There is already a comprehensive list of literature on the internet on Marcelo Gallardo and I have included a reference list at the bottom of this blog covering the content which I used to create this tactic.

However, I know that some of you either don’t have the time to submerge yourself in the wonderful world of Gallardo or River Plate. Therefore, I have attached an excellent video produced by the guys over at Tifo which will bring you up to speed with the Argentinian manager.

What Gallardo has done is unbelievable. He gives River Plate consistency year after year even though they lose players. I don’t understand how he isn’t nominated for Manager of the Year. It’s as if only Europe exists.


Gallardo credits Marcelo Bielsa’s coaching methods and Pep Guardiola’s possession and high pressing football as the big influences on his management style. He is a very flexible tactician, not unknown to surprise the opposition with last-minute changes to his formations and approach to the game, below highlights how Gallardo’s flexibility, changing his tactical approach each and every year to fit the individuals within his squad.

The fundamentals are to dominate possession, counter-press, numerical overloads in all thirds, and a change of pace to launch attacks by rapid ball movement.

Gallardo’s River like to progress centrally with the full-backs in advanced roles.

The front two spearhead the attack and the Argentinian demands great chemistry from them. Though he prefers a more physical presence (Musa, Strength 16, Aggression 14) along with a tireless runner, the strikers performance is proportional to this positional intelligence.

When defending, Gallardo instructs his players to press in advanced territory, and to make quick recovery runs to regain their defensive shape following loss of possession.

His football is very physically demanding as he demands his team to transition shape as quickly from defence to attack as from attack to defence.



The below are the key roles which I feel really add value to the tactic, in my opinion if you want this tactic to really pop with your team it is important that you look to recruit specialists in these positions over others. That’s not to say that you need these personnel at first, testing with Boavista I had a IW playing as the False 9 and a BWM operating as the HB.

Full-Back (Attack) — the full-back is a key player in modern football, having to supplement his traditional defensive duties with overlapping runs down the wing to support forward play and help attacks overload the final third.

Although primarily a defensive player, he must be prepared to get forwsrd when the team needs extra width. With an attack duty, the full-back supplements his defensive responsibilities by overlapping the midfield and providing first time crosses into the area.

I have given both full-backs within this system the ‘Cross from Byline’ player instruction, this asks for the players to get the ball as higher up the pitch as possible in wider areas before attempting the cross. This PI makes the full-back operate a little more like a wing-back in possession whilst keeping some of the defensive structure.

Half-Back — The half back looks to serve a role somewhere between that of an aggressive sweeper and a defensive midfielder. The half back drops deeper than a standard defensive midfielder to offer an outlet for quickly recycling possession and to offer protection against the counter attack.

In Gallardo’s early days at River, he had Enzo Perez sit in front of the back four, Gaius Makouta will serve this role for Boavista offering support both in defence and in the final third. Defensively, he uses his pace (14), tactical understanding (Positioning 13), and brilliant read of the game (Anticipation 13) to break up play.

Offensively, he distributes the ball long in-behind the opposition defence, to invite Musa and Njie to run deep at, or into the wide channels to the full-backs for width.

In order to make the half back play a little more on the edge in terms of his passing/creativity and force some of these more expressive passes, I have selected the ‘Take More Risks’ player instruction.

The half back is the sides single pivot which often means you will beenfit from an increased number of vertical passing options, as there will typically be more central players ahead of the pivot player.

This puts a natural emphasis on building play centrally. Some teams who use a single pivot may involve their keeper more in the build up as there will be fewer short passing options in the initial phase, hence the use of the sweeper keeper on support.

Central Midfielder (Attack) — The central midfielder is responsible for providing an industrious and versatile link between the defence and the attack. With an attack duty, the central midfielder will more readily surge into the final third to support the forwards in and around the box

As you can see we have given the midfielder some traits, ‘Shoot Less Often’ which instructs the player to retain possession and remain more patient in waiting for the right moment to shoot. This instruction does not mean he will not shoot, as I can guarantee you that this role will chip in with more than a fair share of goals.

The ‘Tackle Harder’ player instruction is given to every player across the midfield trio, this is due to them often being placed high up on the field and when transitioning to defence there is an importance on not letting the opposition break the initial press. This trait means that the individuals often making up the initial press are more forceful and combative in order to attempt to win back possession earlier or even break up play with a foul.

FM YouTuber Clayts recently released a great video which looked into the best traits to give a central midfielder on attack (possibly the most over powered role in this years FM). In order to establish which trait gives the CM the most bang for the buck he simulated 10 seasons with each of the below traits to ensure his sample data was relevant, below are the outcomes.

The BEST Trait for your CM Attack is……(Tested)

As you can see the clear winner is ‘Gets into Opposition Area’ which boasted more goals, assists and the best average rating.

False Nine — The False Nine, in some ways, similar to a more advanced attacking midfielder/playmaker role, is an unconventional striker or centre-forward who drops deep into midfield. The purpose of this is that it creates a problem for opposing central defenders who can either follow him — leaving space behind them for the on-ruching midfield trio to exploit — or leave him to have time and space between the lines to dribble (15) or pick out a pass.

Below you can find a few examples of in-game situations which I feel highlight some of the key situations which using a false 9 creates.

1.The creation of midfield overloads, leading to the drawing out of central defenders

2. Playing between the lines and allowing runs in behind from attacking midfielders/wingers.


If playing Gallardoball is something of interest to you, please feel free to drop me a DM on Twitter @SteinkelssonFM and I will happily share with you the file.


  1. Marcelo Gallardo: The unpredictable tactician all of Europe is after
  2. Coach watch: Marcelo Gallardo
  3. Decoding Marcelo Gallardo and a shot at Barcelona glory
  4. Marcelo Gallardo: River Plate



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Football Writer | Twitter:@SteinkelssonFM