Manuel Pellegrini’s 4-2-2-2

In keeping with ‘The Villarreal Project’ I saw a perfect opportunity to try & replicate Pellegrini’s systems into #FM18. Manuel ‘The Engineer’ Pellegrini is held in high regard by tactical experts the world over & his fast paced, free-flowing attacking 4-2-2-2 system that he used with Villarreal in 2007-08 is one of those systems that really put him on the map. I will update the changes I make to the tactic as we move through the seasons but I’ll now run through how I see this system working.

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Tactic Overview

The system itself focuses on width, whilst being compact – this guy was playing 4D Chess before it was a thing!

So let’s get started:

The Wide Play

The width of this system comes from the full-backs, at Villarreal he had Javi Venta and Joan Capdevila who were exceptional at bombing forwards and creating an overload in the wide attacking areas. You can also see that he continued this style at Malaga and more recently Manchester City where he had Jesus Gamez & Eliseu, Zabaleta & Kolorov. Having attack minded full backs with incredible physicals is a huge part of Pellegrini’s arsenal.

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Interiores moving inside to give width to full backs (Google Images)

The Fantastic Four

A foursome of two central defenders and two deep-lying midfielders provide the cover in this system. During the 2007-2008 season Villarreal conceded only 40 goals, less than Barcelona & Atletico Madrid. The two deep-lying midfielders allow a solid platform to build attacks from, they rarely move forward & cover the space vacated by the marauding full-backs.

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Holding midfielders creating a hard to break box of four (Google Images)

The Interiores

Interiores (interiores: “interior” (Bra) – midfielders that operate inside the central channel of the pitch; sometimes two attacking midfielders stationed in front of a holding and/or defensive midfielder)

The two ‘wide men’ in this system are deployed as interiores which means their main job was to drift inside and create space for the full-backs to run into. By drifting inside the idea is that they create confusion to the opposition’s full-backs and central midfielders creating a six man attacking phase, in the case of Pellegrini’s Villarreal it was Cazorla & Cani that carried out this job. As the interiores drifts inside the full back has to decide whether he follows he man, which will create space for the full-back, or hand him off to a central midfielder which will create triangles with the number 10. Should the interiores move from inside to out there is a chance that the central midfielder will chase him, leaving space for the number 10 to move into.

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Example of space created by inside to out movement by interiores

The Forwards

Pellegrini prefers mobile forwards who move into channels and run all over the last third of the pitch, this allows the interiores to affect play without occupying the same space as the forwards. The number 10 often plays in a free-role, players like Guiseppe Rossi, Isco & Sergio Aguero have all occupied that 10 role, his number 9’s tend to be a more powerful player in the mould of Guillhermo Franco, Julio Baptista & Edin Dzeko.

How I’ll implement this into Football Manager

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It will start off with a fairly simple 4-2-2-2 DM system. Interiores aren’t roles available in game, so I had the choice of Inside Forward or Inverted Wingers. I chose Inverted Wingers as I think there will be more lateral movement that an Inside Forward who is more likely to cut inside at every opportunity.

In my 2nd game using this system I managed to score a goal that replicates the inside to out movement of the interiores & how the striker drops deep into space:

So for now this is very much a work in progress that’ll I’ll keep tinkering with until I’m happy with it. As a secondary system I’ll attempt the 4-3-1-2 that Pellegrini used to great affect with Riquelme.