Readers, welcome back to another piece from our new January signing Paul Marshall.  He might have been cheap as chips in the transfer window but he has settled into the team seamlessly and is already hitting the kind of numbers that makes Arsene Wenger very happy.  With no further ado, I will let Paul pick up the reigns from his save in Brazil…. #WeAreTheCommunity

There have been many discussions and posts on FM forums over the years in which people have attempted to recreate the Magical (or Mighty or Marvellous) Magyar tactics used in the 1950’s.  The one which saw the Hungarian National Team destroy England 6-3 at Wembley and 7-1 in Budapest.  The right tactic with the right players that, were it not for political instability, would probably have seen more successes than it did.

Magyars (1)

The Aranycsapat, The Golden Team, Played with a mixture of a wide version of the 2-3-5 formation as was customary in the day and a “futuristic” 4-2-4.  In his genius, the manager (Sebes) saw that there was space to both exploit and create by asking the Central Forward to drop off deep into space, unsettling the opposition back line who didn’t know whether to follow the man and mark him, thereby creating a hole in their back line for a Striker to exploit, or hold their position and allow that man time and space to dictate play from deeper.

In this sense, that player, Nandor Hidegkuti was among the pioneers of the “False 9” role that has been assimilated so brilliantly in the 21st century by Pep Guardiola and Lionel Messi.  Some have said recently that Hidegkuti was more of an Advanced Playmaker but I think that comes from looking at static formation images as opposed to seeing the whole picture and the evolution of tactics.

The Magyars weren’t all about Hidegkuti though.  They had the out and out genius and skill of Ferenc Puskas floating around the front line.  Puskas’ goal scoring for Kispest, Honved, Real Madrid and Hungary was legendary but he was more than that.  His assist ratio was out of this world.  To the side of him in the middle he had Sandor Kocsis who knew how to put away chances, most of them created by Puskas and Hidegkuti.

In the midfield they had the man named by Puskas as the best player ever, Jozsef Bozsik.  Here was a true Complete Midfielder.  He could pass, shoot, tackle, run all day and control the tempo of the games.

Behind him, the Magyar back line featured one slightly unusual positional tweak.  One I like to call the “False 5”.  He was, in many respects, a mix of a Libero and a Half Back.  The central defensive pairing of Lobant and Zakarias was strong and skilful.  Zakarias was afforded licence to move forward and join Bozsik in the midfield, as a Libero would in the future.   His partner Lobant acted like a sweeper, moving left and right to snuff out any attacks as they happened.  In the instances that Zakarias moved forward the fullbacks were asked to stay back, come narrow and form a pseudo-back 3.  This Hungary team were not a renowned Defensive team, their focus being more on attack and utilising the skills of their attacking players.

I have not mentioned at this point, the Outside Forwards (Wingers), Czibor and Budai. They don’t get much mention and their roles were to stretch the opposition defence, trying to create Lateral space for Puskas and Kocsis to exploit.  When you combine this with the Vertical space caused by Hidegkuti’s movement you can see why the Strikers were so successful.

I’ve often tried to recreate the tactical system as detailed above.  I’ve never been overly successful with it though.  The False 9 role in game didn’t drop off like Hidegkuti would, the Central Defender didn’t step up like Zakarias would and if you used an off-centre Half Back/Central Defender combo you would leave big gaps.  The same happens with a Libero/Central Defender or Half Back/Sweeper combo.  I did try a 4-2-4 Strikerless tactic with a Roaming Playmaker in the CM slot on FM15 to recreate the Hidegkuti role, which worked to some degree, but it never felt “right” as it omitted the other specifics of the tactic.  I’ve always felt I had unfinished business with this tactic.

Still with me?  OK, so why talk of a Hungarian tactic from the 1950’s when managing in Brazil in 2016?

In my last piece (also available on The Higher Tempo Press), where I introduced my Cunning Box tactic that was, and continues to be, so successful with EC Vitoria in Brazil, I stated at the end that I felt I needed another Tactic to enable us to continue to rise within Brazilian Football, one that I could flick to if chasing a game, needing a goal or to use when favourites to keep our opponents guessing.

The team I had inherited and created was full of players with flexibility and football ability.  For me, as I mention in the previous blog, Flexibility is key. So I felt sure I could adjust the Cunning Box, with its Brazilian artistry, panache and guile – it’s essence of Jogo Bonito – and combine some of the features from the Magical Magyars within it.  Think of it as a fusion of 1970’s Brazil and 1950’s Hungary, a 4-2-4 mixed with a 4-3-3 and a dash of 2-3-5, shaken up for a modern age and served with a slice of Nostalgia.

So what did I do?  Well, see for yourself.  Here is the formation that my thinking created.

tac (1)

Where possible I have kept the same roles as in the Cunning Box to keep the tactic familiar and Universal.  The Team and Opposition instructions have also not changed (more on those later).

I have often thought about the Hidegkuti role.  It would be too simplistic for a role like the False 9 in FM16 to work like he played.  The F9 in game seems to stay too far forward, shoot too often and generally not create as much.  I could play with the team instructed to play a Much Deeper Defensive Line and a Defensive mentality in the hope that the F9 would follow suit, but this doesn’t suit my teams Attacking Style (or my board’s insistence on playing attacking football).  I could choose to utilize a Roaming Playmaker in the Central Midfield positon as I did in FM15 to recreate Hidegkuti’s lateral movement to some degree.  But no, I’ve tried that.  I also don’t want to restrict the other CM’s movement and influence.  I could play him as a central Advanced Playmaker, but as explained earlier, this isn’t quite right either.   There is a defensive consideration too.  Playing 4 or 5 up top is tantamount to suicide in a modern game where controlling the midfield seems to be a vital ingredient for success.

So what to do? Well, I love the Wide Playmaker role’s in FM16.  To me, it is perfect. It combines Lateral and Vertical movement.  With the right instructions (Sit Narrower/Cut Inside With Ball) this Wide starting position becomes a Narrow one most of the time when attacking.  On defence it becomes extra protection on the flank – Hidegkuti would often defend as a far Left Central Midfielder.  It’s not quite a deep sitting False 9 and you could argue that the movement is the opposite of a False 9 and Hidegkuti’s role(starting deep and moving forward as opposed to starting forward and dropping deep) but given an attacking mentality I hoped that the player would spend most of his time in the advanced third of the pitch, floating around, pulling opposing markers out of position, opening space and chances for the central attacking pairing, moving into the space evacuated by and combining well with the next idea I had…

…Ferenc Puskas was seen by many as the best Shadow Striker before a Shadow Striker became a thing.  Many will now shout “Pele” at me and would absolutely correct to do so, however, I see him more as a Deep Lying Forward or Trequarista in FM parlance.  Anyway, I digress.  I wanted to combine the Wide Playmaker’s roaming ability with a Shadow Striker’s.  Someone to take the ball from the WP having pulled an opponent out of position and to set up passes from behind for the DLF(a) to latch onto or to slide a diagonal ball out to the Inside Forward or Winger to run onto.  I also want him to arrive late into the box, to take advantage of knock downs and generally fight for and recycle the second balls.  I sat him centrally to give him a full range of passing options on either side of him.

Having switched the side of the Wide Playmaker, I needed some balance on the other side, but with a twist.  I like to create “balanced imbalance”, to attack in different ways down each side, so I can either exploit one approach or the other depending on success, or throw my opposition into confusion by using either side equally.  I decided upon a Winger as in the initial attacks he will stay relatively wide within my team structure, in theory drawing opponents full backs towards him, stretching them laterally, opening little gaps for my other forwards to exploit.  Should the opposition stay narrow and compact and mark the 3 or 4 other attacking players the Winger should be able to dictate play, advance and cross unopposed.  If the play goes down the left flank he should able to make a late diagonal cut in to the far post.

As you can probably tell by now, and from reading my last blog piece, I like to exploit space!  I want to create a hole for another player to move into unchallenged, to create openings and chances.  In the Cunning Box everything was geared around creating space for the onrushing Right Wing Back.

In this tactic the main beneficiary of space should be the Inside forward.  If the WP, SS, DLF and W combine, move and interact as I want they should occupy the entire back 4 of the opposition.  If this happens the Inside forward will be free and able to drift around, exploit gaps and space to allow him a diagonal run at goal or free access at the far post to attack a cross.

The other player exploiting the space created by the Shadow Striker and Inside Forward is the Deep Lying Forward (on Attack duty).  In this formation, due to the central positioning of the SS I have Offset the DLF.  Playing him slightly to the right I hope to take advantage of any holes created by the drifting IF, SS and stretching W and also, if playing a left footed striker, shooting angles.

Behind all of this action I need the engine.  The strong Complete Midfielder.  This role, while unglamorous, is key here.  Having assessed all the roles available in this position (Roaming/Deep/Advanced Playmaker, Ball Winning Midfielder, Box to Box Midfielder) none seemed on the surface to do everything I wanted.  As described above when explaining the Bozsik role, he did everything, a jack of all trades.  This is perfect for me, as in game we have the standard Central Midfield role.  Fully customisable and the basics on which an ideology like Universality is based (again, see my previous blog piece).   I can ask him to Roam or Stick to Position, to Close Down More or Less, to Get Further Forward or Hold Up the Ball, to Dribble Less or More and to Shoot Less or More.  I do want this player to err more on the edge of Defence as behind him there is a massive gap due to not using Defensive Midfielders, however I need him to be able to recycle possession quickly, to win the ball, to drift left into the midfield gap or right to cover any runs the Right Back may make.  I have offset this position into the Right Centre Midfield slot as opposed to having him central. Why?  Well I have the WP drifting inside into central space from the left and did not want these two roles overlapping.  It also gives a stronger right sided defensive structure because, as mentioned, he will drift wide right to cover any runs the right FB may make.

In the Cunning Box the main idea was to move men around to create space for the Right Wing Back to run into.  This tactic does use this feature, as explained earlier.  The Inside Forward is the man we create space for.  That’s not to say that my Wing Backs don’t benefit from space, they do, just in a different way and not quite so high up the pitch. Especially when up against the 4-2-2-2 box formation in Brazil.

In this tactic I have pushed the Wing Backs back to the Full Back slots.  Due to the top heavy and attacking nature of this tactic I need the defensive cover that they afford us (however slight). They are set to Wing Backs.  The thinking here is that while the opposing Full Backs are occupied covering the IF, W and WP combinations up front they aren’t focussed on coming out to cover our advancing Wing Backs.  If an opposing CM or CM comes out to cover on side or the other their strong box shape falls apart, allowing the SS, WP or CM space to exploit centrally.  I have asked my Left Wing Back to stop short of all out attack due to the presence in front of him of the WP. He can cross from deeper and also put nice diagonal passes into the attacking zone.  My Right Wing Back, as in The Cunning Box, is set to attack as he should have so much space in attack transition when against the 4-2-2-2 that he should be able to complete more dribbles, key passes, crosses and assists than any other position.

At the back, as in the Cunning Box, the defenders are simple Central Defenders.  As already explained, in FM we just cannot create the Attacking Centre Back.  Modern iterations of this role would be David Luiz at PSG, David Alaba at Bayern and Mats Hummels at Dortmund.  In game I use players that are big, strong and athletic in this team but can still play the ball when needed.  Their job in possession is to sit in position and recycle the ball to the WP, CM or WBs as appropriate.

As explained earlier, this tactic mirrors the Cunning Box in terms of Opposition and Team Instructions.  If you haven’t already read this then please do so as the Pressing is as vital to this tactic as it is the other.  I won’t go into it in detail here.  Team Instructions, Mentality are the same, geared to Attack and setting the team narrower to maintain as compact as possible a shape while allowing the Wide attacking men to fully attack the half spaces.

That’s theory.  So, the important bit… if anyone is awake, thank you… how does it play?

1 (1)

Here we see the line up in action versus a 4-2-3-1.  We ourselves are in a 4-2-4 / 4-2-3-1 lay out with the Shadow Striker advanced as you would expect from the initial layout.  The Wide Playmaker (circled in purple) is sitting narrow forming a double pivot with the Central Midfielder.  This is a nice shape for retaining possession and assessing the approach our opponents will take.

2 (1)

Here we can see how the play has advanced.  The ball has been passed to the Left Wing Back, Gamboa.  The WP is still narrow but this time the Inside Forward has come narrow, to occupy the opposition back line.  They are still in a 4-2-3-1 formation but have become very compact to deal with the drifting nature of the IF, SS and DLF, leaving a huge amount of space on the flank for Gamboa and my WP to exploit.  From here Gamboa will bring the ball forward and cross the ball in.  The move ends with an offside decision against our DLF but the ball does end up in the back of the net from a header.

3 (1)

Here we see one welcome carry over from the Cunning Box, the ability to pull opposition defences out of position.  They are playing a 4-2-2-2 box formation and are very compact.  You can see our CM sitting in space in the midfield, our WP having advanced to sit just behind the IF (circled pink), creating an overload potential at the far post.  The CM has passed to Vander, our Right Winger who has drawn the opposition left back towards him.  Our Right WB having seen this then powers towards the yellow box, in acres of space. The opposition, seeing the LB out of position shuffles over to cover, leaving space at the far post (pink box) for the IF to exploit…

5 (1)

… As the play advances to this point, Diego Mateus is in acres of space and the opposition is in disaray.  They have lost their shape entirely and one CB has dropped out of the defensive line, leaving a huge gap behind him for our onrushing IF to challenge.  There is no offside decision here and across to the far post is volleyed in unchallenged.  Even if the keeper had saved this and parried the ball back into play we still have the DLF, SS and WP rushing in to win the second ball.  This is a nice example of how overloading the 4-2-2-2 can create space and confusion leading to mistakes and a goal.  Exactly what we wanted to achieve.

6 (1)

Later in the same game, have they learnt?  No.  We are in another 4-2-3-1 shapped attack.  The ball has gone down the left flank, through the WP to the IF, David (circled pink).  Accordingly the 4-2-2-2 has shifted over to cover and press the IF and block of passing to the SS and DLF, they have done this quite well, however, look at the space (yellow box) for Vander, our W (circled orange) to exploit…

7 (1)

… one cross field pass (of exquisite ability) from David to Vander and we’ve started pulling them left to right.  Vander here advances into the 18yard box before he holds up the ball and allows David, the IF (circled pink) chance to himself move into the space vacated by the opposition right back…

8 (1)

… David drifts towards the far post and returns  Vanders cross into the 6 yard box, this time the DLF see’s a header saved.

So, did they learn after this second attack?  Short answer, maybe.  Maybe they did but the 4-2-2-2 is easy to exploit.

In the next two images we see a similar attack, one that vindicates all the ideas of this tactic.

8 (1)

Here we see Euller (circled purple) in a central midfield role, forming the double pivot with our CM. Outside of him is our SS and ahead of him our IF.  The opposition midfield has done their usual and moved both banks of midfield pairings over to cover, leaving the right side of the pitch open for us to exploit (yellow box).  We can see our winger, Vander (circled in orange) in this space with our right back running up to join him.  Euller looks up at spots Vander in this space and hits a lovely diagonal pass to him.  Once again, the shifting of the opposition is on.  We are moving the opposition by using the ball properly and exploiting space.

9 (1)

We see that Vander has received the ball in the space and drawn the attention of the opposition left back, who has agressively come out to press him leaving his fellow defenders to make up a pseudo back 3.  They seem overly occupied with covering the DLF and have compacted around him, leaving  yet another huge gap behind them to the IF (pink) to exploit.  Vander (orange) takes the ball and lays it into the yellow box for our right WB to take control of, once again in acres of space.  From here he sends the ball to the back post for an uncontested header and another goal, right?  Well, no actually…

10 (1)

… Our Right WB tries a different approach.  Rather than running to the space towards the byline he takes the ball and cuts inside.  This causes the opposition DM pairing to fall back into the gaps that our stretching of their back 4 has exposed.  This leaves a massive area in the central zone for our onrushing SS and WP to attack unopposed.  One square pass and we have two players with a chance to shoot from 18 yards, which we do, and we score another goal.

These examples have shown the attacking tendencies of this tactic.  It was designed to be flowing and attacking, to offer a range of options when going forward and to overload the opposition back 4.

Defensively, true to the Magical Magyars, it can be nail biting, especially if an attack does break down.   I won’t go into deep detail on the nuances of the defence as, in honesty, they aren’t many!  We defend in a 4-3-3 shape which, when seriously under the cosh, can become a 4-5-1 with the wider players of the front bank of 3 dropping into the midfield.

11 (1)

Here the player closest to their player on the ball, on the right side of our first line of 3 is the DLF.  In the centre is the SS and far left is the IF.  The middle bank of three  is the WP on the left, CM in middle and W on the right.  From here the DLF and W will press the man on the ball as per the Opposition Instructions (see previous blog).

So, how is it all going then?  Well, you’ve had a few hints in the first blog and now this one.  To see the full break down of the performance of team, the ability of the squad and the success of the tactics, watch out for my next piece on The Higher Tempo Press.

Paul Marshall

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