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Barcelona Tactics for Football Manager 2011

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Everybody loves Barcelona, I know I do! Well, everybody except the Real Madrid fans I guess, but they might also be impressed by Barcelona’s sexy attacking football under the guidance of coach Pep Guardiola.

I have always been an admirer of the club since the days of Johan Cruyff but I have to say that today’s Barcelona is playing the best football I have ever seen in my life (I’m 31 years old by the way and I’ve been watching football since I was around 4 or 5).

I am also known as a Football Manager addict, you surely know the simulation game that allows every football fan to take charge of a club and drive it to glory or get sacked if not. Although I like to manage lower league clubs, which I do in Football Manager 2011 as well since I took charge of Blue Square South club Vauxhall Motors FC, I am trying to give my teams some of the Barcelona spirit.

You can never replicate Barca’s style with a lower league side though so I tried to make a Football Manager 2011 tactic that would resemble the real Barcelona and the only way to build that tactic was to take charge of the Blaugrana themselves!

I started the process during pre-season and the foundation was the tactic that I am using in my Vauxhall Motors game. Before you start laughing I have to state that the tactic I’m using in the lower leagues is attacking but not as attacking and creative as the one I ended up using at Barcelona. The first changes were made in the formation, the one I am using at Vauxhall is a flat 4-4-2 but for Barcelona I adopted Guardiola’s formation as you can see from the screen shot below.

Barcelona’s Formation

1 barcelona formation How To Play like Barcelona in Football Manager 2011

Let me describe in a few words each player’s role in the formation:

Victor Valdes -Sweeper Keeper – the man in charge with saving shots but also with sweeping behind the defense, that is if anything gets past Pique…

Daniel Alves -Wing Back – a tornado down the right flank, providing interceptions high up the pitch, passes and also goals now and again.

Gerard Pique -Ball Playing Defender – an unusual centre back, a man with good technique that gets involved in the attacking build-up and also scores when you would least expect him to.

Carles Puyol -Limited Defender – just a centre back really, but a damn good one. He’s the team captain as well.

Maxwell -Wing Back – same duties as Daniel Alves but not as attacking.

Sergio Busquets -Defensive Midfielder – the man who gets the ball back and passes it quickly to Xavi. He did pretty well in attack as well in some games, great potential.

Xavi -Deep Lying Playmaker – he’s Xavi, that’s all! The team’s playmaker, the man who never misses a pass and also manages to score a few.

Andres Iniesta -Central Midfielder – a real genius in the middle of the pitch, a creative player that provides some killer passes and some fabulous goals. I have employed him on the left wing on a few occasions but I think that the place that suits him the most is in the middle.

Lionel Messi – Inside Forward – the greatest player in the world,  a tremendous talent that can decide a game all by himself. I have put him in different roles in attack but eventually left him as an inside forward, sometimes on the right flank and other times on the left.

Pedro – Inside Forward – a speedy player that can do some real damage on counter attacks. I often set him to switch flanks with Messi during the games to confuse the opposition defenders.

David Villa – Complete Forward – the man with the killer instinct, a great finisher but he also participates a lot in building the attacks.

Barcelona Team Instructions

The next important thing in setting up a Football Manager 2011 tactic is the team instructions, the changes made there shape the way the team would be playing on the pitch. As you can see I tried to replicate Guardiola’s approach in terms of strategy, philosophy, passing or pressing but I also went into more detail and set up the corner kick and free kick taking strategies to match the real-life Barcelona. The only thing that might be a bit different is the tempo, it might be higher in my tactic than the real Barca but that gave the best results in the game and made the matches a bit less boring.

2 barcelona team instructions How To Play like Barcelona in Football Manager 2011

The Results

Building a good Football Manager 2011 tactic is a process that takes time and a lot of tweaking. The first version of the Barcelona tactic was employed during pre-season but then I have made several changes before finally settling for version number seven, just in time for the El Clasico against Real Madrid. As you can see from the screen shot below the results were quite rewarding despite the continuous tweaking that went on under the hood: 20 wins and 2 draws in 22 competitive games. In the Primera Liga we played 13 games, won 11, drew 2, scored 41 goals and conceded just 6.

3 barcelona results How To Play like Barcelona in Football Manager 2011
Click on the image above to see the full-scale view of results.

We have shown good attacking football in all of those games, but the real test for the tactic was the eagerly awaited derby against arch rivals Real Madrid. I made the final changes to the tactic a game before that but I was still not sure that it would ensure a victory against Los Blancos.

The first half was satisfying, we took the lead through David Villa who latched on to a delicious through ball from Andres Iniesta before coolly slotting home and Real Madrid were unable to create any clear chances before the break. Unfortunately Cristiano Ronaldo made it all square two minutes after the re-start following a corner kick and some weird marking from my defenders.

The result was unfair, Barcelona were certainly looking like the better side! Lionel Messi did justice though, he scored two beautiful goals to round off flowing team moves and the crowd at Camp Nou was ecstatic! You can watch all the goals below:

Barcelona 3-1 Real Madrid – Goals and Match Stats

4 barcelona vs real madrid How To Play like Barcelona in Football Manager 2011
Click on the above image to see a full-size image of the match statistics.

Barcelona v Real Madrid – Average Positions

I had to make three changes during the match against Real Madrid: Eric Abidal for injured Puyol, Javier Mascherano and Adriano for tired Andres Iniesta and Maxwell. The average positions analysis shows how the team acted during the match, pretty high up the pitch and very compact (just like the real Barcelona).

5 barcelona vs real madrid average positions How To Play like Barcelona in Football Manager 2011

Barcelona Goalscorers

One of my main concerns was how to find the ideal role for Lionel Messi, it would have been a huge shame to waste such a talent. I seem to have found the right place for him after all, he scored 19 goals in 20 appearances, but the most pleasing thing was that no less than 13 different players had found the way to the back of the net during the 22 competitive games that I played.

6 barcelona goal scorers How To Play like Barcelona in Football Manager 2011

Download Barcelona FM 2011 Tactics

You are welcome to try the tactic yourselves and provide feedback, criticism and suggestions on how to improve it. Download the Barcelona FM 2011 Tactics here.

About The Author

Johnny Karp is the owner and founder of FootballManagerStory.com, a football manager fan blog that started in 2008 and grew to become one of the most popular blogs in its niche. The website has mostly Football Manager career stories but it also provides tactics, guides and downloads that can help people to enjoy the game even more. Johnny’s managerial feats include winning the Champions League with the Blyth Spartans, getting Dorchester Town to the Premier League and also dominating English football with Notts County. He is currently taking Vauxhall Motors FC all the way to the top.

Visit FootballManagerStory.com for more FM goodness!

Comments (16)

  1. Thank you for your insight Johnny, I’ve taken notes. =D

  2. I also have attempted something similar and got a few different results. I would say Iniesta is a more advanced playmaker, you will notice watching Barca play that he gets forward and links the play from midfield to attack, when Xavi is bypassed. Also I think your tempo maybe slightly high, Spainish teams in general play a slower game to that in England, then take into account Barcelona would rather go back to Valdes then risk losing the ball going forward. With a fast tempo your players will attempt to get the ball to the stikers asap. Other then that it definately looks solid.

    • Thanks a lot for the comment. I have tried using Iniesta as an advanced play maker but gave up on that eventually although I agree that the role is more similar to what he does in real life. About the tempo, I agree that it’s higher than the real Barca, I have also stated that in the post, but I felt that it gave better results in the game and a more spectacular style of play.

  3. One the main tricks Barcelona like to pull apparently is pushing Busquets back between the centre backs to make a three, making the defending players hard to press and allowing a more solid defensive line to push up the pitch. Sadly even if I still had fifa I don’t really know how to do it – partially because i suck at football manager. But also because FM doesn’t really allow for much radical experimenation – box to box fullbacks for instance. Sigh…

    • I have noticed the “Busquets” trick on a couple of occasions while trying the tactic but I guess that is because the set up allows more roaming from the players. FM does have some limitations but I’m sure it will continue to get better year after year.

  4. Johnny,
    Great article as usual and impressive results too!

  5. @crashbang, If you set his Mentality at like a 3 or 4, he will sit almost between the CBs

  6. Nice one mate, very useful!
    I’ll spread the word :)

  7. Great stuff Johnny, also very happy to see you getting recognition from such a HUGE website!! Barcelona play a beautiful game and this FM version of their tactic seems very similar. Great article. :)

  8. it’s a great tactic to use and thanks for the blog,… but my one problem with it is what happens when your centre back gets sent off, what players do you drag back as they are all used in the attck????

    • I had one of the CBs sent off at one point and the player that I pulled back (replaced) was the left side central midfielder. You can also take out one of the two wingers and focus passing on the other flank after that but I guess that the MCL option is better.

  9. Hi Johnny

    What an interesting read. I will give it a go.

    Søren, Danish HR