Counter Pressing: Football Manager 17

Football Manager 17 tries to mimic or simulate real football where it can, and once again I’m going all thematic with my posts. For the last few weeks, nearly every post on Torino has focused on how I’ve slowly evolved the team into a Counter Pressing side. If you need to catch up on some of the principles I was discussing then you should read a few threads. The one in particular where I break things down is the series when I started doing the Crossover Event with Wolves. Here I discuss the principles, the posts then evolve as I lay more and more layers to it, finally culminating in a test where I ask the ass man to manage the side while I go on holiday. 

So why did I start this series? I reckon there are so many ways of playing this game, the challenge is for people to let go of their preconceived notions of the sport. You may be right in how you see the world of football, but not everyone may share the same view. So I don’t expect anyone reading this to think that I am trying to assert a specific style for people to follow. In fact I believe there are many ways to climb this mountain, I just love finding different paths to the top. So take everything I say, consider it, but please, don’t ever presume that I am asserting there is only way to play.  This is probably one of the more advanced ways of playing the game. Where we tell beginners not to mess with Team Instructions and Player Instructions, here we are telling players that we can. So one needs to know what they are doing.

Counter Pressing isn’t a new thing, the principles have been at play for a long time. The saying “defend from the front” is a form of counter pressing. The whole goal is to win the ball and do something with it. Now in my posts I did say I was looking into mimicking three different styles Sacchi, Guardiola and Klopp, it’s possible to do all three, however I also feel they have intrinsic weakness. The objective of this post, isn’t to talk about this in isolation but how we can apply it to different systems.  The first thing we need to know is whether we can.


Key Attributes : Teamwork/Work-rate, they need to be +1 above the mean for the league. So if the mean for the premiership is 12, then we want 13. If the mean for non league is 9 then we want 10. These are the two key attributes I look at.

Block Players: In other threads I spoke about the High Block, Medium Block and Low Block. A high block is one where the front attackers do close down much more and hard tackle, a medium block is just close down much more, and I don’t play with a Low Block. Players who are required to Block need Teamwork, Work-rate, Composure, Concentration, Passing, Tackling. Where they do not have acceleration they need positioning. I still feel though, that a Counter Pressing system requires that you have players with acceleration, off the ball, stamina. The differences between the quality of block will lie in other attributes, each attribute does different things. A player with all these and high decisions and passing will probably play the good pass after winning the ball. A player with good anticipation positioning and acceleration could probably cover huge tracts of ground and be almost anywhere.  The combination of attributes and player preferred moves just makes the sheer variety of combinations so interesting that simplifying it to a list just seems wrong.

Block players need to get in, they need to close down. When they don’t that’s the time when you start evaluating them. These players should typically get 5 interceptions a game. If they don’t  you need to start observing them in games.  These players will not do pressing for 90 minutes. You can’t expect that. What you should be looking for is lane blocking and interceptions. There will be plenty of moments when they look like they are pressing but the key here is to look at whether the lanes are being blocked. If they aren’t then you need to start looking at whether it’s worth going up a notch in mentality. 

Once I have identified the players then its time to look at our system. I have tested out counter pressing on various systems and they all play differently. 


Different Tactics

Tactics handle Counter Pressing in different ways. Any system that is overloaded in front can counter press and leave you with easy balls to pick off in midfield, provided your players work hard.  Systems that have less then 2 in front are challenged with other factors, such as loss of positioning in midfield. If you counter press hard in a 442 that is played on structured you could gift space. So here you could be looking at counter pressing in key areas of the pitch.  We can add this form of pressing into most tactics but it’s how we adapt to changes that will see you nett the results you want. I have used elements of counter pressing on all shapes, and it plays out differently. 

When you use counter pressing with a very fluid system, you tend to create systems that will appear to be more congested. This will force you to pick roles. players or both that can make space for others. If you are playing with a narrow system, then it gets that much harder.  Assume you are using a 4312, its narrow, and you go very fluid, then those gets upfront, they usually will have a much harder time. So you need really good players or you need to adapt your system.

Let me explain:

Let’s say you are playing a team thats very good and you have a 4312 or a 433, you’ve set up a defensive/very fluid system  You’re faced with a team thats a lot better than you and seem to be able to attack you along your defensive line easily. You are spending a lot of time in your half. You could change your passing to more direct. You could go to the TI or your system could be embedded with key creative roles that have not had their passing changed. Then once you go direct, only these roles are affected. You could also choose to set your frontline on attack duty. In this case, you could be defending deep, and while you are deep you win the ball. Your transition could be lightning fast because the ball goes to your playmaker and because passes are direct and your attack line is on Attack duty, you could open them up in a hurry. 

You have another option. You could leave everything unchanged and step up mentality and go wide, and then you start observing how deep your backline can go without being isolated by adjusting the defensive line.

And there’s yet another option. You could go take a defensive mentality, maintain the short passing PIs, except for a few key players you depend on for key passes.  Make sure that you have at least one support duty in every strata and then go Structured. In this scenario, your team opens up a bit more. Can your players take advantage of the spaces? This will be entirely reliant on what you are playing against. Have you ever noticed the glee in my voice when the AI changes to a 4231, it’s like a see “WIN”. Whenever I go structured, I am usually worried about the Middle Block. There is a distinct possibility any aggressive closing down opens up too much space.

There are two ways I handle this: If I were playing structured I could use a high block and a low defensive line with a Low Block. Here my midfield is around only to mop up loose passes from the AI. My low defensive line acts like a zone that isolates systems that play with lone forwards or in this case a system that has a distinct attack and defend group. Once again we need to observe how the AI handles transitions, you want to hit the AI when its transition from defence out. In other words I want to force the AI to play the long ball from their backline because their attack is isolated. Here my goal is to make sure their 2 CMs and the two fullbacks don’t get to play or influence the game.

Another way of playing it is to go very fluid, and once again like in a previous example, turn my frontline into attack duties with some key players on direct passing.

Counter Pressing in itself works well, when you think things through. It can work with a lot of tactics, but you need to plan the grids where you want the battles to be played out. And you need to observe.





  1. Dear Rashidi very interesting I have watched your videos on YouTube For weeks…sorry For my english…could I ask to you an andvice?! I’m in trouble against big teams that use high pressing…4411…the FM trainer in the case is Klopp…the team is better then my…I don’t have solutions about building from the defensive line…The WM go on pressing on my FB…I lose often ball near my box…and when I arrive on the midfield what you can say to me?! How do you play against Hugh pressure?! Thank You

  2. Grazie per la risposta … parlo di 1 partita nello specifico … ho provato con strutturato (Non voglio perdere la mia forma) e la mentalità su “standard” (Credo di essere in grado di giocare con qualche rischio) … con poche rischio passa al fb e CM … cercando di iniziare a giocare da dietro … io non sono molto forte per giocare “fast” (tempo superiore) e il passaggio diretto … ma io pensare di giocare contro l’alta pressione – devo dare loro un sacco di spazio per coprire di venire a premere me … è corretto? (Così strutturato) … e giocando strutturato devo usare passaggio diretto?! è ti corretto?
    Ho provato il 43 (CMS-DLD-CMS) 1 (AP A) 2 … di avere 3vs2 contro la loro Centro-Back cioè a causa della loro 1 CB non è in buone condizioni …
    Ma Essi sono sta accampati sul mio 3/4 per tutta la partita …
    Che cosa si può dire a me?! Come si gioca contro l’alta pressione (se sono “meglio” di la tua squadra)?

  3. Thank you for your answer…I speak about 1 match in the specific…I tried with structured (I don’t want to lose my shape) and mentality on “standard” (I think I’m able to play with some risk)…with few risk passes to fb and CM…trying to start to play from behind…I’m not very strong to play “fast” (higher tempo) and direct passing…but I think to play against high pressure – I have to give to them a lot of space to cover to come to press me…is it correct? (so structured)…and playing structured I have to use direct passing?! is ti correct?
    I tryed the 43(CMS-DLD-CMS)1(AP A)2…to have 3vs2 against theirs Centre-Backs also because 1 of their CB is not in good conditions…
    But They have been camped on my 3/4 for all the match…
    What you can say to me?! How You play against high pressure (If They are “better” than your team)?

    1. Playing structured does not mean everybody needs to play direct. I am not sure what tactic you are using, but what you want to do is to make sure your team can pass the ball around first. If they can that means there are enough players to support each other. If they cannot pass to each other but kick long, then you need some support roles around your players. Upfront you want your players to be fast and have decent ball control and strong. If you have a playmaker let him be on mixed passing, and let him have his risky passes. Upfront, one player can have roam from position, so that he can find space. That is one thing you can do.

      another thing you can do when someone is pushing you back is to push them back.
      You can play on a higher mentality like Control, push up your defensive line to at least one notch higher than normal, turn on offside trap. Now upfront you tell your strikers and any AMs to close down maximum and tell the strikers to tackle hard. This gets them to force pressure on the AI. Sometimes I push up to take control of games.
      Who are you playing against?
      And send me your tactic.

      1. Thanks Rashidi…

        I’m playing against City (Klopp is the Trainer), I’m Arsenal in FM14 (season 17-18)…

        I’m @ Arsenal after 4 seasons @ Tottenham (We won 2 Premiers League 1 Europa League 1 Champion’s League)

        I tryed to play again the match, following your advices…

        And I won 2-0…but They had a lot of shots (a lot out of “target”)…
        Possession 53% for City…When I lost previous matches They had 60% of possession…

        I had 6 shots 5 on target (If I remember well, I’m not @ home now)…

        I put my two best players on support (Wilshere dlp s – Ozil winger on support)…

        They are playing 4411…I don’t understand very well theirs Shape, Mentality and Roles…But I think they are FLUID / VERY FLUID and OFFENSIVE…

        Their WM are going upfront very fast to press my FBs when I start to play from my defense…so I think they are on Attack duties (Reus on the R and Griezmann on the L – Eriksen AMC and Aguero ST)…

        M City – Defensive Line: Bartra-Kompany (come back from Injuries)-M Indi-Alaba
        M City – CM: Henderson (r) – Strootman (L)…I think B2B and DLP D…

        When they have the ball in my half they play very fast and “direct” with a lot of movements…They are very fast…I can’t use tight marking (is it right?!)…

        So I decide to play Structured (I don’t want to lose my shape) – and Counter…
        No pressing…Play out of defence and work ball into box (only these 2 TI)

        433 (from right to left): Patricio – Coleman Savic Cahill Montoya – Bateau (regen) Bryan Cristante Wilshere – Berardi Ozil – Mkhytarian

        The roles: GK – FB S CDDx2 FB S – B2B (against Strootman) – CCD (marking Eriksen – so my CDs are 2vsAguero – I think he is playing like dlf att – He are doing a lot of movement) – DLPS (Wilshere) – Berardi Winger on attack (To engage Alaba – I think he is more offensive than Bartra) – Ozil Winger on support on the left – Mkhy F9)…

        What do You think about?!

        When I come back to home I can send other information…
        I will try to upload goals on YouTube…
        I like very much these 2 goals…specially the second in the last 5 minutes of the match…beautiful vertical passings

      2. You are playing FM 14? I didn’t know that. Don’t worry about Shape so much. If your want to play counter use the rigid philosophy. I think that’s what it’s called. My videos that I did were for FM 17

  4. sorry Rashidi – other question…
    Watching your YouTube channel I understood Support players must be strong on tackling…
    Is it right? Is it valid also for winger on support?
    Thanks again

    1. Depends. Do you want them to defend. If yes then they must be brave to close down. Willing to help others in need = teamwork and must want to work hard to get back = workrate . If they have that and at least 10-12 for tackling good enough.

      1. ok thanks againz…Ozil has good teamwork and goog workrate…But he is poor on tackle…do you think he can play on support?!

  5. Dear Rashidi, my question is when test tactic, only change one setting in one match, whatever it is ,mental or shape or ti or pi, cause when changing too much , you will not know which element has the dominate effect . Am i right?
    I got this idel beacuse When i saw you Torino Dairies in Fm2017 in your Youtube chanle, you just did 1 change after 1 preseason match ,then observe in next match to find the issue.
    Tnanks . And sorry for my poor english 🙁

  6. When using a counter pressing system, which PI do you use: ‘Close Down More’ or ‘Close Down Much More’?

      1. I tested that 433 system with Monaco and it worked well, but I don’t want to feel like I’m just copying your tactics. Thing is, counter pressing is actually the way I want my teams to play, I want to play a possession orientated style with hard pressing. That’s the kind of football I like to see. 4231 and 433 are the formations I like the most, so I guess I would use one of those. I’ve given up getting it to work with Schalke, they just don’t seem to have the right attacking players for a pressing game. I’ve chosen Monaco instead.

  7. Yeah so if not the 4231 then I might use the 433. Would you still use ‘close down much more’ with the 433 or just ‘close down more’?

    1. Close down much more on the 3 in front and close down more on the outer side mids. Though for then I’d be paying attention to transitions if it’s overdone and the defensive line to find the right amount of closing down

      1. Alright cheers mate. I’m not so good at the tactical side of the game but I think I’m slowly starting to get used to having to adapt during games, your videos have helped me understand how to manage space better. I’m now making team shape and mentality changes during games whereas before I would just leave things and hope for the best.

  8. Counter pressing is merely the act of winning the ball back after you’ve lost it, and launching into an attack immediately It can be done with a 4141 and a 41221. In the 4141 you may need to up as high as control to attack and the same with the 41221, because at the higher mentalities your transitions will be faster

    1. Forgive me if this is obvious, but why do you need faster transitions when using the 4-1-4-1 and 4-1-2-2-1 shapes? Is it because there are fewer players in the AM/ST strata?

  9. Thanks. Sorry for so many questions but I remember you saying you never touch the closing down TI, instead you only use PI. Is there a reason why you don’t touch the TI?

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