Apr 24, 2013
Reaction score
I was wondering if any old timers or tactical historians could come up with a tactic based on, or similar to, Graham Taylor's Watford. I have tried on numerous versions to create something close to it, but have always seemed to fail. It's basically a 4-4-2 or 4-2-4 since the wingers John Barnes and Nigel Callaghan were always high up the pitch.

The way they played was basically long balls ("long passes" according to Taylor if you've ever seen him talk) into dangerous areas in the final third. The front players pressed frantically and it was essientially a barrage of long balls, but very attacking.

Watford went from the fourth division to the old first division in five years and finished second to Liverpool in their first season in the top. While they did score tons they also let in a lot due to their attacking nature. But the style allowed them to punch above their weight by shocking teams. Even big clubs had a hard time handling the constant pressure of long balls coming in and the team swarming. I really wanted to make this sort of tactic to be able to get similar results for smaller teams. I'm not sure it's possible due to my own failings, but if any of you guys have some ideas it would be great to hear. Or maybe you like the game and tactics and never really knew much about this team from the 1980s, and you want to read up and give the tactic a shot. Thanks guys.
Quite hard since before Graham Taylor at Watford, the English teams didn't press as do as much as they do now.
You are right with that. Probably impossible to get a consistent tactic going off what they did. Plus they were failures in Europe because they just got passed through by the continental teams.
Yeah it was a totally different world tactically back then, so implementing their tactics could prove fruitless in the modern game. You could still take elements from their game, like the long passes. You could go with the high pressing, but it won't be that noticable compared to when his team did it, because every other team now presses much higher than they did in them days. So high tempo, high pressure, very attacking. According to Jonathan Wilson in Inverting The Pyramid "The shape mattered less than the method. Although the 4-4-2 was the default, with full-backs such as Wilf Rostron and David Bardsley pushing on, and with bona fide wingers like Nigel Callaghan and John Barnes playing high up the pitch, the formation could come to resemble the 4-2-4 of the 1958 Brazilians, and there were times in the 1982-1983 season when they played a 3-4-3."
I have actually been working on this since you posted it as ironically it is a system I was thinking about the other day. Taylor came to Wolves in 1994 with the intention of recreating the Wolves system in 1950 which frankly established us as the worlds best side. In 1994-1995 we played some of the best stuff I have saw in many a year. Constant pressing of sides, squeezing the play high up the pitch and making the most of the wide players in Froggatt and Daley, both of whom were recognised as top Premier League wingers at that point but the financial clout we had over others in Sir Jack Hayward made this possible. I have had a go at creating this with the Taylor idea and what works well in game and came up with this. Certainly something to work from and be interested to see what you think Talleyrand, certainly as in the past I have noticed our tactic preference do seem similar.
Hey Shaun. It's funny that we seem to be interested in the same sort of tactics. I'm looking forward to checking out your Taylor tactic. I'm actually using your English 4-4-2 tactic now trying to get my Ayr team into the Scottish Prem. Still semi-pro so I really can't make the players any better than they are now and I can't finish any higher than second. So I switched from my counter tactic to V.1 of your 4-4-2 to see if I can punch a bit higher than my weight. So far it looks promising. I have good players for the tactic, but my wide men could be improved as far as being more Jarvis-like wingers. But I really can't attract that at the moment so I'm trying to cultivate some younger talent. Hopefully if I stay in Division 1 long enough I can get the club to professional. What's the difference between V.1 and V.2?
The only real difference is the change from Standard to Counter. This may seem a defensive change but in truth it is not. Each player gets the ball forward much more direct, as a result of the change in mentality and it works better (or at least it did for me)

V1 however is the original version and the one I had much success with but I haven't used it for a while, from the impression I get from you it works well with the most recent patch.

Are you registered over at Sigames? Over there is a poster called Loversleaper, he has created tactical sets, one which is a 4-4-2 direct, I would absolutely recommend that on behalf of him.
Thanks Shaun. I'm not registered there, but I will so I can check out Loversleaper's tactic. I normally have more success the sort of systems we've been discussing, but fail when I try to make the mentality more attacking (actually setting it to attack). But as you've stated before, you can still be threatening and score tons of goals from the standard, counter, defensive strategies.

I say that, but the teams I most often play with (or start with) aren't big clubs. My rep is usually Sunday league because I like the scrap in the lower divisions. So I feel pretty successful when I land a Champo level job. Probably why I move towards these direct target man type tactics. Plus every other thread is "play like Barca" or Very Fluid. I'm not gonna get a Scottish lad on 35.00 a week who's second job is fixing cars down at the shop to play tic-tac-toe with the ball.

Jimmy, thanks for the link. I think I've seen it before, but I enjoy watching that sort of thing. Seen a couple with Stuart Pearce and Uncle Roy. I'd like to see a compare and contrast video of Taylor's Watford and the Wimbledon side of the late 80s. I know Taylor says they were different.