Football Manager 2012 has finally landed, it turned gold this week allowing for the 21st October to become a firm date and the demo released for this weekend. Bring on the regular cliches of neglected girlfriends and sick calls to work until you reach the half season that the demo allows you to play.
Disappointed not to see a German quick start with the demo to make a start with my Dortmund game. I thought I’d make a quick visit to Madrid and just as I did for the 2011 demo tried to create some attractive football at the Bernabeau
The first competitive game of the season couldn’t have been more fierce a competition as Real once again take on the champions of Spain and Europe much to the Irk of Madridstas. The 4 El Classico games that were played out over the previous season hadn’t done much to dampen the competition between the two teams and nor did the disappearance of one of the instigators Jose Mourinho.
In preparation of the last couple of weeks I have been reading the SFraser back catalogue and I became intrigued with his system of solid defensive shape to build a fluid attractive attack, Real Madrid seemed a perfect team to try out some of his ideas, at least for the demo.
Anyone would tell you that if you are playing Barcelona, the key is to concentrate 100% defend with discipline not allowing the team to pass the ball through your team and keep them at bay.
The team selection was important Arbeloa was preferred on the right to Ramos to give a little more defensive strength on that side of the pitch especially as Alonso although a decent playmaker isn’t blessed with great defensive skill. Pepe so aggressive and with Carvalho along side him would form a balanced and tenacious partnership at the back.
We weren’t blessed with any playmakers that could put a fantastic tackle in, but we were blessed with a pair of hard working intelligent playmakers that would position themselves well and work tirelessly for the side putting in intelligent defensive work and recycle the possession well in order to hit Barcelona on the counter.
From the selection of Xavi and Fabregas in the middle it can be expected that much of Barcelona’s play will come through the middle looking for Sanchez and Pedro coming into the middle to attack the goal, making the middle a key area to defend well. We were lucky for the first leg that Iniesta, Messi and Villa were out of the squad.
Bringing back my two playmakers to the DMC roles will ensure a a good starting position to close down the middle and protect the back four, putting a wall in front of Xavi and Fabregas to prevent them putting in dangerous through balls to forwards.
It would be a two layered wall that would start with the DMC’s who would press hard forcing Barcelona into a decision and with Barca we know they will try and pass you off the park.
With all of this in mind I wanted to put Barcelona under pressure but staying on our feet putting in a tackle only whenever it was clear that we would win the challenge. Flying into challenges we would only risk committing ourselves, the ball then being moved quickly by the intelligent playmakers to others exploiting the space.
The video highlights the defensive display and the defensive box is a big feature in what we did well in the game. As you will notice when Xavi or Cesc receive the ball in the middle they are instantly shut down, forcing a decision out of them. If the ball finds it’s way to Soriano again is shut down quickly and left isolated. Although Barcelona will keep the ball because that is a key feature of their play, they are regularly forced to move the ball wide. If they come inside they are only drawing themselves into the box of four players.
The chalkboards demonstrate the heavy closing down and cautious tackling which allowed us to intercept pases in the middle of the park well with players who have high anticipation, position and decision making skills.
This reduced the effectiveness of Barcelona and without the magic of Messi to worry the defenders Barcelona were reduced to taking their chances from less dangerous areas outside the box or wide of the goalmouth.
We never came into the game looking to compete on possession stats or to reduce the fact that Barcelona will try and their pass pass game. Instead we looked to stop them putting those passes into dangerous areas, using intelligent players to pick up the ball and offering a defensive rock to keep the clean sheet. It was a fantastic display by our team and if it wasn’t for some poor finishing from Rossi in the game we could have taken a lead into the next leg of the competition. But the next round if we are to take the cup we will look to get wider and exploit the space left by Dani Alves.
Don’t forget about the chance to win Football Manager 2012. Find out more here http://www.bit.ly/fmpundit2012