Barcelona Tiki Taka Tactics | Football Manager 2015 Possession Tactic

Download Football Manager 2015 Barcelona Tiki Taka Possession Tactics 2-3-2-3 Formation

When I should create another Football Manager tiki taka possession tactic I felt it was necessary to give you an insight to what I emphasize the most when trying to emulate a tiki taka tactic in Football Manager – actually giving you the foundation to re-create the tiki taka possession tactic in Football Manager 2015.

I felt I could not only publish a tactic without trying to explain the playing style more in-depth by handing you a tactical analysis of the tiki taka playing style. There I showed you the main principles and characteristics of Pep Guardiolas football philosophy and how he looked at possession as a tool to dominate opposition.

football manager 2015 barcelona tiki taka possession tactics

Photo Credit: Tsutomu Takasu – Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

After reading my tactical analysis of Barcelona tiki taka playing style you should have understood the importance of the positional system in order to overload the opposition in all phases of play; creating numerical superiority, which makes you able to dominate and control the opposition style of play, in a bid to make their play more predictable to counter, understand the importance of shapes to aid ball circulation and chance creation in additional to the benefits of a high-pressing game in order to record extreme possession. For now, I will leave the real life analysis as an valuable appendix to create the base of the tactic, and focus more on creating a possession tactic in Football Manager 2015; the Barcelona tiki taka tactics by Passion4FM.

Note! There will be published more appendixes and analyses about the many aspects of tiki taka style of play and how to successfully implement such a football philosophy in Football Manager later on.

The Key Ingredient of Passion4FM 2015 Barcelona Tiki Taka Tactics

“Estamos tocando tiki-taka tiki-taka”, was the phrase Andres Montes used in the World Cup 2006 to describe the playing style of Spain. Tiki-Taka or Tiqui-Taca has its origin from the Total football developed by Rinus Michel in the 1970’s and is a refinement of the attacking fluid football.

Since 2006 the Tiki-Taka playing style has become world famous, partially because of the success of Spain and FC Barcelona. The Tiki Taka can be described as the Spanish way of keeping possession by working the ball through various channels and play fluid football by taking advantage of brilliant short sharp passes (often in one or two touches), with the help of high degree of movement into open spaces.

The playing style of Tiki-Taka is equally loved as its hated by football fans throughout the world.
What caught my attention and heart, was the accuracy in passing and movement both with and without the ball which overrun its opponents, no matter their playing style or formation. I loved how Spain and Barcelona passed the ball so quickly between each other that it wore out the opponents, both to do more mistakes and to weaken their attacking system.

German Miroslav Klose spoke openly about the tiki-taka style of play and dominance when encountering Spain in the World Cup semi-final of 2010; “When we eventually did get it, we were so exhausted from chasing that we couldn’t do anything with it.”

One important part of the tiki-taka, is the collaboration of the defense and attacking, as the team is always in possession – in balance – as players will take up the roles of the other, provide cover and support in the ball circulation and the process of regaining possession as fast as possible. Here the transition phase is minimized as much as possible as it is seen as lost time by the help of utilizing an extremely high defensive line which gives you the assumption that the team plays the majority of the match in the opposite half.

Former successful FC Barcelona manager Josep Guardiola, who re-invented the false nine, once said;

We want to emulate the amount of running players must do. When you win back the ball, there are 30 metres to goal rather than 80. I want Messi as far forward as possible.

The Passion4FM 2015 Barcelona Tiki Taka tactics is created for everyone who likes to record high amount of possession (above 60%), who feels more comfortable when the ball is in the opposite half rather than counter from deep, who sees pressing as a tool to control the opposition and hereby force mistakes, who sees the benefits of utilizing a balanced system which is as defensive solid as attacking fluid in order to concede less goals, create more chances and simply experience lots of beautiful passes, goals and movements which breaks down ‘any’ opponents. The beauty of Passion4FMs FM15 Barcelona Tiki Taka tactic is that gives you total control, literally dominating any opposition with key passes that unlocks ‘any’ tight defenses, overloading key areas and giving the opposite team no rest.

With an enormous amount of requests to publish another tiki taka tactic for Football Manager, I did not want to let you down again, despite there were some improvements and new features I had hoped to see in Football Manager 2015 before I would try to emulate the tiki taka playing style again. Hopefully they will be implemented in Football Manager 2016.

This time I will publish at least three different versions of my Barcelona tiki taka tactics giving you both a closer look at the main system of play used by Josep Guardiola under his managerial tenure at FC Barcelona and how I have used his positional system as a foundation to create a good FC Barcelona tiki taka tactic in Football Manager 2015 according to my preferences and the limits of the current match engine.

When publishing my Football Manager 2015 Barcelona tiki taka possession tactic I hope we can use this thread to bring up new ideas and have a valuable discussion on how to emulate the tiki taka playing style in Football Manager rather than me providing my subjective view only.

I hope you will find your favorite system of the emulated Barcelona Tiki Taka tactics below and that you will publish any tweaks made to it – if you decide to alter the system to your team – in the comments field in bottom of the thread.

By downloading Passion4FM’s Football Manager 2015 Tiki Taka tactic you will record lots of passes and key passes, a couple of clear cut chances per game as you like your team to create more distinct goalscoring opportunities than the opponents, with shots coming from around the 18 yard box after intelligent killer passes, fluid movements in the attacking phase to create space while being defensive solid – hopefully conceding the least amount of goals within your league while scoring the most – replicating the feats of Josep Guardiola and FC Barcelonas goal scoring ratio.

I can’t promise you titles or high scores, as I haven’t concerned myself with results when creating my possession tactic, but I can promise you the feel of playing as FC Barcelona from their incredible Guardiola era as I’ve tried to make it as close to reality as possible, within the frameworks (read limits) of Football Manager 2015, of course. For me the objective is not to record match results where I win 8-0 or something like that. Instead the main objective is to implement the characteristics of the tiki taka playing style with its movements and positional play as close to reality as possible.

While it is ‘custom-made’ for Barcelona it will be well-suited for any team who favors a continental playing style similar to FC Barcelona. Of course, the team will need the required types of players and skills to make it successful. I will come back to the key elements and basic attributes required for this playing style later on.

What Team Shape to Use?

One of the major concerns (headaches) trying to replicate the tiki taka playing style for Football Manager 2015 and the different positional systems have been the choice of team shape or structure. While I felt I found a great shape and system for FM 2014 – a tactic which recorded over 700 passes per match with a passing accuracy of around 90% and possession between 65% and 70% (which I did not released), I had hoped to simply re-create the FM14 tiki taka system and publish it for FM15. But this should not be as easy as I had imagined due to the many patches and bug fixes of FM 2015 forcing me to wait until the 15.3 update to publish the final product.

From what you have discovered or noticed from the tactical analysis I like to use a 2-3-2-3 formation as a foundation for the tactic. The system makes it rather simple to record a 4-3-3 in the defensive phase, a 2-1-4-3 or a 2-3-2-3 in the attacking transition phase and a 2-3-5 / 3-3-4 in the attacking third. It’s a rather flexible system which gives a good foundation for ball circulation and high pressing play.

As you know, the team shape influences on the players (teams) level of creative freedom, their positioning within the system and level of mentality (according to duty selected – defend, support, attack). Here we can also take into account player preferred moves, specific player instructions and choice of team instructions which impacts defensive block, aggressiveness, positioning and movements of the players. According to my knowledge you should be able to benefit of for example creative freedom from fluid when building a tactic under a flexible shape by for example using use Be More Expressive and Roam From Positions or the total opposite by choosing Be More disciplined at a fluid shape, taking benefits of specific features from a team shape. The higher mentality of the players in the more advanced areas of the pitch will make the team press automatically higher.

The team shape will influence on how compact the diamond will be, how closely connected the players are and who, first and foremost, will be responsible to take part in the defensive phase, transition phase and attacking phase – a more fluid approach lets you experience more players involved in all phases of play compared to a highly structured approach.

When it comes to Barcelona under Josep Guardiola one of their strengths was their compact shape and unison. As I see it, creative freedom was given to some specific key players, who had the license to find pocket of space, make killer passes more often and use their flair and agility to get by their markers. If we should relate to the fluid team shape, the team were not split up in one attacking and one defensive unit, but rather found a balance between movements and keeping shape for the different phases of play similar to the flexible team shape.

By using a flexible shape I expect that the players with an attacking duty will automatically be given an higher mentality level and creative freedom compared to a support duty player or a defend duty – giving me the ability to predict by choice of player roles who will be the main creators, who will be the destroyers and who will retain possession more often and build others in.

This means that selecting wingbacks with an attacking duty expects me to see them moving higher up the pitch than within a fluid / structured system where the 5 back players have approximately the same mentality level, while the midfielders and forwards are higher – something that could create a gap between the two units which is more preferable for more counter attacking systems (Borussia Dortmunds 4-2-3-1).
On the other hand, using a false nine (support) within a flexible system should let me see him dropping deeper, staying closer to the advanced playmaker (attack) in the center, who will take up an higher position than the deep lying playmaker (support) – creating a rhombus in the middle of the pitch.

By selecting attacking wingbacks and inside forwards at support duty I would easily create a 2-3-5 formation in the attacking phase as they will overlap on the flanks simply because of the duty selection – taking up positioning in the midfield-strata – rather than selecting another team instructions (look for overlap, which makes the playmakers hold up the ball even more than they do – increasing the risk of loosing the ball in the center of the pitch).

This year, like last, I started out with the flexible shape which expects me to see central defenders with lower mentality level which provides depth in ball circulation and low level of creative freedom compared to the advanced playmaker attack or the false nine – making them more disciplined and play less risky. It would give me the chance to make a system which I can alter quickly by the choice of player roles and duties to create numerical superiority. The tactic worked as good as it could get according to the overpowered wing play of 15.0, until the 15.3 update release which caused some headaches, as I like to use the average positioning (heat maps) to spot gaps the opponents can exploit.

One of the problems where the change of mentality(?) in regard to the false nine, who took up a higher positioning than the inside forward attack rather than staying in line or slightly behind him – increasing the lateral space between him and the central midfielders within the diamond. According to the team shape of FM14 it seemed like he had the mentality of the deep lying forward, rather than dropping deep into midfield playing with the mentality of an advanced playmaker (attack), which I had expected he would have. This is something you will see experience by selecting fluid as the false nine will drop deeper.

The lower mentality of the central midfielders or the higher mentality of the false nine decreases the possibility to regain possession effectively when opponents are building out from the back as it creates a bigger gap between the forward strata and the midfield strata. Some space between them are preferable as the false nine shall drop into that space, but I felt it was too much space.
It seemed that after the ME changes of 15.3 the fluid shape was more similar to what I had found desirable for flexible at FM 2014 (14.2) in terms of positioning, which is absolutely vital in order to regain possession quickly and circulate the ball with accuracy and fluid ball movement.

The other minor issue is the willingness to take risks in passing at flexible, often experiencing a lower passing accuracy for the central defenders despite having lower creative freedom. The result is that the team waste possession more often in flexible shape, and is not regaining possession as quick as intended – reducing the possession percentage to below 65% rather than plus 65%, which you will record more easily with fluid.

To illustrate this minor issue I will show you the screenshots of average positions. Here is flexible at the left and fluid at the right.

Football Manager 2015 Shape:

Tiki Taka 2-3-2-3 Heat Map Flexible Shape   Tiki Taka 2-3-2-3 shape

Football Manager 2014 Team Structure

FM14 Tiki Taka Team Shape   FM 2014 Tiki Taka Fluid shape

If we should look beyond the problem of the false nine which does not seem to drop as deep as I’d like within the flexible system of 15.3 and the minor issue with lower passing accuracy especially for the central defenders it perfectly demonstrates how the formation transit within the flexible system. Many of the screenshots provided below from match scenarios have been taken within the last months by using flexible. It was only in the final stage of testing I decided to rather recommend fluid above flexible due to the better quick short passing and movements – recording an higher passing accuracy, increased amount of passes and key passes plus more clear cut chances.

The conclusion I have come to is that while the description of team shapes are more plastic than they may seem at first, I rather prefer the fluid team shapes for the 2-1-4-3 system, while the flexible shape better replicates the 2-3-5 system used against minor teams who defends deep.

I have therefore decided to make all tactics available both for flexible and fluid team shape despite the minor issue with false nine, the advanced playmaker (attack) who stays deep at goalkeeper distribution (fluid) or the deep lying playmaker (support) who stays deep at goalkeeper distribution (flexible), but this may be fixed by change of role and duty (roaming playmaker support) giving you the choice of what you feel works the best.

What team shape would you prefer for a possession tactic?

About The 2-3-2-3 Formation

After working with a more standard (traditional) 4-3-3 formation for FM13, I decided for FM14 to use a 2-3-2-3 formation instead. You can call the 2-3-2-3 formation my positional template.

As you know, the set formation dictates how the players will position themselves in the defensive phase of play meaning that the choice of formation will determine how you will defend (with the help of player duties of course). I chose the 2-3-2-3 formation to combat the 4-2-3-1 or any variations using wide players in AM-strata. As the wing-backs will drop into the defensive line in the defensive third, you will defend as a 4-3-3 (4-1-4-1) depending on duties of inside forwards and choice of team shape. The many lines of play makes it harder for the opposing team to play their way through the center of the pitch forcing them to play more direct and on the counter which them might be uncomfortable with.

Barcelona tiki Taka 2-1-4-3 Positional system

The 2-3-2-3 formation is based on the same principles as Guardiolas playing style: a compact unit which creates lots of triangles and rhombus’ which is favorable for ball circulation, but also for regaining possession quickly as everyone have a player in cover and are closely connected standing only a few metres between each other. The formation is highly balanced giving you the best foundation for extreme possession football in my point of view.

With the help of the high defensive block where the central defenders will take up position close to the center circle providing both depth in ball circulation and squeezing the play into the opposite half, it gives the whole team the ability to start the collective pressing higher up the pitch compared to a deeper defensive line – literally minimizing the transition phase to some seconds, which aims to reduce each players workload. Since the central defenders stays higher up the field it leaves a lot of space behind to be countered in, but it makes it harder for the opposition team to play their way out of defense as the first line of defense starts with the three forwards, which I rather prefer, as I want to regain possession as high up the pitch – as close to the penalty box as possible.

On the other hand, the formation is rather flexible, giving me vast amount of opportunities to alter the match tactics according to the opposition team. I can quickly alter it to a 3-4-3 formation, 4-1-2-2-1, 2-3-5, 5-3-2, 2-5-3, 2-1-4-3 or a 3-1-3-3 formation depending on what is needed to create numerical superiority in the middle as well as down the flanks simply by a change of player role and/or duty.

From the 2-3-2-3 formation I have decided to publish at least 3 great tiki taka tactics for Football Manager 2015, which I feel work wonders, especially in regard to the principles of tiki taka in terms of movements, positional play and style of passing.

Tiki Taka Team Instructions

FM15 Tiki Taka Team Instruction

While the 2-3-2-3 or Il Pozzo’s WW formation is the template for my FM15 tiki taka tactic we can say a specific setup of Team Instructions are the basics of the playing style. Here I would simply go through the team instructions I prefer to start off with for the match in order to replicate the tiki taka playing style.

FM 2015 Tiki Taka Passing Stats

With a fluid team shape you might see some more passes and an higher passing accuracy depending on opponent and choice of team instructions

In Possession
With the ball I like my players to patiently build up the play with shorter passes at players feet working the ball around until space opens up. The short passing play looks to retain possession not taking any necessary risk in your own half. Here the lower tempo is necessary to ensure that the wingbacks gets time to move higher up the pitch – trying to replicate the 15 pass rule of Josep Guardiola when building out from the back. The lower tempo will also entice the opponents to close your players down more frequently, which makes it more likely to move the ball into final third (behind them with more lateral passes).

Here the shorter passing and tempo will ensure that the four playmakers (deep lying playmaker defend and support, the advanced playmaker attack and the false nine) will be more disciplined in their approach to passing – recording an higher passing accuracy (around 90% or above). They will focus on passing between each other until space opens up, but will be more likely to split the opposite defensive block by being more unpredictable. Still I want them to make killer passes to the feet of their teammates as through balls are rather risky. As I see it, an inaccurate pass between the midfielders would be devastating as there are only one line behind them – giving the opposition team perfect condition to counter on you.

The foundation for the passing style starts with how the goalkeeper distributes the ball and how the team play their way out of defence. By ticking the play out of defense instruction it ensures that the players will pass their way out of defensive third with short passes literally setting the passing length to extremely short for the central defenders. While it may be dangerous against a team who presses high I rely on the defensive players composure and technical abilities to move the ball patiently out from the back until the opponents defensive block is destabilized and unbalanced – forcing the opposite team to move from side to side until the passing play are too quick for their anticipation and mind.

In the final third I would like to see lots of through balls and vertical passes, trying to get the ball behind the oppositions defensive line and into the penalty box. If I could have dictated by player roles that they should make through balls sometimes in the middle third, I would love the ability to set through balls to often in final third. By working the ball into the box I wants my team to wait for an opening or work hard to create gaps which they can exploit. The only disadvantage is that the longer the attack goes on, the easier it is for the opposite team to defend collectively – by closing all the gaps. I recommend to un-tick work ball into box if you are chasing for a goal against a strong defensive opponent, as you may be able to exploit the rebounds as players will be more likely to finish off the attack sooner rather than later. Couple that with pass into space and you might see some beautiful football.

With the lack of height in the team I prefer to utilize low crosses which puts emphasize on players acceleration, positioning and off the ball movement, as the cross is played hard and accurate closer to the ground – around 15-50 centimeters above ground. A low cross like this is far more difficult to handle for the goalkeeper and the players marking first post as the ball is played below knee height. Their cleverness within the penalty box will be an important factor – something Messi and Neymar should be the masters of. Since the defensive line is most prone to ‘forget’ the far post, I like to exploit this weakness by telling my wide players to deliver crosses to the far post for this system.

Out of Possession
One of the ways Barcelona successfully regains possession quickly is to stand closer to their markers, denying obvious passing options for the player with the ball. I like to minimize the playing pitch, forcing the opposite team to rely more on their football intelligence, technical abilities in one on one situations when put under pressure. I like to force them to make mistakes by exploiting their weaknesses – either its a poor left foot, poor first touch or a low vision and passing abilities.

Pressing to decrease passing inaccuracy

The result of the high-pressing is an increase of direct passes for the opposition team which makes it more likely to intercept the pass.

Regaining Possession: Stats of Interceptions for tiki taka tactic

The level of the defensive line will dictate when the pressing starts. I like to start off by asking my players to push higher up making sure the team press collectively high up the pitch. By setting the defensive line to approximately the half way line it ensures that the central midfielders will be positioned closer to their opposite markers (if not I might have to change player role (and/or duty) for example change the deep lying playmaker support to an central midfielder or a roaming playmaker support when facing a 4-2-3-1 DM.

Close down more coupled with specific player instructions to close down more often and opposition instructions will ensure that the opponents will have less time to get control of the ball. Here I prefer to use the close down more rather than close down much more as it does not destroy the team shape and collective pressing I here by speak of. But of course, if the opposite team gets too much space and time, use close down much more for shorter periods of time, or move the defensive line higher up the pitch.

The tighter marking ensures that the players will stay in a close range of his opposite marker, making it more likely to intercept passes. The single holding midfielder combined with the two central defenders will record the most interceptions as they stay deeper to cover for the advanced players full pressing. Here you will notice the relationship between the high pressing, high defensive line and my aim to decrease the opponents passing accuracy when building out from the back – forcing them to utilize a longer direct passes.

fm15 tiki taka high pressing - prevent short goalkeeper distribution

Note! Get stuck in might be a solution if you struggle to win possession of the ball as players will decrease the space to his opponents even further being more forceful and combative.

How to Utilize the Width; Attacking Phase versus Defensive Phase

Barcelona Tiki Taka Tactic 2-1-4-3 Positional Play Width

Utilizing the width will be one of the important aspects to succeed with a possession tactic in Football Manager 2015. This is not only influenced by the pitch dimension but also in regard to the formation and it’s compactness.

Width will not only dictate how closely connected your players are, but also how you can exploit gaps in the opponents tactical system by setting the correct width. Setting the width will not only be one of the most important tactical decision from match to match according to opponent in order to exploit weaknesses and eliminate strength, but should be carefully considered in order to play according to your teams strength, either you may have better players on the flanks than in the center.

When you download and load the tiki taka tactic I have not set any team instructions to width, but the foundation for correct width is already implemented for you by player instructions, choice of starting mentality and player role behavior. Apart from that the choice of width will basically depends on your pitch dimension. A short but wide pitch is better for taking benefits of your wing play while a long and narrow gives you a better foundation to be superior in the center. The dimension will also depend on your players level of stamina, how technical gifted they are and how well they utilize less space in relationship with the teams average age.

Pitch size Recommendation for Possession Football

Recommended pitch size in my point of view for any possession tactics are:

Short – Tick Team Instruction: Play Wider + Exploit the middle
Standard – Tick Team Instruction Play narrower
Short and Wide – Tick Team Instruction: Play Narrower

*Note that the team instruction according to width will depend on the opposite match tactic as well, since I prefer to keep a narrower shape than them without sacrificing the required width needed in the final third to create gaps.

In order to replicate Guardiolas football philosophy I want a strong presence of technical gifted players in the center of the pitch who are capable of using their vision and passing capability to split the defensive block apart – aka the midfield diamond who I want to stay closer to each other – which can be influenced by TI play narrower, work ball into box or play through the middle.

These four players plus the goalkeeper will have the best perspective of play and can quickly change the point of attack, play lateral passes to a breaking player or simply move the ball into final third or into the penalty box from zone 14. The MCL and MCR will be positioned on the edge of the center channel and the halfspace both stretching play for the false nine to drop into, but also maintain the perspective of play despite being positioned wider of the center channel. An extremely narrow positioning here would mean that the passing options out wide would be reduced – increasing the risk for the pass to be intercepted as it would be easier to defend against.

In the attacking phase I want to utilize the full width – stretching the play diagonally. Here the attacking wingbacks will provide the main width of the formation staying wider, while the inside forwards will cut inside. Influenced by Luis Enrique’s tactical system of 2014-2015 season I tend to ask both or one of the inside forwards to sit narrower, but this may depend on the choice of duty for the left wingback (support or attack) and how you want the combination play between the false nine and the inside forwards to be. The main purpose of instruction my inside forwards to sit narrower is to exploit the decision-making dilemma for the opposite markers (DC, DRL) dragging them closer to the center providing more space on the flanks for the attacking wingbacks to manoeuvre in – providing better circumstances for overlaps to occur – forcing the opposition team to also take into account the threats from wide.

The angle between the central midfielders and the inside forwards ensures not only that the opposite team have to combat the strong presence and overload of players in the center, but also have to take into account the ideal angles of penetrating passes from deep. The few metres between the inverted wingers and the advanced playmakers makes it easier to regain possession if the ball path are intercepted. Another benefit of the attacking wingbacks which stays wider are the tendency for the opposite team to “forget” about them. If the play becomes too congested in the middle, the playmakers can easily switch the ball to the other flank giving the wingbacks the chance to move the play higher up – running towards the byline or come clear on goal. Your team will be lethal from all areas of the pitch, something your opponents have to take into account when defending – either instructing their wingers to be more defensive minded or leaving space out wide and hoping to make play so congested in the middle that your team can’t find the ultimate opening to score goals. No matter what, you will experience to benefit from the space your opponent is leaving – forcing them to not make any individual errors in regard to positioning and closing down.

Barcelona Tiki Taka Tactic Defending Phase Width

While I want my team to play wider than my opponent in the attacking phase I want my team to make the pitch as small as possible when defending. As the inside forwards are already staying narrower, it will be the main responsibility of the wingbacks to decrease width seeming like the team is always in possession as the positional play is maintained by simply reducing the metres between each position.

While diagonal width is minimized in the defensive phase it’s important for the central defenders to push up when the team is pressing high like illustrated above – squeezing play in order to leave less space between lines for the opposition to exploit.

In the heat of the match it will be important to analyze the width and where you can leave space in relationship to where you will close gaps for the opposition team. While I like to play compact leaving ‘no obvious’ gaps I tend to prioritize to instruct my team to play narrower than the opponent despite it will impact the width in the attacking phase as well. As you will notice I have not set any other instructions to width for the beginning of the match outside player instructions in order to analyze the oppositions weaknesses and strength for their match tactics.

Team Training (General) – The Development Program

The tiki taka philosophy could be entitled as an integral culture where player development is as important as the philosophy in terms of transfers and youth recruitment. It’s not like the sudden change of a manager entirely change the way the team will play – or which training sessions that will be elementary for the youths preparations to become a future first team member.

FC Barcelona and its tiki taka playing philosophy is unique in that way that there is a central concept which flows through the club – a primarily idea about how to control and dominate the opposition. This idea about how to play beautiful football have stand as the founding pillar of the clubs football philosophy and culture for at least 25 years.

This is why I consider it as the evolution of Total football, not only because of the style, but also because of the focus on specific training routines created to make sure all players – from the age of 7 (PreBenjami) – will fit into the playing style perfectly when they should be ready for the first team 10-15 years ahead. Training is incorporated not only to be technical proficient to endure the high passing tempo or tactical intelligent to fit into the positional play but everything is about rehearsed play on improving intuition and decision-making giving them the tools to adapt to situations with the basis of reducing the time spend on issues like: ‘knowing where your team mates are’. For example the rondo is one basic training session which will serve as rehearsed play. The habitual training I’m briefly mentioning is one of the heritages of Total Football and the revamp Johan Cruyff did to the youth academy.

All coaches talk too much about running a lot. I say it’s not necessary to run so much. Soccer is a game that’s played with the brain. You need to be in the right place at the right time, not too early, not too late.
Johan Cruyff

The training is structured around the principles of how the first team plays by using a development program build on the concepts of the football philosophy integrated at the club running through all the ranks of the club. The development model is build around age relevant training providing each age group a step by step program of the characteristics of the playing identity. This to ease the step up from juniors to the first team or from youth ranks (under 16) to the reserves (under 21). This ensures that the players gone through the ranks are experts of the playing style having recorded approximately 10,000 hours of specialized training around the concepts of ‘tiki taka’ by the age of early twenties.

Player development at Barcelona was/is focused around; “we train as we play, with the same intensity of a football match”. Sessions will never last longer than 90 minutes and the training sessions themselves looks to improve player fitness and stamina, and not by running up and down hills. So how does this relates to the general training in Football Manager 2015.

Pre-Season [Improving Tactical Familiarity]

Pre-Season General Training

I won’t delve into how to improve the tactical familiarity levels here. That will be discussed in an own post (previously released but not moved to our new server) later. But the pre-season is all about match preparations and improving team cohesion. Just to summarize, the level of team cohesion can be monitored under the assistant managers team talk feedback report. I prioritize to have a good level of understanding amongst the players before the first league match kicks off. So after some weeks (hopefully 2-4 weeks) of fitness training I use general training team cohesion in companionship with match tactics for match preparations. With the scheduling slider set to 50% on match preparation Match tactics until all the tactical familiarity levels reaches 100/100 the remaining time will be spend on tactical general training from the time team blend is good.

NOTE! Team cohesion is also the mandatory option when 2 or more players have been purchased or sold.

General Training – In-Season

As detailed in the appendix about the player roles of tiki taka the key attributes for such a playing style revolves around the ability to read the game (anticipation) make good (correct) decisions through out the match and be a team player who can be calm under pressure and make intelligent decisions despite fatigue. The majority of general training is set to improve the players tactical intelligent. I spend an high amount of team training on Tactical at any club I’m managing. Apart from the Tactical team training, which I consider as the basis of the clubs development plan I also tend to set an equal focus on Ball Control, because of the importance of improving technique and first touch, and Attacking to improve vision, off the ball and passing. But here it may be natural to believe that passing is improved together with first touch and technique as real life training drills evolving around the ability to control the ball also has an element of passing. Since it’s impossible to know which training drills the players do, I favour to focus 50% on ball control and Attacking apart from Tactical.

One model to use is 2 weeks tactical, 1 week ball control and 1 week attacking per month. But this comes down to analysis of your squad, periodic performance analysis of areas your team might struggle with, either its low goal scoring ratio, poor passing or lack of team movement and tactical understanding.

Some would also claim that positioning is also an important part of the play, especially in terms of pressing and therefor Defending should be at least be prioritized to some degree, but I rather have my team focus 30% on Ball Control and Attacking and then follow Josep Guardiolas philosophy to practice defensive organization and positioning when building out from the back prior to one game per month just to ensure the players doesn’t forget that important element of play.

Tactical Team Training

Here is one common example of my approach to team training including focus area and intensity level.
This level of balance between general training and match preparations and its intensity level is primarily used in periods where the fixture list is normal (one match per week). For English weeks (one mid-week match included) I prefer to decrease the match preparation to 10% in order to focus on player development when tactical familiarity and team blend is at highest.

Match Preparation looks to boost the area which I’m not currently focusing on for general training. While Attacking Movement might be selected over 50% of the season for match preparation in order to improve the off the ball movements and positional play in possession defensive positioning might be a good number two if you concede goals very often. This is partly because I prefer Tactical focus ahead of Ball Control and then Attacking for general training.

fm15 tiki taka tactics youth training

Youth Training & Development

One of the first things I do when taking over a new club is to ensure that the reserves and under 19/18 plays matches with First teams tactics. This can be managed under Staff Responsibilities. I also favour to have total control of the reserves and Under-19/18 training. For youth development I prefer to set 100% focus on player development. This means that youth team training is set to Tactical throughout the season at 10% match preparations just to make them familiar with the clubs match tactics.

Opposition Instructions

fm15 tiki taka opposition instructions

I won’t make this section long, but rather hand you the main content as much have been discussed further in the article “how to win possession“. The setup of opposition instruction is all about limiting the space and time for the opposite player with the ball.

I want players to be pushed inside into my pressing trap by showing players on to the opposite foot of their playing area (for example onto left foot for the right winger. You will notice that I have not set up anything for the AMR / AML position. Here I use specific instructions for the player depending on if he is likely to cut inside or cross from byline. It partly depends on the inside forwards dribbling abilities in relationship to acceleration and balance. Poor balance makes me favour hard tackling but closing down will depend on his dribbling capabilities. High dribbling and acceleration might force you to set closing down to never.

Note that I put as much pressure on the second and third line of defence and as much pressure on isolated player positions such as GK, sweeper, single holding midfielder and central defenders / midfielders.

Records & Important Information

Before I give you the chance to take a closer look on the different tactical systems available for download it’s worthy for me to mention that the tactical systems and tactics provided below must be seen in relationship to each other as I might change between the systems within a match or between matches according to what I like to achieve. All of them will record +60% possession, around 600+ passes, over 20 shots per match and at least 2 clear cut chances per match depending on whom you are up against. Here I will take into account that you have players with the ability of playing extreme possession football despite I have recorded some nice results with a young Red Star team.

I look at the systems provided as one tactic with different possibilities and strengths. The records provided will just give you an illustration of what you can expect once managed to incorporate a possession football philosophy at your managing club in regard to goal types, assists types, where most of the goals comes from and the ratio of conceded goals versus goals scored.

fm 2015 tiki taka tactic goals locations   fm 2015 tiki taka tactic assists locations
fm15 tiki taka tactics goal analysis types   fm15 tiki taka tactics goal analysis assist types


Football Manager 2015 Tiki Taka Possession Tactic 2-3-2-3 Overload (The Foundation)

fm15 tiki taka 2-3-2-3 formation overload

When I started to create another tiki taka tactic for Football Manager 2015 in December I decided to morph the asymmetric 4-3-3 / 3-4-3 formation which Barcelona used primarily in the 2010-2011 season and the 4-3-3 formation with attacking wing backs used 2011-2012. While I only published one tactical system build around the 2010-2011 season for Football Manager 2013 I decided to make a tactical template which lets you easily change your (attacking) formation with a subtle change of player duties. The basic 2-3-2-3 formation you can download below has become one of my favorite systems as the movements from the players (with correct player preferred moves) exploits spaces in a way that you can easily get into the final third by neatly thread passes which looks to split the lines open.

While this tactic might seem more complex, it is based on providing a better balance between the players responsibility and movements within the framework of 2-3-2-3. It aims to overload a typical 4-4-2 formation or any systems using a maximum of 4 midfielders as the formation transits from a 4-4-2 in the defensive phase to a 2-1-4-3 or a 2-5-3 in transition, while it resembles more an asymmetric 3-3-4 formation in the attacking phase. Some would also say it looks like a 2-3-5 when the opposition team is pinned back into their own penalty box. But when the false nine drops deep to get the ball in the attacking transition phase the formation can resemble a 2-4-4 formation forcing the defensive line to stay deep rather than closing down the movement of the false nine which gives him time to turn, get an overview of the passing alternatives and importantly makes him able to dribble with the ball at full speed against a retreating opposite block.

barcelona tiki taka positional play transition false nine dropping deep

False Nine dropping deep to create space to roam into for the inside forwards and complete wingback attack.

The 2-3-2-3 system I hereby speak of aims to replicate how Guardiola wants to overload on one side in order to open up space on the other to create goalscoring opportunities from. As you will notie the triangles and rhombus’ shapes are more narrow which aids to create numerical superiority and better opportunities to circulate the ball; both quicker and with an intention – to penetrate from deep – getting the complete wingback free of marking on the right while the inside forward left will stretch play giving the team the chance to switch the ball over to the opposite flank.

[…] “You have to pass the ball with a clear intention, with the aim of making it into the opposition’s goal. It’s not about passing for the sake of it” […]

[…] “The secret is to overload one side of the pitch so that the opponent must tilt its own defence to cope … so that they leave the other side weak. […] Then we attack and score from the other side.” […]

Pep Confidential; The Inside Story of Pep Guardiola’s First Season at Bayern Munich, Martí Perarnau, 2014

Here are two examples of the overload – the domination of possession, and the intricate passing I want in order to successfully emulate the tiki taka:

football manager 2015 tiki taka tactic 2-3-2-3 domination Possession   Passing Stat of Passion4FMs FM 2015 tiki Taka Possession Tactic Overload

While these screenshots where taken in the pre-season of my new Red Star save, where tactical familiarity where around 60/100 for the majority of its categories, which I will come back to in a later post, it shows my intention when building this tactic. Despite the team had not the recommended player preferred moves yet, or the abilities to play a possession tactic according to my preferences you can clearly see some of its abilities. In order to give you a better insight I will illustrate this tactic on my tactics board.

Barcelona Tiki Taka tactic Possession Overload 2-3-2-3 formation

As you see, the system is build around more movements on the right side compared to left. Most notably is the forward runs from the attacking complete wingback into the space providing passing alternatives for Xavi, Messi and Iniesta to switch the ball to. This is allowed as the right inside forward will sit narrower running diagonally into the center as the false nine drops deep. The deep lying playmaker (MCR) will provide cover for the CWB forward runs and look to make play unpredictable by swapping between retaining possession and play through balls from zone 14 – normally to the false nine or in to space for the inside forward support to run onto.

While play is concentrated on the right will the advanced playmaker attack look to get into the box by deep runs. He will provide a second option of penetration as his dribbling and forward runs will look to destabilize the opposite defensive block. I consider the left inside forward as the ‘main’ goalscorer as the false nine will prioritize to play killer passes into the penalty box towards the left IF, who will exploit any spaces or gaps. But the deep positoning of the inside forward right who will stay closer to the false nine will be an ideal opportunity by them to play one twos with each other.

fm15 tiki taka inside forward support

The Inside forward support cuts inside to the edge of zone 14 and will play through balls. Acting like a fake attacking midfielder he will look to overload the half space coming / staying deep to get the ball while the complete wingback stretches play down the right flank providing a dilemma for the DC and DR.

FM15 Tiki Taka Tactic Overload Defensive block

The positional system and players roaming into space creates an overload against the defensive block. Here the false nine destabilize the defensive block by dribbling creating space for the deep lying playmaker to exploit as the center channel is left open.

Note! The tactical system aims to leave the center (the penalty box) open in order for the players to run into creating trouble since as many as 5-6 players are rushing at the opposite defensive line depending on the duty of the left wingback.

Barcelona Tiki Taka Possession Tactic 2-1-4-3

You might notice a slight difference between the tactical system I here by speak of in regard to the 2-3-5 which you can download below and the duty of the left wingback provided in the download link. with the wingback given an attacking duty in the flexible system the formation will resemble a 2-1-4-3 formation giving you more width and more overlaps occurring.

Some would argue that the wingback in support duty will give the deep lying playmaker and the defenders an additional passing option when building out from the back, I have simply wanted a lower mentality to provide cover for the attacking runs of IF-A left and advanced playmaker attack (left). The wingback support will not only look to counter the advanced position of the opposite winger (in attack duty) but it will stretch play vertically providing space.

barcelona tiki taka tactic 2-1-4-3 formation

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Published: 24.04.2015
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Download Passion4FMs Football Manager 2015 tiki taka tactic 2-3-2-3 formation where I’ve morphed a 2-1-4-3 formation, the 2-3-5 and the asymmetric 4-3-3 formationa of Barcelonas 2010-2011 season. Provided in a flexible team shape.
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Published: 24.04.2015
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Download Passion4FM’s Tiki Taka Tactic in fluid team shape letting you experience a wider 2-1-4-3 formation.

FM15 Barcelona Tiki Taka Tactic 2-3-5 Formation (2-3-2-3 Wide)

FM15 Tiki Taka Tactic 2-3-5 Formation

The Barcelona Tiki Taka 2-3-5 formation is recommended to apply against teams who play with a lone forward; 4-2-3-1, 4-1-4-1 or any variations where you have one attacking midfielder and one forward, as it looks to create numerical superiority within the defensive line as well as quality superiority in the DM-strata by moving the wing backs from the traditional fullback strata. This is done to decrease the opposite wingers space providing more balance to the team and create numerical superiority down the flanks as well in the midfield line, especially when facing a 4-2-3-1 or 4-1-2-2-1 formation, as you will be literally playing a 2-1-4-3 formation with wingbacks at attacking duty when in possession. The 2-3-2-3 have then transformed from a 4-3-3 in the defensive phase to a 2-1-4-3 when building out from the back (middle third) to a 2-3-5 formation in the attacking third overloading the opposite team around the penalty box.

The 2-3-2-3 -> 2-3-5 variant will be better against teams who utilize a deep defensive block congesting play to the middle as you look to exploit the wide areas of the pitch by overloading the flanks. Here the holding playmaker will step up into the center midfield when needed creating a strong triangle in the center while covering the center channel with the help of central defenders who stay closer to each other compared to using the half back role. While I prefer to use it against weaker opponents, the advanced wingbacks can reduce the attacking abilities of the opposite inside forwards as they needs to spend more energy tracking back rather than utilizing their creativity in the attacking third, which they are more comfortable doing.

Barcelona Tiki Taka 2-3-5

When the attacking wingbacks gets forward whenever possible, the inside forwards (support duty) will cut diagonally into the middle, exploiting the half space between the opposing fullbacks and central defenders. The movement attracts the opposing markers attention which creates even more space down the flanks the wingbacks can exploit from. Since the complete wingback attack (right) will look to make an impact in the opposing half the deep lying playmaker support will have an important job to cover for his runs. The main job of the deep lying playmaker support will be to retain possession, break the lines with intelligent passes and provide some key passes from deeper position.

FM 2015 Tiki Taka 2-1-4-3 movements overloading flanks

In regard to the single holding playmaker who will have a pivotal role, he will look to intercept passes, win back the ball by stepping up in the midfield line or drop back to increase the amount of passing options for the central defenders when building out from the back. Here some would automatically choose a regista or a defensive midfielder, but I have opted for the DLP (defend) for this system as I need him to hold position in front of the central defenders, both to provide depth in ball circulation but also to have an higher creative freedom and level of mentality compared to the DM(d). Of course, the choice of role for the single holding midfielder will be dependent of the uses of an AM or not or the role of the AM as it may be favorable to use a player who close down more horizontal when facing a trequartista. From the description of the defensive midfielder role, it states that the DM will also look to hold up the ball while the team is reorganizing themselves which might make him vulnerable to be pressured, reducing the passing tempo too much, instead of recording an higher amount of passes (key passes and killer passes when the opportunity is there) for the defensive midfielder.

FM 2015 Tiki Taka Tactic 3-1-3-1 formation building out from back

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Published: 24.04.2015
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Incorporate an extreme possession tactic at your managing club by downloading Passion4FMs Football Manager 2015 tiki taka tactic 2-3-5 formation.

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Published: 24.04.2015
Updated: N/A
File Size: 40Kb