8 min readOct 29, 2022


After reading the excellent ‘Football Manager Playbook’ by Cleon Hobson from ‘View from The Touchline’. I wanted to dedicate my second post to a tactical piece setting out how I want my team to play.

The initial duty of any new coach is to decide upon a ‘game model’ — a way of playing — that he wants his team to follow.

This will act as an aid when breaking down team/individual performances across the save, enabling me to have a clear understanding of not only the systems strengths and weaknesses, but the roles of the individuals within the system.

This will ensure that I can utilise the in-game data to carry out targeted analysis with the view to impact and add value.



I have made the decision to replicate Manuel Pellegrini's Villarreal side from 2007/08. The Chilean nicked named ‘The Engineer’ often disguised a 4–2–2–2 under a 4–4–2, Pellegrini has been one manager who has been able to use the formation which is also known as ‘The Magic Rectangle’ to the maximum effect in club football, providing me with my tactical ideology.

The main idea of the magic rectangle is to exploit deficiencies in the oppositions space between defence and attack, while maintaining a balance with ideally six players active during any phase of play.

The shape has natural central overloads — both in and out of possession and provides a strong structural foundation. This is formed by the double pivot, who always keep a rectangular shape with their centre-backs (this is where the ‘magic rectangle’ comes from).

The attacking width is provided by the fullbacks, whilst the dual 10s have positional attacking freedom to provide support to the two attackers.


Without the ball, Pellegrini’s back four played a high line, emphasizing the offside trap. Pellegrini’s teams adopted more of a South American approach to pressing waiting for the opponent to cross the line of engagement rather than engaging the opponent high up the pitch.

Looking at the ‘Comparison’ tab under the ‘Squad Planner’ it provides me with confidence that my side will be able to play with a much higher defensive line. This is due to the defence being above the league average for both acceleration and pace, which means we shouldn’t get caught out by those route-one balls over the top too frequently.

In Pellegrini’s system the attacking midfielders sat wider, so as to track the opposition’s full backs. This created a compact block with short distances between the lines and players within each line. The block defended as a unit, shifting side to side and not allowing the opposition any time or space on the ball.

Again, looking at the initial data feels me with confidence as the defensive unit are strong headers of the ball and have good positional awareness and the ability to mark players well, this will be essential in maximising the effectiveness of the low block.


The full-backs provide the teams attacking width, often moving ahead of the double pivot. The centre-backs use the double pivot to build from the back, whilst also breaking lines with passes into the attacking midfielders.

The double pivot supports attacks underneath the ball, and provides cover inside and behind the advanced full-backs. One of the players in the double pivot may drop into the back line after the full-backs have pushed forward to create a back three. Alternatively, one of them may provide a delayed forward run to join the attack.

The attacking midfielders have multi-functional responsibilities and for that reason they need to be all round good midfielders with good technical skill and the ability to receive the ball between the lines and create half-space overloads with the full-back, number 6 and striker.

The strikers need not be specialist, but they need to have excellent passing ability, one of the forwards will need to drop back on attack, allowing for the attacking midfielders to overlap as well as support the main striker.


As stated earlier in the blog the 4–2–2–2 shape can help create central overloads in dangerous positions around the opposition’s central midfielders, leading to frequent progress through the centre of the pitch.

Also, when playing against a back four, both opposing centre-backs are occupied by the two centre-forwards, discouraging them from stepping into midfield to compete for the ball, which can help the two attacking midfielders receive in higher positions.

The presence of a double pivot enables the full-backs to attack simultaneously without the need for complex rotations or positional changes to add numbers in central midfield.


The 4–2–2–2 lacks natural width in attack, it is reliant on the fullbacks to support the attack and provide width. This in turn means that we can be vulnerable to being hit on the counter if our opponents can accurately switch play to a flank due to them being left open much of the time.

The flank is also another area which can be exploited by the opposition, we can potentially find ourselves overloaded and opponents targeting this area for progression and chance creation.

To counter this I have instructed for both wide players to ‘Mark Specific Positions’ the opponents fullbacks to offer an increased defensive presence and replicate the 4–4–2 without the ball.

Disciplined defensive midfielders are also required if we are to maintain a structural balance within the team.


Understanding both the strengths and weaknesses of any tactic is essential, especially when conducting the ‘eye test’ when analysing performance within the match engine.

From the above, we now have a foundation of understanding in terms of what we should expect from each player within the system. We can use this understanding to analyse performance and carry out data analysis for key metrics to establish baseline outputs. (more on this later in the save)


A good tip which I picked up from a good friend @TheFMAcademy1 is on Squad Analysis and the ability to understand some of the pro’s and con’s surrounding your playing group.

As you can see from the above, I like to be able to identify who are the players within the squad that are consistent and big game players, along with those who have personalities suitable for mentoring.

Running over the Villarreal squad was worthwhile, providing me with a few key headline takeaways.

  1. Big Game Players — over 50% of the squad have been identified as enjoying the big occasions on the field.
  2. Consistency is Key — over 75% of the squad are consistent players which means we shouldn’t see too many spikes in performance on the pitch.
  3. Rotation is Essential — nearly 33% of the squad are susceptible to injuries, which means there must be an emphasis on squad rotation.


One of the save objectives was to develop a new club legend, the individual cherry picked from the current playing squad is 19-year-old Spaniard Yeremy Pino.

Why Yeremy?

First and foremost, looking back at the 2007/08 season Santi Cazorla was the sides most creative midfielder under Pellegrini. The Spaniard contributed with a goal or assist roughly every 180 minutes. Looking at the below player profiles (Santi’s taken from 08/09), you will see a similarity when comparing attributes.

Using the ‘Statman’ skin which Ben from the SI Forum created, both players have a similar profile (Cazorla’s 2008/09 profile) when comparing their attributes under his grouped attributes. This provides me with enough hope to pursue this objective, knowing I am not trying to fit a square peg into a round whole.

Why the Wide Playmaker role?

The role has some hidden player instructions associated with it which makes it more appealing that that of the Inverted Winger. These instructions are ‘Collect the ball more, use more creative freedom and focus play. Basically any playmaker role within the game instructs a players teammates to pass to him more.

If we want Yeremy to have a significant creative impact in the game, he will need the ball to do so.

The Wide Playmaker role often drifts inside to find space from which to play the killer ball and create chances. Coming in from the wing will also allow the playmaker to escape the congestion of the centre of the midfield and can often lead to the playmaker being unmarked. This is reflected in the hard-coded player instructions ‘Sit Narrower’ and ‘roam From Position’.

Yeremy at 19 also has no ‘Player Traits’ he offers me a clean slate to develop him into the finished article. (Expect his development to feature, Cuts Inside, Like Ball Played to Feet and maybe Tries Killer Balls Often.)

I also think that Yeremy can offer an additional dynamic to the role, his agility, dribbling, flair and first touch could lead to him playing a little more direct at times rather than circulate the ball like a traditional playmaker.

I am already envisaging Yeremy picking the ball up in pockets of space, driving at goal, beating a man and then picking a pass after he has left the oppositions defensive unit in tatters. Wishful thinking? Time will tell on that one I guess.

Patiently waiting for release date, I promise some football will follow, along with the usual analysis and documentation of my thoughts.

I will be looking to implement a training schedule which is bespoke for the game model which I will document in the SI Forum over the next few days prior to main event.