Newell’s Old Boys – Tactical Setup for Season One

This is is my second blog for my Newell’s Old Boys save on Football Manager 2020. As the title suggests this is going to discuss the tactical set-up. Anyone who follows me for FPL articles knows that I do like a tactical waffle. If that’s not for you I would probably give this a miss.

The Tactic

This is the main tactic I will be running with this season. I will be attempting to employ some of the Bielsa principals but tweaking it so that the quality in my squad is not exposed by asking players to do things they cannot do.

The Principles

The principals we will be using from Bielsa are to press relentlessly and win the ball back as high up the pitch as possible. But also to retain possession, work the triangles and create overloads. We have a strong base of players to protect the ball and keep it away from the opposition. I will not be opting for the classic Bielsa shape of 3-3-1-3 as I believe it would leave us too exposed given our lack of quality.

This is not how I would usually set this tactic up, I would be utilising a half-back and a complete forward or target-man to better reflect the role Patrick Bamford plays for Leeds currently. Also would not use the central midfield roles I have picked but I have done this to amplify how effective our best players are in the team.

In Defence of…

I want the centre halves to keep it simple and distribute it short to the playmakers, nothing fancy. The defenders job this season really is to keep it simple, I have edited the DLP instructions also so this more or less turns into a back 3 in defence. As you can see from the above screenshot most of the tackles come from out wide and this is a recurring theme throughout.

I am not going to pretend that the way I play comes without risk however. We are vulnerable especially if we lose the ball in the initial passing phase of the attack.

As you can see above this is where I feel we are vulnerable. We have been out-manouvered by the opponents pressing. This is forcing the Centre-back to do something that I specifically asking him not to do and that is try and kick it long to the Wing-back. This is down to him feeling there are no other options and also him being not very good on the ball. If he makes the pass (he didn’t it went out for throw-in) then great but if he does not and the AI can counter we are in a really vulnerable position as Argentinos Juniors will be able to get one on one with my defenders.

More defensive worries

We are also really vulnerable to overplaying the ball and losing possession in dangerous positions. As shown in the still above we have lost the ball and if the AI plays smart he can cut out most of our team with one pass. Their striker is already looking to attack the space meaning one of the CBs will run with him and this will give their other attacker space to attack also.

As I stated earlier this way of playing is not without risk and I could try and mitigate this risk by dropping deeper. But then that would detract from how I want to attack teams. These defensive frailties are by my own design really.

You cannot play the perfect game, I see people get obsessed with not giving up space in a match and making sure that they cover every inch of grass. They also put way too much stock in the analysis button on the tactics screen the best advice I could give you is turn that off, it doesn’t really mean anything.

Teams are going to have chances against you, its an inevitability, they will find space and look to exploit it. I cannot stop that but I can certainly do something about it and try and control were the AI takes shots from and make the most dangerous areas of the pitch difficult to defend against.

The defensive gameplan is to try and make the AI pass quickly, leave areas of space unguarded out wide, make the AI think it is a good idea to use that quick pass to go long out wide and then our centre backs split quickly to neutralise that wide threat and win the ball back as quickly as possible ourselves. We want the AI to go long its in our interests as it plays into our strengths not just in defence but this also aides our attack as opposition players get forward and leave space at the other end of the pitch. The quicker we bag an interception the quicker we can get on the attack.

Above you can see how we look for interceptions all the way through the pitch. Which given I have a high line of engagement you would expect.

The DLP has one of the most important jobs in the team however as once we probe down each side and find a cul-de-sac the ball will find its way back to him as we begin the next probe. The DLP dropping back into the CB line also allows both centre-backs to split and close down the space left by the Wing-backs.

The passmaps show how high up we play in the oppositions half. A lot of passes are made trying to probe down the sides and generally just retaining possession in the oppositions half remaining patient waiting for a mistake.


Above is one of my favourite passages of play from the first season. It is not a spectacular goal by any means. But it demonstrates how we keep possession in the opposition half making them do the work and dragging players out of position. It shows how we try and keep the defence either narrow or off balance as you can see when the through ball is made to the left from Cacciabue to Orhuela.

I like my Wing-backs to stay as wide as possible whilst the attack makes their defence as narrow as possible. That way if my Wing-backs can beat their markers a natural overload is created. You also see that at the beginning of the clip my Right Wing-back maintains a really high position. As the passing move continues the Argentinos Juniors back four begin to shift across and become narrow. This allows the space for the run on the left later in the move.

Also this passage of play shows a couple of occasions when we win the ball back high up the pitch. This is really important as our defence is really not that great, hence why I have such a high line of engagement and try to overwhelm the opposition in attack and get ahead early. As matches progress I tend to opt for more counters and sit a little deeper and just retain possession making the oppositions work harder to get the ball back.

More Analysis

The above goal shows how we can attack teams who have just attacked us and have not fully set up in their defensive shape. Truth be told originally I was not happy with the keeper holding onto the ball so long however it worked out for the best.

The kick from the keeper bypasses their initial pressing line and they never were able to recover as we attacked down the left hand side. My wing-back and attacker were able to get 2 on 1 with the defender and the attacker was able to push their defender inside so the wingback can dribble into the space and score.

Typically the above is what the match stats look like if we have played well. However this formation is not for the feint of heart. If the opposition are able to bypass the press quickly and can keep hold of the ball we really do struggle. The problem is two fold really, one that our squad is exposed sometimes with lack of quality and that this tactic does have some flaws.

Despite its flaws this tactic is exciting and we will attack teams a lot, I am pretty hopeful that utilising this tactic we will be able to exceed our expectations of avoiding relegation. We also need to create some funds through player sales and that will only come through playing well.

Lastly I am surprised just how many chances we created from balls over the top. Rivero is able to put the ball in dangerous areas for my Centre-forward to attack. Which sometimes result in goals scored like the above.

In Conclusion

This season is not going to be easy at all, I cannot buy players, I also need to sell and stop the club just bleeding money. This tactic will help maximise the talent we have at our disposal. It also remains true to the way I like to attack teams in FM20.

It allows our best players the chance to shine Maxi Rodriguez, Jeronimo Cacciabue and Braian Rivero. By letting these players perform we have a chance at snagging some continental football.

Hope you enjoyed my post.

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