As my experiment with replicating their 442 is coming to an end, here’s a recap. Essentially we have used 3 different versions of the 442, each trying to maintain the ethos of dynamism, hard work and aggression. The hardest thing to do was keeping a low percentage of possession. Even when I went with a direct style of passing, we still somehow managed to keep high percentages, and one common denominator was the opposing sides formation. Invariably they were using defensive systems.
When I first started the season we experimented with various strike partnerships up front, settling for this system at first.
This looked wider but played narrow, through the use of shouts, but having said that, we preferred to start matches holding possession, invariably causing us to win more possession, it essentially became a counter attacking possession based system against weaker sides, but fairly balanced against good sides. The problem with this system was that it didn’t unleash Koke centrally as in bang in the middle of the pitch, he would be closer to the centre left position. It wasn’t perfect but it was close, to how they played.
We then started taking a closer look at asymmetric 442 systems. And stuck to this for the vast majority of the season, and even the assistant manager started going on winning runs.
This was a lot more realistic, and it had Koke drifting into the middle on a regular basis, Arda Turan would occasionally end up around the box or out wide and the strikers because of their PIs ended up drifting out wide pulling defenders away. This looked a lot like how they were playing in real life.
My predilection for possession, geared me to starting games this way, and whilst they looked somewhat like they do in real life, they were winning a lot of games, a lot. And they were doing this by sitting and deep and keeping the ball. So I ended up doing some simple things, I removed the shouts: Retain Possession, Play out of defense, short passing and added Direct passing, Whipped in crosses, hit early crosses.
Without those shouts, they would produce these kind of performances against Real Madrid
Finally to get something closer to an ideal point, we ended up with this.
This was in fact the system I deployed against Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Chelsea towards the end of the season when we went chasing our trifecta of titles. The left fullback was held back, and I removed the short passing I had put him on and the less risky passes PI, choosing instead to make him go direct. In some games especially against Barca and Chelsea, I had him on defend, in others he was on support. This became a vital cog for me to switch on when I wanted to increase tempo and off when I wanted to contain.
In my return, try as I might, we couldn’t do anything but keep possession, oddly Barca was playing a direct attacking game, pinging balls to Neymar and Suarez throughout the game.
In an earlier game, the same system, relied heavily on scoring off the counter, this was a set-piece goal.
Back in the league we met Barcelona again in one of the final matches of the season, in a game where they managed to string together a more effective possession, we managed to get the win, but still possession was a tad bit high, even after all the settings.
For the season we scored 88 goals and conceded 24. Off the 88 goals, the in game stats show that we had 22 from set pieces. It doesn’t track throw ins as well, as, goals scored from winning the second ball. Considering the fact that I was scoring at least 1 in every 3 games, it would be safe to add another 10 for the whole season, from both of these, and that’s being conservative. That would bring our goals from set pieces to close to 37%, conservatively speaking.
Well, to me at least, this is a close enough replication of the 442 system used in La Liga, the downside imho is the high percentages I got with the first two, with the last system it seems fairly close. My biggest gripe has always been how much the AI manager fails to replicate possession based systems. Its really hard playing against a team that can successfully keep the ball. I do believe that the high possession could have been due also to the high closing down settings of the front guys. Taking it off however would make it feel less like Atletico, for now though thats it for the Atletico replication. Maybe the new patch will make it harder for us to score from set pieces and a high press.