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Football Manager Guide: Breaking Down The Opposition When They Park The Bus


Football Manager Guide: Breaking Down The Opposition When They Park The Bus

It happens a lot in modern day football, where a weaker team will "park the bus". The art of doing this is to have as many players behind the ball as possible and to be tough to break down defensively. The idea is that you would need to be very solid defensively and then try to steal a goal on the counter attack. If you are a team playing against a team who sets up like this, it can be frustrating.

The question is how do you break down the opposition when they are parking the bus?

In this article we will review four areas you would need to review to try and identify when a team is parking the bus and the things you can try to change.

Look For Weaknesses In The Opposition

Although the team you are playing against is trying to defend for their lives, it can sometimes be possible to spot weaknesses. I will list below the types of things I look out for. Please bear in mind you would need to watch a game with full highlights on.
  • Are any of the players on the opposite team slow? Are you able to use one of your faster players to exploit this?
  • When the opposition team breaks, how many players break and which players move forward? Are you able to take advantage of the opposition team trying to counter attack?
  • What formation are the other team playing? If they were playing a 4-4-2 for example, are the left and right midfielders supporting the fullbacks? You could review this and then take advantage of the left or right flanks.
  • How are the opposition passing the ball, especially to their centre backs and midfielders? If the centre backs are trying to pass the ball, can your striker close them down to launch an attack? If they are going long, are your defenders prepared to win a header and launch an attack?
  • How are the opposition closing your players down? If they are going for a swarm tactic of closing down, where all of their players are trying to win back possession, are you able to pass into space to take advantage of this?

You basically need to look for any player movements you can take advantage of, any attributes you can take advantage of or any weaknesses in the shape of their formation.

Look At What Is Not Working In Your Tactics

Although it’s a good idea to check out weaknesses in the opposition, you do need to see if your tactics are working well. These are the type of things I would look out for:
  1. How successful are your players at crossing? If you are crossing the ball and the other team has lots of defenders back to give you no chance of winning a cross, you will need to come up with another way to attack.
  2. If your players are running at the other teams defenders, how successful are they being? If they are being tackled a lot, consider asking them to pass the ball more, rather than running with it.
  3. Where are you taking most of your shots from? If you are needing to take a lot of long range shots, is the player taking the shots good at long shots and how many are going on target? I don’t mind my players taking long shots, but they have to be good at it. If it’s not working, what can you do to reduce the number of long shots? Usually having players in support is a good idea.

See If Changing The Tempo Changes Anything

Altering the tempo at which you play at can be a good idea. You do need to have a good technical team for this though. If I were managing a good team, I would tell them to play at a higher tempo, run less and pass more. Your team will need to be attacking though. It will not be a good idea to have possession of the ball in your defence.

Sometimes playing at a normal tempo will allow you to control the ball better but the opposition has a better chance to get in shape and stay in shape. Upping the tempo will mean the other team can be caught out of possession. The thing to review here is the number of miss-placed passes your team is making. If they are making a lot, then the tempo you are playing at is too high for your players.

Are You Able To Change Your Tactics To Try Something Different

After knowing the weaknesses of the team you are playing against and looking at what is working/not working for your team. You will be able to make changes to your tactics. Every match situation will be different so it’s impossible for me to list everything, but these are the types of things to consider.
  • Do you need more players when attacking? Generally I would attack with one striker, two wingers and two central midfielders - so five players involved in attacking moves. If I let my full backs attack also and push my holding midfielder go further forward, this will offer eight players in attack.
    You need to be careful of how many players you push forward, but more attacking players will mean more options.
  • If you are having no luck attacking through the middle, consider making your tactic wider and playing the ball down the wings. Get those crosses in!
When playing against a team who is parking the bus, there is no stock answer for how to win a game. Reviewing the match engine and finding weaknesses will be your best bet.