middle of the park. Even the average positions are showing that players are coming in a lot more which makes the short passing set within the tactics a thing. The above action zone was from the Argentina game where the USA won 4-0. As many goals were scored, the play was actually mostly in the middle and in play, this is when the rotational movements were taking place and dragging out the opposition’s backline to create spaces.
I really enjoyed using this tactic and creating this, although very possession-based play isn’t something I am too excited about. It was more to do with the movement of the team, the chances it creates & how effective it can be when moving forward. It also, benefited well against teams who like to press as the team essentially just passed it around them and broke the press. As mentioned, the main downside is the fact it can be easy to get caught on the break if not careful. My suggestion is to use this with a top team that has solid, reliable players for the back 4 incl the DM.
If you wish to use my interpretation of Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City tactic in your current or new save, click the link below!
Thanks for reading through this write-up today, I really enjoyed this experiment! Please do let us know if you have a special request on a certain tactic and will look into this.
FM GEGEN (Dhillon)
The photo of Pep Guardiola is taken by Tsutomu Takasu.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.