Manuel Pellegrini’s 4-2-2-2 Pt.2

If you didn’t see the opening post, the introduction to Manuel Pellegrini’s 4-2-2-2 System is here – 

As we discussed in the opening post, Pellegrini’s 4-2-2-2 consists of 3 parts; a solid defensive square, vertical attacking movement from the full backs & inverted attacking movement from the interiors & strikers. Having played two seasons with this system, I can wholeheartedly say, it’s been my favourite #FM18 tactic and maybe my favourite Football Manager tactic…. ever.  

We started out with the base 4-2-2-2 DM system on control which evolved into another two systems, a 4-2-2-2 Attack & a 4-2-2-2 Defensive system, all three have proven to be successful when deployed in the correct match environment. As we go through this post I will explain how and when to decide which system to use, I’ll also explain the players that I used to help make this system a success with Villarreal. 

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The Fantastic Four  

Part One of this system starts here, Pellegrini liked his centre backs to be strong and powerful with their focus on doing the basics brilliantly, not getting caught in possession, choosing when to hoof & when to play. My centre back pairing for the majority of this save was Jorge Meré & Víctor Ruiz (later replaced by António Carvalhal) . The pair complemented each other, Meré the young defender with an abundance of potential and Ruiz his experienced partner as comfortable in the battle as he was with the ball at his feet. These pair were not the best money could buy, but in keeping with the save guidelines they were perfect for the story. 

Their partners in crime were the doble-cinco (two 5’s) partnership of Lucas Romero and Kristoffer Ajer. The two deep lying midfielders allow a solid foundation to build attacks from and because they rarely move forward the pick up the space left behind by the onrushing full backs. Of the two roles, the right Defensive Midfielder is the more defensive minded of the two, with the left Defensive Midfielder having more of a Deep-Lying Playmaker vibe to his player instructions. The player instructions for these roles were selected whilst replicating the box system of the four players, I don’t want to see my central midfielders being dragged out of position closing players down, I want the opposition’s attacking players playing in front of them and playing for a mistake. If you use the standard tactic you’ll notice a lot of long shot attempts for the opposition. In the build-up transitions you notice how the goalkeeper will distribute the centre backs who will then move the ball around between the four defensive players whilst they patiently wait for the movement of either the full back or interior player. 

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The Wing Backs 

The wing backs in this system are probably the hardest working players on the pitch as they provide not only their defensive duties but also the majority of the wide attacking play as the inverted wingers, or interiors as I refer to them, take up the central areas of the pitch. Determination, pace, fitness & a good cross is what I look for in my wing backs and in this save my first-choice players were Sébastien Corchia & Jordan Lukaku. What you’ll notice in the game-play is that in defensive phases they stay very compact with the centre backs (see image above), in transition the system becomes a 2-4-4 & in attack they create an overload in the final third.

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The Interiors 

Although the position doesn’t officially exist in Football Manager, the Inverted Winger role certain suffices, the main aim of these players is to exploit the space in the central areas ahead of the deeper lying defensive midfielders, their movement mixed with the wing back and forwards movement creates havoc for the defenders, especially if they are being man marked. My two favourite players in this save that have played in this position have been Bruno Xadas & Georgian De Arrascaeta. Both players possess great… and have provided performances of the highest quality, goals and assists. 

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Two up top 

As mentioned in the first post, Pellegrini prefers mobile forwards who move into channels and run all over the last third of the pitch, this allows the interiores to affect play without occupying the same space as the forwards. Dario Benedetto is a god in the deep-lying forward position, his movement has worked perfectly in this system regardless of who he is partnered with.  Pipa’s been the man in the DLF position, but his partners have changed over the seasons; Gerard Moreno, Adalberto Peñaranda, Lincoln & most recently Mario Ullmann have all played their part not only in the forward partnership, but in the success of this tactic.

Build UpPipa Goal

4-2-2-2 Attack 

As you might have heard on the @5StarPod, I created this version of the tactic for when the game felt stale and we needed a change, this was normally against weaker opposition who had decided to sit in and defend against us. Changing from a controlled mentality to attacking and plumping for a more direct style of play gave us another dimension and whilst retaining the 4-2-2-2 shape we could look to exploit our opposition in other ways. Both @CurtyFM & @DaveAzzopardi tested this system with varying success, the latter most certainly kept his job with Fulham because of its success!  

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4-2-2-2 Defensive 

The system to use when you’re closing down a game. It’s the horrible side of football, but quite fun to watch in the match engine whereas it’s intention is similar to that of someone knocking it around between defenders when you’re playing FIFA!

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I have had great fun with this system so I’ve made it available to download. If you use it, let me know what you think.

Download Link