Gegenpressing - The best playmaker in world football - Pre-season
If you haven't read Part 1 of this series as of yet it outlines the basic premise and initial tactical setup that I will use to try to recreate Jurgen Klopp's Gegenpressing style.
The tactical premise is based on the following simple principle:
No playmaker in the world can be as good as a good counter pressing situation
The idea being, if you win the ball high up the pitch, you are in a better position to create clear cut chances as the other team is caught in transition.
I have chosen to take this challenge on playing as St Pauli in the Bundesliga 2. In this article I will be outlining the type of player I will be looking for in order to play my desired style. I have previously written an article on how I go about scouting in Football Manager here so rather than go over old ground I will point you in that direction so you can see the methods I use to get the best possible players. In this article, I will explain the key attributes that I am looking for in this save, why I want them, and I will analyse my pre-season fixtures.
I have identified 5 key attributes that I see as being essential for the success of my team:
Work rate - This is imperative. Players in a gegenpressing system are asked to constantly close the ball down. The team can't afford to carry any passengers as this will leave the opposition with time and space to play in and we'll be quickly picked apart.
Teamwork - This attribute is directly linked to how well your players will adhere to any tactical system. Similar in many ways to work rate, the teamwork attribute needs to be high in a gegenpressing system in order to avoid giving the opposition time and space and to maximise opportunities to win the ball back.
Determination - "This attribute reflects the players' commitment to succeed and do his very best on and off the pitch." Frankly, the in-game description of this says it all. Determination is something I always look for in FM no matter which system I play, but its effects are amplified when playing a system that requires such work from your team in order to be successful.
Stamina - A gegenpressing system is demanding, it requires players to commit to maximum effort for the whole game. The stamina stat directly reflects a player's ability to do that, therefore in this system, a higher stamina stat equates to a more successful player.
Positioning - While I want my team to always press the man on the ball, they need to be able to retain a semblance of shape, otherwise a high-quality team (Bayern, Dortmund or Leverkusen in this save) will be able to pass it through my team with short crisp passes and the high press will be nullified. I see the positioning stat as 'reading the game' something which again is vital when creating a high pressing tactic.
Using those 5 key attributes I will start to build a team. As performances improve and I have more money to spend on players I will be able to supplement those attributes with a few more 'luxury' stats such as First touch, Passing, and Technique.
That is all of the theory behind my tactical plan and I think it could be quite successful. But in the immortal words of Mike Tyson, "Everyone has a plan 'til they get punched in the mouth." So let's see how it stands up in a game situation.
On starting the game I had 5 friendlies arranged whilst on a tour of Belgium. Here is how they played out.
All in all, I'm pleased with the results, considering my players were not at all familiar with the tactical style. The results on the face of it are good, however, it is important to not take results at face value, as they can sometimes be misleading especially when concerning friendly matches.
In the first article about this tactical system, I explained that I wanted my tactic to act as a 4-4-1-1 without the ball and a 4-2-3-1 with it. In my best pre-season game, a 6-1 win over Mouscron, we can see that it worked exactly as I wanted it to.
With the ball:
Without the ball:
If my team are able to replicate this throughout the season, it should lead to a fairly solid defence, while still having plenty of options going forward.
In order to see if my system is working as I want it to I believe it important to look at a couple of key areas:
- Assist type - I would expect the majority of these to come from through balls or crosses as the idea of the system is that we win the ball high up the pitch and play a quick ball into a striker to catch the opposition in transition.
This idea is borne out in my pre-season friendlies, so that's really pleasing. One slight worry may be that I failed to score from corners in the whole of pre-season. Corners and set pieces in general are a great source of goals and really something we should be taking advantage of. I am not overly concerned, however, as it is also one of the easiest aspects of your tactic to fix.
- Opposition mistakes - In a high pressing tactic, you should expect the opposition to make more mistakes that it might usually. This is due to the immense pressure being put on the ball, hopefully higher up the pitch, so that we can score goals through quick transitions of play.
Here I've highlighted the number of times my opposition have either lost the ball or been caught in possession in my first two friendlies. One of which was a 2-1 defeat, the other a 6-1 victory.
This is promising as in both games I have forced errors from my opponents in dangerous areas which should, in turn, lead to scoring opportunities for me. I actually forced considerably more mistakes from Mouscron, and when looking into the stats from that game they would suggest that I was unlucky to lose (Mouscron having 1 shot on target yet winning the game 2-1!)
Overall I'm pleased with how pre-season has gone. I only suffered one defeat during which I outplayed the opposition in terms of possession and shots. I am interested to see how it fares against the slightly better opposition in the Bundesliga 2. We are predicted 11th in the media, so I am not expecting miracles but if we can achieve anywhere in the top half I will be relatively happy.