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Thread: The Pep Project - Manchester City / October 2016 Update

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    The Pep Project - Manchester City / October 2016 Update

    So, this is my first thread on here after years of playing CM01/02. As a supporter of Manchester City, I obviously got as excited as anybody with the arrival of Pep Guardiola.

    This appointment also had one further impact on me; I started to read a lot of literature about how Pep's Barcelona played a huge role in the evolution of this wonderful game; what are his main and non-negotiable principles or methods; how is his man-management etc. And then when the newest update came, I decided to re-create this project and see what it does.

    The main references were:

    • Marti Perarnau's book Pep Confidential

    • And some other easily reachable articles on the web such as this brilliant overview on FFT's website


    First step was to create a new OneNote entry on my notebook, and make notes about what I thought might be useful when playing the game, and of course I intend to further enhance it with new pages as the process goes on with small details such as scouting the next opposition, how should we adapt to them (something that Pep always does). I will include some of these notes or pics within those notes in this post as well.

    Anyway, it's fair to say that I'm already shitting it, given that when I started to model his formation (for my first pre-season game against Derby County), the resulting overview layout got this weird - see the pic below.



    So let's explain the reasons - how it came to this?! All I wanted was a sort of a 4-1-4-1 formation with one pivot (Fernandinho) and 4 relatively orthodox defenders, except that this is the Pep experiment with the two fullbacks going into midfield when on possession - mainly to give freedom and space to wingers, but also to make it more viable to stop the possible counterattacks if we lose the ball.

    But I tried to follow Pep's main principles, those which can be, in my opinion, modelled right into the game, and they are:
    • High-pressing
    • Have 1 player on vertical lines
    • Include GK in the build-up
    • 5 attacking players; invade the central and half spaces


    So I ended up with the above overview, which is basically a 2-3-4-1, though if you take into account the arrows, it becomes 2-3-2-3, or a WW formation, so I made a nice trip back to the 1950s. :) To give you some examples of our positioning in certain areas, here you are:


    This is a demonstration of our high pressing where the fullbacks complement Fernandinho and the 5 attackers cover the space where the ball is to minimise where the opposition can operate. If we cannot win the ball here, then of course we drop back a bit, but not as much as the default CM positionings would give you... See:



    On the above pic you can see the CM-version of this deployed pressing tactic from the great Barcelona side.

    So the vertical lines... I think I'll demonstrate it on two pics when we have the ball in the central area of the midfield:




    Enough of the pictures now, but I guess you get it now. Just check the DM's (Fernandinho) positioning. He can play the ball anywhere he wants to, of course depending on his body shape. That's the main idea behind having players occupying the vertical lines separately; it gives you passing options. Obviously providing that the opponent doesn't get in the way, which tends to happen a lot in football. :) But as it's a 'secret' in this game, I will at least try to maximize those passing lanes as much as I can. And then we'll see how the game processes this approach, I mean I guess it will mean f*ck all in the grand scheme of things, but I'm sort of excited to try a new challenge in this game after playing it for 10+ years...

    Also, as you can see, the two 'false 8' roles (Silva and Gundogan/De Bruyne) will be rather high when we're attacking, and as this is the one particular formation where the fullbacks go central to 1) give an extra man when defending counters 2) create space for wingers (this is something I already said and Pep uses it a lot to exploit the area for Sterling/Nolito/Navas), the wingers are rather wide, but still able to combine some one-twos with their surrounding AMs.

    Finally, how I want my players when building-up an attack from the GK:



    Again, this is a pattern I saw on some of the cited sites but I won't post the pic here now. But just look at the GK (Bravo): he should have at his sight 3 or 4 free players everytime he has the ball, regardless of where he is looking. The DM drops deep to receive the ball, so both the CBs move a bit wider. In this way, it should be easy to outpass even some aggressive teams. Of course, this can also be fun if we lose the ball with such spacing and positioning... (GK, CBs out of position, and this is something very radical and I've never did this in the game, so maybe I'll throw it out the bin after conceding shitload of goals)

    As I have written, this was the tactic for pacy wingers and the aim is to create 1v1 situations for them with the defender, then either finish the chance or create it for the striker. I'll use a similar scenario with one small difference in future pre-season games, namely that De Bruyne will be on either of the wings, thus the fullback on his side will play a more orthodox role in attack, while the other wing will remain the same as in the above example, thus the whole system becomes asynchronous. And then, in further pre-season games, of course I will give a try to other systems Pep has already used since he's at City, which is the 3 CB formation (3-4-3 with hardly any wing-backs, more like very attack-minded wingers, e.g. Sane and Sterling).

    Player instructions
    I'll use offside trap, everybody will be mostly on zonal marking, though depending on the opposition's defense, my forwards might play man-marking, because a man-oriented press is something Pep uses from time to time; so of course everybody right up from the DM has pressing on (thus the 4 defenders not). For the first time in my CM career, since Bravo is great at tackling and he might found himself exposed on counter attacks, he will be on hard tackling, I heard that some experimenters use it a lot.

    Most players have short passing as it still gives them 2 or 3 passing options in my opinion for most of the time, or at least that's the plan. I might experiment in some games where the oppositions players/wings are shit etc. with the 'pass to' options, but for now I'll leave it to default. Maybe in some games I'll have my fullbacks to put it to their corresponding wing so the winger can already run against his defender.

    But Bravo, again, is the exception so far as his passing in this game is 18, something I must utilize. He'll be on mixed for the moment being and hopefully will choose always a good attacking option. But I might change his passing to short too, I'll check his stats and decisions throughout the games. And Fernandinho will be the other exception, for reasons obvious I think (see our with the ball pics above).

    And maybe Kolarov, who will be the closest to a 'playmaking CB' Pep loves so much, in this team. I might put him even on long balls for the RW (Sterling) on the other wing, so we can exploit that space and surprise the opponent with some sudden switch. This is again a recurring theme of Pep's positional play, to switch the play after some neat passing in tight spaces, getting overloaded on one side of the pitch, and then...'BOOM', as he'd put it.

    I'll also experiment with one thing I read here (I think most of you have already read the whole text, or have the original pics), and that is the CMs/Ams (so, Silva and Gundogan/De Bruyne) will switch their positions when we're having the ball in the two most central areas of the pitch. Apparently, this can confuse the opposing team, though I wouldn't think it should when they're marking zonally, but still. I'm also thinking about the free role; something De Bruyne and Silva would love I'm sure.

    Other than that, 'run with the ball' will be only for the wingers and the AMs and the ST (if they are good at dribbling), and forward runs will again only have the AMs and the ST (Aguero). Holding up the ball will be set to all central players, which again is kind of an experiment, because it means that I'll have the two CBs on it too, not only the DM and the AMs.

    I guess that's it. Now I'm onto the first game (Derby, friendly) and if you read this and liked this, then give some feedback, I'd appreciate it as finally I made my mind up and posted a thread here. I chose some tough games in pre-season as Dortmund, Bayern and United and other 3 games, so I can test these 3 or 4 new tactics (of course, some fine-tuning will always be deployed depending on the opposition).

    Again, I know that most of my 'innovations' will probably hardly excite the CM engine and they might mean nothing at all, or because they are so radical to the default, I'll be getting the sack in the december either, or I'll have to adjust and be much more defensive to get some results, but still... As I read on here, some were successful with these 2-3-5 formations on some weird campaigns, some not, and now it is my try. But the 'funniest' part is that I started with a 4-1-4-1, but when I started to adjust my players on the with the ball / without the ball maps, according to how Pep himself uses them, it became this. :)

    Sorry if I bored the hell out of you. I'll update this upon your request/interest or if you have any questions.

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    Interesting stuff!

    I don't think I've really followed a story with emphasis on the tactical side of things so it was an interesting read. Will it work in CM though? Only one way to find out!
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    Look forward to seeing how you get on , please feel free to share your tactic with us..

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    Great stuff. I love detailed shit

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    Really loved the introduction. Love the effort your putting in. Looking forward to seeing how it pans out.

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    Thanks a lot for the positive replies! I appreciate it a lot.

    Now we finally had our first game, but firstly I'll still share some details with you that I missed to mention yesterday, but seeing that at least some of you enjoyed the detailed insight, here are my other random thoughts (before the Derby game):

    • The weirdly looking defense - just tu put it here once again: I actually love the fact that the resulting overview consists of only 2 'real' defenders, given that this is actually as you could most easily define Pep's system (not only at City, but certainly at Bayern too)... But if it fails badly, and by badly I mean that I'm planning to use it for at least 5 league games and both of the Champions League qualifiers, in simple terms we still have 5 defensive minded players on the pitch and my fullbacks act like additional defensive mids when we have the ball, so the only thing I'd have to do is put those fullbacks a bit deeper when we are without the ball, and suddenly it becomes an orthodox system with 4 defenders. But in a way, this would betray my project. :)
    • Pressing - who should do it - well, everybody will do it who is NOT a GK, CB or fullback, except that... the fullback will be the question for me. Just check that Barca reference I posted, or our positioning without the ball in their own half, and it's clear that the fullback on the side of the ball is quite high up the pitch, so obviously he is pressing. But maybe that can be the compromise: either have him a bit deeper, so he doesn't become an 'attacking wingback' as you would describe him based on the my tactics, and set pressing on, or have the pressing off and use the positioning I was describing. I'll use the latter for now.
    • Free roles, crossing - I'll use one half with free roles for my 'false 8' players (i.e., 2 of the central AMs, normally Silva/Gundogan/De Bruyne), and the other without and see when they perform better, or whether we don't become too vulnerable at the back with free roles on. Crossing is easy: I won't use it. Normally I always do, but I won't really want my wingers to cross it for Aguero, just to beat their defenders. I might change this in the future, but one thing seems sure already: my fullbacks are quite defensive attacking-wise, so they are not even in the position to cross, nevermind Kolarov being a good crosser. So that would be a waste.
    • Training, injuries - I already referred to this guide and I'll use the training in a similar way. Only that most of my midfielders (including Gundogan, KdB, Delph, Fernandinho and Fernando) will have intensive tactics and skills (so will the defenders), and general shooting and fitness. Aguero already has a finishing of 20, so he will have intensive skills and general for other stuff. Silva, Nolito, Sterling, Navas will have the same as him, while the young talents the same as the defenders and def mids/mids. But of course, injures may arise and I'll have to adapt to the players needs. It is quite an old squad and while I won't use of course the editor to determine their injury proneness, I'd guess Kompany, Silva and others might be quite prone. As the season goes, probably a lot of players will be on no training for a day or two, or at least on general, but I'm still expecting quite a lof of injuries... Ah, and I almost forgot: the biggest novelty will be that the GKs have 'intensive' skills training, I guess you know why... But I did a screenshot to have a view of my CMs and GKs and Aguero especially, whether that intensive training helps them in reaching some new heights.
    • Scouting, transfers - I won't really do transfers now because that's how Pep and co. imagined or were able to create the squad for this season. But as we have 50 players signed and a lot will/should be signed next year from these fake manually creaated Reserves/Reserves 2 teams, I want to make room for those who I want in my squad. I was able to offload Ntcham to Torino for 2.5m (he is already on loan at Genoa), and I'd be glad if I could do the same to Hart, Yaya and few others, given that it's unlikely that they will ever play again for City. My scouts will of course scout youth players, major tournaments (the Copa is going on now), or domestic players, but when the seasons start in Europe, I will use my scouts to assess all our players who are on loan or will/should come next season, there are a lot of them, but I won't return back all of them just for the sake of it. But given that City are at least trying now to give chance to some youngsters, I want to use them in the future too (and this is something I always did in the game).


    So my first game then...

    I noticed that Derby play 4-5-1 with their right/left mids pushing forward to act as wingers when they are in possession. That's troublesome as I wanted to deploy the above stated tactics, but those are mostly designed for teams that don't attack through the wing, but more centrally. Still, I will use it, it's just preseason and I want to see what this revolutionary stuff does.

    I won't have forward runs on (apart from the striker) as my AMs are already way too forward in attack. :) I already explained my current point of view on hold the ball / through ball / run with the ball settings, and the passing will be on short for everyone apart from the Kolarov-experiment, which is long balls and to the right (preferably to the right winger who is in very wide areas). I love the fact that suddenly Kola's passing and creativity went up (the former being 18!), I guess the scouts and developers also noticed how Pep uses him at the moment. While he's still a sort of an average defender, his accurate long balls to the right have been a highlight reel of this season so far.

    And of course normal mentality as I think we are already quite attacking and our staminas are shit and most of my players have those arrows on, so we'll have to run a lot. Given that I had to step right into pre-season (should have started with a date for another league to let the players rest a bit, but I want them to adapt to my training and match methods as fast as I can), our fitness levels are bad, so I'm expecting bad results and bad morale once the season starts, but that's life...



    So here it is. Bravo and Fernandinho were playing against each other at the Copa SFs (Bravo has now finished 3rd with Chile, Brazil will play the final). That means I used Fernando and short passing because he's a shit passer. Eventually, he was probably our best player due to his tackling and interceptions. Caballero also had short passing for the same reasons and his passing stats were shocking, but wait...

    It was actually an even game up until the first half, then Gundogan and Kelechi had to come off for precautionary reasons (De Bruyne and young talent Thierry Ambrose came on). Zabaleta and Aguero weren't included in the squad as they will soon have international friendlies too and I don't want to fatigue them too much, though I guess they'll play the next game. Otamendi was also called up, but simply had to play to see him do it with Stones at the back. :)

    Then Silva and De Bruyne had free roles set, and they were quite dangerous too. Silva scored our goal and then first Sagna got injured, and then we subbed on everyone else and while we were already a bit lucky to be up front, it went completely nuts after our changes. Derby had shitloads of chances and eventually won the game. Their second goal was after Angus Gunn (our 3rd choice GK) passed a goal kick to them, so I guess we are already seeing these new tactics being backfired... My only hope is that Bravo, who's passing is indefinitely better than Gunn's will sort it out.

    Also, as I mentioned earlier, because of Bravo's tackling, the GK will have it on 'hard', but I decided not to change it for this game and Gunn actually had 2 failed attempts at it, but the weird thing is that seemingly this is not the reason why we conceded. Anyway, it can be an issue.

    The Kolarov-experiment, so far, was neutral. His passing stats were rather good (something like 15/20), but when you scroll through the match info you cannot see his name mentioned at any of our attacking moves. So whether those passes were long and whether they were meant to find Sterling remains a question. :)

    Anyway, given our fitness levels, missing key players and not-so-adapted tactics to the oppo, we shouldn't read too much into the game. Bad news is Sagna's injury though: three fucking months, which gives the chance to Zabaleta and Maffeo to shine. Some details about our first game in pics:


    Last edited by djdusi; 09-11-16 at 07:55 PM.

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    That's some in-depth analysis for a friendly but I love it

    Shame about the result but as you say, can't read too much into it. How many friendlies do you have? Hopefully a good 5 or so altogether which is plenty of time and games for the players to get into the system.
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    You're really using that match report to the full, it's great! Can't wait to see the rest of this!

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    Haha, thank you again for the show of support. I'll only have about two hours daily to play the game (and even less at the weekends), and as I created and will create completely new (for me that is) tactics, there simply won't be too many matches played on a daily basis as I'd like to analyze the full, whether it's good or bad, effects of this new system. So that's the main reason why these long posts only contain a game and some additional random thoughts. I'm glad you like it so far. In 'normal' circumstances, I would play the game as quickly most of us do.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark View Post
    Shame about the result but as you say, can't read too much into it. How many friendlies do you have? Hopefully a good 5 or so altogether which is plenty of time and games for the players to get into the system.
    From the top of my head, we'll play Dortmund (A), United (A), Toronto (A) and then St. Johnstone from the Scottish Premiership at home, this was a game City played at their academy behind closed doors a week before the season. The bad thing though is that our fitness levels are under 80% at the moment. I arranged these games in a quick succession (a game twice a week) because the season starts soon. So almost definitely the players will have a training rest at least between these games as we might find ourselves out of shape when the first real match arrives...

    Because I forgot to say but we will have a very tough Champions League qualifier against Monaco... Now that'd be a huge initial test for these tactics. First game will be at home, so if we can somehow manage a win at the Etihad, I might rethink my approach a bit and go sligthly more conservative for the away leg, because obviously the CL is quite an important tournament for us and missing from it would be a disaster.

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    The length works well for a story though as some people don't like seeing games coming thick and fast so some analysis into each match is good for each post you make for the story.

    Plenty of games to keep you busy then, good job Man City have a big squad!

    Keep it up, you may find it popular
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    Preseason - 2nd Game | Dortmund (A)

    Okay, so Dortmund was the next opponent.

    I already hinted at the new tactics being deployed; I will use just a slight modification of our previous one. Specifically, De Bruyne will occupy the right winger's place in the team, but he will be positioned more centrally when we are with the ball in the opposition's half. So basically, KdB and the right back will switch their vertical lines, but the picture speaks for itself:

    You don't have to scroll back as on the left 'with the ball' setup you can clearly see that my left winger still occupies the wide areas to stretch the opposition a bit, but the right back goes much wider than the left to give number 17 (De Bruyne) a more central area to operate and perhaps overlap him if needed (by default I won't have forward runs on for fullbacks, but this can change).

    The reasoning behind this is something which Pep IRL puts as "the biggest talents have to play", and one would say that Silva, Gundogan, De Bruyne and Aguero are those ones, but all of them are preferably central players, and of course we still need at least one winger to dribble his way through in men-free areas. So KdB will be an additional false playmaker or whatever you call it, and boy, his skillset will be a huge help in my managerial careeer.



    Now see the above pic how we occupy the area with the ball with creative CAMs (ok, Aguero's positioning seems a bit weird but I don't find it too significant). All of them can create *something* out of here, well even thanks to dribbling, given Silva and KdB are great at it, or via a through ball to Aguero (again, a default setting for these two).

    Now maybe this is where the right fullback should step up a bit, but Sagna and Zabaleta are not good crossers, so I'd rather have him back to defend the potential counter, and attack through the middle (this is the area where your passing options are the best, naturally, when you look at where Silva or KdB might have the ball, the difficult thing is to actually get it into this area). Or create something thanks to the left winger, of course.

    Obviously, my so-called Kolarov-experiment makes no sense now, he won't be playing long passes to the right as KdB is where most of the players might find themselves. My rightbacks have shit passing, so they won't do this either. The DM will have 'mixed' passing, though maybe I should consider to prefer to play it to the 'left', so we can give some time and space to the LW from time to time, otherwise there's no point tucking him that wide.

    And the small but rather important detail: I won't attach another pic but KdB is still in a wonderful crossing area when we have the ball in the right attacking corner, and given how we occupy the box or its borders with the two CAMs and Aguero, it would be rather idiotic not to utilize his 20/20 skill in this particular area. I guess now you get the point in this long love letter to De Bruyne. Anyway, the starting eleven away at Dortmund in preseason:



    Fernandinho and Bravo still at the Copa, so Yaya, despite being transfer listed plays the pivot role as Fernando can't do this difficult task twice in a row. All the Argentinian lads who will go to some pointless friendly in a week or two play, as Kelechi went to an even more pointless friendly against Algeria (they lost 3-0). Because of the tactics I described, I simply had to put in my creative trio (Silva, Gundogan, KdB) even though they need a rest badly. I'll sub them off later, of course. Sane and Clichy also come in to give us some sort of freshness.

    Again, all central (CBs, the DM, 3 CAMS) players will hold up the ball if needed and apart from Yaya, who has mixed passing on, only KdB does not have short passing as I'll try some direct stuff with him. And of course through balls and free roles to Silva and KdB, as the latter setting seemed to work relatively fine against Derby.

    They played a similar 4-5-1 as Derby, though with a more attacking mid behind the striker. So this time, the fact that Zabaleta acts more like a wide defender, could also help against their attacking left mid.



    Well, we won! And we started brilliantly. Aguero scored a penalty and then De Bruyne after some other chances scored the second, and then we slowly started to fade out, giving them more control. Dortmund's fitness levels were almost as bad as ours, thus again, result was hardly the most important factor, though at least it can keep up the spirits. The first half was ok as most of the danger they created came from only set pieces. So our rather offensive approach seemed to work. The second was mostly defending with Caballero and Gunn providing some crucial saves (and they didn't make any silly mistake, albeit their passing was predictably shit again). Our offside trap worked very well, they were caught 7 times and there weren't many Dortmund chances that might've come because of our high line.

    Silva, Aguero and Gundogan had slight knocks so came off at HT, and then the other players as well, so I'm actually surprised that this gung-ho team with more squad players somehow held on to the result. I didn't change anything tactically throughout the game, so it was still the high pressing and positioning.

    We only had the ball for 40% of the time though, something for which Pep wouldn't be too proud of... But Tuchel is a mastermind as well.

    Next up is Manchester United at the OT for a friendly. I've set everyone to 'no training' so when we face Toronto 4 days after United, one would hope that the condition of our players will be closer to near-optimal levels... Mourinho somehow managed his team to get to allmost full match fitness, so as sceptical as I was before our Dortmund game, now I'm really afraid of a spanking...

    Finally Bravo will play and so will Fernandinho, two players I look very much forward to and who should be absolutely pivotal in this system, especially the former. Yes they had the Copa but that's why their condition is actually better and there is no argument now to rest anyone as the season approaches, especially as they won't have to train now for few days anyway. By the way, the Copa was won by Uruguay, so I'm sure these useless bastards are relishing this chance to shine for this beautiful team.

    We'd like to test at last the 3CB system against them, so I'm already sorry for the forthcoming long post here... But the next update will come only at the start of next week probably.
    Last edited by djdusi; 11-11-16 at 08:46 AM.

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  20. #12
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    Excellent result! Looks like the tinkering to make de Bruyne more effective has paid off in this game. Let's hope it works in your other friendlies too.

    Nice to see Yaya get a run out, even if he didn't perform brilliantly. You should use your own opinion on whether he can add something to the squad rather than Pep's
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark View Post
    Excellent result! Looks like the tinkering to make de Bruyne more effective has paid off in this game. Let's hope it works in your other friendlies too.

    Nice to see Yaya get a run out, even if he didn't perform brilliantly. You should use your own opinion on whether he can add something to the squad rather than Pep's
    Yeah, if I'd have to decide now how to go for that Monaco game, then I'd be definitely inclined to use KdB as I did here against Dortmund.

    As for Yaya... As this project is supposed to be the CM reincarnation of the current process City are in, Yaya obviously has a slight disadvantage and is down in the pecking order behind the Fernando lads. And as we have still 49 players on our books and other young talents are to be signed unless I cancel those deals, he had to be transfer listed and wouldn't mind if we can offload him, something I'm sure Pep would have done too, weren't it for his wages that there were barely any potential buyers. Of course, his contract runs off anyway when the season ends. But until he's here he's considered as a normal squad player as anybody else, just that he should make the most out of his limited chances if he wants to feature regularly. I'm undecided yet whether he will be included in the CL squad, or I'll do a Pep...

    And since I'm discussing transfers, Gabriel Jesus might be an exciting addition in January. As it's already November IRL and I'm scrolling through the games very slowly, he might even make his full debut in City shirts by the time he becomes our signing in the game, so another positive can be that when I'm about to easing him into our team, I'll know what might exactly be the plan IRL.

    Mangala, on loan at Valencia, is another transfer listed player and Arsenal already had a 5M bid for him, but I didn't want to sell him to a rival and I just can't realistically see Wenger going for him (the prices and wages are of course adjusted to the finances in this October 2016 update).

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    Mangala is French though so it could be possible

    Fair enough - So your signings in-game will map signings made by Man City IRL too?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark View Post
    Fair enough - So your signings in-game will map signings made by Man City IRL too?
    Now that's a good question. I don't think I can keep it up for too long and it probably wouldn't be too sensible anyway. So far the only goal is to model mainly the tactics and in-game approach City IRL uses this season and see what it does. If it's not a complete disaster, and let's say, we at least finish in the TOP 4 and the signs for the future will be promising, then I guess I'll go more independent with the transfer/staff business and other stuff, and of course I'll adapt to the tactics/player's form too.

    So these strict restrictions I promised to myself are mostly here to stay for the current season. I wanted to give the chance to all those players that Pep does in the system that Pep does, that's it. But of course I won't play them just because of this sole reason, and I already look forward to scouting our own very talented youth players as I don't intend to go with more than 18-20 'senior' players into next year.

    But I might chase some system-friendly superstars as City did the whole summer as well (Bonucci, Laporte, or Kroos being the absolute wet dream).

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  26. #16
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    Love this, just read up on it and its really good and in depth and as a coach its what i love to see as well..

    Love the approach.. Keep it coming...

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    Designing new tactics - 3 - 2 - 4 - 1

    Hey again, it's time for another update after a long, long time...

    This post will be dedicated solely for the new tactics with 3 at the back as I already suggested previously that this is what we work on currently.

    IRL, Pep has used it in the Premier League so far with limited success (1-1 against Everton and Southampton at home, with the latter performance being a bit of a shambles and the former quite a spectacular, but with not-so-many clear cut chances).

    In short, here are the main characteristics or possible advantages which I was able to gather:

    • A help for the pivot in the build-up - what happens with this 3CB system is that we basically sacrificed the fullbacks in order to get more central; this means that we want our build up to get more fluid from the back. So the 'new fullbacks' are now actually the CBs on either side, who tend to go a bit wider, and the sole pivot gets some help as we add another one. So we do not really stretch the opponent when we are passing it short from our GK, but that's exactly the intention. Occupy the mid areas and somehow build it up to the attacking-minded players. If it succeeds by the help of this another pivot, it means that we are where we wanted to be in our previous tactics: somewhere in the opponent's half with 5 (or 7, adding these pivots) highly creative and skillful players, who should 'just do the job'.

      See the pictures to spot the difference, the second one is the demonstration of this new 3CB system. We go more central, invite (hopefully) the opposition and then (hopefully) play the AMs in the more men-free area. No. 8 and 7 are those two pivots and no. 12, 29, 26 are the 3 CBs, though the left and right-sided CB goes wide to make some space for the pivots.



    • Need of skillful CBs; either ball-playing or dribblers - of course, a bit of a disadvantage might be that these 3 CBs are hardly helping anymore the build-up once we are out of this space in the above pictures. And given that we have now 3 of them, not just 2 (in the 4-1-4-1 hybrids I had my fullbacks going into the same horizontal area as the sole pivot), it is essential, well in Pep's and my mind that is, to have at least one ball-playing CB, or maybe someone who can all alone beat the 'first block of press' - this is something Pep absolutely loves and also demands from his defenders. I never ever tried in CM to check the 'run with the ball' setting for one of my CBs, but maybe the time has come and we will see how useful is it, or how many goals we concede that way. Sadly, Kolarov and Stones, the two most skillful CBs I have in the team this year, still only have 14/20 dribbling skills, but maybe we can coach out something better from them regarding this. And the only CB who won't have short passing is probably Kolarov as his is 18 (Stones and Otamendi are at 14 currently and Kompany only 13). It's evident that Kompany and Otamendi aren't good ball-playing CBs, neither are confident and skillful enough on the ball, so only one of them should play in this setup and it obviously should be that 'sweeper' role.
    • More options after winning the ball by pressing, but still strong against the counter - this is simple, if we can win the ball high up the pitch with our pressing, we have both of the pivots quite far up, not to mention the 5 attackers, so we'll be in a good position to punish them. Also, unless the opposition isn't very good with overlapping fullbacks or very attacking wingers, it still ensures that those 3 men at the back can stop the counter. Especially if it's a long ball to the centre, because in that case, even the second ball should drop somewhere either to the pivots or the CBs.
    • Matches well with our best players' positions - now if you believe in the thing that you should always play your best players in their best position (according to the game), then there you go: Kolarov is a left-footed DLC in this edition, and his positioning exactly matches that even with the arrows if you scroll below. Gundogan and Fernandinho are MCs, not DMs or AMs (as it was the case with them in my previous tactics) etc.
    • Versatile players, easy formation switch... - again, something I love about this formation is that given how versatile for example Kolarov is, just sub one of the wingers (or a pivot) and send on Zabaleta or Sagna, and there you go, you either just go a bit defensive on the right side, or you immediately switch it to the well-known previous strategy with one orthodox winger and De Bruyne as a 'false winger' and with two fullbacks and 2 CBs. Or if it somehow totally collapses and you don't want to sub off anyone, maybe it's worthwile to experiment with Fernandinho at the back or Stones as a RB (I'd guess with a bit of a training he can be easily converted into a DRC).


    So this is the end-product:


    But this still is a risky formation and as I guess most of the teams will have a 4-5-1 on with attacking wingers, going without traditional fullbacks might be a questionable decision. I think the first time I'll use this tactics will be against a 'parking a bus side' at home, but incidentally our first league fixture is Swansea at the Etihad, so it might just be the right time... A lot of horizontal options when passing it out from the back with short passing on, with the 'front 5' in great spaces as ever so far with my tactics. And of course with one more extravagant CB.

    Unless we don't have at least a 15-16ish dribbler in the back three, I'd probably only go with a direct passing from Kolarov as he should be able to find with his 18/20 the right options in front of him as there are loads of 'em. Bravo again either direct if the opponent really is that ultra-defensive, or mixed with his 18/20. Gundogan is 17/20 so far with 15/20 creativity (one would hope that he will stay mostly injury-free and can even improve this as I'm sure this doesn't even match his IRL ability), so he will be on mixed as well to help this build-up being more direct and effective, so all other players (Ota/Kompany, Stones, Fernandinho) can stay on short.

    Naturally, pressing will be on for everyone bar the 3CBs and the GK. Through balls will probably depend on the opposition but if they have all men behind the ball then there is no point just to dick it around, so even Gundogan will have it on as well as the two ACMs, of course. Again, the aim of giving large spaces for our wingers to exploit their pace and dribbling is one of the main aspects, now that the fullbacks have disappeared completely from this setup, the winger stage really is just theirs and we have the players who are able to pass it to them (again, the Kolarov or even Gundogan long balls are an option). Marking will be strictly zonal for everyone, even if the oppo goes with 2 STs and we have the additional cover in the sweeper.



    And this is just one last example of what I love in theory about this very mentioned buld-up. Let's say Gundogan has the ball in this area and looks up: both Silva (21) and KdB (17) are in wonderful areas to further process the attack so if either of them is free to receive the ball, then good. If not, Aguero (16) drops deep too to confuse their defence a bit and of course we always have this winger on the left who is about to run riot. The safe options are Fernandinho (7) and Kolarov (12) or the safest being the sweeper.

    That was it folks, but I think there will be an evening update too, and it should include all our final friendlies (United away, Toronto away and St. Johnstone at home). Now there is no point to go into *that much* details in these games as I think I already discussed my tactics in such a long manner...

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  30. #18
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    Here's hoping it works in your final friendlies

    Never seen such indepth tactical analysis! AJ and Kingsley would love this.
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  32. #19
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    I love it too. Cant wait for the update

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    Wonderful read. Keep it up!.

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    16/17 - The remaining pre-season games

    Sorry for the delay, there have been some technical issues this time. For some reason, sometimes the mouse on the game on Windows 10 decides not to work properly and I can't drag and drop players, nor can I sub players in the game, which is a bit of a worry, especially in pre-season... This has happened in the next preseason game at the OT against United, and I was afraid that I have to 'move' to the VirtualBox environment where I have an XP installed, but that VM has an issue in itself currently, but somehow it works again for now... So there is hope still.

    Anyway, as I posted on here before, we played with a sort of a full first team against them, we had our condition levels in the shit, while Mourinho's droids have already been all match-fit basically. Also, this was the first test of the quite radical 3-2-4-1, which was of course described quite into detail in the previous post, so there is no need to re-iterate it. Gundogan and Yaya were tired after their last games, so this was the setup and the squad:



    Now add into this the fact that this was the session when the game and the op system decided to be incompatible with each other, so there was no any chance to make substitutions, and so you can imagine the relief I felt that by some miracle, no one got injured in the process. Jose was quite atypical and went with a midfield including Mkhitaryian, Rooney, Pogba, Mata and Martial with Zlatan upfront... And we won!



    Nobody understands how, but still. Bravo's first ever game in a City shirt went quite well, or to be more accurate, he was the reason we came out as winners. The OT was packed with 75k spectators so I guess I'll replay this game next preseason at the Etihad, to somehow balance out the massive income (if I'm still in the job). Other than Bravo, special mentions to our 3-men-defence, who tackled and intercepted quite well, but obviously we were still massively overrun and overplayed. I'm rather not even including other stats then goals.

    Next up was Toronto FC away and finally I was able to even make subs again. Only Kolarov and Stones remained in the lineup, and our fitness levels were finally about to get near optimal, well quite naturally as the lads had like 4-5 days completely off. We tried to go with the firstly designed 2-3-4-1 (with wide wingers and centrally minded fullbacks) against their 4-4-2. They actually play it with two 'low blocks' with a defensive mentality and men withouth the ball, so a nice test ahead of our league games maybe...



    As they have those low blocks, we tried to play it short from the back to invite them a bit further up the pitch when we form attacks (only Kolarov had direct passing on IIRC, but definitely not long as our wingers wouldn't have been too free in their areas anyway). This might slow down our approach a bit so we at least put through balls on not only for Gundogan, but for the relatively creative Kolarov from the back too.

    I also experimented with the 'run with the ball' stuff for my CBs as Kola and Stones have an acceptable 14/20 dribbling, but this didn't really work out. Oh, and there was some man-marking from our attackers on their defence.



    While Gunn didn't cover himself in glory, nothing seemed to work and mostly it was a poor effort from us. Only at the very end we started to create chances for fun but Kelechi didn't have his best day. Of course, it was hardly a strong starting eleven, but still. Yaya came to rescue with some attempted through balls deep from the midfield in the second, but overall it was a poor effort. Not to mention that their second goal came via Navas tracking down their left back for about the whole pitch, and still allowing him to cross it to Giovinco who smashed it in the net. So the man-marking might not be the best idea after all...

    At least few days after the game everyone was completely fit and running, so we are now training in full mode and can play our rehearsal pre-season game at the Etihad against St. Johnstone from the Scottish Premiership. We tested the 2-3-4-1 with the 'false winger' that is De Bruyne and allowed even Kolarov and Zabaleta to press, so we wanted to possess the ball a lot and maintain our high tempo without the ball throughout the game. Bravo was back in contention and basically this was possibly our strongest eleven, maybe albeit Kompany playing instead of Otamendi, but it's always nice to see the captain play.



    We were attacking and it showed. There is no reason to point out all the details as honestly the opposition was sub-standard, we were at home and finally our fitness levels were optimal. Even though this formation is a new one for me as well and is quite adventurous, so the fact that we created chances easily was a nice sight. Shame about the condeded goal, mind. The best thing for me was that finally our wingers enjoyed some success (Sterling and Nolito mainly), and also that the free role, which wasn't even in my initial plans, seems to fit well Silva and De Bruyne, they were flying throughout this preseason. The 4 attacking mids offered chances to Aguero and Kelechi on a plate.



    So this was pre-season and now we have the crucial game at home against Monaco in the CL qualifier. Sad news is that Gundogan got injured right before the season for 3 weeks, so given there is only Silva and De Bruyne for the 'false 8' role, I already know the core of my tactics for the game and have decided on the first eleven, too. I also arranged an away friendly against local non-league side Macclesfield after the Monaco game as there was a 10 day gap between the CL and the PL start. This should help mostly the 'fringe' players in our squad in order to stay match-sharp.

    Stay tuned for the updates!
    Last edited by djdusi; 25-11-16 at 05:09 PM.

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    Champions League Qualifier| Monaco at the Etihad

    It starts at last, our season. And what a nervy, scrappy win it was! Here is how the teams lined up:



    With Gundogan out injured, there was hardly an argument to play with 3 at the back and 2 CMs, and the same goes for the formation with De Bruyne as a false winger as we only had two highly talented ACMs available in the Belgian and Silva.

    Other than that, the one thing I immediately noticed was that how skilled but also strong in the tackle their 5-men midfield is. So I did a bit of a hazard and opted for the long ball for our best passers in defence, that is Bravo and Kolarov. One of their CBs had heading like 12, Aguero 15, so maybe we can beat them like that, or maybe we can find our widely stretched wingers (Nolito and Sane) this way. Another argument for this was that while they decided to play it on the counter, their mentality wasn't defensive at all, so I was hoping for some spaces to exploit...

    The classic free role and through balls combo for Silva and De Bruyne was a must again and it was probably a good decision as both ended up with ratings 8/10.

    I was unimpressed with Fernandinho's poor tackling numbers in the first and actually considered putting Fernando on at HT, but as Kolarov and Silva had slight injury concerns I decided not to make any subs. We looked actually ok, albeit not creating too many chances. Finally we had the possession at least 65-35 in the first, so that's something to be proud of, being it the 'Pep project'...

    The second half was more open and as they switched to an attacking mentality, so did we, and when they reverted to normal, so did we as I thought that we still have the bigger talent level so if we match their mentality and efforts, we should come out as winners. I rather went with mixed passing for the Bravo-Kolarov duo as the long ball experiment wasn't too effective. Then a succession of Monaco chances came, though most of them in one action and mainly from set pieces, Bravo had to be on top of his game and luckily he was.

    Kolarov started to really struggle with his injury and condition, so Stones came in, as did Kelechi after 75 mins as Aguero had problems too. And then it finally came. A corner from Silva and the header from Otamendi.

    As a 1-0 win is not the worst result in a first home leg of a knock out round, I had to react and bring on Fernando instead of the slightly injured Silva. Fernando obviously was ordered to sit with Fernandinho in front of the CBs and we somehow managed to see this game out. Actually, Kelechi did hit the post with one of his efforts.

    I definitely think that we will deploy Fernando along with probably Fernandinho in midfield, so a new formation will be created and saved for the away tie. It's quite an important game and we will need to be a bit more pragmatic and have that additional force in front of our defence. After all, just check the lineup and the game flow of Pep's last IRL encounter at the Turf Moor against Burnley... But our aim will definitely be to score an away goal too.

    Next is Swansea at home in the first round of the league again at the Etihad (and before that a friendly at Macclesfield to give some game time for the likes of Kompany, Delph, Yaya, Aleix Garca etc.).


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  40. #23
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    Looks like it could take a few more games for the players to gel to this system. Or perhaps a little more tweaking to try and restrict chances for the opposition.
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    Loving the detail in this story. It makes for a great read, almost making the games secondary. Almost. Nice win against United

    I also like the way you ate tweaking as you go, a level of detail that I have never gone into.

    Great work mate.

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    Premier League opener | Swansea 1st Round @Etihad

    Thanks again for the appreciative messages.

    Ok, so there was that another friendly at Macclesfield in order to retain the shape of our fringe players. Some basic info can be found under the spoiler tag, but this game was obviously about condition and morale issues.

    Spoiler!


    Next game is Swansea at home, and it's the opening fixture of our PL season. They, as will almost all our opponents in this game/league, play 4-5-1, but we already decided in one of the previous posts that this is the ideal occasion to test our 3CB system. It's sort of intended to be used in home games where our opponents sit back deep. This way, we can occupy both horizontally and vertically the mid and half spaces, so we can build attacks from scratch, while relying on the two wingers to give us some width. So here is the starting lineup with the formation included:



    Surprise, surprise, there was already place in the starting eleven for Yaya (he made his PL start only a week ago IRL). Gundogan is injured and there was no apparent reason to play Fernando, that is a destroyer against a side that will predictably defend the 0-0 (he's on low morale, too). Kolarov, Bravo and Stones are must-choices to somehow vary our passing structure/build-up play. And we also rotated our wingers as there isn't really a big gap between the quality of them four (Nolito, Navas, Sane, Sterling). Against Monaco, it was Sane with Nolito so this was the time to give chance to the other two.

    On the bench, there was a place for the young French lad Thierry Ambrose, who IRL just overcame a terrible one-year long injury, and in this save he'll be something like our third-choice striker. Kelechi had another meaningless friendly with Nigeria, so that's why the inclusion.

    I will try to concentrate in the future more on the possible weaknesses of our opponents, but this being the first round of the league season, there weren't too many hints. Anyway, we knew that their target man (either Llorente or Borja Baston, eventually it was the latter) must be a solid header of the ball, so we needed Otamendi for that 'central' CB role to deal with him.

    As Swansea changed their approach in the game, so did we. They started with 'men behind the ball', so Kolarov and Bravo were on direct passing, Fernandinho remained on mixed throughout, and Yaya had the job to distribute the ball centrally, while Kola (Bravo) to the right (left) side, to somehow balance it out. When they went more positive, we changed it to mixed as we hoped that there will be more space to attack, so we won't risk that many direct passes just to lose possession.

    And boy, we were effective and didn't give them a chance until about 30 minutes. We were already up by 2, after Aguero scoring from a De Bruyne assist, and Kolarov via a freekick. Then literally out of nothing, Barrow found Borja with his cross and he was able to control the ball, run with it a bit and score, and that wasn't the end of it: they had 3 another tries on our goal before HT.

    But we thought that maybe it was just a bit of a lack of concentration, so continued in the same manner in the second and luckily we came out firing again. Aguero got the better of van der Hoorn and won a red card, and from this point, there was only one winner.

    We decided to widen a bit, so Delph and Zabaleta were introduced (Yaya and Kolarov went off) and we reverted to our 'original' formation, that 2-3-4-1 with Delph in a rare DML role. Most of our players now had short passing on and had to hold the ball as the most important thing were now the comfortable 3 points. And so did Aguero score after another De Bruyne pass found him, and that was it. At least we could sub off The Man Himself and handed a nice PL debut to Thierry Ambrose.




    Sad thing is, there was an attendance of ~51k fans out of the 56k capacity, but nonetheless a very good start to our league campaign. The form of the attacking players is rather encouraging, as Sterling and Navas both linked up well with Aguero, which is a bonus addition to our ever performing 'free-role duo' (Silva, De Bruyne). Otamendi dealt with their striker very well indeed, winning both of his header clashes and some important tackles, and Fernandinho worked much better in the pivot role this time, though adtmittedly this '3-2' setup probably suits him more.

    Next up is the absolutely crucial away tie at Monaco. We have a goal advantage and I already know our team. It will include Fernando to make us better physically and defence-wise in the midfield battle. Wth Fernandinho also in, it will probably be a completely new type of formation, so it will take some preparation time. And let's hope for a result...

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