When it talks like a hipster and does things a hipster does, it must be a hipster. Lord, I know can sound like a hipster cunt at times so just brace yourselves for some more name-dropping and throwing around fashionable phrases like it’s nothing. This article will focuss on verticality or as non-hipsters would call it, getting towards your opponents goal as fast as possible.
Over the last few seasons many people have fallen in love with Barcelona’s tiki-taka style of football. With Guardiola’s departure to FC Bayern, we’ve seen the Bavarians employ a mix between the more direct style Heynckes implemented and Guardiola’s own possession-based style. Either way, possession seems to be crucial, as its importance is preached ad nauseum, with Pep even mentioning he was amazed his Bayern side lost in Madrid, despite dominating possession.
Now I am not blind to the importance of possession, but as I mentioned earlier, sometimes keeping the ball just isn’t enough to break down a defence. The problem with possession is that, while having the ball is certainly more desirable than not having it, you force the other team into sitting deep in a low block defence. This is the bane of possession-orientated teams such as Barcelona and Spain and to a lesser extent, Pep’s FC Bayern.
In order to overcome this incessant and repetitive obstacle, the possession team must provoke the opponent with the ball either during a rapid counter attacking transition or during the build-up phase. This is where verticality comes in. Simply put, verticality is a reference to a style of play where the ball is brought from back to front as quickly as possible using short passing combinations.
In FM-terms, it means training the same formation and mostly same style of play, but instead of shorter passing, you select the more direct approach. How this looks in-game? Let’s look at a few match clips.
The idea of verticality is actually ideal for a strikerless formation. If you can win the ball with counter-pressing, you open up the opposing defence with one or two passes towards your mobile midfielders, whilst if your opponent drops back, they basically give up half the pitch to you, allowing you the time to provoke opposing players out of position, before exploiting the space that is opened up.
Ideally, you want to create a situation where players have to move out of their preferred defensive zones to combat a threat, preferably in a way that makes them face their own goal. The first part of this concept means that either the entire team has to shift along to prevent space from opening up, which basically never happens. The second part of this concept means that opposing players are less quick to transition from defence to attack when you do lose the ball, you are minimising the risk of a counter-attack whilst increasing the possibility of a successful counter-press. Let’s look at another clip.
From beginning to end, it took us a mere 20 seconds to score a goal, with some direct passing into space and luring players inside to combat the threat of several runners through the centre. Combine the traditional elements of my strikerless formation with a more direct approach and you have an idea of what I mean with verticality and how to use it in FM14.