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"Pass E Lona" - Play Like Barcelona 4-2-3-1 - The Xavi Edition

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What Is "Pass E Lona"?
To Answer That Lets Look At The Definition Of Tiki-Taka Football Shall We?

LINK TO TACTIC - "Pass E Lona" - Play Like Barcelona 4-2-3-1 - The Xavi Edition

Tiki-taka or Tiqui-taca is a Spanish style of play in football characterized by short passing and movement, working the ball through various channels, and maintaining possession. The style is primarily associated with La Liga club Barcelona, especially during the era of manager Pep Guardiola; "You have to pass the ball with a clear intention, with the aim of making it into the opposition's goal". Its development and influence goes back to Johan Cruyff's tenure as manager in the early 1990s all the way to the present. Tiki-taka methods were eventually embraced by the Spain national team by the managers Luis Aragonés and Vicente del Bosque. Tiki-taka moves away from the traditional thinking of formations in football to a concept derived from zonal play.

So as someone who was mesmerized watching that Barcelona team and that fell in love with Tiki-Taka and possession based football I bring you what I feel is the BEST possession based domination tactic for Football Manager 2021.

This tactic will not only see your team showcase visionary football implementing an idiosyncratic style but plays with a high defensive line usually applying the offside trap with midfielders providing support to defenders to make more passing options available. Defenders are patient, preferring safe pass options looking for midfielders with the ball circulated anywhere on the pitch waiting for a gap to make a vertical pass.

This tactic relies and thrives off a short passing style in which the ball is worked carefully through various channels. Tiki-Taka is a nonsensical phrase that has come to mean short passing, patience and possession above all else, which this tactic is built around. The style involves roaming movement and positional interchange moving the ball in intricate patterns, and sharp, one- or two-touch passing. This tactic is "both defensive and offensive in equal measure" – the team is always in possession, so does not need to switch between defending and attacking.

Short Passing, Patience And Possession Above All Else!



Working from the back, I'll start with the role that has been introduced to build upon the tactical modern game. The Sweeper-Keeper (SK). A ‘ sweeper-keeper ’ is a player that seeks to control the space behind his respective back-line. The SK aims to perform two roles, that of the standard GK and the outfield sweeper.

Alongside standard GK duties, the SK will sweep up balls in front of and wide of the penalty area and initiate counter-attacking moves with direct through balls to breaking players. In other words, the role of the sweeper-keeper is to act as an eleventh outfield player.

Inverted Wing Backs

Introduced on FM18, the Inverted Wing Back (IWB) builds upon the tactical philosophy of Pep Guardiola. Simply put, the Inverted Wing Back stays wide when defending, but when in possession the IWB takes up central positions. IWBs are best deployed in possession-based tactics.

By positioning themselves centrally to support the midfielders, the inverted full-backs create more passing options and therefore more possibilities to play in triangles while moving the ball around. This gives the central midfielders the ability to move into more dangerous zones in the hope of creating more goal-scoring opportunities. Using inverted full-backs is a risky tactic, but when executed under the right conditions, it can be very profitable and help the team get out of difficult scenarios.

Central Defenders

The plain central defender role is a mainstay in most tactics. The role itself is simple; he is supposed to stop opposing forwards and clear the ball away from his own goal in case of emergencies. Depending on your tactical settings, a plain central defender can contribute to the build-up play somewhat but it is not their primary task. On a defend duty, the central defender does nothing special. He stays in line with the other central defender(s), doing what central defenders do. He marks his opponent, breaks up attacks and protects his own penalty area. (Find defenders with good Passing ability to help you work out from the back) I had worse results with a Ball Playing Defender.

Deep Lying Playmaker

The Deep Lying Playmaker is the most important role in this "Pass-Celona" tactic and they are the players skilled enough to make the team move forward, with a short forward pass, often utilizing spraying the ball out to team mates in short beautiful intricate passing fluidity. They are the organizers of the team, looking to coordinate in the buildup of the attack.
The deep lying playmaker tend to hold their position in the midfield, not covering or moving into pockets of space,

The deep lying playmaker support duty will see the playmaker moving higher up the pitch and participating in more offensive phases of the game.

Advanced Playmaker

The advanced playmaker can be a pretty useful creative output, receiving the ball with the back to the goal and combining with teammates to carve space between the opponents. He won’t be much of a runner, instead, he’ll search for any space to receive a pass and maintain the possession, whilst creating chances, looking for passes or ensuring his team maintain possession.

He’ll operate in the midfield, not pressing that much without the ball, especially in the support duty. He will support the deep lying playmaker in the build phase of the attack, as well as coming back to defend near them.

(The BEST passing I have seen is between the Deep Lying playmaker and the Advanced Playmaker)


The classic ‘Number 10’, the Enganche is, in essence, a stationary trequartista, collecting the ball in a fixed position before making quick, decisive and cutthroat decisions. The Enganche will not make driving runs into the box, he is your creative catalyst. To successfully utilise an Enganche you need to take the spotlight off him and stretch the opposition defence so he has space in which to operate.

Inverted Wingers

The movement of an Inverted Winger is slightly more lateral compared to an Inside Forward. The Inverted Winger moves into the half-space, cutting inside from a wide position. Instead of taking a shot, he often plays a pass before positioning himself inside the penalty area. He is less direct in his drive towards goal, instead opting for a pass and a run inside the box.

Their hardcoded behavior is different compared to the other roles mentioned above since they are not instructed to cross less often or take more risks. They offer a more conservative version of the Inside Forward or a combination between the Inside Forward and Advanced Playmaker.

False 9

The false nine is the epitome of a modern-day forward. He is a playmaker and goalscoring threat all rolled into one player. These players are your Messi’s. A player who drops back into midfield and roams around. He will ask the ball to his feet while his movement draws defensive midfielders and defenders out of position, freeing up space for teammates to exploit.

The false nine is both a difficult and versatile role in employing within your tactic. It’s a difficult role to use because it requires very specific players with very specific qualities to work efficiently, as well as requiring a balanced setup in terms of movement. As a master of manipulation of space, the false nine requires plenty of movement around him. He needs to space to move in and players to move around him to feed off his movement. His potential weaknesses are also the false nine’s main assets. His versatility in his movement can turn an already talented forward into a truly world class asset. If the tactic is set up to make the false nine shine, he can really deliver and elevate the entire team.

The player roles really compliment this tactic and its just a pleasure to watch this tactic play out!


Playing Through The Middle & Pass, Pass, Pass


As you can see from the screenshot you would be forgiven for thinking that this is a "Narrow" tactic. It is not! It utilizes the Deep Lying Playmaker and the Advanced Playmaker's passing vision and passing ability to spray passes out to the rest of the pitch. Dribble less has been selected to encourage more passing and to stop players running into dispossessed from opposing players. Why run round them when you can pass round them!

Passing directness is set to short for obvious reasons - to build up the short intricate beautiful passing play this tactic showcases. Tempo is much lower. I wanted the players to almost relax and nonchalantly pass the ball around. This is not to be taken as a lazy tactic it's more "Work Smart That Work Hard"

Keep Calm, Regroup & Go Again


So when possession has been lost the team will always "regroup". Falling back into a defensive shape ready to win the ball and to start the fluid passing Tiki-Taka style over again. This is to avoid being out of position when the opponents attack.

When the team have possession the team will "hold it's shape" the strict shape helps define and determine the passing play and to keep the build up play as positional and simple as it can be.

Goalkeepers will slow the pace down when they get the ball. They will distribute it to a central defender to once again start the passing play up once again. The Goalkeeper can at times be the first player to get the Tiki-Taka possession fluidity going!

Press The Opposition Into Making Simple Mistakes

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So a "Much Higher Line Of Engagement" is used in this tactic and this presses the opposing team when they have the ball much further up the pitch. The first player will utilize the press while supporting players will look to block passing lanes. This also allows them to drift from their position, one of the only times this is relaxed in the tactic.

The defensive line remains standard and sees the best results on this option. This dictates how far the defensive line will move forward when defending!


When using this tactic I have NOT used any OI's, so that maybe something you may want to implement to maybe get EVEN better results. This is mainly a plug & play tactic.

Corners - I have utilized the "Pep Inspired Short Corners" set Piece setup found On Steam this is to get the recycling of the possession passing back

Free Kicks - I use players to hit the ball to the far post where I have placed both Central Defenders

Throw In's - Short throw In to get the recycling of the possession passing back

Barcelona, Manchester City, Juventus & Bournemouth

I've tested this tactic with four different teams and it worked for each team. Most surprisingly it was Bournemouth that evidenced the most insane results, statistics and performances. We'll leave them till last in this overview of the Tactic Testing.

All the teams throughout a whole season won Trophies and saw success throughout a whole singular campaign.

(Just To Note The Tactic Testing Was Holidayed - If You play The whole season YOU WILL Get Better Results)


From where the whole idea manifested itself from. The team that garnered the whole Tiki-Taka philosophy and the team I had to test the tactic with!

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So Barcelona won La Liga by one point from Arch Enemies Real Madrid... That in itself probably seems a bit anti-climatic. Especially after I've built this tactic up like it's INSANE! Which it is, but in summary of Barcelona's campaign - They still WON La Liga even though Madrid had a similarly successful campaign.

Wins: 29 | Draws: 6 | Losses: 3

This is a tremendous achievement to only lose three La Liga campaign games after holidaying the whole season. Yes Barcelona shouldn't be losing too many and to lose only three games is pretty good!

Goals For: 91 | Goals Against: 9 | Goal Difference: 82

Incredible statistics saw show that Barcelona only conceded 9 La Liga goals all season all whilst scoring 91 themselves. These stats are what I was really wanting to showcase and this tactic evidences the fact that it is defensively robust while still lets your teams score alot of goals, all whilst staying true to it's Tiki-Taka Possession philosophy!


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A team that DO NOT play a Tiki-Taka style of football was used next. Yes they are a giant in their own league but I wanted to see if a team that systematically uses another style of football tactic could adopt the "Pass-Celona" tactic and still be successful!

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Juventus won Serie A with a considerable amount of ease! They went unbeaten on their domestic campaign journey and won the league by 20pts from closest rivals Atalanta.

Wins: 32 | Draws: 6 | Losses: 0

A season unbeaten for Juventus who certainly look like they transitioned into a this "Pass-Celona" Tiki-Taka tactic with ease. I genuinly am so pleased that the club obliterated Serie A and the philosophy was very much adopted which you'll see below!

Goals For: 95 | Goals Against: 11 | Goal Difference: 84

Once again some real surreal statistics show just how well Juventus performed during the Serie A season. To go unbeaten and only concede 11 goals is truly terrific and im astounded Juventus did so well whilst being holidayed!


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I chose Manchester City as I wanted to see if this tactic could and would dominate in the Premier League... Guess what it does! Manchester City won the Premier League by 13pts from Liverpool which in this day and age is incredible! With the Premier League being the most competitive footballing league in the world I feel this tactic definitly ensured Man City's dominance.

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With a team of players that suit this tactic I'm pretty certain this would have worked with any of the other "Top 6" teams and would work wonders for the lower established teams in the league!

Wins: 31 | Draws: 5 | Losses: 2

To lose only 2 games all season in the Premier League is astounding... Remember I holidayed these results so I am sure if you were to play every game you would get even better results!

Goals For: 95 | Goals Against: 13 | Goal Difference: 82

Further evidence of the goals that can be scored with this tactic and how sharp it is defensively!


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Bournemouth WOW... I chose Bournemouth just because I wanted to see how a team with mediocre finances, a mediocre stadium and a mediocre squad would fair! What I wasn't expecting was just how well this tactic worked for the South Coast Club! Bournemouth played 46 games and remained unbeaten only losing 2 matches! WHAT!!!

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Goals, Goals & Goals as well as Pass, Pass & Pass this truly defined the tactic and epitomized just how powerful it can be.

Wins: 42 | Draws: 4 | Losses: 0

Unbeaten Bournemouth won the Championship by 38pts.., I'm still Dumbstruck!

Goals For: 161 | Goals Against: 11 | Goal Difference: 150

Bournemouth just broke Football Manager! This is the kind of results us managers dream of.


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This tactic is a sublime compliment to the game. You really can watch beautifully played football. Sensational possession based controlled footy. Watch as your DLP and AP spray the ball all over the pitch and intricately work their magic in the middle of the pitch.

If you enjoy this Tactic please ensure you comment below and let me know how you get on with it.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.

LINK TO TACTIC - "Pass E Lona" - Play Like Barcelona 4-2-3-1 - The Xavi Edition
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