As mentioned in the previous article, Johan Cruijff has always been a huge inspiration for a lot of Dutch football fans. He’s the godfather of football in the Netherlands, and he has left a legacy which will be carried on in our hearts forever.

And even though I am a massive fan of PSV Eindhoven, I do have to say that sometimes I wished that Cruijff has touched our club with some of his magic. But PSV has had her legends such as Romario and Ronaldo. But what if the scenario described above, has happened. What if Johan Cruijff touched PSV for a little while and our club has taken over some of his visions, combined with our own identity, would this bring a Champions League shortly?

To find out, we’re going to implement his tactical vision into our team. Attacking, sexy football, which without the position changed could be described as “Total Football”. Would it actually at all be possible to play Cruijffs’ “Total Football” in Football Manager 2019?

Johan Cruijff was all about developing young football talents, creating a formidable team of home-grown players which could play attacking football to entertain the fans. The first stop was recreating his 3-4-3 Diamond, and after a lot of experimentation, I have developed a system which I am enjoying to watch and became the foundation of the success for the upcoming years.

Real Life Resources on the Johan Cruijff 3-4-3 Diamond

Inspired by a thread by Ö-zil to the Arsenal on the SI forums, I want to take his ideas regarding a diamond formation and make them my own. To understand the vision of Johan Cruijff properly, what else can I do then let the Football Guru speak himself for himself:

The theoretical view

If we take out the analysis regarding the formation, this is the shape we are trying to recreate within our squad:

This is the shape I want to use, the foundation of it all. To back up this foundation, there are a few core principles I want to use.

Formation, Shape & Mentality

The formation you use when you send your players into the field, combined with the shape you are using and the mentality is the backbone of your tactic. Nothing is interesting in talking about this for hours since Guido, and his team has already covered this in several guides. One of the most interesting about the new “Team Fluidity” could be found here.

As you guys probably understand. The formation you use as you set your tactic will be adaptable by the phase where the play will be at that current moment during the match. It took me years to understand this and before I was capable of creating a Total Football style of play in Football Manager. Simply, because I was too stubborn in the past to adjust my formation towards anything else than a 3-4-3 diamond. Again, taking inspiration from Ö-zil to the Arsenal’s earlier work, I settled on this formation.

Flexible / Fluid: Our instructions made us end up with a fluid formation. Which is perfect for the style of play we’re trying to recreate. It’s exactly what we’re looking for and the complete footballers which we are going to create over the years will be capable of entertaining our fans with this style of play. This setting will make sure we attack and defend as a team as a unit. We’ve created the basic set-up for some sexy, free-flowing football.

Attacking Instructions

You’ll notice that despite wishing to play a possession type of play, I’ve set my passing style to slightly more direct. There are two major reasons for this:

  1. The vision of Johan Cruijff was slightly more direct as people think it was. He was a massive fan of going straight for the attacking options in front of goal. Besides, if we try to play a much higher tempo, this will suit us better in FM terms.
  2. My team will be based on highly intelligent, technically gifted players who are talented enough to find movement, passing options and creative freedom within this framework. It would be a shame if, within the vision of Cruijff, we don’t use these qualities of our players.

Transition Instructions

It’s essential to adjust the distribution of the goalkeeper with the talents of the lad. I always select the “Distribute To Playmaker” instruction, which causes him to search for the “Playmaking Number 4” within our squad. But, keep in mind that if your keeper has a fantastic quick distribution, this option could be selected too. If you’re not too sure about his capacities to distribute it like this. Simply adjust his distribution type, based on his qualities. But NEVER select “Long Kicks” since it’s going against all core-principles of our tactical instructions.

Player Roles and Instructions

Since we’re giving our players an attacking team instruction, combined with a lot of creative freedom within a fluid type of play, I tried to limit the Specialist roles within our team, i.e. playmakers, ball-winners, or anything else which has been called fancy names.

  • Sweeper Keeper (Attack): N/A
  • Ball Playing Defender (Defend): N/A
  • Central Defender (Defend): Take Fewer Risks
  • Ball Playing Defender (Defend): N/A
  • Right Winger (Attack): N/A
  • Central Midfielder (Support): Take more risks, Dribble More, Move Into Channels
  • Deep Lying Playmaker (Defend): N/A
  • Central Midfielder (Support): Pass it shorter Left
  • Winger (Attack): N/A
  • Attacking Midfielder (Attack): Hold up ball
  • False 9 (Support): Move into channels

*The biggest reason both midfielders have different settings is since they’re the backbone of the tactics. This simply means that within the Starting XI they’re the one who keeps balance within the team. While the right one has a more attacking setting and in this way contributes way more to the team with goals and assists, the left MC, has more of a “hold-up” style of play recycling possession for our team.

Analysis of the teams’ shape

The screenshot below is from the Home Leg PSV Eindhoven against Juventus. 16th Final of the Champions League 2033.

PSV is in possession with Ali Balyan #19 passing the ball to our Attacking Midfielder (A) #22 Davy Brandsma. Here you can clearly see our wide three, with a diamond midfield ahead of these three. While they’re supported by a centre forward, flanked by two wingers.

You can also immediately see the problems this shape is causing for a deep: 4-2DM-3-1. Our midfielders have an ocean of space around them. We won this match easily with 3-0 and achieved the continue to the next round.

Our heat map shows the average position of the match against Juventus.

Conclusion Johan Cruijff 3-4-3 Part I

As you can see all these instructions caused us to play in the style and philosophy of Johan Cruijff. In the next upcoming guide, I will come up with a more in-depth match analysis from one of our Champions League games, showing you the benefits, from the Johan Cruijff 3-4-3.

After we’ve been over the in-depth analysis regarding the 3-4-3, it’s time to take a closer look towards the 3-3-4 which is made to crush weaker opponents and make them “crack” easily, before the last tactical guides will be revealed about the 4-3-3.

As soon as we’ve gone over all the tactical stuff, we can go over the Youth Development and the transfer market too.

Categories: Tactics


Henk Heikens · July 14, 2019 at 1:44 pm

i have a question: i see the details about transition and in possession, what about the “out of possession part?

Mahmoud · July 16, 2019 at 12:20 am

Absolutely fun to read. Will keep up with this series closely.

    Patrickstar · July 23, 2019 at 3:01 pm

    Hi…can you post the out of possession instruction please. Thanks.

keith · August 10, 2019 at 2:49 pm

Love reading all things tactical, great article.

Franco · September 18, 2019 at 11:32 pm

out of possession instructions?

JM · November 7, 2019 at 8:40 am

This was very interesting – what happened to part 3?

Emir · February 9, 2020 at 1:01 pm

Can you this tactic for fm mobile?

    Guido · February 9, 2020 at 2:00 pm

    You can use it in FMMobile, yes.

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