The Ajax CT Diaries

In the previous article I talked you through my new ‘VW’ tactic based on the car brands logo and my decision to play 2 strikers in my second season with Ajax Cape Town. As a reminder here is the formation & roles I decided to play with.

In this article I will analyse the formation & roles to discuss their movement & give examples via videos & screenshots.

Where To Start

When analysing how my tactics working, the first thing I look at is my attacking movement & positioning. I want the players to move into the correct areas with certain roles overloading specific areas of the pitch, which in turn should free up space for other players to move into. The key word is “movement”.

Without movement any tactic becomes predictable and easier for the AI to defend against. So with any tactic I need movement to come from various areas of the pitch, both on & off the ball.

On the ball movement can come in 2 formats – dribbling & quick incisive passing. There is nothing more exciting for a fan to watch than a player running at full speed with the ball attached to his bootlaces, and nothing more scary for a defender. The opposition will drop off or shift covering players across, which in turn creates space elsewhere. The skill (& team instruction) to spot the correct pass when it’s on is just as important though, as you require killer balls to be picked out rather than the ball moving into dead end situations.

Off the ball movement has to be calculated and unpredictable at the same time. Confused? So will the AI be if you get it right. We have many options available to us when setting up the roles & team instructions. Some roles will have movement hard coded into them & others will respond to personal instructions. With the different mentality settings we have for various roles & for the team overall, again we can influence movement as a result. In an attacking sense, you need threats coming from various positions & angles with movement both vertically & horizontally. A striker moving deeper & pulling defenders with him to allow space for a winger or central midfielder to move into, can be just as effective as him running in towards goal.

Off the ball movement needs to be calculated in that you want certain players at certain times to move into certain positions. This will be either to cause an overload or pull someone out of position to create a space. The calculation comes in that any risks taken are worth the reward, and where possible covered by the sensible movement of another player. In this formation I see that sensible movement to be undertaken by the deep lying playmaker.

Attacking Players Movement

So let’s look at the front 4 & their positioning & movement. Here’s a screenshot of a typical situation as an opposition move breaks down.

Attacking Analysis Part 1 Scene 1

My right back breaks down the move with a sliding tackle and as I like my wingers to track back then it’s quite normal for them to pick up the loose ball. My right winger Potgieter starts the move from deep. Already we can see that he has plenty of options with players moving both towards him & one of the strikers moving wide for him.

Attacking Analysis Part 1 Scene 2

He passes to the Goalkeeper who is instructed to keep it simple, and with the deep lying playmaker (DLP) dropping back, he has 3 short options and 2 wide options completely open. The important thing here is that the GK aims to keep the ball for the team & doesn’t just hit it centrally as you can see my Box to Box Midfielder (BBM) is outnumbered.

Attacking Analysis Part 1 Scene 3

Erickson (DLP) receives the ball dropping in between my CD’s like a quarterback. My 2 strikers are occupying 3 of their defensive line which means I’m already starting to potentially have an overload if the ball is moved correctly. I have 4 wide players who are completely free. Erickson pings the ball wide left taking out 2 of their midfielders.

Attacking Analysis Part 1 Scene 4

Malepe (LWB) has received the ball from that pass and has attracted one of their defenders across. The 2 central defenders are tracking my left striker (LF), which means the midfielder has now been pulled deep to follow the other striker. My RW & RWB are both wide open at the bottom of the move – with the RWB on attack he is busting to get up there to support his flank partner. The BBM is moving nicely upfield to support the move with the DLP still level with the back line. The LW is doing as I would expect as he is on a support duty and is keeping himself available in space.

Attacking Analysis Part 1 Scene 5

Just before the LWB hits the cross it’s here that I’m looking for the advanced players to have moved into good positions. My RF who is on an attack mentality has moved nicely in to space attacking the back post area. My BBM is moving into the channel between their 2 midfielders. My 2 RH wide players are still free & moving up level with the ball. With his support mentality the winger will tend to always stay level with the ball which means he can attack the space if hit cross field to him.

Attacking Analysis Part 1 Scene 6

Here’s the final scene where my LF scores with a sweet volley. What’s pleasing here are the final positions of my team. The RF is still open & in a goal scoring position as is the RW. The RWB has moved infield with him so they are both there to pick up any loose balls if we hadn’t scored. The BBM has got to the edge of the box in a central position which is exactly where I want him. The DLP is also instructed to get up & support so it’s great to see he’s moved up & will help recycle the ball or put pressure on any midfielders if the ball had been cleared.

Here’s the full goal as a video clip ….

21 seconds & counting

Pressure From The Front

Another key part of my game plan & tactic is pressing from the front. With 4 attacking players I want the opposition GK to have to kick long so my central players have a chance to win the ball & then spring from there. My team is instructed to hold a high line & engage from a standard line – this means there is not much room between my front & back lines so there is not much room & time for the opposition with the ball. Press from too high & the top teams will pick a pass in between your lines. That’s why I use the Pressing Forwards (PF’s) as they will chase down the defenders / midfielders from wherever you instruct them.

Attacking Analysis Part 2 Scene 1

Here we start with their GK taking a goal kick. He has no easy pass as my PF’s are marking the back line, my RW has moved up to cover the LB with my RW & RWB monitoring that side. My 2 midfielders have dropped in amongst their players to challenge as needed with my CB’s waiting for any long kick coming their way. As you can see the distance between the front 2 & back 2 is compact so doesn’t make it easy for their GK.

Attacking Analysis Part 2 Scene 2

The GK has had to kick long & my LWB has dropped back to challenge their RW. My 2 CB’s are free & waiting & my 2 midfielders are tracking back to pick up any loose balls. My wingers are instructed to mark tightly so are tracking back as well. The LF is also dropping deeper as he’s on a support duty.

Attacking Analysis Part 2 Scene 3

My LWB wins the header which drops straight to my BBM Appolis. With his instructions to dribble more & get further forward, he drives at the centre of the defence. Note: A good dribbling attribute is vital for this position. My LF has dropped shorter with the RF pressing the back line due to his attacking mentality. This causes a dilemma for the opposition as they are having to face vertical and horizontal movement. Both my LW & RW are moving in to space stretching the play wide.

Attacking Analysis Part 2 Scene 4

Here my LF Nkambule has been slipped the ball and has options left & right with both wingers free. The BBM has continued his run into the box to occupy the defensive line. The DLP has moved up to support nicely in his QB role. Both WB’s are up in support too.

Attacking Analysis Part 2 Scene 5

Erickson (DLP) has picked up the ball as the LF was tackled in the box. he has options both left & right still as the wingers and WB’s have all created angles for him. The 2 PF’s are occupying the defenders along with the BBM so none of them can move out wide to cover my players. The overload has happened. A few nice one – two’s later & ……

23 seconds from start to finish

I’ll leave it there for the tactical analysis covering the attacking movement. Next up I’ll look at the defensive side of the tactic.

Thanks for reading.


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