Time to Entertain (4-2-3-1)

As part of my Tenerife save I’ve wanted to develop a positive brand of football and ingrain it in the club, instill it in the players, have it demanded of us by the fans. The basis of this tactic will be to entertain and enthrall.

Uncertainties in the transfer market delayed the fruition of this ideology during my first pre-season. In Part 1 of my Santa Cruz de Tenerife series I touched on the problems had with player contracts and signings, which meant that we started the season using tactics of familiarity for the existing squad. As we approach the January transfer window it’s time for that to change. I’m going to begin phasing in how I want the team to play long term, with a recruitment process for that ideology kicking in effective immediately.

Entertainment Value

Jurgen Klopp shows his passion

Jurgen Klopp shows his passion

There’s playing to win and there’s playing to entertain, both are desirable (and the holy grail when combined) but they can’t always go together hand in hand. I want to focus on entertainment first and foremost and hope that leads to positive results by virtue. So what makes for entertaining football (let me know your opinion in the comments below)? There’s no right or wrong answer here, it’s a perceptual opinion, we all have different ideas on how the beautiful game should be played. Mine is that you should be direct and purposeful.

The style of play I’m looking to develop is not an original idea, it’s based around the concept of pressing, with Jurgen Klopp’s philosophy of ‘gegenpressing’ (or counter-pressing as its better known) the model that excites me most. He refers to it as ‘full throttle football’.

The idea of counter pressing is actually quite simple – when the opposition has just lost possession of the ball (especially after an attempted counter attack) they’re at their most vulnerable. The sooner you can exploit that vulnerability whilst the opposition is disorganised, the more likely you are to score. This style of football has been written about in great detail many times over so I don’t want to go into a heavily detailed analysis, but if you’re interested in knowing more I’d recommend this post on Counter-Pressing In FM16 by Strikerless (a fellow FM blogger), which covers it thoroughly with some excellent analysis.

Formation and Instructions

Here are a couple of examples of Jurgen Klopp’s favored formation in effect for both Dortmund and Liverpool. There are a couple of slight differences but generally speaking it’s the same setup. Klopp see’s 4-2-3-1 as the perfect formation for counter pressing.

Jurgen Klopp’s use of the 4-2-3-1 formation with counter pressing

This is how I want us to setup too. I want:

  • To be compact (so we can hunt the ball down in packs)
  • To flurry forwards when we win the ball back and the opponents are disorganised
  • A ball winner in the middle of the field to reduce the opponents rotation options
  • My strikers and advanced midfielders to defend as well as attack, by pressing
  • To keep possession but use it purposefully
  • Play high-tempo, attacking football

The 4-2-3-1 formation looks ideal for this so why reinvent a proven system? There’ll be some tweaks and adjustments I’m sure, but the nucleus and core principles will likely remain consistent. I’m not going to start from scratch with team instructions either. I referred to Strikerless’ blog earlier and I can’t argue with his views on the perfect marriage between instructions and counter pressing. I’ll be using his recommended instructions to start with, see how they blend with my formation and players and adjust them as required.

Team instructions for counter pressing

Setting Things in Motion

We don’t have the players in our squad to properly implement the 4-2-3-1 tactic straight away, but even though we’re only half way through the season (and this tactic is more for next season), there are a few things I can do now to aid a successful implementation:

  1. I’ve added the new formation and instructions as our third tactic. This will allow the current crop of players (specifically the ones who will be retained for next season) time to increase their familiarity with it. Call it a head start if you will
  2. Player recruitment from this January transfer window onwards will be aimed at filling the gaps in this formation, where currently we don’t have the right type of player to fulfil certain roles. I’ll need to sign some wingers/inside forwards who are comfortable high up the pitch for example
  3. If possible I’ll use the new tactic in spells during the remainder of this season. This will be dependent on who we can get in during January
  4. At the end of the season I’ll add ‘play attacking football’ to my philosophies

Measuring Success

At the halfway point of season 1 we’re getting by, sitting just outside the playoff places. We’ve been hard to beat but we’ve drawn a lot of games and struggled of late to find the back of the net. I’m hoping that a restructuring of the club philosophies and playing style can give us that extra push to win more games, win them convincingly, score more goals, and give the fans something to cheer. If we stand still I’m worried we’ll fail to progress as a football club.

LIGA adelante League Table after 20 games of season 1 (2015/16)

Comments (1)

  • For use next season, in a bid to convert some of those draws into victories, I’ve added my 4-2-3-1 Counter Pressing formation as our third tactic

    Comment by Manager Diary (13/05/2017)