Download Link> PLAN C - THE CONTAIN/UNDERDOG TACTIC<Download Link
So I was playing my Stoke City career and I got to the really congested period of fixtures around Christmas, and noticed that my next four games consisted of the following:
H - Man Utd
A - Liverpool
A - Chelsea
A - Arsenal
My form hadn't been great at the time and neither of my plans A or B seemed consistent enough to risk against such tough opposition, so I developed Plan C. Playing these four fixtures in fourteen days and taking even a handful of points seemed like an impossible task, so I thought I'd go super defensive, conserve my energy and just play for as many 0-0s as possible. The results that followed were: a 2-0 victory over Man Utd, a 0-0 draw at Anfield, a 2-1 win at Chelsea and a very unfortunate (dodgy own goal) 1-0 loss at the Emirates. In each match I was dominated possession-wise, but that allowed my players to conserve their energy while draining the oppositions'. It was this extra energy that ultimately led to my players making full use of their chances against Man U and Chels. This tactic fits a team like Stoke perfectly: the stamina and aerial dominance is vital, as well as a striker who puts it away given the opportunity.
Best used against teams odds-on to beat you, here is my 'Plan C':
The Formation - The formation is a 4-2-2-1-1, with a flat back-four set to be compact and defensive, and a hole in the midfield in which the opposition can tire themselves out. By having two defensive midfielders my team can sit back and focus on keeping the opponent away from the penalty area, and then have plenty of time to reorganise when possession is won back. The two wingers provide my attacking breaks, for the AMC and forward to finish off. There are a few more specific details worth mentioning, so I'll talk about these in the 'Player Roles' section.
The Instructions - The style remains balanced, so that when I do eventually get an attacking opportunity it isn't going to be wasted by one of my players being too rigid to be in the right place at the right time. The aim of the contain strategy is to soak up the opposition's energy and wait, and wait, and wait until you can exploit their tiredness by taking a chance of your own. It might even be worth swapping to a more attacking strategy towards the end of the game, but this isn't something I bothered risking. Encouraging your players to stand off more means they don't tire themselves out chasing down men with the ball. More cautious tackling is a similar theory, and also lessens the chances of giving away dodgy free-kicks and penalties. Zonal Marking restricts your players from straying too far with their opposing counterparts and again helps conserve energy. Lastly I have the crossing set to float crosses basically to make sure balls into the box are as high as possible, as Peter Crouch will win these all day. The width is one level below normal so that the passing down both flanks is actually down the flanks, not just slightly wider than centre. The forward is the target man for obvious reasons, with no designated playmaker set.
Player Roles - Specific player roles are vital to this tactic, so here is a breakdown of the reasoning and roles for each one:
GK -Goalkeeper: Defend - No sweeper keeper needed as the defensive line is so deep. Good aerial ability and communication is recommended.
DR/DL - Fullback: Automatic - With automatic duty this will be set to defend unless you alter the strategy. Lack of attacking responsibilities allowed me to slot Huth in and bring Upson into the centre, making for a strong and imposing back line. These guys will stay in line with your centre-backs and keep crosses into the box at a minimum.
DCR/DCL - Limited Defender: Defend - As soon as the ball gets too close, they kid rid of it. No fancy through balls or back passes, it's Under 11s style defending from these guys. Good mental stats are needed to make sure there are no communication mix ups, and strength and marking are a necessity.
DMCR - Deep-lying Playmaker: Defend - Puts in tackles and fends of opposing attackers, as well as receiving the ball from his team mates and looking to craft a good pass. N'Zonzi wasn't starting in my regular tactic, but he fit this role very nicely. Tackling and passing are important here. I also have his passing set to direct so that he can utilise the pace of the wingers, and occasionally provide a defence-splitting pass down the middle.
DMCL - Anchor Man: Defend - Does more chasing than the other players and therefore actually forces the opposition to play rather than just stand still. Looks to lay the ball off to the the DLP so that he can decide whether to launch an attack. This guy has to be strong, fit, determined and tough in the tackle.
MR/ML - Winger: Attack - The wingers do very little defensively, and instead look to wait until they receive the ball and then make up as much ground as possible. If they can get the ball far enough forward and then get it on the striker's head, you're in the money. Pace, dribbling, crossing etc.
AMC - Attacking Midfielder: Support - He roams around a bit, becoming something for the opposition defenders to keep and eye on and therefore drawing attention from the forward. The player in this position needs to work hard and also be able to create and finish chances if the opportunity arises.
STC - Complete Forward: Attack - Crouch is perfect for this role. A striker with technical ability, experience and aerial domination is exactly what you need. If he needs to get his head on it, he gets his head on it. If he needs to latch on to a through ball, he latches on to a through ball. Etc. etc. etc... Needs strength, speed, height, finishing/heading ability as well as composure and good off the ball movement. Not too much of an ask, eh?
So there you have it, my ultra-defensive tactic that has all the credentials to work against teams like Man Utd, Chelsea, Liverpool and Real Madrid who like to stick a lot of bodies in the centre of the your defensive third. This tactic aims to keep those attacking threats at bay, while waiting for the perfect moment to strike like a snake and punish your fatigued opposition. Good luck, have fun, and enjoy!