Verticalità System Inspired By Marcelo Bielsa #FM16


So what is Verticalità ? Verticalità is my tactical system inspired by Marcelo Bielsa, notice that I say inspired because I am not trying to create an exact replica of Bielsa’s tactic. At this point I must also stress that this is no way a plug and play tactic so if that’s what you are looking for its not for you. The post is more about how I use the system. It will come as no surprise that I am an admirer of Argentine  Marcelo Bielsa’s tactics. Verticalità ( Verticality ) in the words of Bielsa is:

“Once we have the ball, we try and find a way of getting forward as quickly as possible, in a vertical direction if you like. But we don’t get frustrated if we can’t get it forward immediately, we aim to be comfortable on the ball, and if it’s not a case of going forward straight away, we keep it.”

Bielsa’s teams play at a high tempo and press aggressively which requires an high level of fitness, they look to play vertically.  Going back to Bielsa’s quote this in a nutshell is how I want my teams to play.

I use two different formations but use the same team instructions for both.

Team Training:

Pre-Season Fitness / High with Match Prep set to Tactics

Season: One Month rotation between Balanced and Fitness / Average  with Match Prep set to Defensive Positioning

Verticalità 2-3-4-1 

Team Mentality  /  Team Shape – Control / Fluid 

Team Instructions – 

Tempo Higher   Width Fairly Narrow  Defensive Line High / Use Offside Trap  Closing Down Always / Prevent Short Goalkeeper Distribution / Use Tighter Marking Tackling Get Stuck In Build Up Play out of Defence / Pass In To Space / Shorter Passing  Attack Look For Overlap /  Work Ball In to  The Box / Run at Defence  /  Roam From Position.


The Roles / Instructions  2-3-4-1 

Sweeper Keeper / Defend

Central Defender / Defend

Ball Playing Defender / Defend

Left Wing Back / Attack

Right Complete Wing Back / Attack

Half Back / Defend

Box To Box Midfielder / Support

Advanced Playmaker / Support *More Risky Passes

Left Inside Forward / Support *Cut Inside

Right Inside Forward / Support *Cut Inside

Complete Forward / Attack *Roam From Position

The two full backs create width in the attacking phase which enable both our inside forwards to come in field and support the Complete Forward, My central midfield 3 are made up of a Holder / Runner / Playmaker, this is the engine room. The 2 Central Defenders are both very good in possession of the ball but I only play one of them as a Ball Playing Defender, in front of them is the Half Back who drops in between the centre backs in the defensive phase.

Screenshot 1 Enforcing the press

Here you can see we enforce the press and create a defensive block from the overload which cuts off the opposition’s support and passing lanes.


Screenshot 2 Transition from Defensive phase to Attacking phase


So we have won the ball back from screenshot 1 and created a counter with 1 vertical pass which leads to one more pass and a goal has we overload the opponents with an high tempo counter.

Video Athletic Club Pressing

This is the sort of pressing I am looking for.

Video The Vertical Pass

The video below is a short clip from a pre season game, our complete forward Andrea Pinamonti wins the ball back in a deep position and lays it off to advanced playmaker Thiago who plays a pin point vertical pass to our attacking left wing back Federico Dimarcos who finishes the move with a well taken goal.

Verticalità  4-3-3 


Team Mentality  /  Team Shape – Control / Fluid

Team Instructions –

Tempo Higher   Width Fairly Narrow  Defensive Line High / Use Offside Trap  Closing Down Always / Prevent Short Goalkeeper Distribution / Use Tighter Marking Tackling Get Stuck In Build Up Play out of Defence / Pass In To Space / Shorter Passing  Attack Look For Overlap /  Work Ball In to  The Box / Run at Defence  /  Roam From Position.

The Roles / Instructions  4-3-3

Goalkeeper / Defend

Central Defender / Defend

Ball Playing Defender / Defend

Full Back / Attack

Full Back / Attack

Box To Box Midfielder / Support

Advanced Playmaker / Attack *More Risky Passes

Advanced Playmaker / Attack *More Risky Passes

Left Inside Forward / Support *Cut Inside

Right Inside Forward / Attack *Cut Inside

Complete Forward / Support *Roam From Position


Screenshots 3-6  Vertical Pass


We are in yellow, Nagatomo is being closed down in the right full back position.


Nagatomo plays the ball back to Stones, who as time on the ball.


Stones has been closed down by the centre forward who was being covered by Xhaka centrally, this enforces Stones to play the ball back to Xhaka because the vertical pass as been cut off.


Xhaka plays the vertical pass to Vietto who has roamed from his central position in to the right inside forward channel, we are now in a counter attacking position which ends with Vietto winning us a corner after making their keeper making a save. From the resulting corner we score and go on to win the game 1-0.

Screenshots 7-11  Vertical Pass


Another example of the Vertical pass see’s Thiago pick the ball up in our own half.


Thiago picks Jovetic our right inside forward’s run out with a quick pass.


Jovetic takes a touch before playing a vertical pass over the opponents defensive line in to space.


Vietto runs on to the vertical pass.


The pass as split the defence and puts Vietto in on goal.

20160515_104423 Like I have said above this is not a plug and play tactic but its my framework that I use to set my system up. I watch a lot of our games in detail and tweak in play. I can use both systems during a game sometimes and change the roles within the system. We average around 60% ball possession. Individual training is an important part of the system. I tend to have a 2 month rotation training individual roles then 2 month training technique for all players. Player Recruitment I always look to recruit technical type players with the midfield positions to also have the following high attributes: Strength, Stamina and Natural Fitness.It’s like stating the obvious but the midfield really is the engine room. I am pretty confident if you watched one of our games in full you would see the Bielsa inspiration in our gameplay, I have spent many hours like many of the community watching and tweaking tactics to find the system that I want to achieve for the teams that I manage. I enjoy every minute of it and will continue the process for many more hours. The community are my inspiration I have made contact with so many like minded individuals who are like my extended family. I have come across so many fantastic different blogs, videos,books and tactical views ect, ect which I value equally. Its nice to come across different views on the game so a big thank you from me to the whole community and long may it continue. I could list everyone but I would not want to miss any individual out so I wont, but if you are reading this I am talking about you.

Verticalità The System Aims

  • Verticality, Positive Football
  • Footballers with Technical Ability
  • Attacking & Defending as a Team
  • Intelligence & Creativity
  • Fluidity & Movement

Thanks for reading this post, I will have our season 4 pre-season post published this coming weekend so until then  Arriverderchi






4 thoughts on “Verticalità System Inspired By Marcelo Bielsa #FM16

    1. Closing down is much more however I do tweak and change it sometimes depending on the opposition…simply because Mourinho’s Man Utd looked comfortable on the ball even when we pressed aggressively we lost 0-1 so in the 2nd leg I eased off the pressing and we dominated the ball and should have put them to the sword despite drawing 1-1. Yes I use OI to close down all opponents defence and goalkeeper.


  1. Love this, worked wonders when I instilled it with my Dortmund team. Any chance you’ll be posting an updated version for 17? Or have you noticed any big differences using it in this years and last years game?


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