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[NON-BETA] Sharp Counters, Defensive 3-5-2

1. Introduction

Are you sick of unrealistic games with 6+ goals every other match? Are you sick of Tiki-Taka, possession-based, ultra-offensive tactics? So was I, so I started tweaking my own tactic. I couldn't wait to try the new WCB role, so I went straight to my favourite 3 ATB tactician, Antonio Conte.
Conte played a dynamic system at Juve and Inter, specifically a 5-3-2 defending and 3-3-4 attacking, using a 3atb with a Deep Lying Playmaker as a pivot with a Mezzala and B2B Mid ahead of him focused on creating overloads out wide with the WBs, who provide the only width in this formation. Up front it has a big-small pairing, similar to Lukaku and Lautaro at Inter. Now, to translating this into the game!

2. Formation & Roles


1) Sweeper Keeper (Defend)
Not much to say about this role.

2) Ball-Playing Center Back (Defend)
Role offers best results compared to Cover/Stopper. Needs to be good defensively and play quick, accurate passes when possession is obtained. Overall, use your best DC here.
Key Attributes: Tackling, Heading, Passing, Marking, Pace (don't prioritise but useful).

3) 2 x Wide Center Back (Defend)
Easy to fill role, hard to fill with someone who will excel at it. Main purpose is to cover the space left by the WB when he's not there and going slightly more central if the WB is there, to help him press and overload the side in defence. When playing on the opposite side of action, needs to act like a second DC. Positioning and Off the Ball are crucial.
Key Attributes: Off the Ball (VERY VERY IMPORTANT!), Positioning, rest of the usual DC stats.

4) 2 x Wing Back (Attack)

Considering these guys are our only width and crucial to this whole tactic, you might want to get some good ones. They need to go up and down the pitch all game and try to provide danger in the offensive, while also running back to help defend.
Key Attributes: Stamina, Work Rate, Pace, Crossing, Tackling

5) Deep Lying Playmaker (Defend)

Defend role tends to keep him more stable, as he should be. This is our pivot, with his main role being of playing central, quick combinations with the other midfielders (including WBs) to penetrate opposing lines, while staying relatively deep in possession to help cover for missing midfielders in case of a counter and provide a deep passing option that is not a DC.
Key Attributes: Passing, Vision, Tackling, Teamwork, First Touch

6) Mezzala (Support)

Lingers a little wider than his B2B partner. Is on the Advanced Forward's side because there tends to be a lot of spaces to get into there, as the Forward stays up most of the time. His job is to get behind lines and offer his teammates a diagonal passing option. Instructed to carry the ball forward and give strikers time to find space. Generally, this is a place to put your more technical, less defensive minded midfielder to dribble and find space and try through balls.
Key Attributes: Dribbling, Passing, Off the Ball, Stamina, Work Rate

7) Box To Box Midfielder (Support)

A more defensive option to balance out the midfield. Has a Deep Lying Forward on his side, so there's not quite so much space to work with. His main role is to be the engine of your midfield: pressing, carrying the ball forward, trying to play his teammates in, this guy has to do it all.
Key Attributes: Stamina, Work Rate, Pace, Overall

8) Deep Lying Forward (Support)

This is our bigger guy. Be careful though, this is not a Target Man, as is the usual in this pairing, even in Conte's Juve. It helps to be taller, but essentially here you want a strong, technical, good passer. This guy's job is to play with his back to the keeper and try to play someone else in with a smart pass, or just be the go-to pass in the final third. However, he must also be able to find space after passing the ball, so Off the Ball is again very important.
Key Attributes: Passing, Off the Ball, Strength, Finishing, Technique

9) Advanced Forward (Attack)

This is our smaller guy. His only job is to get behind the defence and score. Pretty much a pacy poacher. Useful to have a good pass in him as well as to not miss and lose the ball, but more often than not he won't need to do anything else than to put the ball in the back of the net.
Key Attributes: Finishing, Pace, Off the Ball, Composure, First Touch

3. Tactical Breakdown

1) Defence

Yes, I used the game where I beat RM 5-1. Yes, it is a humblebrag. No, I don't know why McTominay is my Deep Lying Playmaker, I simulated the season without transfers or controlling the matches myself.


Not quite that much to say on defence. Main points to take away:
  • Using high and frequent pressing.
  • Defence line holds very well because of Hold Position instruction, which tends to keep them in their spot, not pressing excessively and opening up space.
  • Left side tends to be left a little exposed at times, because of the Mezzala, which is not quite a defensive role. Try to have better players on this side.
  • Once possession is recovered, quick counters can be launched because of the triangle formations that can lead to combinations and easy passes into space behind the midfield line.
2) Attack


The attacking side of things is heavily based on quick passing combinations to get out of defence, then launch people into space, as we have so many that will look for it. In the above picture, there are a few things to take away:
  • The formation attacking is 3-3-4. This helps create many times when we have an additional man in attack, which creates a lot of danger
  • Left WCB (Bailly) is advancing towards the left side of the pitch, waiting for either Mezzala (Pogba) to run into space, which he starts doing, or pass it back to the DLP (McTominay) to spread it to the other WCB. The WB is waiting to make a run when play starts approaching his side of the pitch, to try to get a cross in from wide.
  • With both the Mezzala and the WB and WCB flocking to the left sidie of the pitch looking for space, we hope to trigger a press from RM's DC's (Militao specifically) to be able to play Greenwood 1 on 1.
  • Triangles help with the fluidity of the passing scheme. Everyone has multiple passing options at all times and it's hard to take a player out positionally (leave a player with no passing options) in this formation. This also helps with active pressing teams, as quick easy passes are always available. However, you don't really get that much hard pressing, as the tactic tends to move the ball forward very fast, leaving little time for Gegenpress teams.
  • The DLF (Cavani) is dropping deeper, with his back completely turned to RM's goal. This is to provide the B2B Mid (Fernandes) with a forward passing option, as the B2B will not advance quite so heavily as the Mezzala. His main job is to hold defenders off and try to play the WB on his side or the AF into space, or pass it back to an advancing midfielder so he can play the through ball. His main job is to link up the lines, not focus on scoring.
4. Results


1) Man Utd - Media Pred. 4th - Top Team


2) Arsenal - Media Pred. 7th - Sub-Top Team


3) Leeds - Media Pred. 12th (I think) - Underdog Team

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