When i start to put together a tactic I always start with the bookends of the formation – defenders & strikers. Once I’ve decided on the number of players I want in these 2 zones then I structure the rest of the team to both protect & feed these key roles. In this series I have also introduced another factor into my tactic construction process – the logo challenge.
In season 1 with Ajax CT I used the Greenpeace Logo with a solitary Central Defender which suited the clubs dominance within the second tier of South African football. I wasn’t confident I would get away with this formation in the ABSA Premiership, so I looked around at logos and this one caught my eye.
The Peoples Car
Both for its distinctive logo & history as a solid reliable brand made for the people, VW appealed to me as soon as I saw it. The ‘V’ & ‘W’ have strong points at the top & bottom ends of the emblem, and lend themselves to me constructing a tactic around them.
Starting with the book ends of the team, then I will be playing with 2 centre backs and 2 strikers. Using the ‘V’ of the logo I will be playing with a central midfielder as he needs to sit deeper than the 2 wide players who will make up the top of the ‘W’. The central pinnacle of the ‘W’ will be a defensive midfielder sitting in front of the central defenders. To make up the ‘W’ there will be 2 wing backs connecting the defence and the forward line. They will need to be more advanced than a traditional full back to maintain the ‘W’ shape.
Before defining the player roles and team instructions, I need to think about the style of football I want to play. As discussed in my ‘3 Year Plan’ I wanted to create a tactical identity that we would become famous for & would be used across all levels of the club. Our junior squads would live & breathe this philosophy, with the best players being fully au fait with both their individual duties and team responsibilities. This will be ingrained by a detailed system of training & mentoring which I will go into in a later article.
In the true philosophies of ‘Total Football’ from our parent club Ajax Amsterdam, I want to play attacking football with players comfortable in possession & intelligent enough to move the ball patiently. With that in mind these are the team instructions I want to use.
I want to stretch the opposition a bit wider creating space for my strikers to operate in as they will be my main goal threat, although I do expect my wingers to drift inside when the ball is on the other wing. This should allow the Wing Backs the opportunity to get forward into wide areas to cause overloads. As this happens I expect the midfield to hover outside the penalty area recycling the ball to the 4 players in more attacking areas. When the front 4 have the ball I want them to run at the defence pulling defenders with them & making space for the others to move into. ‘Slightly more direct passing’ allows for quick through balls to be played if they are on, whilst ‘work ball into box’ instruction means players will be patient if no pass is on.
As I’m heavily stacked up front, I need the 4 players to win the ball back quickly in the oppositions half if possible, and then encourage the wing backs to counter along with the central midfielder once we win it. The wing backs are key in this tactic to overloading the wide areas, so they will need a good work rate and high speed attributes are desirable.
I set the defensive line very high to condense the play as this has two benefits in my eyes. Firstly, as I have 4 players in the forward areas then the goalkeeper / central defenders don’t have much time on the ball so have to invariably kick it long. With my 2 centre backs pushed up then we should win the ball with the defensive midfielder / box to box midfielder collecting the second ball.
Secondly, once we do win the ball then my players are all in close proximity to each other so can break quickly, as per the attacking instructions.
I’m conscious of the article length now, so won’t go through each role individually but will put the download link below. As we are playing with an attacking mentality then only the wing backs & one striker are on attacking instructions. If you are struggling against a stronger team then drop the team mentality to positive or balanced to slow the intensity as this makes the players retain the ball better. One trick I have when watching the game is that if my players are constantly receiving the ball with their back to goal then I need to drop the mentality so they receive the ball slightly deeper and can run at the defence as per the team instructions.