Manuel Pellegrini’s 4-2-2-2 Pt.3

It all started with a tweet…

Sitting at the London Stadium yesterday watching Manuel Pellegrini’s West Ham side face Athletico Bilbao in the Betway Cup I found myself watching a side that was morphing from a 4-2-2-2 to a 4-2-3-1 and back again, and it melted my heart. I said to the wife ‘this was Pellegrini at his peak with Villarreal’, she didn’t have a clue.

The game itself started with a freak own goal from record signing, Sébastien Haller, followed by a really well worked goal that saw Iñaki Williams finish from a low cross from West Ham’s left. West Ham then shook the cobwebs off and started to control the game and we started to see the tactical influence start to take shape. Declan Rice was the obvious anchor man in the midfield, he would break up play and then lay the ball off to Jack Wilshere, who I will say looked sharp, fit and ready to battle. Felipe Anderson and Manu Lanzini occupied the ‘wide’ areas of midfield but were swapping positions regularly dragging defenders with them leaving space for Ryan Fredricks and Aaron Cresswell to drive forward from their fullback positions. Pablo Fornals took up a position just off of Haller, dropping into the pockets of space and giving a passing option to Anderson and Lanzini. As the game progressed we saw Fornals drop a bit deeper with Lanzini and Anderson starting to take on the fullbacks as the system changed to 4-2-3-1.

In normal FNFM style, I get to thinking about how I can transfer this in to Football Manager. Part 1 & Part 2 of Pellegrini’s 4-2-2-2 are very much Villarreal based, even though I found my posts linked on a West Ham fans forum when fans were looking at how Pellegrini might set up, this will be purely West Ham with the players The Engineer has at his disposal.

First up are the two base tactics:

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(4-2-2-2)

In FM18 I had lots of success with the wide players playing as inverted wingers on an attack duty but when replicating this tactic earlier in the year the IW-A was not doing what I wanted and after a conversation with @Shrewnaldo who had been replicating the 4-2-2-2 in his Southampton save, he told me that playing the wide players as Advance Playmakers gave him the movement he desired that would leave space for the fullbacks to drive in to.

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(4-2-3-1)

This system is supposed to keep Anderson and Lanzini with chalk on their boots creating space centrally for Wilshere and Fornals to work their magic. I’ve kept Rice as a defensive midfielder to provide Balbuena and Diop with a first line of defence.

In the 4-2-2-2 system I have set Lanzini and Anderson to switch positions in the hope that they will drag the opposition defenders with them opening up gaps for other players to take advantage of. In the 4-2-3-1 I have set Lanzini, Fornals and Anderson to swap with each other much like they did yesterday – I haven’t tinkered with this in FM19 so it will be interesting to watch how it’s displayed in the match engine.

Something else I haven’t used in FM19 is Match Plans and having watched the team yesterday change systems without the use of clicking an action I thought I would set something up that interchanges the two tactics at various points in the game. I’m pretty sure this will take some changing but for now I’m going with this:

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Well, it turns out that me and Match Plans are not friends. The first game saw the game automatically substitute Jack Wilshere after 12 minutes and then in the second game not only did I get a divergence error my assistant(?) substituted nearly my whole team in the first half…

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So for now we’ll revert back to manual mode.

This is the attacking phase of the 4-2-2-2, both Lanzini and Anderson move in to narrow areas leaving acres of space for the marauding fullbacks to exploit. You can see how Rice and Wilshere created Pellegrini’s ‘square’ providing plenty of cover if a turnover occurs. Haller is the focal point of the attack with Fornals playing just off him.

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Image from Gyazo

(Example of the build up play)

With the 4-2-3-1 you can see that the defensive square is replaced with a midfield triangle with Rice at the base, Wilshere in the mix and Fornals playing directly behind Haller. Wingers in FM19 don’t tend to stay wide but both Anderson & Lanzini are driving forward rather than running inside which puts pressure on the opposition defenders.

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I am going to test these tactics out on my other West Ham save and might see how they work with AC Milan, but if anyone would like this game file just send me a message on Twitter.

I’m looking forward to seeing if Pellegrini plays these systems during the season and with our starting eleven I believe he has the players to make it work. The struggle might come should injuries occur as yesterday when Antonio, Chicharito & Diangana came on they played in a more standard 4-3-3.

To coin a phrase, Pellegrini playing a 4-2-2-2? You love to see it.

Thanks for reading.